If you're a ribs fan, you have to give this dish a try. Urban Tavern in San Francisco shared its secret to spice-braised pork ribs with us a few years ago, and it's been one of our favorite rib recipes ever since. Tender, slow-cooked ribs are coated with a spice blend that is rich and bright with notes of fennel, coriander, ginger and nutmeg. The ribs are braised over a bed of diced apple and celery hearts.
The recipe calls for St. Louis-style pork ribs, which are spare ribs that have been trimmed to give them a clean, mock baby back look. We tested the recipe using whole spare ribs and St. Louis-style racks and loved it both ways (be aware that you will need a very large roasting pan to fit two whole racks of spare ribs).
If you opt for the St. Louis-style ribs, ask your butcher to trim them for you, or check out the video below. It's easy to trim and clean the ribs at home:
URBAN TAVERN'S SPICE-BRAISED PORK RIBS
Total time: 4 1/2 hours, plus overnight refrigeration and cooling times | Serves 6 to 8
Note: Adapted from Urban Tavern. For St. Louis-style (or mock baby back) ribs, take a rack of spare ribs and trim the skirt meat along the underside of the rack, then remove the rib tips at the joint before removing the silverskin from the underside of the rack and trimming the edges to clean. Alternatively, ask your butcher to prepare the racks for you. The restaurant serves the ribs with fregola and seasonal vegetables.
1/2 cup fennel seeds
1/2 cup coriander seeds
2 tablespoons ginger powder
2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1. In a medium saute pan heated over medium heat, toast the fennel and coriander seeds until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
2. Grind the fennel and coriander seeds to a fine powder using a spice mill or coffee grinder, then combine with the ginger, nutmeg, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne powder to form a rub.
3. This makes a generous 1 cup rub, and you may not use all of it for the final recipe. Store the rub in an airtight jar or sealable plastic bag in a cool, dark place up to 4 to 6 weeks.
BRAISED PORK RIBS
2 racks pork ribs, preferably St. Louis-style, silverskin removed
1 cup apple cider
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups diced apples, about 2 apples
2 1/4 cups diced onion, about 1 onion
Scant 1 cup diced carrots, about 2 carrots
1 1/2 cups diced celery hearts, from about 1 bunch
1. Coat the rib racks generously on each side with the spice rub. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight to season.
2. The next day, in a large saucepan, bring the cider, chicken and beef broths and bay leaves to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Heat the oven to the broiler setting. Place the rib racks on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Broil the racks until browned on each side, about 2 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the heat of the broiler.
4. Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine the diced apples, onion, carrots and celery heart, and place the seared ribs on top (pour any drippings from the rimmed baking sheet over the ribs). Pour over the hot broth.
5. Cover the pan tightly, first with parchment paper, then a layer of plastic wrap, then with a layer of foil, creating as tight a seal as possible. Place the covered pan in the oven and braise the ribs for 3 hours.
6. Remove the pan from the oven and cool the ribs completely. Skim the fat from the pan and set the ribs aside. Strain the braising liquid (we had about 1 quart) into a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the sauce by half.
7. To reheat the ribs, place the ribs in a roasting pan and pour the sauce over. Place the ribs in a 325-degree oven and heat until the ribs are warmed through before serving.
Each of 8 servings: 725 calories; 49 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 50 grams fat; 18 grams saturated fat; 191 mg. cholesterol; 10 grams sugar; 893 mg. sodium.
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