The Family Meat

Like so many of us these days, I come from a somewhat dysfunctional family. In my case, I have a less-than-stellar relationship with my father, but there is thing involving him that I always remember fondly: meat.

See, my mother was the family cook; she made almost all of our meals, and taught me to cook at a young age. However, my darling mother is a vegetarian, and my father is not. Anything that came off of an animal was usually Dad’s domain to handle, and he passed on some of his knowledge to me.

Now, I live by myself, so I don’t always get the chance to cook meat dishes for me: it’s somewhat pricey and I can’t always eat everything I make before it goes bad. So, when I found myself with a hankering for my Dad’s ribs, I knew I was going to need some assistance. Enter my lovely dinner guest:

This is my dear friend Chien (nickname used at his request), who is one of my very favourite people, and someone I enjoy cooking for on a semi-regular basis. He was very eager to come over and help me eat the slab of porcine deliciousness I pulled out of my oven. He was also the one who suggested that I make brownies– good idea, man!

All in all, we both enjoyed the ribs very much, and the brownies were sublime, but I probably could have stood to have a little more patience and leave the ribs in the oven for another half hour or so. They were still quite delicious, but would have been even more tender and succulent with a little extra cooking time. Remember: patience is key when it comes to meaty deliciousness!!

Read on for the recipe…

Now really, ribs aren’t all that hard to make; as long as you have an oven, it can be done. My dad’s recipe has you season the ribs with a dry rub: a flavourful mixture of sugar, garlic, and other goodies. The ribs are then baked in a low-temperature oven for most of the afternoon until they are sticky and delicious, and almost fall-off-the-bone tender. No barbecue sauce needed!

The only real deterrent to you, my collegiate friends, might be price. Meat can be somewhat pricey, especially if you care about the quality and ethics that the animal was raised/killed with. My favourite place to find good deals on fresh meat products are carnicerias, or the butcher’s counter of your local Hispanic market. If you’re not lucky enough to have one nearby (I live in California; there’s one in every city), then check your local Megamart for good deals and stock up. Most cuts of meat will keep well in the freezer, wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, for quite some time.

My dad’s recipe calls for two pounds of pork ribs– I like baby back, but use whatever you like/can afford. I already had everything else in my pantry (nearly all the spices in the dry rub are kitchen staples), so total for the meal was around $8-10 for the meat, and $2 for the acccompanying salad.

Now that we’ve sorted out our economic problems, we’re ready to start. First up: the prep. For what we’re cooking this time, this step is three-fold. To begin, preheat your oven to 225 degrees Farenheit (~107 degrees Celsius):

(note: Even the most sophisticated of ovens can lie. An inexpensive oven thermometer is your best friend!)

Next, cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil:

(This is to ensure a quick and easy clean-up. Also, a good courtesy if you have roommates who keep Kosher.)

And gather up the ingredients for your dry rub:

For this recipe, you will need:

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/8 cup salt (preferably kosher salt, but use what you can afford)
1/2 tsp black pepper (about ten twists, if using a pepper grinder)
1 tsp. garlic powder

Now that we’ve got everything together, we’re ready to begin. Dump all the rub ingredients into a bowl:

And mix well, using your fingers to break up any big clumps of brown sugar:

(note: make sure to wash your hands after this step! Otherwise, you may forget and rub your eyes with your chili-covered fingers, like I did. Ouch!)

Now that our dry rub is ready, we can bring out our main player: the ribs.

Lay the ribs out on your prepared baking sheet and remove whatever packaging they came in.

Mine were in a vacuum-sealed bag, so I was able to just slit the packaging down the side and lift them out. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel, and sprinkle about half of the dry rub onto one side.

(I know it looks like a lot. Trust me, you’ll want to use that much)

Wash your hands well with soap and warm water, and work the rub into the meat (hence, why it’s called a “rub”)

(This is about when you should take off any jewelry you wear on your hands)

Then repeat on the other side.

Cover the finished ribs with more aluminum foil, creating a sort of “tent”.

This traps juices from the meat and keeps them from running off into your oven, and also helps keep the ribs super tender. Lastly, place into your preheated oven for 4-5 hours, and wait (im)patiently for them to be done.

(Note: this is a great time to do stuff like your neglected laundry, or study for that Phonology exam you have tomorrow)

When they’re done, the ribs will be moist and delicious, and fall-off-the-bone tender. Serve with a nice fresh green salad, and enjoy!


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