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improvise and add Ribs SMH 29/11/11

December 1, 2011

Improvise and add rib November 29, 2011

Meat-lovers can’t go past those delicious morsels on the bone, writes Tim Elliott.

Craig Macindoe doesn’t like meat, he loves it. Jamon, chorizo, grass-fed beef, meatballs … chooks, ducks, pigs, fish – if it has eyes and a pulse, Macindoe will eat it. But there is a special table in the big man’s heart reserved for ribs.

”Everyone loves ribs,” the owner of Mumu Grill, Crows Nest, says. ”There’s a primal aspect to them: you get your hands dirty, sauce dribbles down your chin. It’s great for social occasions, like barbecues, because you put your bib on, lose your pretentiousness and dig in.”

And his admiration is in line with summer’s top barbecue ingredient.

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Macindoe’s barbecued ribs. Photo: Danielle Smith
Macindoe started cooking ribs in 1988 at Sydney’s Hard Rock Cafe, when he was 17. ”Back then we cooked them with a barbecue sauce made from pickled watermelon rind.”

But it wasn’t until 1991, when he set up a Hard Rock Cafe in Hawaii, that he discovered the particular esteem in which ribs are regarded by Americans. ”Ribs are all about the process, not the initial product,” he says. ”Over there they have a real love of building your own barbecue and smoking them for four hours in your own special wood chips. And they pride themselves on different ribs, sauces and marinades.”

These days Mumu Grill hosts five or six Rib Fests a year ($45 for all you can eat); Macindoe also holds rib cooking classes twice monthly. ”People want to feel confident at barbecues. Most of them feel intimidated by the time it takes to prepare ribs, because it can be quite slow and you need patience.”

The meat on ribs are the intercostal muscles, designed to hold the ribcage together. Consequently, ribs are tough. This traditionally made them a cheap cut, which cooks gussied up with a kaleidoscope of sauces.

The recent vogue of the cut has pushed the price of pork ribs from $10 a kilogram wholesale three years ago to $16.50. Other options are beef back ribs or, for a slightly fattier meat, lamb ribs. The essential ingredient is patience. ”You can’t rush it. You need to braise the ribs … 2½ hours before you put them on the barbecue.”

Pork spare ribs
Cater 500 grams to 750 grams of ribs a person (two to three kilograms for four people). In a large, oven-proof dish with a lid, make a sauce with 500 grams whole, unskinned cumquats, five peeled mandarins, 250 grams long red chillis, 120 grams garlic and two litres Coca-Cola. Add half a tablespoon star anise, half a cinnamon quill, one tablespoon Sichuan pepper, season to taste. Add ribs; if sauce doesn’t cover them, add Chinese cooking wine. Braise ribs, covered, in oven on low heat for at least 2½ hours or until meat is coming off the bone and sauce has reduced. Remove ribs and blend sauce with a stick blender. Return ribs to sauce and allow to cool. Cook ribs on barbecue at full heat for 10 minutes; allow them to char but turn every minute or so and paint liberally with sauce. “The sauce will caramelise,” Macindoe says. “It’s all about the colour – you want that lovely, dark brown gloss.” Serve with beer.

Serves 4

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