Pork Ribs with Mustard Sorghum Sauce
I love a pork rib. It’s such a delicious delivery of meat-on-the-bone, and it comes with a handle! I often hear people compliment ribs by saying they’re “fall-off-the-bone” tender—and therefore delicious. This is a bit of a contradiction to me. I believe a proper rib should be full of flavor and ever-so-slightly tender, but it’s the connection to the bone that makes it interesting. Anyone can braise a rib into fall-off-the-bone submission, but to walk the line where perfect texture and flavor meet is the real challenge.
To hit the sweet spot, I use lessons learned from all of my pit-master pals (and teammates from the Fatback Collective, a group of chefs, writers, and pitmasters who come together to support our collective communities and learn about new approaches to cooking) for delicious whole-hog barbecue: start slow and low, and fire it up at the end. This recipe uses a three-step process—the cure, the slow roast, and the glaze—and the time associated with each has a major payoff in the final product. The combination of good Dijon mustard and sweet sorghum brings out the rich flavor and texture of the ribs while creating a beautifully caramelized glaze over the meat.
SERVES 4 as a main course or 8 to 12 as a snack
2 racks St. Louis–style pork ribs (about 4 pounds total)
2 tablespoons Poole’s Cure (recipe below)
Black pepper in a mill
½ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup sorghum (I like Muddy Pond)
Place the rib racks on a work surface and rub all over with the cure. Wrap each rack tightly with plastic wrap, place on a rimmed baking sheet (the cure will leach liquid from the meat, so you want something to catch it in case it leaks), and refrigerate for 12 hours. Unwrap the racks and rinse off the cure; pat dry with paper towels.
Preheat a convection oven to 250°F (or a regular oven to 275°F). Season the racks lightly with salt and pepper. Wrap each rack in foil and place side by side on a baking sheet; bake for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let rest, still wrapped in foil, for 30 minutes.
While the ribs are resting, whisk together the mustard and sorghum in a medium bowl. Coat the ribs in the sauce and place on a foil-lined baking sheet under the broiler until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you could caramelize the ribs on a grill over medium-high heat.
Slice the racks into individual ribs and serve hot with lots of paper towels.
This all-purpose cure has a few aromatics thrown in to do double duty: removing moisture while also adding flavor. Take care to place a tray or plate under anything that you’re curing, to catch any liquid that is drawn out by the cure.
MAKES about 2 cups
1½ cups kosher salt
½ cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 fresh bay leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ teaspoon chile flakes
Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor until just aromatic and well combined. The cure will keep for up to 1 month in a lidded container in the refrigerator.
Reprinted with permission from Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner by Ashley Christensen, copyright © 2016. Photography by Johnny Autry. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.