And to Drink …
For selecting a wine with these meaty pork ribs, it’s all about the sweet, hot and spicy flavorings. They call for a red of substance and body, ideally with freshness and acidity as well. My first thought is of grenache, which worldwide has undergone a stylistic transition from overripe and sweet to fresh and complex over the past few years. Where would you like to go? France for Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas? Spain for Priorat or Sierra de Gredos? California or Australia? Plenty of great ones are out there. You could try something more esoteric, like a bobal from Manchuela in Spain or a red from the Canary Islands. The Douro in Portugal and Languedoc in France are making winning wines. Beaujolais and pinot noir would work, too, as would a dry earthy Lambrusco. Choices abound.
— Eric Asimov
First, a disclaimer: This is not a recipe for real barbecue. There's no fire involved; you use a standard oven. The recipe should probably be called Slow-Cooked Pork à la Barbeque, and rightfully so.
It does not conform to Texas, Kansas City or any other cherished American barbecue standards. There is no ketchup or cola in the sauce. There's not even sauce per se, and the meat simmers in liquid instead of basking in smoky dry heat. In this way, it's more like a soupy Mexican barbacoa of lamb or goat.
The seasoning veers Caribbean, though, with plenty of sweet spices, like clove, cinnamon, coriander and allspice. Cayenne provides a moderate baseline heat, which can be amplified with as much Scotch bonnet or habanero chile heat as you wish. On all accounts, it is robustly flavorful.
After slathering the meat with a flavorful paste, you stick it in a Dutch oven (I used an old enamelware turkey roaster), add a little water and let it bubble slowly under the lid for a few hours. There is nothing to do but wait.
As for the cut of pork, choose a bone-in (or boneless) marbled shoulder roast or thick-cut county-style ribs, which are meaty bone-in chops cut from the shoulder end of the loin. Shoulder meat becomes tender and succulent with long cooking, while leaner cuts, like loin or leg, are better roasted.
Should pork not be in your diet, use beef short ribs, lamb shanks or chicken legs. I dare say you could concoct a mean vegetarian version with root vegetables and tofu, too.
You're going for ultratender, falling-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth succulence. A word of caution, however: Even long-cooked meat can become overcooked, so take care. Take it too far, and moist chunks turn stringy and dry, which is not the end of the world, but still. There's a critical moment when it's just right, the point of perfection when meat is well and truly ready.
Cut into biggish chunks and served in its spicy juices with beans, rice and cornbread, the pork is sublime. It's also very good on a crusty bun, if you wait till the inside gets good and soggy. Of course, you can also shred the meat to make more traditional pulled pork sandwiches or excellent tacos.
It will never qualify as authentic smokehouse barbecue, but that was never the aim.
Barbecue Country-Style Pork Ribs
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 3 hours
For the barbecue:
5 pounds thick country-style pork ribs or whole bone-in pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 tablespoons smoked paprika, such as pimentón de la Vera
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon annatto powder (optional)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 or 3 Scotch bonnet or habanero chilies, left whole but split to the stem (optional)
4 bay leaves
Soft buns or crusty rolls (optional)
For the cabbage salad (optional):
1 medium Savoy cabbage, cut into 1-inch-wide ribbons
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup orange juice (from 1 medium orange)
3 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 large lime)
1 tablespoon apple-cider vinegar
1 small jalapeño chile, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place pork in a Dutch oven or a roasting pan with a lid. Sprinkle with salt. In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast allspice, peppercorns, coriander and cloves until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Using an electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, grind spices, and transfer to a small bowl.
To the ground, toasted spices, add smoked paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, annatto (if using), garlic, molasses, vinegar and tomato paste. Stir well, then rub mixture all over pork.
Add 4 cups water to pot. Add split chilies, if using (omit if you don't like really spicy barbecue), and bay leaves. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees, and continue to bake, basting occasionally for 2 hours, until meat is fork tender and falling off the bone. Pour off juices, and remove rising fat. Cut pork into chunks, or shred. Serve with pan juices, on a bun or roll, and/or with the cabbage salad. (Alternatively, refrigerate meat and juices for up to 2 days for easier fat removal, and reheat.)
To make optional cabbage salad, place cabbage in a low, wide bowl. Sprinkle with salt, and toss well. Add orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, jalapeño, cumin and scallions. Toss well, and leave to macerate for at least 1 hour; repeat tossing once or twice. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.