There’s a reason we associate delicious ribs with warm afternoons and sunny skies: The blanket of snow covering your grill can kill any hankering you had for barbecued bones in the winter.
Leave it to a master griller to find a way to shake up the summer specialty. In his new cookbook Man Made Meals, due for release in May, Steve Raichlen gives us a recipe for not just an oven-roasted rack, but also one that trades the traditional pork ribs for a rack of lamb.
Lamb ribs are more tender than beef, and more flavorful than pork, so with the right seasoning this meat offers a mean alternative to your conventional rack. And even if you’re not a fan of lamb, you’ll like these ribs because it’s not the choice of meat that matters—Raichlen’s cocoa-brown sugar rub is so delicious, you’ll never want to eat any kind of meat without it again.
The cocoa and brown sugar surprisingly don’t overpower the ribs with sweetness, but instead give the rack a deep, rich flavor that melts in your mouth. With a touch of piment d’Espelette—a Basque chile powder—the rub has just the right amount of spice, and the salt brings out the flavors of the lamb. And while you could certainly cook them on the grill, the oven allows the rub to sizzle and seep into the meat over two hours without requiring any extra work from you.
The recipe actually comes from Raichlen’s stepson, Jake Klein, chef-owner of Der Kommisar in Brooklyn. Some of the ingredients may be a little hard to find—you’ll probably have to preorder lamb ribs from your grocery store, or find a rack at Greek, Middle Eastern, or halal meat market—and Raichlen gives instructions on how to skin the ribs yourself. But if you stick with it, your hard work will be generously rewarded on the first bite.
4 racks of “Denver cut” lamb ribs, each about 1 pound
2/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 tbsp piment d’Espelette or hot paprika
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
Preheat oven to 275°F
Place a rack of ribs meat side down on a baking sheet. Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of the rack by inserting a slender implement, such as the tip of an instant-read meat thermometer, under it; the best place to start is on one of the middle bones.
Using a dishcloth, paper towel, or pliers to gain a secure grip, peel off the membrane.
Turn the ribs over and, using a knife, score a crosshatch pattern on the meat side, making cuts about ½ inch apart and ¼ inch deep. Scoring helps render the fat and crisp the meat.
Repeat with second rack of ribs.
Place the brown sugar, salt, cocoa powder, piment d’Espelette, and black pepper in a small bowl. Stir to mix, breaking up any lumps in the sugar with your fingers.
Sprinke the rub on the ribs on both sides, rubbing it onto the meat.
Line a baking sheet with alumimum foil to facilitate cleanup. Place a wire rack on top of the foil and arrange the ribs, meat side up, on top.
Bake the ribs until sizzling, browned, and very tender (about 1.5-2 hours).
Transfer the rack of ribs to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
Cut into individual ribs and serve with favorite barbecue sauce.
Super Bowl Sunday. You invite friends over to watch the game. You offer pizza, chips, cheese-flavored somethings, coleslaw slathered in BBQ sauce, etc. They point out your culinary immaturity, swat the basket of chicken sticks out of your hands, leave, never return.
In reality, Super Bowl Sunday does not demand sophistication. According to the National Chicken Council's 2014 Wing Report, Americans are set to consume 1.25 billion chicken wings this February second, regardless of who wins. And Domino's Pizza has tallied their output for this special occasion at 11 million slices of pizza, 80 percent more than on the average Sunday.
But let's throw out that saturated, Saturnalian stereotype. Why not prepare something yourself, you self-sufficient badass? You can still have chicken, but try a yogurt-and-beet marinade (so healthful!) in place of mystery sauces, and try grilling instead of frying. Exotic enough for your hipster-convert college buddy, but not so exotic you embarrass your Wisconsonite cousin.
OK...What Did You Have in Mind?
Enter: Tandoori-spiced chicken. This recipe makes a good substitute for takeout wings, but you can use any part of the chicken you want (and it doesn't have to come from your personal free-range organic farm). Bake, marinade, drain away the excess fat, sprinkle salt, spritz some lemon. Chef Biju Thomas recommends using two pounds of drumsticks or wings, with bones. Not terribly difficult—but terribly, terribly classy.
First, you'll want to prepare the marinade, since you'll have to let the chicken soak in that at least four hours before baking.
Marinade: 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 small red beet peeled and cut into large cubes
2-4 garlic cloves minced
Fresh ginger about the size of 1/2 your thumb, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon of Garam Masala, or your favorite curry powder, to your taste
1 tsp coarse salt
Make it as spicy as you like by adding cayenne or chili paste.
In a blender, pulse the above ingredients into a thick, red paste. Then, thoroughly coat the chicken pieces in the marinade.
Game Day: 1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2) Place the chicken and marinade in a deep pan and bake for one hour. Then, carefully drain out all the excess liquid.
3) Finish cooking chicken on a hot grill, turning once. Or: place chicken back in oven, set to broil. (The chicken will cook quickly, requiring just a few minutes of direct heart, until you can see a few charred marks.)
4) Squeeze a fresh lemon and sprinkle coarse salt over the top of the chicken.
5) Serve with your favorite dressing or more yogurt.
In Racing Weight Cookbook: Lean, Light Recipes for Athletes ($25, VeloPress), running coach and Outside contributor Matt Fitzgerald returns to his popular, effective approach to performance nutrition. This time, he and coauthor Georgie Fear simplify the advice and offer more than 90 easy-to-make recipes. Here are their recommendations for timing your meals:
Eat carbs early and protein late. In the morning, your glycogen stores are depleted. A good dose of carbs will help you jump-start your day. At night, your body shifts into repair mode and needs protein for proper recovery.
Eat on a consistent schedule. Studies show that people who eat erratically, even if they consume the same number of calories, accumulate more body fat.
Eat at least two hours before exercising. This allows your body ample opportunity to digest and refuel.
Eat immediately after a workout. Carbs restore glycogen, and lean proteins rebuild muscle. Ideally, you should sit down to a meal within 30 minutes of exercising.