The "3 and down" spareribs used in this recipe are my (Chris's) absolute favorite type of ribs. These beauties are small enough to be manageable, but they have plenty of fat and incredible pork flavor. It just doesn't get any better than this in the rib department.
Here I'm taking a kind of nontraditional approach to these ribs. First I coat them with my dry adaptation of the Latin American adobo sauce, flavored with cumin, chili, oregano, and sour orange. Next I go the "cheater's route," putting the ribs in a low oven for 3 hours to cook them through, then laying them on the grill over a very low charcoal fire to give them a nice crust and some good smoke flavor. To finish it all off, there's a sweet-sour-hot barbecue sauce for drizzling or dunking.
For the Flavoring Paste:
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons chile powder
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh oregano
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- 6 tablespoons orange juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 4 dashes Tabasco sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Two 3-pound racks pork spareribs
For the Sauce:
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup catsup
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh chile peppers of your choice
1. Preheat the oven to 200°F.
2. In a food processor or blender, combine the paste ingredients and blend until smooth. Dry the ribs with paper towels, then rub them thoroughly with the paste. Place the ribs on two baking sheets and slow-roast for 3 hours, or until no red juice comes out when you poke the meat with a fork and the meat is tender and pulls easily from the bone. Remove the ribs from the oven. They can go right onto the grill, stand out for a while, or be refrigerated, covered, for 2 days.
3. While the ribs are roasting, combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well; set aside.
4. Light a fire in your grill. You want a very low charcoal fire with the rack set as high as possible.
5. Put the ribs on the grill and let them stay there as long as your patience allows. A light crust on the outside is the goal, and, depending on your fire, it can be achieved in 5 minutes per side or take up to 30 minutes per side, if you're into prolonging your guests' agony. Of course, the longer the ribs cook, the better. Brush them with the sauce during the last minute on the grill.
6. Cut the ribs apart between the bones and serve with the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.
- The Cut: In the trade, these are called "3 and down" pork spareribs. The "3 and down" means that each rack weight 3 pounds or less, and the "spareribs" means that they come from the belly of the hog, right below the bacon. If you can get them, these are my #1 choice for ribs.
- Other Cuts You Can Use: You can definitely use St. Louis-style spareribs here, and, in a pinch, you could cut your cooking times in half and go with the pork loin back ribs, even though they're really a different animal.
- Cook Once, Eat Twice: If you are fortunate enough to have any of these ribs left over, reheat them in a low (250°F) oven and eat them with coleslaw. Or you can even just eat them room temperature—we certainly have.