When you hear “baby-back ribs” you’ll almost certainly think of smoky slow cooked racks slathered in barbecue sauce or crusted with a spicy rub of powdered chilis and brown sugar. And you would be forgiven for that – barbecue is a true American art form. But that’s not the only way to make a masterpiece of pork.
For today’s piggy canvas, we’ll throw out the standard flavors and work with a palette of cumin, jalapeno, pineapple, and avocado. Cumin, the world’s second most popular spice, finds its way into myriad cuisines from Mexican to Middle Eastern to Indian to Sichuan to Uzbek. In this application, its earthy warmth forms a perfectly complementary crust on rich, juicy ribs. A sweet-spicy glaze of honey, lime, and jalapeno puts it over the top. And the whole ensemble is crowned with a chunky pineapple-avocado salsa that provides just the right bite to balance out the heavy pork flavors. Now that you’re hungry, let’s get started.
Assemble your ingredients. Not your typical baby back accoutrements. Note that I’m using 1 rack of ribs, but the recipe makes enough glaze and salsa for 2 racks.
Make a rub of ancho chile powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
Rub the rub on the ribs (what did you think you were going to do with it?). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Add a little water to the rimmed baking sheet. A non-rimmed sheet will result in an all too predictable mess. Stick the ribs in the oven at 350° for 45 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes more, until tender.
Meanwhile, core and slice your jalapeno peppers. Set aside ¼ of them.
Add ¾ of the peppers to a blender with garlic and lime juice and blend until smooth. Add honey and a tablespoon of cumin and blend again.
There you go.
Transfer from the blender to a small saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until glossy and thickened. Stir frequently.
When the ribs are done, raise the oven temp to 450° and brush on half the glaze. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes, turning once.
They’ll come out looking like this. Yes, this will be a pain to clean. Yes, it might set off your fire alarm. Yes, it will be worth it. Brush on the rest of the glaze.
Slice and grill the pineapple until it’s softened and you have nice grill marks.
Dice up the pineapple.
Dice the red onion, cilantro, and remaining jalapeno.
Mix together with the pineapple, diced avocado, brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons lime juice.
Grill the ribs until nicely charred on both sides, about 5 minutes.
Indulge. With IPA.
Cumin Glazed Ribs with Pineapple Avocado Salsa
from Food and Wine
- ¼ cup ancho chile powder
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 racks baby back ribs (about 5 pounds total)
- 4 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
- 8 garlic cloves, smashed
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- ½ cup honey
- 1 pound fresh pineapple rings, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- ¼ cup finely diced red onion
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 large Hass avocado, diced
- Combine the ancho powder with ¼ cup of the cumin, 2 tablespoons of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper in a bowl. Rub the ribs all over with the, um, rub. Place on a rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Add ¼ inch of water to the baking sheet and bake the ribs for 45 minutes, then cover with foil and bake 30 minutes longer until tender. Pour off the pan juices.
- Meanwhile, blend three-fourths of the jalapeños with the garlic and ½ cup of the lime juice in a blender or food processor. Blend in the honey and the remaining 1 tablespoon of cumin. Simmer the glaze in a saucepan over low heat until glossy and thickened, 15 minutes.
- Raise the oven temperature to 450°. Brush the ribs with half of the glaze. Roast 20 minutes, turning once. Brush on the remaining glaze.
- Preheat a grill or broiler to high heat. Grill the pineapple rings, turning once, until lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Finely dice the pineapple and transfer to a bowl. Add the brown sugar, onion, cilantro, avocado, remaining jalapeno and 2 tablespoons of lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
- Grill or broil the ribs over high heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Cut between the bones and serve with the salsa.