Magazine article Sunset

A Taste of the West: Tangy Ribs and Corn

Magazine article Sunset

A Taste of the West: Tangy Ribs and Corn

Article excerpt

When we plan to serve beef back ribs, we choose our guests with care. They shouldn't fuss about messy faces and greasy hands, and they have to be washable - because there's absolutely no way to adequately enjoy ribs except by gnawing away. Once up to our elbows in bones, it's only practical to use our hands for the rest of the meal, which makes corn on the cob the perfect panner.

Barbecuing is the easiest way to cook bulky back ribs (not to be confused with beef short ribs) and corn. The dry heat of the grill browns them appetizingly and quickly, and the wafting smoke infuses them with flavor. Salt and pepper are perfectly adequate seasonings, but a sweet-sour glaze I tasted in a Thai restaurant is truly sensational.

Part of the glaze is used to shine up the meat and vegetables as they finish cooking, part is thinned with lime juice and fresh herbs to make a tangy sauce that is spooned onto the foods as you eat. A crusty loaf, warmed with butter and sprinkled with chopped green onions and fresh cilantro, goes well with this meal. You might even split the bread in half and toast it on the grill. And what could be more appropriate for dessert than scoops of a favorite ice cream or sorbet on sugar cones?

After we finish the meal, I always volunteer to hose down anyone who wants to freshen up.

Thai Beef Ribs and Corn

Cooking time: 40 to 50 minutes

Prep time: 30 to 40 minutes

Notes: You can make the basting-seasoning sauce a day ahead. Cook corn first if barbecue grill is too small for the ears and the ribs.

Makes: 6 servings

1 tablespoon cornstarch 1/2 cup sugar 1 cup chicken broth 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel 1/4 cup each lemon juice and rice vinegar 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger About 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam) or soy sauce 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried hot red chilies 6 ears corn (about 4 lb. total) 12 beef back ribs (5 1/2 to 6 lb. total), cut apart and fat trimmed 1/4 cup lime juice 1/4 cup each chopped fresh cilantro and green onions

1. In a 4- to 5-quart pan, mix cornstarch with sugar. Stir in broth, lemon peel, lemon juice, vinegar, ginger, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, and chilies. Stir over high heat until boiling, then stir often until Thai sauce is reduced to about 1 1/4 cups (if you boil away, too much, just add water). Use sauce hot or cool. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 5 days.

2. Pull corn husks back but do not break off. To make a decorative handle, tie husks together on each ear with a thin husk strip. Discard corn silk and rinse ears.

3. In a barbecue with a lid, cover firegrate with a solid layer of hot coals or heat gas grill to high (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds). Lay corn on grill (husks can hang over edge outside lid). Cover barbecue and open vents on lid. Cook corn until lightly browned, about 10 minutes, turning to keep color even. Push corn to a cool area of grill (or remove and keep warm). Lay ribs on grill. Cover and cook until meat is lightly browned, turning as needed, about 10 minutes (if flame-ups occur, immediately cover grill with lid).

4. Measure 1/4 cup Thai sauce and season it to taste with remaining fish sauce. Stir in lime juice, cilantro, and green onions; set herb-flavored Thai sauce aside.

5. Use remaining sauce to baste corn and ribs. After meat has cooked 10 minutes, brush again generously with sauce. …

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