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Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Citrus Barbecue Sauce

Baby back ribs are leaner and offer less meat by weight than spareribs. Their flavor is not quite as intense, so this preparation compensates with a long marinating time and a tangy sauce with a kick of spice. If you’ve never made your own barbecue sauce, this will be a revelation: citrus juices and honey add a depth and freshness lacking in bottled sauces.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika 
  • 2 Tbs. Old Bay Seasoning  
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder 
  • 1 to 2 tsp. cayenne pepper 
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder 
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt  
  • 1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 
  • 6 lb. baby back ribs 
  •   

For the barbecue sauce: 

  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced 
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice 
  • 2 cups tomato ketchup 
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice 
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar 
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed dark brown sugar 
  • 1 Tbs. dry mustard 
  • 1 Tbs. sweet paprika 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes 
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder 
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp. hot-pepper sauce, such as Tabasco 
  • 1 Tbs. honey 
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt  
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter 

Directions:

Sift the paprika, Old Bay Seasoning, chili powder, cayenne and garlic powder into a large bowl. Add the salt, black pepper and granulated sugar. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir with a fork to make a paste. Rub the paste into the ribs and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in a large roasting pan and refrigerate overnight.

To make the barbecue sauce, in a blender or food processor, puree the onion with 1/4 cup of the orange juice until smooth, about 1 minute. In a saucepan, combine the remaining 3/4 cup orange juice, the ketchup, lime juice, cider vinegar, brown sugar, dry mustard, paprika, pepper flakes, garlic powder, chili powder, hot-pepper sauce, honey, salt, black pepper and butter. Stir in the onion puree. Place over low heat and bring to a slow simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes. Let cool.

Preheat an oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the ribs on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and cook, turning the ribs over every hour, until the meat starts to pull away from the bones, about 3 hours. Remove the ribs from the oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour.

Prepare a hot fire in a grill. Place the ribs, meaty side down, on the grill rack and cook just until the fat starts to sizzle, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the ribs over and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut between the ribs to separate them.

Mound the ribs on a platter. Drizzle with the barbecue sauce or pass the sauce at the table. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

A note from the butcher: Ask the butcher to remove the membrane from the back of the rib plate. To remove it yourself, loosen it at the tail end of the rack, grasp it with a folded paper towel and peel it off in one piece.
— Benjamin Dyer, Laurelhust Market, Portland, OR

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Cook and The Butcher, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, Inc., 2011).