Stellar ribs perfect end to unofficial summer

Dan and I love to grill.

We don't use a traditional charcoal grill (takes too long) or a Green Egg (too pricey) or one of those Weber wood pellet grills (too new). We have your standard issue Weber gas grill, a Father's Day gift for Dan a few years back to replace a cheap Charbroil he had rebuilt twice. His favorite part of the gift? Fuller's Home & Hardware assembled AND delivered it.

The recipes we enjoy making aren't too complicated, either. Many of our favorites - including the chicken satay and peanut sauce recipe I've shared here - originate from a Kingsford cookbook my mom picked up for me in a hospital gift shop for $2.99.

I have a long list of recipes I'd like to make, including several from "Peace, Love and Barbecue." The book, a gift from Slonoff, was written by Mike and Amy Mills, his mother's cousins. I've also saved stacks of Bon Appetit's annual grilling issue.

I was flipping through the pages of these old issues a few months back and came across a recipe titled (not at all humbly) "The Ultimate Ribs."

"Remember making these?" I asked Dan.

He did. How could he forget? It took days to prepare them. (OK, only two days, but that is 1 and 3/4 more days than we typically spend on dinner.)

They were delicious, but too much work, so the very next time we had a taste for ribs, we found another recipe with half the ingredients and a third of the effort.

"We should make those again this summer," Dan said.

Enter Labor Day weekend, 2020. Much to all our chagrin, COVID-19 did not disappear over the warmer months, as promised, and we are definitely not back to normal. When it came time to discuss our menu for the holiday weekend, we knew right away what to make.

With no plans whatsoever, we had nothing better to do than cook. I pulled the July 2004 issue out and turned to Page 95.

The recipe is daunting.

Eighteen ingredients for the brine and two rubs. The Key West barbecue sauce alone has 17 ingredients, including seven different kinds of juice.

And so the preparations began. I started purchasing the ingredients a full week in advance, with the expectation that if I split up the recipe (first buy for the sauce, then the brine and rubs) I would be more likely to remember everything I needed. My third trip to the store Sunday morning for dry mustard and regular mustard proved me wrong.

The good news about these ribs is you don't have to do all the work at once. You can make the sauce up to a week in advance - or in the morning, if you're not quite that prepared. The brine is pretty simple, and if you split the racks, you don't need to search for giant 2.5-gallon zipper bags for the brine. A regular old one-gallon bag will suffice.

You can't whip these up in a jiffy, however. The time from soaking the wood chips to putting the ribs on the table is in excess of three hours.

But, boy, was the investment worth it.

The meat was tender and juicy and the caramelized burnt ends - courtesy of the second rub - were delicious. The sauce was sweet and spicy and the perfect compliment to the ribs.

If you have kids, I'd suggest cutting back on the cayenne pepper - unless you want to assure there will be more leftovers for you to enjoy.

There are fancier rib recipes (like the fennel-spiced ribs with tangy apple-mustard barbecue) and more exotic ones (coconut-marinated short rib kebab with peanut-chile oil) and ones you can make in the Instapot (which just seems wrong).

But these ribs, well, the recipe didn't lie.

- Pamela Lannom is editor

of The Hinsdalean. Readers

can email her at

[email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean