We planned to spend ten days at the beach. A rented house with a great open kitchen, views of the bay while standing at the large island cooktop, a 10-minute ride past dense woods to Main Beach and the Atlantic. Me, my husband, Doug, our daughter, Lily, son Max, his girlfriend, Theresa and my in-laws, with a week-ending visit from Theresa’s parents, driving in from Ohio. As we packed to make the three-hour drive to the east end of Long Island, suitcases had to be lashed to the roof of the SUV because the cargo space was jammed with four coolers of meats, cheeses, condiments and other perishables along with myriad boxes of groceries that included everything from organic rolled oats to truffle salt. And pots. I had to have my dutch oven and cast iron skillet and mandolin, assorted utensils, small food processor, hand mixer and 3/4 of my spice drawer. Welcome to my vacation.
Yes, the point of going to the beach is to get your toes in the sand. But by now you realize that for me, it’s also about the opportunity to create memorable meals for my whole family—and with a grown son who is a hard-working chef, and a teen-age daughter who is hardly ever home at what used to be known as “dinner time”, this is not something I get to do too often. Did I mention my new grand-dog?
His name is Whiskey. He’s a Wire-Haired Viszla, born of Hungarian parents by way of Oklahoma. He came along to the beach too and inspired this bourbon-laced rib recipe that was the perfect vacation dish. It takes about 10-minutes to assemble and get in the oven at a low temp. Then you leave the house and go to the beach for four hours. When you return to the house, sun-burned, sandy and windblown you walk into a wall of aroma. And you have waiting for you the most tender, falling-off-the-bone ribs you’ve ever had.
I know there are a lot of rib recipes out there this time of year: grilled and wood-smoked and wet-rubbed or dry-rubbed, but whichever way I try it, my family always wants me to return to this simple braising method that produces the melt-in-your-mouth, shameless bone-sucking result they have come to love. We don’t like to be gnawing and wrestling meat off the bone. I don’t want strings of pork stuck in my teeth that require long sessions of flossing after dinner. No matter how good the rub, or the smoke, I don’t like my ribs al dente. So here is my method. Get ready, don’t blink.
Take some ribs. Slather them with your favorite store-bought or homemade BBQ sauce that you’ve added a generous amount of bourbon to.
Put the ribs, bone side down, in a large roasting pan. Add some more sauce and enough low-sodium chicken stock, so that that the liquid covers the ribs about half way up, leaving the tops peeking out. (Braising is not boiling…so don’t completely cover the meat with liquid!) Seal the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Place the ribs in a 300 degree F oven for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours, depending on the size (less for baby backs, more for larger ribs). Go to the beach. On the way home pick up some corn and fresh tomatoes at a roadside farm stand. Once home, pour the liquid off the ribs into a sauce pan, return the ribs to the oven, uncovered so they dry up a little. Boil the sauce hard for 10 minutes until it reduces down a good couple of inches. Add more bourbon. Reduce it down a little more. Shuck corn with your kids while the water boils. Blanch the corn for about 3 minutes only so it doesn’t get starchy. Slice the tomatoes and drizzle with that good oil you brought along and that syrupy balsamic. Slather the corn with butter and lime zest. Put the ribs on a big platter and serve the reduced sauce over the top or on the side. Sit down and eat and try not to let anyone see the shine in your eyes as you watch your family around the big table—the sound of satisfied slurping bringing on the happy tears. Then when the table is cleared, and you are waiting a reasonable amount of time before dessert, there is only one thing left to do.
Take a nap with the puppy.