Seeing through smoke screen with easy, do-it-yourself ribs

Meat: There's a mystique to making ribs, but you can ignore it and still eat well.

February 02, 2000|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Ribs are not the sort of food you'd make for an everyday dinner. Ribs are a celebration meal.

The team won the game: Go out for ribs.

Friends are in town: Go out for ribs, and so on.

Too many rib joints create a mystique about their sauces or their hickory-smoking process, and you're bound to think you couldn't possibly make ribs in your kitchen.

But you can. And it's easier than you might think.

To start, pick up a couple of slabs of baby back ribs. A 1- to 1 1/2 -pound package is a serving for one. Brush the surface of the meat with a damp paper towel to get rid of any bone particles that might have accumulated when the butcher cut the bones. Then, place the ribs on a baking sheet covered with heavy-duty foil. Cleaning pans that are encrusted with barbecue sauce is a major chore, and using a foil liner eliminates the mess. Let the ribs cook for 45 minutes while you make a sauce. Don't sauce the ribs until the meat is almost cooked. If the sauce cooks too long, it's going to burn.

That's all there is to ribs -- except for adding some mashed sweet potatoes, including plenty of napkins and then finding some excuse to turn a plain meal into a festive one.

Barbecued Ribs

Serves 2

2 (1-pound) slabs baby back ribs

1 tablespoon oil

2 teaspoons minced ginger root

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 cup chicken broth

3/4 to 1 teaspoon chili powder

3 tablespoons chili-flavored jam (see note)

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

salt, pepper

Place ribs on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare barbecue sauce. Heat oil in small pan. Add ginger root and onion and saute 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, chili power, jam, tomato paste and mustard and simmer 5 minutes. Mixture should be hot and sweet. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove ribs from oven after 45 minutes and baste with sauce, using all the sauce. Bake ribs another 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Serve as slabs or cut into individual ribs.

Note: Chili-flavored jam is available in many specialty-food stores. If you can't find it, use strawberry jam mixed with 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.

Roasted, Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Serves 2

1 large sweet potato, unpeeled, quartered

3 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons half-and-half

1/8 teaspoon crushed dried thyme

salt, pepper

Combine sweet potato and garlic cloves in oven-proof dish that is just large enough to hold everything. Drizzle with oil. Bake in oven at 350 degrees until fork-tender, about 1 hour.

Remove potatoes from oven. Peel potatoes and garlic. Add to small pan along with butter and half-and-half. Mash potatoes coarsely.

If necessary, reheat. Add thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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