Bowl games and ribs are a marriage made in hosts' heaven

Entertaining

Entertaining: A family recipe lends itself to oven-baking or outdoor grilling at game time.

January 27, 2002|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Special to the Sun

My 30-something son loves all sports, but football is his favorite. Much to his wife's chagrin, he spends hours in front of the television watching his favorite teams do battle on the gridiron during fall and early winter. For him, the game to end all games is, of course, the Super Bowl, and since he is quite gregarious he turns this event into a social occasion. A talented amateur cook, he invites friends to come watch the match and serves supper during the half time.

A few days before this major sports affair, I often get a phone call from Michael asking for menu suggestions. I've proposed chili, lasagna and all kinds of hearty sandwiches for these get-togethers, but this year baby back ribs brushed with a delicious homemade barbecue sauce will be my recommendation.

The barbecue sauce is an old family recipe that I discovered by accident several weeks ago while sorting through a stack of folders in the back of a filing cabinet. There, on a tattered and yellowed index card, I found directions handwritten by my late father-in-law for the celebrated barbecue sauce he slathered on ribs cooking over an open fire.

My mouth watered as I read the notes, and within days I bought some baby back ribs, but instead of cooking them outdoors, I baked them in the oven. As my husband devoured these crusty ribs with their tender, succulent flesh, he had a Proustian "madeleine" reaction to this dish, which recalled his youth.

Cole slaw and baked beans are natural partners for the ribs, or a spinach salad with sliced avocados in an orange-scented dressing and a plate of hot corn bread would make equally good accompaniments.

Betty Rosbottom writes for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Ribs, Deep-South Style Makes 6 servings with full slab per person or 12 servings with half slab per person

1 recipe Deep-South Barbecue Sauce

6 slabs baby back pork ribs (each about 1 1/2 pounds)

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

salt, freshly ground black pepper

cayenne pepper

Arrange 1 oven rack in middle position and another rack in lower third of oven. Reserve 1 cup of the barbecue sauce to serve with ribs.

Rinse ribs and pat dry with paper towels. Score white membrane on underside with knife. Place flat roasting rack in each of 2 large roasting pans. Brush ribs on both sides with vinegar and season generously on both sides with salt, black pepper and cayenne.

Place ribs, meaty side up, on roasting racks in pans. Brush both sides of ribs with some barbecue sauce. Roast in oven at 350 degrees until a rich dark-brown and tender when pierced with knife, 1 1/2 to 1 3 / 4 hours. Baste top of ribs every 30 minutes with some barbecue sauce. After 45 minutes, reverse pans, placing pan on middle rack on lower rack and vice versa. Cover ribs loosely with aluminum foil if they start to brown too quickly.

When done, place ribs on large platter. Heat reserved barbecue sauce and any remaining basting sauce in medium saucepan over medium heat until bubbling. Pass warmed sauce to drizzle over each serving of ribs.

Deep-South Barbecue Sauce

Makes 3 cups

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

10 medium garlic cloves, chopped

5 cups water

1 cup chili sauce

1 cup ketchup

2 cups cider vinegar

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons dry mustard (Coleman's works well)

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

juice of 2 lemons

Melt butter in large, heavy saucepan or deep-sided pot over medium heat. When melted, add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until just softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add water, chili sauce, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Stir well to blend.

Add lemon juice and 2 of the juiced halves to saucepan. Bring sauce to simmer and cook, uncovered, until sauce has thickened and is reduced to about 3 cups, 1 hour or longer. Remove from heat. (Sauce can be prepared 5 days ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate.)

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