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For the last 10 years, I’ve lived in the same apartment in Center City Philadelphia. It’s a wonderful, light-filled space that has been in my family since 1965. I am well and truly lucky to call it home. The apartment really has only one downside and that’s the total absence of outdoor space. During the winter months, it’s no big thing, but come summer, I long to have a bit of space in which to grow a few vegetables and set up a grill.
I’ve not found an adequate substitute for indoor gardening yet, but when it comes to giving food a grill-like flavor and appearance, I’ve developed a few tricks. I have a stovetop grill pan and a fancy George Foreman-like appliance that does a very nice job with pork chops. When it’s about more than the simple appearance of grill marks, I use either smoked paprika, liquid smoke or hickory-smoked sea salt. Each has a way of lending a touch of open fire to the foods they’ve been added to.
Recently, my husband announced that he was longing for ribs, preferably the kind that tasted like they’d spent hours in contact with indirect, smoky heat. Before we made tracks for our local barbecue joint, I decided to see if I couldn’t find a way to mimic that kind of flavor at home.
In my research, I found a recipe from Guy Fieri that seemed to hit all the notes I was looking for. He used a conventional oven set at a very low temperature to provide the indirect heat, a simple rub made from smoked paprika, salt and pepper for flavor and a very long cook time to ensure a tender, falling-from-the-bone finished product.
Friends, these Salt and Pepper Spare Ribs were really good, particularly when paired with the Romesco sauce that Guy has you make for dipping. They tasted like they’d spent half a day in a smoker. And while there will always be a place in my heart for professional barbecue, these ribs were a very tasty (and inexpensive!) alternative. If you’re in similar, no-outdoor-space straits, they should shoot straight to the top of your list. Pick up a few pounds of ribs for your next Weekender.
Before you heat your oven, here are a few things you should know:
- Be generous with the smoked paprika, as it lends so much flavor to the finished ribs.
- Make sure to start the ribs early. I let them cook for the full four hours recommended and they were insanely tender.
- The Romesco sauce is fabulous stuff, but the recipe does make a ton (more than 2 1/2 cups). If you think that’s more than your family can eat, either cut the recipe in half or carve out a little freezer space for the extra.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round, is now available.