Tuscan Ribs with Preserved Lemon

When it comes to cooking things on the grill, especially RIBS, this is usually my husband’s arena. The recipe we first had success with (Alton’s oven baby back ribs), turned out to be a little too greasy for us after a few years.  Delicious as they were.

Tuscan Ribs with Preserved Lemon

Tuscan Ribs with Preserved Lemon

When did I get a craving for ribs? I’m not sure, but the problem with restaurant ribs is that we usually walk away saying, “We could have done better ourselves.” Except for Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQ out in California, that is. So, I decided to cook some ribs myself. I had an envie for Tuscan ribs(why? Never heard of them or knew there was such a thing, but, in a quest to use up my preserved lemons before it’s lemon season again, I set out to see if there was such a thing.  What makes a dish Tuscan?  In addition to the traditional flavors (rosemary, lemon, garlic), it’s the method of cooking.  In this case, using some hardwood mixed in with the lump charcoal provides a smoky flavor that is typical of their cooking.  No smoking chips here.

Of course.

With the basic flavors of lemon, rosemary and garlic, pork is always good.  I used this recipe as a guide, using my preserved lemon in place of the lemon and orange ingredients, omitting the olives, and using only two small canned anchovies.  I also used a little fresh thyme with the rosemary.

For my family, I went ahead and made a rack of ribs with a more traditional rub, but cooked the two side-by-side: first low and slow in the oven for several hours, then about 30 to 45 minutes on a low grill.  I made these two at the same time.  The Tuscan ribs were the trial, the traditional ribs I was pretty sure they would love.

For one rack of ribs for the Tuscan “marinade”, you will need:

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • about 1/4  head of garlic
  • about a quarter of a preserved lemon, flesh and all
  • about 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • about a teaspoon of fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper, or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • a teaspoon of anchovy paste or 2 small canned anchovies.
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (unless you use more of the preserved lemon; use more salt if you are using a fresh lemon)

Mix together all the ingredients in a small food processor, or mince everything coarsely by hand and add to the olive oil. If you have time, place the marinade and the ribs in a sealable bag, and allow to marinade for up to 8 hours.  I didn’t plan that far ahead, so, I just let them “rest” on the counter for about an hour before slow-cooking in the oven.  If you don’t have preserved lemon, substitute the zest and juice of one regular lemon.

Fresh rosemary and thyme, with garlic, red pepper

Fresh rosemary and thyme, with garlic, red pepper

Prepare the ribs by removing the membrane, and cut into 3-rib sections.  Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel, and using your hands, rub the rub into the top sides (the fleshy side) of all the ribs.  With the remaining rub, flip the ribs and evenly pat the rub into the bony side of the rib to make sure it is seasoned also.

Removing the membrane.  Once you get it lifted with the help of a sharp knife, get a good hold of the membrane and peel it off with a slow and steady pull.  Comes right off!

Removing the membrane. Once you get it lifted with the help of a sharp knife, get a good hold of the membrane and peel it off with a slow and steady pull. Comes right off!

An optional step: Cut the ribs into the desired serving portions, if everyone likes the crispy crusts.  We do!

An optional step: Cut the ribs into the desired serving portions, if everyone likes the crispy crusts. We do!

 

Letting the marinade sit on the ribs prior to cooking.

Letting the marinade sit on the ribs prior to cooking.

I used a wire cooling rack in a cookie sheet to allow the juice to drain from the ribs.  Place all the rib sections on the rack, and seal the entire cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Bake at 275 for about 2 hours (any temp between 275 and 325 should be fine, but the lowest temperature will allow the meat to cook more slowly, allowing for less shortening of the proteins, and thus, a tender rib.  Be careful when removing the ribs from the even, they released quite a bit of juice during their slow cook.

 

After 2 hours in a low oven, baked in a sealed pan (foil), the ribs come out tender and cooked, but look uninspiring....Go light your grill!

After 2 hours in a low oven, baked in a sealed pan (foil), the ribs come out tender and cooked, but look uninspiring….Go light your grill!

Tuscan Ribs with Preserved Lemon, slow-baked in the oven and finished on the grill.

Tuscan Ribs with Preserved Lemon, slow-baked in the oven and finished on the grill.

 

These came out very, very good. Crispy yet tender, not greasy but still juicy… it was a nice balance. Some of the edges were a little charred and dry because the temp got a little high, but to be honest, we enjoy those bits, too.

When the ribs have been in the oven for an hour, it’s a good time to heat up the grill.  If you plan on grilling other things on the grill, (lettuce salad, grilled veggies, shrimp, etc.), you want to time your cooking so that the ribs go on at the end of the cooking when the coals are cooled down.  I always add a few pieces of wood to the charcoal in lieu of setting up a real smoking set-up. (Like I said, that part of grilling is my husband’s forte.)  What was the temperature of the grill?  I’m not sure; our little thermometer thingy has been broken for quite some time….so, I just let the coals burn down until they were getting a little ashy, and made sure that the top and bottom flues were closed enough to keep the temperature down.

The result?  The meat was very tender, with a really nice crust on it.  No, it didn’t have that “smoke-ring” so desired, but then I didn’t smoke them.  We like our ribs not dry, but, not greasy either.  On these, the edges and undersides were a tiny bit dry, but the fleshy meat parts were still rich and tender.  And, everyone liked having their own crusts all the way around.  No one likes to share the crusts!  Finishing the ribs on the grill resulted in ribs that looked like they’d been smoking for hours, and still had that great grilled flavor from the little bit of time spent on the grill.

And actually, we ate these without any sauce on them, although I have seen several recipes where they are finished with a balsamic glaze….sounds good!

Yes, it’s a 2-step method, but, if you are going to place so much time and effort into cooking a meat, you really want to make sure it turns out the way you like it.  When you consider that many people advocate boiling the ribs before baking or grilling them (yuk!), a two hour stint in a low oven really does seem like a great alternative, and it produces great results.

Buen Provecho!

To try the traditional rub (following the same 2-step cooking method, check it out here.

 

 

 

 

 

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