Left photo by Amy Johnson Photography
Kitchen Culture: Texas-Spiced Baby Back Ribs

With the NFL play-offs in full swing, tailgating and football fare is far from over. Co-owner and cidermaker Wes Mickel of Texas’ Argus Cidery shares his straight-from-Austin rib rub recipe, touting big, smoky flavor and a subtle pinch of fennel that makes it terrific for a halftime meal, regardless if the weather accommodates grilling the ribs outside or frostily suggests baking them in the oven. Pair with Argus’ Perennial cider, a nicely dry sipper, with woody, earthy notes from barrel aging that enrich and soften its tangy blend of Texas apples.

Baby Back Ribs
Makes ¾ cup of rub, serves 4-6

3 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 ½ tablespoons freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 ½ tablespoons ancho powder
1 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon fennel seed, freshly ground
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground chili flakes or cayenne
3 teaspoons coarse sea salt
6 pounds baby back pork ribs, membrane removed along the bone
2 tablespoons canola oil

Mix together all spices in a small bowl, keeping salt separate.

Pat ribs dry and place flat on a baking sheet. Sprinkle both sides of the ribs evenly with salt. Dust rib racks generously with rub, 1-2 tablespoon per pound of ribs. Loosely cover and place baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight.

Before grilling or roasting ribs with your preferred method, pat dry and brush lightly with canola oil. For grilling, preheat the grill to 250-325° F. Place the ribs, bone-side down, on the grill and allow to cook for about 2 ½ hours, or until the ribs begin to fall apart.

For a quicker method in the oven, preheat the oven to 225° F. Wrap ribs in foil and place in a large ovenproof dish. Place in the oven and cook for 1 ½ hours. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Turn the oven up to 450° F, remove foil, place ribs back in the dish and into the oven to caramelize for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to sit for 5 minutes then cut and serve.

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