This Father's Day, try these Brontosaurus Bones
Beef ribs are all the rage in the barbecue world these days, and what better way to enjoy them than with dad on Father's Day?
I first saw beef ribs 20 years ago in Nassau, Bahamas. Looking for the best local food, I asked a taxi driver to take me to his favourite restaurant. He took me to a barbecue shack way off the tourist path and introduced me to the finest plate of beef ribs that up to that time I had ever eaten.
Not only were they the tastiest, but they were the biggest ribs that I had ever seen. He aptly called them 'Brontosaurus Bones' because of their dinosaur size, and it stuck with me. The Bahamas' roadside barbecue shack served beef back ribs, which come from the same place on a cow as the well-known pork baby back ribs.
Today, the meatier short rib is the 'Texas' beef rib of choice. This rib was made popular by Wayne Mueller of Taylor, Texas, and perfected in New York by Hometown Bar-B-Que's Billy Durney, who learnt from Mueller.
Durney took the ethnic foods of his Brooklyn upbringing and remade them using southern barbecue techniques. Think pastrami-cured pork belly, jerk ribs, and a smoked lamb belly Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. The beef rib that he is famous for is his interpretation of what he ate during his first visit to Mueller's restaurant.
Durney buys 123-A beef-plate short ribs in three-bone racks from his butcher. If you have a good butcher, you can request that cut. Each bone-in short rib can be cut into six to eight pieces, which will serve two to three people, and will weigh around 1.3 pounds once it is cooked.
When I asked Durney why he thought that he was known for beef ribs, he modestly said that he figured out when to pull the ribs from the pit and how to rest them to maximise their tenderness and flavour.
First, you have to 'feel' the ribs to know that they are done. They are ready to come off the heat once the bones have receded from the meat.
"The centre is soft and tender to the touch, and the top of the meat should also be wet and glistening because the fat and collagen from the beef have rendered," Durney said. "If the beef ribs are dry and crusty, you have overcooked them."
And, they have to rest a good long while 40-60 minutes on a rack set into a sheet pan so the air can circulate around the meat.
"If you set the ribs on the surface of the pan, they will steam and continue cooking," Durney said.
After the initial rest, "wrap them tightly with a layer of plastic wrap and a layer of butcher paper," he said.
Since you will be making these at home, you can finish the resting process in a 1458F oven for 30 more minutes before serving. When ready to serve, unwrap and slice the meat vertically off the bone in equal chunks and reassemble on the bone for presentation.
This recipe is made with beef back ribs or 'long bones', but can also be made with short ribs. Use indirect or medium-low heat.
Start to finish: 21/2 hours
6-7 meaty-style beef baby back ribs, coming from the same place as pork baby backs (bones should be connected in a rack)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 rosemary sprigs
For the beef rub
2 tbs butcher-grind black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
5tbs kosher salt
1. In a small bowl, mix the rub ingredients, making sure they are well combined.
2. Meanwhile, build a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill, setting it up for indirect heat. Rub the ribs all over with the cut side of the garlic cloves and brush with a thin coating of oil. Set aside for 20 minutes to come to room temperature. Rub the ribs liberally with the spice rub.
3. Place the ribs (bone side down) in the centre of the cooking grate, making sure they are not over a direct flame. Grill covered (at about 3258F, if your grill has a thermometer) for one to 11/2 hours or until the meat has pulled back from the ends of the rib bones and the ribs are well browned and slightly crusty on the ends. Individual beef ribs will be done before the full rack (connected rib bones) is done.
4. If grilling individual bones and the edges start to burn, stack them on top of one another in the very centre of the grill and lower your fire slightly.
5. About 30 minutes before the ribs are done, brush lightly with the rosemary sprig dipped in olive oil. Remove ribs from grill, and let rest 15 minutes before serving or cutting into individual rib portions (if starting with a full rack). I recommend serving these ribs sauce-less with a sprinkling of the beef rub, if desired. But, if you and your father love barbecue sauce, feel free to serve some warm on the side.