Baby Back Ribs, Potato Salad & Kale-Apple Slaw


Molasses Mopped Baby Back Ribs  |  Potato Salad  |  Kale-Apple Coleslaw with Poppy Seed Dressing


Intro Collage

Next weekend we celebrate Memorial Day.  In towns all across the country we will remember the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Services.  On a much less profound note, this holiday also marks the unofficial beginning of summer…the season for vacations, picnics & barbecues.  We will be away for the Memorial weekend {at a horse show} so on this Friday evening we are celebrating this seasonal milestone, in advance, with some traditional barbecue fare.

Unfortunately, my schedule today did not afford me two hours to tend a charcoal fire and ultimately smoke the ribs over wood chips so I adapted the recipe for Molasses Smoked Baby Back Ribs, from the June,  2013 issue of Food & Wine, for indoor cooking.  Tonight’s ribs were not as sweet as my traditional baby back ribs and had a bit of heat on them from the various spices used in the mop sauce.  The kids each gave a nod to my version while Michael & I enjoyed the more “grown-up” taste the molasses lent the sauce we used this evening.  Both versions, however, yield wonderfully moist & tender {and sticky} rib meat.

Molasses Mopped Baby Back Ribs {adapted from Food & Wine}

  • One 12-ounce bottle lager
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup Homemade Mustard, or other brown mustard
  • ¼ cup chile powder
  • ¼ cup smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Three, 3-pound racks, baby back ribs—membranes removed, racks halved
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Make the mop sauce… In a large bowl, combine the first thirteen ingredients {through and including the allspice} and whisk until smooth.
  2. Prepare the ribs… Preheat oven to 350°F.  Season the ribs all over with salt and pepper. Layer six 18-inch sheets of foil on a clean work surface and set a half rack of ribs in the center; pull the edges of foil up around the ribs. Spoon ½ cup of the mop over the rack and seal tightly in the foil. Repeat with the remaining 5 half racks. Place the rib packets onto baking sheets {I used two baking sheets, each holding 3 rib packets} and cook in the oven, covered, for 45 minutes.  Remove the rib packets from the oven and let cool slightly, 15-20 minutes.  Very carefully {the packets contain quite a bit of hot steam} open the rib packets.
  3. Meanwhile, transfer the remaining mop to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until reduced to 1 cup, 12 to 15 minutes; let cool completely.
  4. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on the sheet.  Using tongs, transfer rib racks from the packets to the wire rack set upon the baking sheet {slight overlapping is fine} and discard the foil and juices. Return the ribs, uncovered, to the oven and cook until the meat is very tender, about 1 hour {since oven temperatures vary, begin checking the ribs after 40 minutes to prevent burning/drying out}. Brush the ribs with the reduced mop, transfer to a platter and serve.

The mop sauce…

Mop Sauce Collage

Baby-Back rib racks halved…


Rib packet ready for sealing…


A sealed rib packet…


Rib racks removed from foil packets and ready to go back in the oven…


Finished ribs after the final “mopping”…


While the ribs are cooking, you can make both the Kale-Apple Coleslaw & the Potato Salad.  Start with the “slaw”…it tastes better when allowed to sit for a while after tossing with the dressing.  Don’t worry about it getting soggy…it is kale after all.  Because this adaptation on the traditional coleslaw is better when made in advance, it is a great dish to bring on picnics and barbecues {so much healthier as well}.

Kale-Apple Coleslaw with Poppy Seed Dressing {adapted from Chow}

  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1/3 cup small-dice red onion {about ¼ medium onion}
  • 1 pound lacinato {flat-leaf} kale {about 2 bunches}
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced into 1½-inch matchsticks
  • 1 medium Fuji apple, cored and sliced into 1½-inch matchsticks
  1. Place the vinegar, honey, mustard, poppy seeds, and salt in a large, nonreactive {stainless steel} bowl, season with pepper, and whisk to combine. While whisking constantly, slowly add the oil until all of it is incorporated. Add the onion, stir to combine, and set aside.
  2. Wash and dry the kale. Cut out and discard the tough stems. Arrange the leaves into stacks, slice crosswise into ¼-inch ribbons, and add to a clean bowl.  Add apple slices to the bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle Poppy Seed dressing over the kale and apples and toss until the coleslaw is well-coated.  Let the coleslaw sit for at least 15 minutes at room temperature and up to 1 day in the refrigerator for the flavors to meld. Toss again before serving.

Dressing Collage

Kale Apple Collage

Finally, the Potato Salad.  I learned how to make this potato salad as a young girl watching my Grandmother.  This was a staple at all of our summer barbecues and it was easily one of my favorite foods growing up…still is.  This dish, with it’s simple ingredients, possesses the flavor I most closely associate with summer.  It is the  perfect accompaniment to baked beans, hot dogs & burgers on the grill, watermelon and, of course, barbecued ribs.  The addition of homemade mayonnaise elevates this salad to something you will never find in a store.  My recipe for homemade mayonnaise is a slight adaptation from a recipe that appeared in the April, 2008 issue of Bon Appétit and it is so easy.  In her book, In the Green Kitchen, Techniques to Learn by Heart, Alice Waters writes:  “Homemade mayonnaise is so superior to store-bought that it is well worth the effort.”

Homemade Mayonnaise  {adapted from Bon Appétit}

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon champagne vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil {or olive oil}, divided
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and the water.
  2. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and the salt to the bowl and whisk until blended {about 30-40 seconds}.  Using a ¼ teaspoon measure and whisking constantly, add ¼ cup oil to yolk mixture, a few drops at a time over the span of about 4 minutes.
  3. Gradually add remaining ½ cup oil in very slow thin stream, whisking constantly, until mayonnaise is thick, about 8 minutes. Cover and chill.  Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Makes approximately 1 cup of mayonnaise.

Potato Salad

  • 6 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed clean {do not peel}
  • 1 large red {or yellow}onion, peeled & chopped
  • 1 cup Homemade Mayonnaise
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring water to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook the potatoes until they can be easily pierced with a fork but still have a hint of firmness {peels will begin to split & separate}.  
  2. Using tongs, remove potatoes as they become done {smaller potatoes will finish sooner} to a strainer set over a plate.  Once all the potatoes are done and in the strainer, set aside to cool.
  3. With a knife, peel the cooled potatoes and roughly cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces, placing into a clean bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  The potato salad tastes best when made a day in advance.




The finished dinner plate…




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