A Spanish-inspired marinade of paprika, pounded garlic and olive oil lends an earthy depth to ribs made in the oven. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Photo: Abel Uribe/TNS
Photo: Abel Uribe/TNS

Ignore the barbecue evangelists. Baked ribs are delicious

Baked ribs are the bane of barbecue evangelists. Sure, you can cook tender and juicy ribs in the oven, but unless actual smoke makes contact with the meat, it’s not the real thing. No amount of sticky-sweet barbecue sauce changes that fact.

But what if you weren’t interested in making barbecue at all? In other words: Why must every rib be a barbecue rib? Obviously, barbecue tastes great, but so do a lot of other cooking methods. Ribs have far more range than they’re usually given. 

For inspiration, I looked to Spain. A marinade of paprika, pounded garlic and olive oil lends a rustic red color and earthy depth. Instead of a sugary sauce, these call for something bright and zesty, exactly the sort of thing that salsa verde lends in spades. Handfuls of fresh and fragrant herbs, like parsley, oregano and mint join bracing capers and red wine vinegar. 

It’s not barbecue — and it’s not trying to be. 

——— 

SPANISH-STYLE BAKED RIBS WITH SALSA VERDE 

Prep: 20 minutes 

Stand: 2 to 8 hours 

Cook: 3 1/2 hours 

Makes: 2 servings 

2 slabs baby back ribs 

2 cloves garlic, peeled 

2 teaspoons salt 

1/2 cup olive oil 

4 tablespoons Spanish paprika 

Salsa verde, see recipe 

1. Remove the membrane on the back of the ribs. 

2. Combine garlic and salt in a mortar, and smash with a pestle until a paste forms. Stir in olive oil and paprika. Rub ribs with the paste to coat all over; transfer ribs to a large covered container. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. 

3. Heat oven to 225 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with a large piece of aluminum foil. Set the ribs on top, and then wrap them up. Bake, 1 1/2 hours. 

4. Remove pan from the oven. Unwrap the ribs; return pan to the oven until the ribs are very tender, but not falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 hours. Serve with the salsa verde. 

SALSA VERDE 

2 cloves garlic, minced 

1 cup chopped fresh parsley 

1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano 

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint 

2 tablespoons capers, drained, minced 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 

6 tablespoons olive oil 

1 teaspoon salt 

Stir all the ingredients together in a bowl to combine. Set aside for at least half an hour before using.

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