tuscan-style ribs with balsamic glaze

November 7th, 2010 § 11

This is by far our most-asked-for recipe, and after receiving an email request this week from someone who tasted these six months ago, we thought it was time to share. David has brothers and sisters who request these weeks in advance of family reunions. And this is what we make for ourselves when we want to go whole hog on Saturday nights.


We found this blockbuster in a Food and Wine issue a few years back. It seems originally to have been published in the Complete Book of Pork, by Bruce Aidells. We’ve tried all kind of variations – grilling them, spicing them up, using a root beer glaze… Or sometimes we’ve left one or two things out, either because we’ve run out of something or thought there were too many ingredients. There aren’t.


Fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage lend resinous fragrance and flavour.

The only improvement we’ve been able to make on the original recipe is to start with whole spices instead of ground, and this is something we kind of insist on. You can’t make a great spice rub from spices ground last year. Even the cheapest whole spices will give you surprisingly better results.

Toasting the whole spices deepens and mellows their flavours.

Toasting the whole spices deepens and mellows their flavours.

Not sure about the importance of whole spices? Try grating a little fresh nutmeg and comparing the fragrance of the resulting shavings to the powdered nutmeg in the back of your pantry. See? Now throw that powdered stuff away. Maybe it’s not absolutely necessary to toast the spices before grinding them, but we do. And if I’m not mistaken, you said you wanted to know how me made these ribs.


Rub, rub, rub.

tuscan-style ribs with balsamic glaze

NOTES: You can substitute some of the paprika with smoked paprika if you have any on hand, just make sure it’s the sweet variety and not the hot one. These are great with a creamy, lemony coleslaw, or with shaved fennel simply dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and some toasted pine nuts.

3 tsp. whole coriander seeds
3 tbsp. whole fennel seeds
2 tsp. whole allspice berries
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground pepper
2 tsp. sweet paprika
2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp. chopped fresh sage
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. ground chile de árbol (or dried red pepper flakes, to taste)
about 3 tbsp. olive oil
2 racks of baby back ribs (or about 6 pounds of spare ribs)
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Combine the coriander, fennel, and allspice in a heavy skillet or saucepan and toast over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until the spices are fragrant and the coriander has turned a shade darker.

In a mortar and pestle, spice grinder, or food processor, combine the toasted spices with the salt and pepper, and grind to a fine powder.

If using a spice grinder or food processor, empty the powder into a medium-sized bowl.

Add all of the remaining ingredients except the olive oil, and stir to combine. Stir in just enough olive oil to turn the mixture into a soft (but not runny) paste.

Rub the paste over both sides of the ribs and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, or in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Arrange the ribs on a large rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, meaty side up. Roast for 2 hours, or until tender.

Preheat the broiler. Brush the meaty side of the ribs with vinegar and broil 6 inches from the heat until browned, 1 or 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then cut between ribs and serve.

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