Bourbon is a much underused resource in the cook’s arsenal, our perception of it largely being something to chugalug with cola and ice and regret. But good, proper bourbon is both an excellent tipple and ingredient. Its smokey, oaky temperament makes it ideal for barbecue – chuck short ribs into the equation and the days of cremated chicken drumsticks will soon be a distant memory.
[NB. In the UK short ribs are also known as ‘plate ribs’ and ‘Jacob’s ladder’.]
1.2 kg short ribs
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, roughly crushed
Woody herbs – whatever you have to hand (bay, thyme, rosemary, parsley stalks)
1 small onion
150ml tomato ketchup
2 tsp English mustard powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Salt, pepper, olive oil
– Mix together the bourbon, water, sugar, chilli flakes, garlic and whatever herbs you are using for the marinade. Pour over the short ribs, cover and leave overnight (or for as long as you have).
– Preheat the oven to 170C. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry (this will help develop a crust when browning and also prevent spitting). Reserve the marinade but chuck the herbs at this juncture. Heat a little olive oil in an oven-proof frying pan over a high heat. Season the meat all over with salt and pepper and brown thoroughly in the frying pan. Pop in the oven and cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, basting occasionally.
– If barbecuing (NB patience required), char on the grill, wrap loosely in foil and leave covered at the coolest bit of the barbecue for 2-3 hours. You’ll need to keep an eye on the temperature but it will be worth it.
– To make the barbecue sauce, peel and chop the onion and sweat in a saucepan with a little oil, salt and pepper. Add the marinade, bring to a boil and simmer until it has reduced in volume by half. Add the ketchup, mustard and paprika. Simmer until thick and glossy, stirring occasionally.
– When the agonising wait is over, remove the ribs from oven/barbecue and rest in a warm place for 20 minutes or so before devouring. Serve with paper napkins – you’ll need them.