When I was young, I remember asking why the entire extended family got together at the cemetery before going to dinner. Being 25 years ago, at that time there would have been maybe 30 of us: grandparents, great aunts and uncles, cousins, second cousins and then it just got to the point of “family”. I was told we were remembering the family that couldn’t be there but just as importantly, making new memories with the family.
After paying our respects, we would have a giant potluck picnic of traditional Basque foods.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned what was meant by the Memorial Day barbecue. When you move away from home, your friends become your chosen family and a wonderful couple invited us over this year. Our friend’s Kansas roots have impressed me before with pork tenderloin sandwiches for a Chiefs-Broncos football game but he blew it out of the water with these Kansas City style smoked pork ribs.
A wonderful education followed with the history of Kansas style bbq: slow smoked over wood chips with a dry rub he insisted was a family secret; a little internet searching produced a combination of dark brown sugar, paprika, white sugar, celery salt, kosher salt, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and black pepper. Then smoked, (more culinary gadgets!) to add additional flavor that you can’t simply replicate with alternative methods, and finished in the oven to ensure the ribs are cooked. It’s a sweet and spicy combination that isn’t going to overwhelm your palate. All the flavors are there, giving it a multilayered experience in each bite.
What I love about this preparation is that:
- You don’t need sauce, you don’t even think about it, all the flavor is in the meat. All the flavor is retained in the pork from the rub and natural juices.
- The meat is tender and juicy with a bit of pull. It’s never dry unless there is user error. I’ve fought the battle with slow cookers and grills and inevitably overcook the meat.
- The smoked flavor and texture is real. Smoking with a gadget is a must. Liquid smoke just overpowers everything. Maybe I’m not doing it right, but there’s something more appealing in taste with real smoke.
I won’t forget the memories I made of eating these ribs and hopefully someday I will be family enough for the secret recipe!