I don’t know about you, but I can get into a ho-hum kind of food funk, the uninspired we’re having tacos again kind of rut where dinner is just another task marking the conclusion of another day. Nothing savored, no flashes of cooking brilliance, no mmm lingering in the air. Like having a favorite color, mmm is my favorite sound, easy to communicate the delight of it even with your mouth full. But ho-hum and mmm are rarely in the same room and I’m not certain which one banishes the other—it’s a chicken and egg type of mystery.
Then a recipe catches my eye, an Instagram photo pops up on Facebook, or a sale on seasonal vegetables tickles my fancy and I can’t resist extending a dinner invitation. Food always tastes better with friends and new recipes are best reviewed by an audience. Of course, if you write a food blog, your audience may have to get used to starting without you while you get ‘just one more shot’. Orange Balsamic Glazed Ribs were a hit, receiving enthusiastic thumbs-up all around with mmm in stereo.
The inspiration for these ribs came while browsing some of my favorite blogs—Kay from Pure Complex posted Ian Knauer’s Sticky Balsamic Ribs and I knew I wouldn’t get the gotta-make-ribs Jones out of my system until I made some of my own.
Inspiration does that, it ignites, initiates, infuses new energy.
Although Ian’s recipe got my creative juices flowing, I ended up with a completely different rib recipe by the time it was done. Borrowing the idea of flavored aged balsamic, I used the sweetness of orange to balance the tangy complexity of a younger variety of balsamic, which is more common and less expensive. Citrus is also in season making it easier to find quality oranges, fragrant and heavy with juice.
The marinade and glaze both have a similar profile incorporating oranges, balsamic, garlic, and a hint of spice, which gives the pork ribs a consistent depth of flavor. Adding a touch of crushed red pepper brings the orange and balsamic alive—the amount in the recipe provides a subtle spice as to not overpower, though you can kick it up as much as you like.
The seductively dark glaze is reduced to concentrate flavor, yielding plenty of sauce to glaze the ribs and then pass at the table if you’re so inclined. Every tender bite is infused with flavor and if you don’t mind ultra casual dining among friends, you’ll be licking your fingers too. If you should happen to have any sauce left over, it would be ideal for glazing roasted chicken or wings as well.
Ho-hum no more!
Orange Balsamic Glazed Ribs Recipe
- 4 pounds baby back pork ribs
- 6 cloves garlic -- minced
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary -- crushed or chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon black pepper -- freshly ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 whole oranges -- zested and juiced
- 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- water (, red wine, or beer)
For the Glaze:
- 3 whole oranges -- zested and juiced
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
- 1 clove garlic -- coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper -- optional
- 2 teaspoons tapioca flour or cornstarch
- Cut ribs into 5-6 rib sections to easily fit in a gallon sized bag. Mix garlic, salt, rosemary, thyme, pepper, cayenne, orange zest, and sugar; rub evenly over meaty part of the ribs. Place ribs in a resealable bag and pour balsamic and orange juice over the ribs. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator 6-8 hours.
- Remove ribs from refrigerator about an hour before placing in the oven to bring to just above room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Remove ribs from marinade, place on a rack inside a roasting pan in an even layer. Discard marinade. Pour 1 cup of water, wine, or beer (any one of these will work, depending on what you have on-hand) in the bottom of the roasting pan. Tent and tightly seal the pan with aluminum foil -- tented so the foil isn't touching the ribs.
- Bake for 2 1/2 - 3 hours, until ribs are tender and a fork easily pulls the meat from the bone. Make the glaze while the ribs are baking.
For the Glaze:
- In a saucepan, combine the juice and zest from three oranges, 1 cup balsamic vinegar, and sugar; bring to a simmer. Simmer to reduce for about 30 minutes, add garlic and crushed red pepper; continue to simmer about 15 minutes to meld flavors. Taste and adjust sweetness with more sugar or spice with more crushed red pepper. Strain sauce through a fine sieve and return to the saucepan. Mix tapioca flour with a teaspoon of water and add stir into the sauce over medium heat until thickened -- the sauce should coat and cling to the back of a spoon. Set sauce aside until ribs are done and ready to glaze.
- When ribs are done, remove from pan and place on a cutting board to cool enough to slice between bones for individual ribs. Keep the oven on.
- Dip or brush each rib on all sides with the sauce and place the ribs on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet. Once all the ribs have been glazed, return to the oven and bake for 5-10 minutes to re-warm the ribs and set the glaze. Return the sauce the stove to reheat and bring to a boil, then transfer to a small bowls to serve along with the ribs at the table.
- Remove the ribs from the oven, transfer to a platter, and serve with the remaining sauce.
Speaking of inspiration, it spills over into other forms of creativity too—this is the first time I used my new lights (the twins) to help me with lighting an otherwise dark table at dinnertime. I just love my little helpers!