It wasn?t long before leaving for college when my best friend?s mother finally revealed her recipe for cooking amazing spareribs. I (Jason) had the luxury of living across the street from her, here, in Petaluma and was always asked over for dinner. She told me that spareribs must be boiled first in a big pot with a nice dash of olive oil, a big shot of hot sauce (to taste), one hardy pinch of fresh oregano, a splash of vinegar and a pinch of salt. I am forever grateful. This made quite a difference from just slapping them on the grill and letting fate in searing heat have its way with garlic salt.
After seven minutes of this boiling, the process truly softens the meat on the rib bone, making it more porous for zesty barbecue sauces to seep deeply into its interior. The result is remarkable.
Even more fascinating, this technique transcends cultures around the world. Having picked up my backpack after college, I made my way through most of the U.S., Europe and Asia in the next couple of years. The secret I found was the same: Boil them first. In Japan, some drops of sesame oil and soy sauce are added; in Budapest, dried, crushed chilies, paprika and honey are used. Oh, the flavors can be so big, and the mess on your face even bigger.
As my partner, Chris, and I have found, you can then pair these delectable meaty treats with other great barbecue foods such as sliced zucchini or ears of corn fresh from the garden. Even some porcini mushrooms with melted butter and a dusting of some Old Bay Spice ... an amazing little concoction in a can I once learned of from the wisdom of the great chefs of De Schmire.
Yet, there was one perfect addition to barbecuing a sparerib dinner that, although not related to the cooking process, is such a delightful mouth-watering addition that it cannot be excluded from the recipe for one of these meals or the bigger picture of Barbecue culture as a whole: Zinfandel.
Zinfandel is synonymous with barbecue. It has to be the most versatile of red wine grapes on the pallet and it perfectly matches with any good barbecue I have ever tasted. From zesty to spicy to tangy, there is a zinfandel for all the barbecued foods of the world. It is a vagabond grape with incredible versatility to match with tasty barbecue meats and grilled veggies with some world renowned character of their own.
Zinfandel?s roots stem from Croatia where it is called Crljenak. It was transported under Greek rule to the south of Italy in Puglia, where it was to be named Primitivo. In the 1800s it was brought to the northwestern United States, grown as table grapes and eventually made its way to California, where it has gained such great esteem ? much in part to Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, Joel Peterson of Ravenswood, and Jerry Seps of Storybook ... but that?s another story.
Having made such a long journey to land on this part of the tectonic plate, zinfandel has come out screaming. It is also showing up in Australia, Mexico and South Africa. There is, quite simply, nothing like it. Even here, in California, its flavor profiles continue to vary ever so greatly from region to region and this is where the barbecue gets good.