Wasn’t the 4th of July, like, a week ago? This summer seems to have blown by faster than any in recent memory, though my globe-trotting lately hasn’t helped. Regardless, with a few more days of near-90’s in the forecast, I will happily use the long weekend ahead as one last excuse for cramming every last bit of summer in, including one last batch of ribs on the grill.
As much as I’ve used my grill over the past two summers, these ribs marked the first time I’ve ever actually slow-smoked meat and I’ve been kicking myself for taking so long to do it. I have my favorite ribs I’ve made for years, since before I even had any outdoor space to grill them, but these…these are my new go-to when I want to show off.
Here’s the thing: Chicago has so many great restaurants, high-end to dive, and a lot that are known for good barbecue, but, to be honest, I’ve never had any barbecue that’s blown me away. Some has been good, but more often than not it’s been a game of too much chew or not enough, drenched in sauce or none at all, tastes like a burnt log or not even smoked.
These ribs are what I’ve been craving, the ones Goldilocks would have picked as “just right” if ribs had been the main course instead of a bowl of porridge. They have just enough pull without being fall-off-the-bone (a quality that’s completely over-rated when it comes to ribs, by the way), a good amount of flavor from the smoke and the rub but you can still actually tell that you’re eating pork, a little sweet and spice and the best little burnt bits from a final brush sauce and a quick blast of heat from a hot grill.
For better or worse, when the end of summer is in sight I inevitably feel like I’m running out of time–time for beach lounging, porch sitting, eating all the peaches and corn and berries and tomatoes, cooking (and grilling) all my summer favorites, time just to be in the sun. I know it would be better to focus on the things I managed to do in the past four months–planted and grew a garden; taught a class; traveled to Barcelona, Paris, London, Boston, Cleveland, New York; stocked my freezer, cupboard, and liquor cabinet.
That said, I’m writing this sitting in the sun on my porch, a pot of tomato sauce with herbs from my garden simmering on my stove (at least some of which is destined for the pizza dough that’s headed for the grill shortly), a big bowl of fresh gazpacho ready for lunch, peaches and plums and fresh corn and tomatoes and watermelon all ready for eating, and a batch of those ribs on the very near horizon. When September starts like this, I really can’t complain.