Slowly cooked until they fall apart at the mere touch of a fork, these ultradelicious ribs are crisped with a glaze of reduced balsamic vinegar. The recipe is from La Cuchara de San Telmo, an innovative tapas bar in San Sebastián where small, neat slabs of ribs make a substantial tapa. In a process that takes two days, the owners slow-cook the ribs for many hours, let them cool in the liquid, debone them completely, then press them into a mold for twenty-four hours so the meat forms a kind of terrine. I’ve simplified the procedure considerably (my version is extremely easy and takes far less time), while keeping the essence intact. Flaky sea salt is a small but important final touch to offset the sweet-tart glaze.
- 4 to 5 pounds baby back pork ribs
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 pounds (about 4) Golden Delicious or Gala apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup beef stock or broth
- 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 large bunch watercress, stemmed, rinsed, and dried, for serving
- Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. Rub the ribs generously with salt and pepper and arrange them in one layer on a very large roasting pan, cutting them into two slabs if necessary. Bake the ribs for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 275°F and add the wine to the pan. Cover and seal the roasting pan very tightly in a double layer of aluminum foil and bake the ribs until the meat comes apart easily when you prod it with a fork, about 4½ hours.
3. While the ribs are baking, make the sauce: Place the apples, lemon juice, and ¼ cup water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring from time to time. Reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and cook until the apples are almost falling apart, about 25 minutes. Let the apples cool slightly, then place them in a food processor and process until a coarse puree forms.
4. Remove the ribs from the oven; increase the oven temperature to 425°F. When the meat is cool enough to handle, gently pull out the bones (they will slip out easily) and scrape off the excess fat. Cut the ribs into 8 to 12 pieces and, using a spatula, transfer them to a large baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
5. Make the glaze: Place the beef stock, balsamic vinegar, soy and Worcestershire sauces, and honey in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring, and boil until the glaze is syrupy and has reduced to about 1/3 of a cup, about 12 minutes. Whisk in the sunflower oil.
6. Brush the ribs all over with the glaze and bake until caramelized, about 10 minutes, watching that the ribs don’t burn (start checking after 5 minutes). If you’d like them more caramelized, pass them under a broiler for a few minutes, at least 6 inches away from the heat.
7. When ready to serve, reheat the applesauce on the stove top or in a microwave oven before serving. Line a large serving platter with watercress. Using a spatula, transfer the ribs to the platter and season them judiciously with flaky salt. Serve at once with the warm applesauce.