I am going to say it right off the bat: I love Pennsylvania Baked Spareribs. #16 is definitely one of my top 3 favorite Dinner is Served! meals thus far.
But you might be asking yourself the same thing I did when I chose this meal: what the hell are Pennsylvania Baked Spareribs? When I think of ribs I think of Kansas City, Memphis, the Carolinas. But I don’t think of Pennsylvania, that’s for damn sure. So that got me thinking what in the world would make a rack of ribs Pennsylvanian? And then it hit me. Pennsylvanian Dutch aka the Plain Folk aka the Amish aka people who give me the willies.
Now, in their defense, my knowledge of the Amish has been almost solely based on the Lifetime Original Movies Saving Sarah Cain and Plain Truth and the X-Files episode “Gender Bender.” That’s the one where Scully nearly bones the Amishy dude while Mulder is trapped under a barn in the salt mines from Journey to the Center of the Earth (I will never understand why she was ready to give it up for the guy with the bad haircut when she had the hottest coworker on the planet. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know that the Amish guy had some sort of super-pheromones going on. Whatever. It’s still unacceptable, Scully).
I don’t personally know any Amish people, either. My only Amish-interaction was driving behind one of their buggies in New Wilmington and touring a ‘working Amish farm’ in Lancaster. Speaking of which, why the hell are the Amish a tourist attraction? If you want to observe a community in which the members live a life vastly different than your own, head down to your local methadone clinic. It won’t be as quaint and you won’t be taking home baskets and jams as souvenirs, but it’s the same idea. I’m amazed that more Amish folk don’t go postal and start razing packs of ‘English’ oglers.
Yes, I’m partly freaked out by the Amish because of their ‘otherness’ (obviously) but I think it’s mostly their poor wardrobe choices. I feel the same way about the hardcore Mormons (well that and the whole polygamy/incest thing).
But I digress. Those wacky Amish sure know how to bake a rack of ribs.
First things first. I made a peach pie. Don’t get too excited–it was a pre-made refrigerated crust. But I did make my own filling with canned peaches and I did get all fancy with the top crust.
My oven was consistent with its inconsistency and the temperature fluctuated up and down and up and down. I based the baking time on visuals, and it ended up being in there for 48 minutes. The pie was good. Was it a revelation in pie-making? No. But it didn’t make me retch, either.
I prepared the Cabbage-Carrot Slaw earlier in the day as well. I chose a non-mayo slaw recipe because it was pork and all. I bought a bag of shredded slaw mix and added to that one thinly sliced green pepper and a thinly sliced Vidalia onion. I tossed it in the following dressing:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 cup cider vinegar
Once mixed, the slaw marinated in the fridge while I prepared the rest of #16 (a note on the slaw–this got better the longer it sat. I’d make this the day before).
For the ribs themselves, I chopped a 4.5 pound rack in half, slapped the apple stuffing on the bottom, topped it with the second portion of the rack, and then pinned it together with toothpicks. This method was very similar to the one I improvised in my first dinner #41, Fruit Stuffed Pork Loin. #41 and #16 ended up being very similar to each other, you know, the whole pork + fruit combo.
So at 5 pm the ribs were stuffed, skewered, and ready to roast. So into the oven they went. The oven was evil again and was at 350 degrees, 25 below the desired temperature.
25 minutes later, the oven thermometer read 400 degrees. So then I had to turn it down. By now this is no surprise. It is something I have to live with. It is my cross to bear. Anyway, at 6 pm I added the apple juice to the roasting pan. This is when the ribs began to look really good (see the photo to the right). And there wasn’t anything even on them yet–just their own fat and juices. I basted with the apple juice at 6:15 and again at 6:30. This is when I dropped the oven temperature down to 300 degrees.
During the last 20 minutes the ribs were in the oven I prepared the potato and pea dish. I nuked a can of white potatoes and some frozen peas and tossed them in a mixture of 2 melted Laughing Cow garlic and herb wedges, skim milk, and black pepper. Talk about an easy cream sauce! I then put it in the oven alongside the ribs.
So, after being in the oven for a total of 1 hour and 50 minutes, 4.5 pounds of juicy spareribs emerged from my oven. Paired with the slaw, and the potato-pea dish, #16 was done.
Dinner is Served!
I thought this meal was awesome. Look at the photo. It looks good, right? It tasted great, too. There was a bit of sweetness because of the apples and juice (both in the stuffing and in the pan) and it’s what kept it moist, too. These ribs were soooooo juicy! Delectable.
The sides were unremarkable. And inconsequential because the ribs were so goddamned good. The ribs were so very, very good.
AND! This was very, very, very, very easy. Aside from utilizing the stove top to cook the apples and onions in butter for the stuffing, this is a hands-off meal once it’s assembled and in the oven. And since the ribs are the star of the show, any sides can be used–hot, cold, cooked, raw, home-cooked, store-bought or none at all. And since the ribs are cooked in an oven, they are all-season and you don’t need a grill (which is good for us city-dwellers). Honestly, the hardest thing about this meal was the pie, and you can go out and buy a pie.
If you took the time to read this post, please heed my advice: if spareribs go on sale, buy a rack, and make them in the exact Dinner is Served specifications on the card at the top of this page. Add whatever side-dishes float your boat, but make the ribs.
Oh, and I was totally on the timeline with this one. Dinner is Served: 3:00 start, 6:00 end. Me: 4:20 start, 7:00 end. OMG. Did I beat Dinner is Served?