The Pittsburgh BBQ Sauce and Ribs

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Last year, at around this time, we took our first trip to the East Coast. It was pretty great. We visited New York City. Watched friends get married in Central Park. Ate a lot of food. Drank a lot. And did way too much walking for my LA feet. Before heading home, we made a stop in Pittsburgh to visit friends. We did more eating and drinking, but thankfully not much else. Well, the husband did get to see a statue of Mr. Rogers. And as you cal see below, he was pretty happy about it.
The husband enjoying Mr. Rogers.
And this is our friend. He's passionate about pork.
The best part about the trip, for me, were the ribs. Our friend, who enjoys cooking, brewing and yelling really loud in a metal band, made the most delicious marinade/BBQ sauce, which he used on ribs. The sauce stuck with me. And finally, I asked him for the recipe.

I received an email with some estimates. It read:

Sorry, I still can't find the actual recipe I used, but I think this would be a close approximation!
3 cups dark beer (I used an oak aged stout but pretty much anything dark will be fine)
3/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup black strap molasses
1 tsp canned chipotle pepper + some adobe sauce
1 tbsp tamarind paste (not completely necessary...you could use like 2 tsp of a "softer" vinegar like apple or rice vinegar (I prefer rice vinegar))
1 small onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed, chopped, whatever
1-2 tsp paprika (I love paprika so I usually go for like 2-3)
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin

Do the onion thing until they're soft, translucent, etc.  add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the beer and cook until reduced (you don't need to go wild reducing it by half since you'll be added the molasses later, which will thicken it up), about 15-20 minutes, simmering.  Add the tomato paste and chipotle.  Cook for another like 5-10 minutes. Let cook and transfer to blender or food processor. Blend it up until everything is smooth. 

Smother your ribs with this concoction, wrap it in saran wrap and then wrap it in foil.  Reserve some for brushing the ribs with later.  Place in the fridge for like 6-8 hours.  Or if you're in a hurry I'm sure and hour or two will be fine.

You can either bake or grill these.  Honestly baking might be easier to maintain and control temp.  Somewhere around 400-450 would be fine.  Or you can throw them on the grill, turning them when the outside is crispy, but the inside is still juicy (and cooked through). 


I reread the recipe several times. Because something seemed missing, and I pay attention. The molasses. I smelled sabotage. I emailed my "friend" back and got this nonchalant reply, "Oh sorry.  You can add the molasses when you're reducing the beer." But I saw right through it.  

When I had finally purchased enough ribs, invited rib eaters to dinner and found molasses, I got to work. I adjusted the above estimates (less beer, a lot more more chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, more spices, more molasses, tomato sauce instead of paste), tasting as I went, and ended up with a super delicious sauce. It was sweet, spicy and smoky. Considering it was my first attempt, it was perfect. I slathered the ribs with the sauce, covered them with plastic wrap and foil, and let them marinade overnight. The next day, I baked the ribs for about 20 minutes, before transferring them to the grill. Then, I brushed them generously with more sauce before serving. They were delicious. Although I would cook them longer in the oven next time.

I have sauce left over, which I popped in the freezer. It's got such nice, complex flavors, I think it would go well with a lot of dishes, such as roasted potatoes or tacos. I can't wait to use it again. When you try this receipe for yourself, because you should, I suggest taking the "taste and go" route. Enjoy.

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