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Acclaim rubs off on chef

Eugene W. McCall Jr. added these beer-braised short ribs to the Ida Mae menu just a few months ago and they quickly became a favorite at this midtown eatery. Although the rub for the ribs is his invention, the sauce recipe is based on one his grandfather used with short ribs.

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Chef McCall & ribs with collard greens and corn beignet

McCall’s grandfather was a North Carolina farmer, and, every summer, McCall would travel south for a family reunion from his home in Hackensack, N.J. "The only change I made was to add pineapple juice," he says.

Don’t be scared off by the lengthy list of ingredients. Other than mixing and pouring, there’s not a lot of work to do. You just need patience, McCalls says, to slow-cook the ribs until the meat falls off the bone.

The chef grills the ribs initially, but you can sear the meat on the stovetop before it goes in the oven. "You just want to caramelize the rub and get a good sear," he explains.

About that rub: It’s a favorite of McCall’s. He keeps some on hand at home to use on fish, chicken and beef, as well as pork. "I use it on everything," he says. You may soon find yourself doing it, as well.

Beer-Braised Short Ribs

Serves 4
Ida Mae’s Kitchen and Lounge, 111 W. 38th St., (212) 704-0038

For the rub:

2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons Madras curry
1-1/2 tablespoons celery seed
1 tablespoon onion salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery salt
1-1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme

For the ribs:

8 individual short ribs or 2 whole 4-bone short ribs, tough outer membrane removed
1 cup bottled (or homemade) balsamic vinaigrette

For the braising liquid:

12 ounces dark beer
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

For the bourbon-pineapple barbecue sauce:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1-1/2 cups Champagne vinegar
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup mild molasses
1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Make the rub: Place all ingredients for the rub in a bowl and mix well; set aside.

Heat the grill. While it is heating, rub the ribs with the balsamic vinaigrette, followed by the rub.

When the grill is very hot, sear the ribs to caramelize them and get a good char on the meat, about 3 minutes per side.

Remove ribs from the grill and place them in an aluminum roasting pan. Place the pan in a second roasting pan for added stability; set aside.

Heat oven to 275 degrees.

In a bowl, mix the braising ingredients and pour over the ribs. Cover the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and cook the ribs at 275 degrees until very tender, about 2-1/2 hours.

While the meat is cooking, make the barbecue sauce: Heat oil in a saucepan until it begins to smoke. Saute onions until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook at a boil to reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Remove pot from heat; add remaining sauce ingredients. Cook sauce over medium heat 10 minutes to blend flavors; reserve.

When ribs are meltingly tender, remove them from the oven and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Raise oven temperature to 400 degrees. Pour reserved sauce over ribs and cook them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes; serve.

Isabel Forgang

New York Daily News - 29 July 2005
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