This week the SEC has several good matchups, but what immediately struck my interest was the Razorbacks taking on the Tide at home. Alabama might tout the number one ranking, but Arkansas brings a talented team led by one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, Ryan Mallett. Arkansas proved they are a legitimate contender last weekend when Mallett picked apart Georgia’s defense between the hedges throwing for 380 yards. However, there’s more to this Alabama v. Arkansas game than meets the eye. In 1964, Alabama (10-0-0) boasted a National Championship proclaimed by the Associated Press and UPI coaches poll at the end of the regular season. Arkansas was also undefeated and had a 10-0-0 record. During the bowls that same year, Alabama lost to Texas, a team that Arkansas beat earlier in the season. Furthermore, Arkansas went on to defeat Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl. In response, Arkansas was named the National Champion by the Football Writers of America and the Helms Athletic Foundation. Over the next several years, this controversial football season led to final polls being taken after bowl games. Both teams still claim a National Championship for the 1964 football season.
Once I decided I was doing a recipe inspired by Alabama, I couldn’t get ribs off the mind! Maybe I associate ribs to Alabama because of Dreamland BBQ’s flagship location in Tuscaloosa, the home of the Crimson Tide. My husband and I are such big Dreamland fans that we had them cater our formal evening wedding reception last November. We served barbeque, slaw, and potato salad on china in a room lit with hundreds of candles and accented in silk. The food got rave reviews and beat any reception of stuffy hors d’oeuvres and over-cooked London broil. I would not have had it any other way!
I started by making my barbeque sauce and rubbing the ribs the night before I grilled, but you can you do this even earlier in advance if you would like. I am basing this recipe off one 3-pound rack of St. Louis style pork ribs (make sure the membrane is already removed), so multiply the recipe by the number of racks you have. The barbeque sauce is a variation of last week’s sweet barbeque sauce for the fish tacos. However, it is a bit spicier and a larger quantity to allow you plenty to cook on the ribs, lots to slather on afterwards, some to accessorize with, and a little extra to dip bread in — Dreamland style. Feel free to cut back on the amount you make if you are multiplying the recipe. The sauce is a mixture of 12 ounces tomato paste, 16 ounces tomato sauce, 1/2 of a grated yellow onion, 4 tablespoons of raw agave nectar, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard, 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 8 cloves of pressed garlic, 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes on low heat and then transfer to an airtight container in the fridge, once cooled.
The ribs need to be seasoned the day before cooking to allow the salt time to tenderize the meat. So, I made a rub consisting of 2 teaspoons salt, 1.5 teaspoons pepper, 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1.5 teaspoons paprika. Lay each rack of ribs out on a large piece of plastic wrap, and rub the seasoning into the meat. Make sure to cover both sides with the entire mixture of seasoning. Once the ribs are rubbed, tightly wrap them individually in the plastic wrap, and place in the fridge. When you get ready to leave for your tailgate, pack the ribs, barbeque sauce, a bottle of apple cider vinegar, a mop or basting brush, a shallow pan, tongs, a large knife, and a large bottle of water.
Once at your tailgate, set up your grill in the following manner: 1) Light one side of the grill on low heat to achieve a cooking temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit 2) Place a shallow pan of water directly above the heat 3) Place the ribs opposite the water bath where they are not above the heat source. The ribs will require very slow cooking for at least 5 hours in this manner; luckily the Tide doesn’t start rolling until 3:30 in the afternoon! Check your temperature every 30 minutes to be sure it hasn’t elevated, and baste the ribs with the apple cider vinegar. You can also flip your ribs during these half hour checks to ensure even cooking, or you can use a rib rack to stand them up on their end and allow for more ribs on the grill. The ribs are cooked through when they reach about 180 degrees. However, we are not just concerned about the ribs being the correct temperature, we want them to cook slowly to allow the fat and connective tissue to melt away, and make the meat fall-off-the-bone good! You know you have reached the “almost done” point when you pick up the ribs with tongs, and you can see the meat “cracking’ on the surface.
Once you have achieved ribs that fall-off-the-bone, go ahead and remove the water bath and heat the entire grill to medium-high heat. Baste the ribs very generously on both sides with the barbeque sauce and place them directly over the heat. The goal is to caramelize the sugars in the sauce, but not burn them — so don’t add the sauce until the very end.
Cook on each side for 5 to 10 minutes each…and feel free to add more barbeque sauce during this process! Remove the ribs from the grill and let them rest for a bit, as the sauce will be very hot. Serve alongside additional barbeque sauce, and bread for dipping!
Beer is the obvious pairing to barbeque, especially ribs. However, after tackling 6 plus hours at the grill, I don’t have much motivation to learn to brew beer for this article. Instead, I am sharing my version of the “Alabama Slammer”. It’s a drink made with Southern Comfort, and is a little more guy-friendly than the last few weeks’ drinks. In a shaker, combine ice, 1/2 ounce Southern Comfort, 1/2 ounce gin, 1/2 ounce amaretto liqueur, 1/2 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce raw agave nectar, and a 1/4 ounce of orange juice. Shake until cold and mixed. Pour into a glass, and garnish with a lime! Enjoy a Saturday of barbeque, southern-inspired cocktails, and football….but most importantly come back next week for another gameday of grub!
List of Ingredients & Cooking Items
Don’t Forget to Pack for the Tailgate:
- Shallow Pan
- Basting brush or mop
- Bottle of water
What You Should have in your Pantry:
- Tomato paste – Two 6 oz. cans
- Tomato sauce – Two 8 oz. cans
- Raw Agave Nectar – 4 tbsp. & .5 oz.
- Red Wine Vinegar – 2 tbsp.
- Whole Grain Mustard – 1 tbsp.
- Worcestershire Sauce – 4 tbsp.
- Garlic – 8 cloves, pressed
- Dark Brown Sugar – 4 tbsp.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – 1 bottle
- Cayenne Pepper
What You Need to Buy:
- Ribs – St. Louis Style
- Yellow Onion – 1/2 grated
- Oranges – 1/4 oz. juice/drink
- Limes – 1/2 oz. juice/drink
From Your Stash:
- Southern Comfort
- Amaretto Liqueur