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A Fourth of July Rib-Fest

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Get your grill on! This crazy-good menu stars two kinds of ribs...plus corn, cocktails, and more.

When it comes to ribs, you don’t want to skimp. That’s why this party menu has two finger-licking-good recipes: sticky, sweet and spicy root beer-glazed baby backs and savory, cornmeal and peppercorn crusted spareribs. Start with the little ones and move on to the big ones (which can be made ahead and heated up on the grill right before serving). Keep the grill on for the sides, including corn with a spicy smoked ham butter, beets with lemony crème fraîche, and grilled butter lettuce with buttermilk-chive dressing. Cool it down wiht a dessert of frozen strawberry semifreddo, a seductive cross between mousse and ice cream. This is food to beat the fireworks.

Menu Timeline

Up to two weeks ahead:

  • Make and refrigerate the spiced tasso butter for the corn.

One day ahead:

  • Grill the spareribs and the beets over an indirect fire.
  • Grill the corn over a direct fire.
  • Make and freeze the semifreddo.
  • Make the salad dressing.
  • Peel and quarter the beets, and refrigerate, covered.
  • When the ribs have cooled to room temperature, refrigerate.

3-1/2 hours ahead:

  • Remove the baby back ribs from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature.

3 hours ahead

  • Prepare a two-zone grill fire.
  • Grill the thyme over direct heat for the cocktails.

2-1/2 hours ahead:

  • Season the baby back ribs and begin cooking them over indirect heat.
  • Hull and quarter the strawberries for serving the semifreddo.
  • Cut the grilled corn off the cobs.

1 hour ahead:

  • Remove the beets and the spareribs from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature.
  • Make the crème fraîche dip for the beets.
  • Clean and halve the lettuce heads for the salad.

30 minutes ahead:

  • Increase the temperature of the indirect grill fire. Glaze the baby back ribs and return to the grill to cook the glaze.
  • Make the cocktails.

10 minutes ahead:

  • Remove the baby back ribs from the grill and tent with foil. Remove the baby back ribs from the grill and tent with foil.
  • Toss the grilled corn with the tasso butter in a skillet to reheat; keep warm.

While guests are having cocktails and eating the baby backs:

  • Prepare a medium-low direct grill fire. Reheat the spareribs.
  • Raise the temperature of the grill fire to medium-high and grill the lettuce heats. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the dressing.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce:

  • 10 medium beets (about 4 lb.)
  • 8 medium ears corn
  • 2 lb. fresh strawberries
  • 4 large heads butter lettuce
  • 2 large bunches fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 1 medium lime

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 2 racks St. Louis-style pork spareribs (5 to 6 lb. total)
  • 2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 5 lb. total)
  • 1 oz. tasso (smoked Cajun pork)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1-1/4 cups crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter

Other Groceries

  • 3/4 lb. (2 cups) medium-grind yellow cornmeal
  • 12 fl. oz. (1-1/2 cups) gin, preferably Bluecoat American Dry
  • 2 oz. (3/4 cup) dried green peppercorns
  • 4 fl. oz. (1/2 cup) limoncello, preferably Averna Limoni di Sicilia
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted bacon fat
  • 3 fl. oz. (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.) pale ale
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup root beer
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce, preferably Mae Ploy brand
  • 2 Tbs. hot chili sauce, preferably Sriracha
  • 1 Tbs. bourbon, preferably Evan Williams Kentucky Straight
  • 1 Tbs. Grand Marnier (optional)

Pantry Staples

  • 1 oz. kosher salt; more for seasoning
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet pimentón (smoked paprika)
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. ground mace
  • 1/4 tsp. dried sage
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • Black peppercorns

Drink Choices: After cocktails, you can pair these dishes with wine (white or red) and beer too. Pour a buttery Chardonnay with a dry finish like Robert Talbott Kali Hart Vineyards Chardonnay ($16), or a full-bodied, dark red like Bodegas Juan Gil 100-percent Monastrell from Jumila, Spain ($18). A citrusy, refreshing ale like the Allagash White Ale ($10/750 ml) and a tart, crisp wheat beer like the Bruery’s Hottenroth Berliner Weisse ($8/750 ml) are also great with this menu.

The Menu

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