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Column - Summer's here! Slap those ribs on the grill

After that dismal non-spring we endured, it's such a pleasure to light up the grill and barbecue my favorite grilled food -- ribs.

After so many years of dickering and fine-tuning rib recipes, I finally have one that I consider near perfection, and my guests always agree. I wish I could take credit for those ribs; I can't. The combined recipe comes from three sources: a good friend of mine, now deceased; my niece's boyfriend, Greg, who is from Kansas City, rib capital of the world: and Bon Appetit magazine.

Here's how I do the ribs. It's a putsy recipe, but it's worth it:

The marinade:

This is based on tips from Greg. Mix 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar, 1/4 cup honey, 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1 tsp. fresh-ground pepper together. Take rack of ribs of your choice, poke holes all over in between the bones. Then put into a big plastic bag. Pour in the mixed marinade and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Be sure to seal the bag well.

The dry rub:

This rub is from Bon Appetit. Take the ribs out of the fridge. Drain marinade. Using paper towels, pat the ribs dry. Now you're ready for the dry rub. Mix 4 Tbsp. kosher salt, 3 Tbsp. brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. paprika and 1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper. Thoroughly rub all over and into the ribs.

The sauce:

This knock-out recipe is from good friend Kathy Laumb of St. Cloud. One long afternoon 10 years ago, during an amusing verbal game of tug of war, I had to guess the ingredients one by one because, at first, Kathy would not divulge her recipe, which I was wild about. I must have guessed more than 200 possible ingredients, some so "wrong" she burst out laughing. But after more than an hour, after I'd guessed the final ingredient (dry mustard), she let out a whoop of mock disgust, along with an obscenity, and said, "OK, now you know it. Just don't sell it!" Ah-hah, sweet victory. I'd finally won.

Here's the hard-won recipe for "Kat's Baby-Back Rib Sauce."

In a blender, puree the following: 4 Tbsp. butter, 4 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. crushed garlic, 2 cups chopped onions.

Other ingredients: 3 cups ketchup, 1/4 cup light soy sauce, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. fresh-ground pepper, 1/2 tsp. hot Tabasco sauce, 1-1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar, 1 tsp. liquid smoke, 1/3 cup lemon juice (fresh), 1 tsp. dry mustard, 2 Tbsp. brown sugar (or honey).

If you want your sauce sweeter, just add a bit more sugar or honey. I like my sauce on the tangy side. Kathy's original recipe had no sugar in it at all.

Add the last batch of ingredients to the four pureed ingredients in a large pot. Put on stove on medium heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Grilling the ribs:

Soak hickory chips in a heat-proof container for 30 minutes. Drain and put container over hottest part of the grill until chips begin to smoke. Those little aluminum "mini-bread pans," so inexpensive at dollar stores, work great for smoker pans.

Once chips are smoking good, put on the ribs that have been patted well with the dry rub and cook on high for 3 minutes on each side. Then move the ribs over to one side of the grill. Turn the heat down to very low on the other side and grill the ribs, slowly, on indirect heat, for about two hours. Be sure to keep grill cover closed. About 30 minutes before they are done, brush ribs frequently with the sauce on both sides, at least six times until the sauce kind of thickens and coagulates.

Depending on the size of your grill, it might be a good idea to cut your rack of ribs into four or five pieces before putting them on the grill. Also, cooking times will vary greatly depending on your grill, so do keep an eye on them as they slowly cook.

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Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at