Nothing makes the stomach groan in anticipation like tender, juicy ribs that are perfectly spiced and dripping with sweet barbecue sauce. And nothing can be more discouraging than trying to fire up the cockpit barbecue-only to have the flame blow out several times before finally cooperating. On Gitane, our Kendall 32, we end up having to ply ravenous dinner guests with Cheez Whiz and Triscuits while cursing the coals for not doing their job. Ready to throw our barbie over the side, I turned to my best friend in the galley for inspiration: our pressure cooker.
As we bobbed in the harbor off Mazatlan, Mexico, we experimented with our new method. This allowed me to enjoy all the festivities of the cocktail hour while forgoing the responsibilities usually associated with grilling: the poking, the prodding, and the guessing. We watched the sun set over Isla de la Piedra and sipped Pacificos while the ribs sputtered in the pressure cooker below.
Beef or pork ribs are available almost everywhere we cruise, and sometimes I get a little creative with the sauce, depending on the local flavors. In Mexico, beer, cumin, and cinnamon made their way into the sauce, which we served with warm corn tortillas to sop up any extra liquid. Warm pita bread makes for a good alternative.
5 pounds of ribs
1 16-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon each: chili powder,
1/2 teaspoon each: paprika, red-
pepper flakes, cinnamon
Salt, to taste
To cook ribs in:
1 onion, coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 can beer
1 beef-stock cube, crushed
1 to 2 tablespoons flour
Place ribs in a bowl or large resealable plastic bag. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over ribs. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.
Scatter the onion and garlic over the bottom of the pressure cooker, add the beer, and sprinkle with the crushed beef-stock cube. Place meat in the cooker and pour the marinade over it.
Lock the lid in place, bring the cooker to full pressure, and cook for about 30 minutes. Turn the cooker off and let it cool and naturally release its pressure, about another 30 minutes. When it's totally depressurized, carefully open the lid and test the ribs. They're done if the meat falls off the bones. If they're still a bit tough, close up the cooker and bring back to pressure for another 5 minutes, then let naturally cool again. When ribs are fully cooked, remove them carefully from the pot, place on a platter, and tent with foil to keep them warm.
Scoop a bit of the liquid out of the pot and place it in a cup. (Remove some of the fat floating on top of the sauce and discard.) Add the flour to the liquid in the cup and whisk to make a smooth paste. Return the sauce to a simmer and slowly whisk mixture into the sauce. Continue to whisk until sauce thickens. Pour the sauce over the ribs or serve on the side. Serves six.
Oven method: Marinate ribs as directed. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place onions, garlic, and crushed beef-stock cube in a lightly oiled roasting pan. Reduce beer to 3/4 cup and pour into pan. Place ribs in pan. Roast uncovered for 2 to 3 hours at 250 F, turning meat halfway through and basting with pan sauce. The sauce should thicken during the roasting period, but if you'd like it thicker, drain pan juices into a saucepan and follow directions above for thickening with flour.