Kenny Gilbert, the author of Southern Cooking, Global Flavors shares this recipe for succulent spare ribs with a tropical, sweet, and spicy coconut guava slaw. Gilbert shares his tips for incorporating chiles and allspice into the spare ribs, “enslaved people learned how to cook tough pieces of meat over a fire until they were tender. They were resourceful enough to make them into something delicious. Pimento trees are indigenous to Jamaica, and they produce the allspice berry. The pimento wood enslaved people used in their firepits would smoke that allspice flavor into the meat. The bold flavors and colors of chiles such as Scotch bonnets and habaneros are a part of island culture. Removing the seeds from the chiles ensures a subtle heat that allows the fruity and complex spice of the peppers to shine (you will want to use kitchen gloves to do this), but if you want to maximize the heat of the spice do not remove the seeds.”
2 cups ketchup
2 cups yellow mustard
1 cup honey
1 cup coconut sugar
1 cup mango nectar
¼ cup lemon juice
2 habanero peppers, finely chopped
2 Scotch bonnet peppers, finely chopped, or 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 slabs St. Louis-style ribs
½ cup Chef Kenny’s Jerk Spice, or other jerk spice blend
3 cups habanero-mango barbecue sauce
Mango wedges, for serving
1 cup canned coconut milk (Gilbert uses Thai Kitchen)
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup guava paste
¼ cup coconut vinegar
6 cups grated green cabbage
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Special equipment: Smoker with charcoal and pecan wood (optional), immersion blender, large cooler
For the habanero-mango barbecue sauce
For the ribs
For the slaw
- Make the habanero-mango barbecue sauce: In a medium saucepan whisk together ketchup, mustard, honey, coconut sugar, mango nectar, lemon juice, peppers, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Set aside until ready to use. (Leftover sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.)
- Make the ribs: Preheat a smoker with charcoal and pecan wood to 275 or 300 degrees, or preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season ribs on both sides with jerk spice blend. Set ribs on smoker grate, backbone side down, and cook for 1½ to 2 hours, or until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Keep smoker on. If cooking in oven, line 3 sheet pans with foil. Put ribs on pans and cook for 1½ to 2 hours or until internal temperature is 165 degrees. Keep oven on.
- Prepare a work surface with 3 large sheets of foil. Transfer each slab to a sheet, backbone side down. Pour 1 cup of barbecue sauce over each slab and wrap in foil. Return ribs to smoker or oven and cook for another 1¼ hours, or until internal temperature reaches 195 degrees. Rest foil-wrapped cooked ribs in a cooler (without ice) for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 3 hours before serving.
- Make the slaw: In a large bowl, using a handheld immersion blender, combine coconut milk, mayonnaise, guava paste, vinegar, and salt to taste until smooth. Add cabbage, bell pepper, and ginger and toss to combine.
- To assemble, using a sharp chef’s knife, cut slabs of ribs into three-rib portions. Be sure to cut close to the bone of the next rib; that way every rib will have meat on the bone. Put three ribs on each plate, serve with slaw and remaining barbecue sauce, and garnish with a wedge of mango.
Excerpted and adapted from Southern Cooking, Global Flavors by Kenny Gilbert and Nan Kavanaugh. Copyright © 2023 by Kenny Gilbert. Published by Rizzoli. Reprinted with permission.
Adapted fromSouthern Cooking, Global Flavors by Kenny Gilbert and Nan Kavanaugh. Copyright © 2023 by Kenny Gilbert. Published by Rizzoli