Grilled Pork Ribs and Corn Cooked in the Husk

Costillas al Carbon

Here are two of my favorite summer recipes. First, grilled pork chops marinated as they are in Yucatan with achiote paste made from the brick-red seeds of the tropical annatto tree. The paste can be purchased in most Mexican grocery stores. To accompany the ribs, Iíve included a recipe for roasted corn on the cob, a typical street food found throughout Mexico.

I have wonderful memories of eating these addictive ribs at the home of Silvio and Angelica Campos in the small village of Tixkokob in the Yucatan.

  • 4 lbs (2 kg) meaty pork back ribs
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons achiote paste
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) fresh bitter orange juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1 habanero chile
  • 1/4 cup (1/3 oz/10 g) coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Cut the ribs into sections of 4 or 5 ribs each and place in a large pot. Add water to cover and the salt. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam from the surface. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until nearly cooked, about 35 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a glass bowl. In a bowl, dissolve the achiote paste in the orange juice. Stir in the garlic and a good amount of salt. Pour over the ribs, mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

Prepare an indirect-heat fire in a charcoal grill. Meanwhile, roast the tomatoes, onion, and chile. Remove the ribs from the marinade, place on the grill rack, and grill, turning often, until crispy brown, about 15 minutes.

Combine the tomatoes, onion, and chile in a blender jar or a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the puree into a saucepan and heat to serving temperature.

Remove the ribs from the grill and cut into 1-rib portions. Add the ribs to the sauce and simmer, uncovered over low heat, for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt.

Arrange the ribs on a platter, spoon the sauce over them, and sprinkle with the cilantro. Serve at once.

Bitter Orange Juice

The aromatic bitter oranges of Yucatan are seldom found outside their region of origin. When a recipe calls for their juice, look for similar Seville oranges, which also have a thick, wrinkled peel, or approximate the juice with a mixture of 1 part regular orange juice, 2 parts lime juice, and 1 part grapefruit juice. To intensify the flavor, add a bit of finely grated grapefruit zest.

Reprinted from Savoring Mexico, © 2001

Elotes Corn Cooked in the Husk

Serves 6

  • 1 cup Mexican crema or sour cream thinned with milk
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan or queso anejo
  • 2 limes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup ground pequin or other good-quality chile
  • 1/2 cup sea salt
  • 6 ears very fresh corn
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

Place the crema, cheese, and limes in shallow bowls. Place the chile and salt in smaller bowls or in shakers.

Remove the outer layer of cornhusks and discard. Carefully pull back the remaining husks, remove the silk, and return the husks around the corn.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Gently drop the corn into the water and cook 5-10 minutes, just until tender. Drain and serve immediately, letting all unwrap their own ears.

Spread the corn with the crema, sprinkle or roll on the cheese, dust with chile, squirt with lime juice, and start eating.

Variation: Roasted Corn (Elote Asado)

The same general technique can be used with grilling corn, only after removing the corn silk, soak the ears in cold water for 1 hour. Tie the top of each ear with thin strips of the outer husks. Roast over coals, turning frequently, for about 20-25 minutes. If not quite done but the husk is very burned, wrap in aluminum foil to continue cooking. Serve with the same condiments as used with the boiled corn.

Reprinted from Cocina de La Familia, © 1997

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