Kramer and I went out for a great dinner at Cafe de la Esquina last night. I remember when the location of was, more or less, a regular diner, and the restaurant did a great job of keeping that same feel while updating it to fit their aesthetic. The staff was attentive and friendly, which I appreciated at 8 PM on a Friday night, and, most importantly, they had fantastic cocktails, as well as a wide selection of interesting tequilas. We ordered a ton of food – part of it was that we underestimated how large the portions would be, but we did end up going home with leftover chips and salsa, so that’s never a bad thing. If there is one thing I learned during my experience here, it’s that you should really stick with the tacos, which are, again, a bit large, but really good. The ceviche was first up, which had fresh seafood and was nice and spicy, but was a bit drowned in the tomato sauce; my preference is rarely to use a heavy hand with shrimp and fish. We also ordered the special for the night, which were mussels with celery root and allspice. I loved the allspice and celery root, but it was a bit too autumnal for the mussels. The guacamole, however, was excellent – texturally interesting and lots of it. Next up were the tacos: we had the brisket and the tinga de pollo. I thought that they were a bit too big (I like a neat three-bite taco), but the flavors were all there. The brisket was tender and had a touch of green chile on top, and the tinga had just the right amount of heat, with a smokey element from an adobo sauce paired with cooling slices of avocado. The stars of the show, though, were the cocktails. We each had a cocktail of the night, which was a local gin shaken with cucumber, mint, and lime – nothing incredibly inventive, but well done and not too sweet. I then had a blanco tequila cocktail with blackberry that I loved. I think that blackberry is the best fruit to pair with a cocktail because it’s not overwhelmingly acidic; it’s mellow and has a warmer flavor than your usual lemon, lime, or orange, so it’s perfect for this time of year. Kramer had a jalapeño margarita with, again, cucumber, lime, and agave, which was tasty and completely drinkable, unlike some jalapeño infused cocktails which can be too spicy to enjoy. All in all, we had a lovely meal at Cafe de la Esquina.
Now, moving on from what I ate at a restaurant and onto what I ate at home. Obviously I am a bit behind on my log of posts, as these ribs were one of the many things I made while Kramer and I waited out the hurricane a few weeks ago. The subways shut down a day and a half before the storm, so I had lots of time to cook while cooped up in our apartment. I figured that ribs would be perfect. It was oddly cold outside for late October, so we were able to have the oven on for a few hours at 250 degrees F with no problem at all, and since I used an aromatic rub of curry powder, ancho chile powder, smoked paprika, and cinnamon, our place smelled absolutely delicious. The secret to making these ribs extra juicy is by placing them over a bottle of beer. Easy enough, right? I prefer to use a dark beer when cooking, but any beer is fine; just use something that you’d actually drink and that maybe has a bit of flavor (no PBR here, guys). After braising for two and a half hours, these ribs got slathered in a sweet and smokey sauce of tomatoes, honey, and molasses, along with more ancho chile powder, paprika, and a touch of cinnamon. Kramer and I ate these up while watching New York disaster movies and drinking the rest of the 6-pack we didn’t use to cook with, and despite being trapped indoors, it was quite a meal, if I don’t say so myself. Serve these ribs alongside biscuits, potatoes, or go a healthier route and serve with a lightly dressed salad or roasted vegetables. The ribs are the star of the show here, so just be sure you make something to pair with them that goes well with barbecue sauce!
When ready to cook, place the ribs in a roasting pan or on a cooling rack fitted inside of a foil-lined baking tray. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F, cover the ribs tightly in foil, and cook for 2 1/2 hours, then baste in your sauce, and broil until slightly caramelized on top.
- 1 2.5 pound rack of ribs
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- a tiny pinch of ground cinnamon (less than ⅛ teaspoon)
- 1 12-ounce bottle good beer (preferably something dark)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup diced tomatoes
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- another tiny pinch of cinnamon
- Combine your spice rub and rub it all over your ribs. Wrap the ribs tightly in plastic wrap and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
- When you are ready to cook your ribs, preheat your oven to 250 degrees F. You can use a roasting pan or just place a cooling rack inside of a baking sheet lined with foil (which is what I did because I hate cleaning my roasting pan). Place the ribs on top of the rack, pour the beer under the rack, cover tightly with foil, carefully place in the oven in the middle rack for 2½ hours.
- After 2½ hours, remove the foil and slather one side of the ribs with the sauce (recipe below). Place back in the oven at 300 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, then flip the ribs, baste the other side with the sauce, and place in the oven again for 10-12 minutes. Flip the ribs one more time, slather again with the sauce, and bring your oven to its broil setting. Place the ribs under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until the sauce begins to caramelize. Allow to rest for 5-8 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Place the oil in a hot sauce pot over medium-high and add in the shallots. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes, then add in the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add in the rest of your sauce ingredients, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, and be sure to stir often so it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. If you like, you can use a food processor or immersion blender to puree the sauce to thin it out, as I did, but it’s up to you!