When I moved to LA, I really found myself craving Jamaican food. In Harlem, it’s readily available, but here, sadly, there just wasn’t a good Jamaican restaurant. Even when friends suggested them, I’d go and try, and think, “This is not good...actually this is bad.” I like food from warm climate places; like the people, the flavors are bold and loud, full of spice. They use a lot of flavors, colors, spices and I just have an affinity to them. One day, I was especially craving Jamaican jerk, a seasoning blend that includes allspice, garlic, thyme, and other spices—every version’s a bit different. I’d given up on finding decent Jamaican food in LA, so I experimented to make my own. Jerk is normally used with chicken but, since I’m a huge rib lover, I tried the same idea with ribs! I first rubbed them with a spicy brown sugar mix and then coated them in sauce made with soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic, thyme, molasses, and allspice. I brought the ribs to the studio one day when I was recording my last album. The whole band went wild over them. It’s all we could talk about all afternoon, so I named the song we were working on that day “Jerk Ribs.” It was the first single released off that album. The ribs are great. The song is pretty awesome too.
The Brown Sugar Rub is just delicious; you can put it on bacon, steak, lamb chops, meats. It’s bold flavors.
INGREDIENT NOTE: You might be surprised that I ask you to add the entire thyme sprigs, stems and all, to the blender when making the sauce. The stems are actually where the most flavor is.
1 cup light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole caraway seeds 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
For the Ribs
2 racks pork ribs (preferably St. Louis–style ribs; 2 to 3 pounds each)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup Brown Sugar Rub (see below for the sauce)
For the sauce
1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground allspice 4 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 to 2 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, seeded or whole (using the seeds will make the sauce very spicy) 1bunch scallions, trimmed and coarsely chopped 1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs (see Ingredient Note)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Position 2 oven racks in the center and preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Season both sides of the ribs with the salt. Stir the smoked paprika into the spicy rub and coat both sides of the ribs with the rub. Place the ribs, bone side down, in a large baking dish. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and roast the ribs on the center rack for 2 to 2! hours, rotating the baking dish from the top to the bottom racks halfway through so they cook evenly. The ribs are done when the meat separates easily from the bone.
- While the ribs roast, make the jerk sauce. Combine all of the ingredients in the jar of a blender or the bowl of until smooth. Transfer the jerk mixture to a saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce until it darkens in color, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the ribs from the oven, but do not turn it off. Remove the foil but don’t discard it. Using a basting brush or the back of a spoon, coat the ribs evenly with the jerk sauce. Cover the dish with the aluminum foil again and roast the ribs for 15 minutes more. Serve the ribs with the rest of the sauce on the side.
In the herb and where the most oils are, and when they’re all blended up, they give the sauce its body.
Brown Sugar Rub
This rub is delicious--it has just enough caraway to offset the sweetness. I make it in big batches, so I always have some on hand, and use it to rub on stewed chicken, lamb chops, or steak. It just makes everything taste great. If you sprinkle it
on bacon before cooking, it will change your life. The rub is light on salt because I like to salt meat directly and then add the rub, and this way I don’t accidentally over-salt. Caraway, like cumin or nutmeg, is one of those seasonings that you have to be very sparing with. A little tastes amazing, but go too far and it’ll overpower whatever you’re making. When I’m cooking with these spices, I start by smelling the spice to remind myself how strong it is every time. Our sense of smell is a great measuring tool. Balance is key.
1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Use immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to several months.