Star chef Danny Bowien grew up around a lot of ribs, barbecue and chicken-fried steak. He combines them all here, coating tender baby back ribs with a crispy cornmeal crust and serving them with red eye gravy.
Slideshow: Southern Comfort Food
One 3-pound rack baby back ribs
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for frying
4 ounces bacon, chopped
2 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup brewed espresso
2 large uncooked eggs
1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Poached eggs, for serving (optional)
Arugula, for garnish
Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 375°. Set a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Set the ribs on the rack, rub them all over with the 2 tablespoons of canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 2 hours, until golden brown and very tender. Let cool slightly, then cut the rack into single ribs.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cook the bacon over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until crispy and all the fat has rendered, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate. If necessary, add enough canola oil to the saucepan to make 3 tablespoons of fat. Add 3 tablespoons of the flour and whisk over moderately low heat until the mixture turns tawny brown, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the cream, milk, espresso and bacon and cook, whisking, until the gravy thickens, about 2 minutes. Season the red eye gravy with salt and pepper and keep warm.
Spread 1 cup of the flour in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat the uncooked eggs. In a third shallow bowl, combine the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour with the cornmeal and paprika and season with salt and pepper. Dredge the ribs in the plain flour. Dip the ribs in the beaten egg, letting any excess drip off, then dredge them in the seasoned flour and transfer to a rack.
In a large cast-iron skillet or enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°. Add half of the ribs to the hot oil and fry over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until golden and crispy, 5 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a clean rack and season lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining ribs.
Spoon some red eye gravy onto plates. Top with the ribs and poached eggs, if using. Garnish with arugula and sliced scallions and serve.
Syrah from Washington state has a subtle coffee note, which works with the espresso-spiked red eye gravy here.
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