Coffee-Chile Pork Ribs

Coffee glazed pork chopsWhy yes, that is a pork chop on a coffee blog. To be more precise, it's a country style two-blade spare-rib glazed with ancho-infused coffee syrup. It was dinner tonight, and it was good enough to go into my regular dinner rotation.

Most of the meat dishes I've seen made with coffee involve dry rubs with coffee grounds or some sort of gravy -- red-eye gravy or coffee added to mole. I wanted to do something different, and I wanted to use the coffee syrup/glaze I made yesterday for the chicken. The chicken breasts turned out okay, but a little dry, and the coffee syrup was a little too sweet. The pan juices, though, were spectacular. They had a savory richness that was lacking in the meat, which was a tip-off... the coffee and sugar needs fat to really bring it all together. So, I figured... pork ribs! And I figured right. 

Prep notes for this dish: I started out with the maple-coffee-brown sugar syrup recipe I posted yesterday, then added a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla and some dried ancho chiles and brought it all to a slow simmer over low heat. After it cooled to room temp, I fished out the chiles, brushed the glaze on all sides of the pork ribs, and put them in the oven at 350 F for 20 minutes, brushed on more glaze, turned them over and put them back in for another 20 minutes. 

The flavor: amazing. The coffee, chiles, brown sugar and maple really play off each other and off the richness of the pork. The oven isn't hot enough to caramelize the syrup -- it just soaks into the meat and flavors it instead of just crusting it. This batch of syrup was made with Paramount Roasters Tanzanian Peaberry, medium-dark roasted. It's a really vivd coffee, full of nuances: chocolate-y and wine-y at the same time, rich, smooth and acidic all at once, with a hint of berry and citrus. The nuances are muted in the syrup, but not lost. In fact, the brightness is one of the things that really helps it cut through the sweetness of all that sugar and maple and hold its own. 

If you've never tried cooking meat with coffee, this is a nice, gentle way to start. It's close enough to honey-barbecue to be familiar, with just enough exotic to make it really special. Make yourself up some coffee syrup to keep on hand, and give this a try next time you're looking for something different.

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