We’re enjoying spring weather here in Atlanta. Finally! I was really starting to wonder if it would ever arrive, considering we were in the low-40s just last Thursday. Because it’s been so gloomy and cold, I’ve been digging deep into my recipe files (actually, that would be two large plastic bins) and notebooks for slow cooked, familiar eats. The kind of cooking that filled my childhood home with welcoming aromas that greeted me at the door after school or warmed me from the inside out after playing all afternoon in the damp cold. One such dish that came to mind during this winter that would never end was my Maw Maw’s pork ribs with cabbage. Maw Maw was my dad’s mom and she was a great cook. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of her recipes. I’m not even sure she ever wrote anything down. You see, my dad died when I was 12 and she died a short time after. So I never got to cook alongside her or ask probing questions. But I do recall plenty of delicious holiday meals at her well-appointed dining room table and have been able to pick my mom’s brain for the finer points of several of the dishes she frequently served. For the record, these pork ribs and cabbage were never part of her holiday repertoire. This was a weekday dinner dish whose simplicity and comforting flavors have stuck with me (and my mom). Because it’s so basic, I thought it would be an easy one to recreate.
For this dish, my grandmother took a rack of ribs (I think she used country ribs), nestled it on top a bed of sliced cabbage and onions and baked the trio in a low oven until all the glorious juices of the pork had been coaxed out and allowed to mingle with the veggies. When it was done, the ribs was tender, tender, tender and the cabbage and onions were divinely “porky.” And although I don’t think Maw Maw browned her ribs first or deglazed the pan with chicken broth, the flavors I created with my recipe were spot on with my taste memories.
When I first presented this dish to my family, I must say it was met with some resistance. That’s because my kiddos didn’t recognize ribs without a sticky coating of barbecue sauce slathered on top. So I squirted a pile of the sauce on each of their plates to encourage them to eat. But after that initial bite, they all ventured away from the sauce and ended up really liking the unfussy ribs.
Baked Pork Ribs with Cabbage Recipe
1 medium head green cabbage, chopped
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
1 3-4 pound rack baby back ribs, cut in half
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking dish with cooking spray. Place cabbage and onions in dish and season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside. Season the ribs on both sides with Creole seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add one-half of the rib rack to the pan and cook, turning as necessary, until browned on both sides. Place browned ribs over cabbage mixture. Repeat with remaining half rack. Add chicken broth to pan and bring to a boil stirring frequently to remove all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour pan juices over ribs. Cover baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until ribs are tender and cooked through, about 2 hours. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of cooking time to allow ribs to crisp up on top. Serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.