Palate Pleasers

Braised Spareribs in Merlot Sauce

Posted on: May 2, 2010

This is one of my all time favorite recipes and again, it’s one that is best made with a cast iron pan or dutch oven.   I’ve made this recipe on several occasions and if you were coming to my house for dinner (especially during the winter months) this would probably be a dish that I would prepare for you.  The nice thing about this dish is that you make it and then bake it for 90 minutes to 2 hours and while it’s baking, it leaves you time to clean up and work on your side dishes.  When your guests arrive, your house smells good with all the flavors that are melding together in the cast iron pan.  Once served, the meat is fork tender and melts in your mouth. 


Makes 6 servings.  position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 Degrees.

3 pounds country-style pork spareribs

Salt and pepper

Merlot Sauce:

1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 can (14.5 ounces each) Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes or regular crushed tomatoes (drain off excess liquid)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 cup Merlot or other full-bodied red wine

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

To prepare the ribs, rinse them, pat dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Place a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat; add the ribs, fat side down.  Cook, turning once until browned on all sides, 2-3 minutes.  Transfer the ribs to a plate and drain reserving all but 2 Tablespoons fat from the skillet.

To prepare the sauce, turn down the heat to medium-low, add the onions to the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally until they start to soften about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, red wine, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Turn the heat up to medium and bring the sauce to a boil.  Return the spareribs to the skillet pushing them down gently to submerge.  Protecting both hands with oven mitts, cover tightly with foil.  The liquid will reduce while cooking, leaving a rich, flavorful sauce.  With the oven mitts, carefully place the skillet in the middle of the oven and bake until the meat breaks apart easily with a fork – about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

**COOKS NOTE:  The first couple times I made this I used my 12 inch cast iron pan.  The last time I made this I served 6 people and made it in my dutch oven which was just as round, but also higher on the sides.    I used a good balsamic that was over 10 years of age.  There is a difference in the balsamic  vinegars that you buy and use and depending on the age of the balsamic depends on if yours will be acidic or smooth.  The smooth flavors of a good balsamic from a specialty store or Italian Market make all the difference in how the flavors meld together.  I don’t always use a Merlot, since I don’t have too many on my wine rack.  I tend to use a full-bodied Cabernet or Zin.   

This dish can be served with Corn Casserole (which I’ll also post), corn on the cob, herbed polenta or mashed potatoes – whatever you like.  And, I also served a caprese salad, but a tossed one works just as well.   I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do and let me know if you’d like to join us for dinner!**

Bon Appetit!



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