Thursday, August 05, 2010

Tomato-free BBQ, yes it's possible!

A long time ago decided that I was born in the American South in a previous lifetime.  For some reason, I have a passionate love for Delta blues and southern cuisine (fried chicken, fried okra, biscuits and gravy, fried green tomatoes, cornbread and of course barbecue) that is completely inexplicable for a second-generation Chinese girl from California.  (Either that, or it's because my mom grew up next door to a Soul Food restaurant in Oakland.  I prefer the previous life theory.  You decide.)

As a confirmed carnivore, fried chicken and BBQ are my favorite summertime proteins.  And if you don't know, there are so many styles of barbecue in the south (Memphis, North Carolina, Texas, it goes on and on) that you can actually get into a fistfight there if you ever are thoughtless enough to insult someone's barbecue -- which is usually someone's mama's recipe.  But since I discovered that I am allergic to chicken, I am now forced to eat only within the BBQ genre.  And since I am also tomato-free, I can no longer rely on the standard American tomato-based barbecue sauce.

Enter the dry rub.

My first encounter with the dry rub technique of barbecue was in Santa Maria, California, which is renowned for their dry rub barbecue over maple, usually a tri-tip.  (Dry rub is just what it sounds like --  a combination of dried spices, usually including salt, rubbed onto the meat for flavor ahead of time, then thrown on the grill as usual.)  I of course ordered pork baby back ribs because dangit, I just love them so.  It was at an old-school place called Shaw's, where they served retro relish plates sporting olives and celery sticks, and iceberg lettuce salad with bottled bleu cheese dressing.  All of which I completely ignored because my ribs were OUT of this world.  I had ordered a full rack with the intention of eating half and saving some for later, but ended up wolfing down the entire rack in one sitting!  I was in so much pain afterwards that I was forced to lie down in the car on the way home, with my jeans secretly unzipped, trying not to complain.  My very skinny friend who brought me there looked on with amusement and slight horror.  However, I was hooked on dry rubs ever since.

The best two things about dry rubs are that (1) they are completely flexible, you can change ingredients to suit your tastes, and (2) they taste great on their own, or if you MUST add a wet barbecue sauce, you can!  How great is that?

Here's my favorite dry rub for pork ribs right now.  Sweet, salty and the ancho gives it some depth, much better than paprika. If it's not warm enough to throw on the grill outside, you can do it inside the oven as well.

Kansas City style Ancho dry rub for pork
Enough for 2 racks of baby back ribs

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. ancho chili powder
1 Tb. fresh ground pepper
1 Tb. kosher salt
1 Tb. each of garlic or onion powder, I use 2 Tb. all onion powder since I can't have garlic
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all dry ingredients together until well blended.  I put mine in a jar and shake it, then keep the excess until next time. (Note: for food safety reasons, don't reuse rub once it's touched meat, only keep what doesn't get sprinkled on.)

Wash and dry the ribs.

Sprinkle and press dry rub equally on both sides of the ribs until thickly coated and evenly covered.

If using the oven, bake on foil in a preheated oven at 250F for 2 1/2 to three hours, turning once or twice.
If using the grill, smoke on low heat 275-325F for about 2 hours turning once or twice.
Low and slow keeps the meat moist and tender.  You can cover the ribs with foil if it starts to burn prematurely.

If you like, you can throw the ribs under a broiler for a few minutes until the brown sugar bubbles right before serving.  You get a little burnt, a little extra crunch for extra taste.  Yum!


Tomato Free said...

Wow! These no-tomato ribs look fantastic! I will be giving these a try. I am also tomat-free, and quite passionate about tomato-free food. I have a few tomat-free recipes on my website, but not many (and still need some work). I hope to put LOTS more up soon.

Anonymous said...

I have made pulled pork with a white bbq sauce. It's called Alabama BBQ sauce. It's quite good and a good tomato alternative. Here's the recipe:

Food Allergy Queen said...

Anonymous, thanks so much for this recipe! I'm intrigued by the white bbq sauce with mayo. I wonder if there are any Alabamans out there who know the history of the sauce?

Can't wait to try it and post about it. Thanks again!


Anonymous said...

Hi, Queen! I don't know the history, but the resipe is really good. I have been having hives almost everynight since Sept/Oct. After many allergy tests, tomotoes (among other things) is thought to be a culprit. We shall see....I've been reading your blog and appreciate all of your information!

Food Allergy Queen said...

Glad to hear that my blog is helpful. If you're on Facebook, check out my Food Allergy Queen facebook page where we discuss food allergy topics and you can ask questions of other food allergy pals as well!

hdryan said...

I'm going to have to check out the alabama bbq sauce...I started my new "diet" last week. Recently found out that I am allergic/sensitive to 27 foods. I was okay for a week but am already tired of the things I am allowed to eat..very depressing.

Anonymous said...

So excited to find your recipes! And BBQ!!!!!

Sadly, I can't eat ANY nightshades, so will sub cumin and black pepper for chili/cayenne peppers to give it a little bite.

Excited about the white barbecue, too. Sub homemade (soy-free) mayo and IT'S ALL GOOD!

Food Allergy Queen said...

Anonymous, so glad you share my BBQ love. <3


Food Allergy Queen said...


I hear ya. At the beginning of your diagnosis, it's difficult and depressing. BUT, once you figure stuff out, and find things that work for you, it will get easier!

One of the things that helped me a lot in the beginning was learning more about the food groups I was allergic to. For example, I was tested to be allergic to lemon, but later discovered I was allergic to all citrus. Peppers, tomatoes and potatoes are all nightshades, so you may have difficulty with that group. It's easier to remember that way, and easier to work around as well. Be flexible, because you'll feel SO much better, it's worth it!

Here's my story on how I discovered mine, you're not alone. I also have a facebook page so you can post with others as well. Good luck! The FAQ

Anonymous said...

I love this recipe and so does my family. My husband and I feel so lucky to have found your site. Our daughter, now 8 years old, has a whole host of food allergies - tomatoes included - that have plagued her since she started eating baby food. It has made preparing food in our home very difficult. Your site is turning out to be a very welcome and wonderful resource.

Food Allergy Queen said...

Glad you enjoyed it! Please feel free to share here and my Facebook page. The FAQ