Combine the briny, smoky, umami flavors of country ham with the crusty, gnaw-off-the-bone pleasure of barbecued baby backs and you wind up with ham ribs. I wish I could say I thought of it, but I got the idea from a man utterly obsessed with pork, smoke, and fire: Chris Shepherd of Underbelly in Houston, Texas.
Ribs--crusty with spices, fragrant with wood smoke, sizzling with fat and caramelized sauce--invoke the spirit of barbecue like no other meat. Plus, they are unabashedly fun to eat, channeling through our DNA the same hand-to-mouth pleasure our cave-dwelling ancestors experienced after they embraced the power of live-fire cooking.
When it comes to barbecue, Jamaica has only one trick up its sleeve. But, oh, what a trick. I'm talking, of course, about Jamaica's national dish--and cultural icon--jerk. Once you've tasted this fiery smoke-roasted pork, sweet with allspice, fragrant with island thyme, and above all, electrified with more Scotch bonnet chiles than you'd ever thought humanly possible to consume, well, a trick becomes a miracle and that sleeve a rich brocade.