There are two kinds of barbecue eaters in the world (actually, a world of sub-genres exists within these two groups, but that's a different book): those who eat their ribs wet and those who like 'em dry. This recipe satisfies both camps, thereby preventing family feuds and fist fights. The ribs are marinated for a minimum of 5 hours in a coffee-fueled, chili-blasted barbecue paste. Slow-cooked over a low fire, they're all the smokier when soaked hickory chips are scattered among the coals. Chicago native and renowned ribs innovator David Estes serves them dry—these bones were meant for gnawing. Or, for wet-rib fans, baste the ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce during the last minutes of cooking; serve additional sauce on the side. California and pasilla chili powders can be found in the Mexican food section of supermarkets or in Latino markets. If unavailable, substitute your favorite chili powder.
To make the barbecue paste: Combine all the spices and the brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine the remaining paste ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bouillon cubes dissolve, 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add the spice mixture, stirring constantly, until thoroughly combined. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool.
Thoroughly rub the ribs with the paste. Place the ribs in a deep, wide pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight. If you have any barbeque paste left over, cover and refrigerate it.
Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. If using the hickory chips, soak them in water to cover. When the coals are at medium-low heat, drain the chips (if using) and sprinkle half of them over the coals. Place the ribs on the cooking rack, cover the grill, partially open the vents, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, turning frequently. Sprinkle the remaining hickory chips over the coals after 20 minutes.
Remove the ribs from the grill and serve dry or with a favorite barbecue sauce on the side.
Modified March 2007
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