Ted Lee (co-author with his brother of the forthcoming Simple Fresh Southern) has now weighed in on those Dr Pepper ribs that Josh Ozersky scorned to the bemusement of commenter Ryan Skeen (and yes, it was actually Ryan Skeen — he has now written in to the Feedbag clarifiying his previous comment). Here’s the way Ted sees it, per his e-mail to us.
I loved them because they delivered all the ecstasy of great KC- or St. Louis-style ribs. They're fall-off-the-bone tender, with a contrasting crisped-skin bark, and a charry-smoky piggyness tempered by the tangy hit of their mysteriously clove-y sauce. I’m not anxious about how Mr. Baca created these ribs, only that he did, and that they made me, and the friend I was dining with, very happy. They were gone in sixty seconds.
It does seem that the key to cooking with Dr. Pepper successfully (see
also: Sean Brock, Dr.-Pepper-and-Plum-Glazed Quail, circa 2005, McCrady’s, Charleston, SC) is to isolate one flavor note in the soda's profile, and to take it somewhere entirely new. Mr. Brock found its plummy flavor and spun it savory; Mr. Baca is playing with the soda’s clove-and-allspice note. As others commented, Mr. Baca's Dr. Pepper ribs are only faintly sweet--I doubt diners would identify the soda if it wasn’t written into the ribs' description on the menu.
We’re not going to say this settles it, but the man is a Beard Award winner (then again, so is Josh). If nothing else, he’s certainly convinced us to give 'em a try.