Wine Advocate Weekend Pairings: Grilled Pork Country Ribs

We’re soaking up the last of summer and the last of grilling season by way chef Paul Kahan’s juicy pork ribs. A force of nature when it comes to the Chicago restaurant scene, Kahan oversees a slew of noteworthy restaurants, including Blackbird, Avec and Pacific Standard Time. The Publican is his third establishment that has been a mainstay in the city for nearly a decade. "As expected from the portraits of pigs displayed throughout the room, pork takes precedence here," state Michelin’s anonymous inspectors.

In the early years of his restaurant empire, Kahan and his wife would host staff barbecues at their home. One of the regular dishes were pork country ribs brought by his friend Jason Monroe and his wife Diana; Kahan loved them so much that he asked for the recipe. "'Guys, if you give me this recipe, it will be at The Publican always, and you can forever eat in our restaurant for free,'" he shares in his book, Cheers to the Publican. "They said yes, and the rest is history."

The marinade for the ribs has been modified with Asian-inspired ingredients, but the dish remains a staple on The Publican's menu to this day. This recipe calls for pork country ribs, which come from the shoulder blade and are not to be confused with traditional ribs. "They're excessively fatty by nature, so you want them to be charred to the point where you don't know whether you're eating meat or fat," Kahan shares in his book.

“When I hunger for grilled meats, my mind takes me straight to Montalcino, Tuscany,” says our Italy reviewer, Monica Larner. “One of the ultimate food and wine pairing combinations is a grilled T-bone steak alla fiorentina with a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. But this dish is different. First, we have grilled pork [with sweet, succulent meat] and we have the spicy marinade. Ingredients such as sambal, palm sugar, ginger and soy sauce would probably overcome the nuanced Sangiovese grape. That’s why I’m suggesting a blended red from Montalcino for this dish. The Argiano 2015 Solengo [Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Merlot] is a bruising, gutsy red wine that will not only stand up to all those robust flavors, it will accentuate them.”

Happy grilling!

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