BBQ Queen Tanya Holland’s Recipe for Jerk Baby Back Ribs
Emily Nathan

Tanya Holland has a pioneer’s spirit. Thirteen years ago the French-trained chef—who worked under Bobby Flay, cohosted Food Network’s Melting Pot and wrote New Soul Cooking: Updating a Cuisine Rich in Flavor and Tradition (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)—moved from New York City to the Bay Area.

Back East, she’d been known for pairing fresh, seasonal and sustainable foods with Black culinary traditions. But after relocating to California and opening her first restaurant, Brown Sugar Kitchen, in 2008, Holland decided to bring her own style and talents to the pit with her latest eatery, B-Side BBQ: “When it comes to barbecue, everybody has their region that they have an affinity for, so right away they are like, ‘Well, what region is this?’ And I say, ‘It’s my style—it’s Oakland style.'”

To develop her technique, Holland—who serves as copresident for the San Francisco chapter of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier, an exclusive organization for women in the culinary field—became a student of barbecuing methods, traveling across the country to figure out which flavors worked for her. While Texas may have influenced her brisket, you can choose from various regional styles for items like the pulled-pork sandwich, depending on whether you prefer vinegar-,mustard- or tomato-based sauce. But no matter the dish, everything is Cali-fresh.

“People come in thinking the barbecue will be from a certain region and that the pitmaster is going to be a guy,” says Phil Surkis, Holland’s husband and business partner. “I’m really proud of my wife for being the pitmaster and defining something new. She’s doing her own thing.”

Makes: 8 servings (two 2-pound racks of baby back ribs). Prep time: 1 hour, plus overnight to marinate Cooking time: 3 hours
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons cascabel or ancho chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Combine all spices in a bowl.

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½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup water
¾ cup soy sauce
¾ cup canola oil
1 cup sliced red onions
¼ cup sliced jalapeño peppers or 1 tablespoon diced Scotch bonnet peppers, stems and seeds removed
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.

1 habanero chile, stems and seeds removed
1 cup white wine vinegar
Puree habanero chile with white wine vinegar in a food processor. Pour into a bowl.

2 6-ounce cans pineapple juice
¼ cup brown sugar
Combine pineapple juice and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat until sauce is thick and reduced to about one third.

½ pineapple, core included, chopped (about 2½ cups)
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1/3 cup jalapeño peppers, diced
1/3 cup red pepper, diced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until use. Wash ribs and remove thin membrane covering the back. Coat ribs evenly with Jerk Spice. Arrange in a 17-by-12-by-1-inch baking pan. Pour Wet Jerk Marinade over ribs. Cover baking pan with foil and refrigerate overnight. Remove racks of ribs from marinade, and bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Brush ribs with Habanero Vinegar. Prepare grill for cooking over indirect heat with medium-hot charcoals (moderate heat for gas grill). Lightly oil grill rack, then transfer ribs to area of rack with no coals underneath or with shutoff burner if using gas grill. Cook, covered with lid, until tender, 1½ to 2 hours. If using charcoal grill, add coals as needed to maintain medium heat. After 45 minutes, brush ribs with Pineapple Glaze. Brush two or three more times before serving. Ribs are done when meat is well-browned and has shrunk back from the ends of the bones. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into individual ribs. Garnish with Pineapple Salsa.
Per serving: 467 calories, 25g carbohydrate, 81mg cholesterol, 30g fat, 24g protein, 630mg sodium.

This article was featured in the July 2014 issue of ESSENCE.