Since the McRib came back to McDonald’s, I’ve secretly been dying to try it. The “golden arches” and I have an interesting relationship that dates back to my childhood. My pop-pop took me on lunch dates – so he could get his free coffee, and I could get my Happy Meal – frequently when I was a child. So much that I had a barrel full of toy souvenirs from our lunches by the time I was 12 (I definitely had some duplicates, but my favorites were the Fraggle Rock collection). Though I was always a McNugget kind of a girl, I do remember the McRib making its debut at Micky D’s when I was younger. The saucy sandwich looked delicious, but, since it didn’t come with a toy, my attraction to it was never strong enough to actually order it.
When I heard the buzz about the McRib making a temporary comeback, I felt it was my chance to finally sink my teeth into it. The banners that adorn the restaurant location in University City are so enticing, and they stress, in not totally fine print, the sandwich will not be around forever. On top of that, the commercials are intense: shots of people, McRib in hand, chowing down, making sure to lick the leftover barbecue sauce from their fingers and faces. Before I made a run for the drive-thru, I decided to try my hand at making a homemade variation of the exclusive rib patty.
Slow Cooker Country Style Ribs
10 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
2 – 3 lb. country style pork ribs, bone-in
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbsp. brown mustard
3 tbsp. molasses
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 apple, peeled and grated
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. black pepper
1 large onion, quartered
Cook bacon in a large skillet and drain approximately ½ of the grease. Place cooked bacon back on paper towels to absorb grease. Trim excess fat from ribs and brown on all sides in skillet used to cook bacon (about 4 minutes each side). Place both bacon and ribs in slow cooker. In a large bowl, mix together all sauce ingredients and pour over ribs into slow cooker. Scatter onion on top. Cover and cook on high for 4 – 5 hours. Remove ribs from slow cooker and remove meat from bone (meat will easily fall off the bone!). Cut or shred and add back to crock pot. Stir into the sauce. Serve on rolls.
The best part about slow cooker recipes is it takes very little energy to produce a delicious meal, and the assembly is often basic. My slow cooker is 3 quarts, and everything just fit. Searing the ribs first (in bacon grease, mind you) really kick starts the whole process before the slow cooking even begins and the meat develops a brown, crust-like exterior. The sauce has the perfect proportions of sweetness and saltiness, created by molasses and soy sauce (respectively), and the mustard and ketchup join forces and create a tangy flavor. You can certainly add more (or less) of any of the ingredients to produce a sauce that matches your flavor preference. If spice is what you’re looking for, though, I suggest adding Tabasco sauce or chili pepper. The grated apple and garlic disintegrate in the cooking process; fascinating, considering they heighten the flavor of the sauce, without leaving any other trace they were even there. I expected to be putting in a lot of work, tearing the meat of the bone and cutting it up. Once 4 hours elapsed, I could pretty much pull the ribs off with no effort.
My sandwich, served on toast with onions from the pot and pickles, was better than I expected, and I even picked at some of leftover meat when I was finished. The next time I saw the McRib commercial, I couldn’t help but laugh a little; what once was enough to tempt me to opt for a toy-less McDonald’s meal was (in my opinion) no match for my homemade rib sandwich.