The way Deadheads traveled with Jerry and Parrotheads still follow Jimmy, Homer Simpson and a group of Ribheads tracked a limited-time dish made from an unnamed meat as it was being test-marketed nationwide by Krusty Burger in the “I’m Spelling As Fast As I Can” episode of The Simpsons.
The Ribwich is clearly a nod to the McRib, a limited-time BBQ pork sandwich that’s been sporadically showing up on the menu at McDonald’s since 1982 in the U.S. but is served full-time in Germany. “For a limited time, McRib regulars and ‘first-timers’ across the country can soon get in on the McRib magic with seasoned boneless pork slathered in smoky, tangy barbecue sauce, topped with slivered onions and tart pickles,” McDonald’s said in a release the last time the sandwich was offered in 2020. “It’s a combination so tantalizing it has longtime enthusiasts declaring, ‘I need it,’ and the McRib-curious saying, ‘Why the heck not?’”
It’s also a combination that led Laurel Randolph, the author of “The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook,” to come up with her own real-life recipe for the fictional McRib-based sandwich that Krusty Burger served up on The Simpsons.
Randolph, who runs the Joy of Cooking Milhouse Instagram account and used to develop Simpsons-based recipes as part of a regular column for Paste Magazine, wanted to be true to the sandwich on the show but, understandably so, wasn’t comfortable using mystery meat like Krusty Burger did. So, she decided to use actual ribs for her Ribwich.
“It’s definitely an industrialized food, but I wasn’t really interested in making a formed patty out of random brown meat and having people try to make a rib shape with a mold or something,” she tells InsideHook. “I thought that would get pretty tedious and maybe not taste that great. I wanted to try to make an actual Ribwich that is made from ribs. I’m sure it exists somewhere, but I haven’t really had a true rib sandwich anywhere. In my opinion, it’s an elevated version and it’s much better than the McRib. It’s unique and it’s something you can’t get just anywhere, which is true to the spirit of the Ribwich. But, that’s my humble opinion. I know some people love the McRib.”
To try and mimic the addictiveness of the sandwich that causesd Homer to leave Springfield to fullfill the cravings of his stomach, Randolph spent a some time perfecting her rib recipe.
“I tried to make the most tender, flavorful ribs I could. That way, it’s going to be an amazing filling for a sandwich,” she says. “The ribs are slow roasted until they’re super tender. Then, you just pull the bone out after making some strategic scorings before you bake it. You don’t have to worry about bones, but the meat is tender and still in that signature rib shape. Then you cut it into sections and put the barbecue sauce on it. Everything tastes good with barbecue sauce on it. I don’t think it necessarily tastes exactly like a Ribwich because it’s not super processed and won’t cause premature death, but it is definitely the kind of sandwich that would make Homer’s pupils dilate and get him to chase it around the country. I think that is for sure true. This is definitely a sandwich Homer would become addicted to.”
Laurel Randolph’s Ribwich Recipe
- 3 pounds (1–2 racks) pork baby back ribs, membrane removed
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons packed light or dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons smoked or sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3⁄4 cup barbecue sauce, divided
- 4 French rolls, split and lightly toasted
- Toppings: 12 sliced pickles, 12 thin slices of white onion
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Use a knife to lightly score through the fat down the center of each pork rib. Place on the prepared baking sheet, bone side down.
- Combine salt, brown sugar, paprika, cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne in a small bowl. Coat ribs with seasoning on all sides.
- Cover baking sheet tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until ribs are tender and internal temperature is at least 145°F, about 2 hours. Uncover and let cool about 30 minutes, until cool enough to handle.
- Flip ribs over so they are bone side up. Carefully remove bones, pulling them up through the scoring made before cooking. Discard bones and preheat broiler to high.
- Cut rack(s) into four equal pieces. Flip them over using a spatula and top pieces with 1⁄3 cup barbecue sauce. Broil about 5 minutes or until browned and slightly crisped but not burnt.
- Add remaining barbecue sauce to rolls. Transfer ribs to rolls topped with pickles and onions (if using). You won’t mind the taste.
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