Ribs on the Knob
If you favor Snowmass as your ski hill and you ride the Sam’s Knob lift on Sunday mornings, you likely already know the smell. That sweet, smoky aroma that has every skier, lift operator, patroller and wild animal on the west side of the mountain salivating.Yes, Sunday is the day that Chris Menard puts his pork ribs on the grill. And if you want to savor the very best in “high-altitude cuisine,” you better plan on getting to the top of the Knob by noon, because the 20 racks of Cajun-style ribs go very, very quickly.Chris is the sous-chef and kitchen manager at Sam’s Knob. He hails from Lafayette, La., so he knows a little something about food. “Cajun to the bone” is how he describes himself and he has learned that patience pays when it comes to preparing great food.Those ribs are a perfect example. While that signature smell is a Sunday event, the preparation of the ribs begins on Thursday mornings and takes four days. Step one is rubbing the 20 racks with a dry rub, a mirepoix for those in the know, with pepper garlic, brown sugar, onion powder and allspice. Once rubbed, they are refrigerated until the next morning, when it’s time for a wet rub. Chris blends together onion and garlic to make a “pudding,” rubs the ribs with that, and then wraps them in foil with 4 ounces of orange juice per rack to tenderize the meat. Saturday, the ribs, the rubs and the OJ cook for 12 to 16 hours in an oven that is just barely 200 degrees. This slow cooking, combined with the citrus in the orange juice, turns the ribs so soft and tender that the meat literally falls off the bone. A little Sweet KC Masterpiece sauce is brushed on while they grill on Sunday, and violà, you have ribs that could turn a raw-vegetable aficionado into a carnivore.The restaurant at Sam’s Knob is in its final days as it will be torn down at season’s end so that the area can be prepared for the new six-pack chairlift. So now is the time to get up there for a last look at one of the venerable ski lodges of our past. The old wooden deck that has served so well may look worn and a little tired, but the fat robber birds are still taking crackers from the mouths of tourists and the classic vista, perhaps the best from any on-mountain restaurant anywhere, is unchanged. You got five Sundays left to stop in, get some of Chris’ ribs and savor the past. You won’t forget the view, or the smell.
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