Theresa Liu knows a barbecue party has been a success when she sees lots of bare rib bones on each guest's plate. Ask the butcher to cut the rack in half lengthwise for appetizer-size portions. The ribs can be rubbed with the spice mixture up to one day ahead; wrap airtight and chill. Liu uses equal parts chipotle and pasilla chili powders, both available in the spice section of well-stocked supermarkets or Latino markets.
Sunset AUGUST 2002
1. In a bowl, mix chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, thyme, mustard, salt, pepper, and cloves. Rinse ribs and pat dry. Rub ribs all over with spice mixture. Wrap airtight and chill 8 hours or overnight.
2. If using charcoal briquets, mound and ignite 50 briquets on the firegrate of a barbecue with a lid. When briquets are dotted with gray ash, in 15 to 20 minutes, push equal amounts to opposite sides of firegrate. Set a drip pan on firegrate between coals. If using a gas barbecue, turn all burners to high and close lid for 10 minutes. Adjust burners for indirect cooking (no heat down center) and lower side burners to medium heat. Lay ribs along center of the grill (not directly over heat). Cover the barbecue (if using charcoal, open vents) and cook, turning once midway through cooking time, until meat is browned, about 15 minutes. Wrap ribs in foil and return to grill. Cook until meat is tender when pierced, about 30 minutes longer.
3. Transfer ribs to a platter and cut apart between bones. Garnish with lime wedges to squeeze over portions to taste.
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