If you ask a Parisian butcher for coustillous, he will look at you as if you have just landed from another planet. This happened to me a couple of months ago in Paris. And, if you ask a Languedocian butcher what are coustillous in French, he too will look perplexed. This happened to my Parisian aunt when she asked our local butcher what her niece (that would be me) had been grilling the day before.

I’m not sure why we call travers de porc, coustillous. I’m only guessing that it has something to do with the spanish costillas de cerdo. In any case, they decidedly hold their place in the local gastronomy.  In the winter, you’ll find them braised with lentils, preserved confit-style and pan-roasted with Pardailhan turnips, and they play a substantial role in cassoulet.  During the summer, we like to cut them into thick slices and grill them over vines simply seasoned with salt and pepper, or bathed in flavorful marinades.  The following recipe is my current favorite inspired from the herbs growing in my garden.

Oh, I forgot to mention that coustillous are spare ribs.

Grilled Coustillous

Serves 6

  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 scallions, green and white part, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced coriander
  • 3 tablespoons minced lemon balm, or 1 minced stalk lemon grass
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons harissa paste or to taste (see note)
  • 3 pounds slab spareribs, cut into ½-inch pieces

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a mixing bowl. Wisk to combine.

Place the spare ribs in a shallow glass baking pan.  Pour the marinade over the meat and turn to coat all sides evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

When ready to serve, preheat the grill to medium hot.

Remove the ribs from the refrigerator, uncover and shake each piece gently to allow excess marinade to drip off.

Grill for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the ribs. They should be fully cooked and juicy. Remove from the grill and let the ribs rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: harissa is a Moroccan paste made from hot peppers and spices. If not available, use your favorite hot sauce to taste.