Ribs 5.0 Alpha 1
About 10 years ago, I figured that everyone should have a signature dish. As a young bachelor making his way through the world, I chose a dish that’s both comfort food and crowd pleaser: Pork Spareribs. I’ve worked this dish over and over, trying to get it a little closer to that ideal flavor, in memory of my Mom and the good ole’ days back in college.
This past month, I’ve been asked several times about The Recipe, so I’m finally documenting the current build for all of youse. Enjoy!
A little history: Mom used to make pork spareribs for special company when I was a kid, and it was one of my favorite dishes. It was sort of a hybrid Japanese / 1960′s Betty Crocker recipe, involving ketchup, soy sauce, and green onions. The rib dish I make today is quite a bit different, though the soy sauce and ketchup are retained.
I create the marinade from scratch from whatever happens to be tasting good, but the fundamental ingredients remain the same. I taste as I mix things together; this is a good recipe to practice that on before you put the raw ribs in.
The Basic Recipe
My current method of cooking ribs involves cooking them completely on the stovetop using a sort of hot marinade / poaching approach, then coating them with the BBQ sauce and charring them on the gas (I know, yuck) grill. This isn’t a true BBQ by any means, but you can make some pretty decent pork ribs in your oven and broiler. There probably is a cooking term for this “hot marinade” thing I’m doing (it might be braising), but it seems to work. I think I might have to add a little sherry or ginger to the marinade to kill a slight off-taste with the ribs, but that’s an experiment for another day.
Anyway, the recipe follows:
- A half-rack of fresh spare ribs (about 2 lbs). Not baby-back ribs. Spare ribs.
- 12oz beer
- 1 cup low sodium soy sauce (I use Trader Joe’s low sodium soy sauce, which kicks Wisconsin Kikkoman butt)
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 tsp all spice
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 shakes of chinese 5 spice
- 4 tsp sugar
- a couple dashes of black pepper
- 1 tsp oregano or some other fragrant spice (for aroma)
- a couple dashs of Chinese Pork Secret: Monosodium Glutamate!
Prepare liquid in a pot with a tight fitting lid. A 4 or 6 quart pot should work fine. Mix everything together well. You might want to taste the liquid…it should be somewhat salty/savory with a touch of sweetness and earthiness. It should taste a bit weak, and the raw beer/oregano combo will make you feel a little queasy, but don’t worry about it. You don’t want the taste of the rib to overpower the yummy sauce you’re going to put on it, so control the saltiness now. You can’t take it out once it’s in, so taste as you go.
Cut the rack into individual ribs, and put it in the pot. Add water or low-sodium chicken broth if ribs are not covered. You should pack the ribs nicely so you don’t need much more liquid.
Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer. We want to gently cook the ribs and have the flavors permeate the meat, without battering them into ragged fibers. The bare simmer will assure that.
Simmer for 45 minutes. On a side note, this long simmering step melts away some of the fat in the rib, making them leaner while adding flavor. It’s win-win! And…don’t peek under the lid. Patience!
You can sample the ribs at this point…they’re fully cooked, and should be rather delicious. They are a little under-flavored to serve as a main meal, but that’s the point; you will add the finishing taste with whatever wonderful BBQ sauce you are going to use, charred to perfection on your grill!
This is a good time to reflect how the liquid tasted (before you added the ribs), and how that taste transformed as the meat interacted with it.
Making Sister-Approved Sauce
When I’m making ribs for myself and my friends, I just go get some Bull’s Eye Original Recipe and use that. Unfortunately, my sister is allergic to commercial BBQ sauces (we think it might be mesquite or liquid smoke). So, what I’ve been doing lately is making the sauce from the rib liquid.
First reduce the liquid by 1/2. I started with about 3 cups of liquid left over the rib cooking, and reduced it to about 1.5 cups in 10 minutes over high heat in a 12″ saucier.
Then, skim off the fat from the liquid. If I’m in a hurry, I chill the pot by plunging it into a sink of ice water, stirring it to chill everything down to a slight coolness, then pour the liquid into a plastic bowl. Put the bowl in the freezer for about 30 minutes. The fat will solidify, and you can easily pick it out of the liquid. Don’t freeze it, though!
Now, add the extra ingredients…I added:
- 4 tbs of sugar
- 2 cups of ketchup
- 1 tsp of chili and garlic paste
Taste as you build the sauce! The end result should be about as strong as commercial BBQ sauce…if it seems too salty or soy-saucy (a kind of headache-inducing intensity), dillute with some chicken broth or a little more beer.
A note on the chili and garlic paste: I added this for a little kick, and also because the color of this paste is very red…there must be some kind of dye in it. I thought it would be cool.
I coated the ribs with this sauce (bottom left picture) then stuck them on the grill for maybe 3 or 4 minutes per side, until I smelled the caramelization start. Then I was done. Behold the fruits of my labor!
So that’s the current version of my rib recipe. It would not be optimal for a slow-cookin’ rib BBQ or a charcoal grill, but it’s fast and tastes pretty good. They are fairly mild ribs, but yummy.