PORK RIBS: STICKY, SPICY, AND AWESOME

Have I already mentioned how much we love ribs? I am sure I did, and more than once. My default recipe is the first one I blogged about back in 2011, a favorite with Phil and the kids. But I am always trying new versions, although the basic method, cooking low and slow, then blasting them in high heat stays unchanged. This recipe was recommended a while ago by my friend Kathy, and once I read the magical words Gochujang, I knew I was going to love it. Plus, when you marry Gochujang with apricot jam, well… you see where this is going. Explosion of flavors.  Get your napkins. You’ll be digging into these babies with enthusiasm.

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STICKY AND SPICY GOCHUJANG PORK RIBS

(adapted from The Splendid Table)

to cook the ribs:
1 large rack of pork spare ribs
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh ginger root (yes, half a cup)
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup soy sauce

for the sauce:
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup gochujang (Korean red chile paste)
1/4 cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon white rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

Put the ribs in a large saucepan or stockpot with the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and let cook gently for 1½ hours, until the ribs are tender and cooked through.

Meanwhile, combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix together well. Line a roasting pan with foil  and heat the oven to 400°F.

Arrange the cooked ribs on the prepared pan and brush with the sauce to coat evenly. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning and basting the ribs with more sauce halfway through cooking. I do that step with the ribs loosely covered with aluminum foil.

Remove the pan from the oven and put the broiler on high. Brush the ribs once again with the remaining sauce, then broil until the sauce is sticky and just beginning to char at the edges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Don’t be put off by the look of the meat once it’s out of the cooking liquid. Yes, it looks like hospital food, but  a smear with the killer gochujang sauce and the perfect environment of a hot oven (or you could use the grill too if you prefer) will turn this ugly duckling into a gorgeous swan…

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I like my ribs to be falling off the bone, and that’s the reason why I baked them covered after they were out of the pre-cooking bath. It helps to take them to that stage. They are quite spicy, but the ginger and sweetness of the apricot jam balance the heat quite well.  I served them with thick spiralized cucumber, very simply dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and a sprinkle of Tajin, a Mexican spice mix I’m very fond of.  Of course, you can go the more authentic route of rice and beans, maybe some cole-slaw, but ribs are heavy by definition, so I opt for a light side dish to compensate.

gochujangribs-from-bewitching-kitchen

 

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BABY BACK RIBS ON THE 4th OF JULY

Barbecued ribs are a classic to celebrate this holiday at the height of the Summer.  In Brazil, barbecue means grilling large pieces of meat that were seasoned with coarse salt and pepper…  and nothing else.  No marinades, no rubs, no extra flavors.   Because I was raised with that concept, I sometimes twisted my nose at American barbecue,  particularly those in which the meat is suffocated by seasonings.

Then one day I found myself in an Oklahoma rib joint, where I tried barbecued pork ribs for the first time, all sticky, messy, gooey and covered with a screaming-red barbecue sauce.   I shook my head in disbelief – why mask the flavor of the meat with all that stuff? – but the first bite clarified the issue forever: barbecue sauce is awesome, funky, and sexy!  It turned those ribs into a life-changing experience! Seriously, from that day forward I was hooked, and soon became a barbecue sauce snob. It has to be just right, without liquid smoke and without excessive sweetness.   A little hickory flavor is acceptable, even desirable, as long as it’s subtle.  For the most part the bottled, grocery store varieties fail my personal test.  Instead I make my own sauce and exclusively use it on pork ribs.  It’s a match like Romeo and Juliet.

OVEN-BARBECUED RIBS
(adapted from Easy Basics for Good Cooking, 1987)

2 slabs of pork ribs (baby back or spareribs)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced (no need to peel)
salt and pepper
juice of the lemon

for the barbecue sauce
1 cup tomato ketchup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup red vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp paprika (smoked, if available)
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp chili powder (hot)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs (use a paper towel to grab it and it should peel off easily).  Place the ribs on a rimmed baking dish, cover it with the lemon and onion slices, season with salt and pepper, and squeeze the lemon juice all over.   Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 2 hours at 300F.

Meanwhile make the barbecue sauce by mixing all ingredients in a saucepan and bringing to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every once in a while.  If not using the sauce right away, refrigerate.

When the ribs are baked, remove the aluminum foil, discard the lemon and onion slices, and any liquid accumulated in the bottom of the baking pan. Brush a good amount of barbecue sauce all over the ribs and either refrigerate for a day or two, or proceed with the final cooking right away.

To finish the ribs in the oven, place them in a 425 F lightly covered with aluminum foil, for 45 minutes. They will look like this at the end of the baking time. Uncover, brush a little more barbecue sauce on top of the ribs, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely browned on top.  You can also finish them in a medium grill until cooked to your liking.  Serve the ribs with additional barbecue sauce on the side.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: People may split into two camps when it comes to  barbecued ribs: those who want their meat falling off the bone, and those who prefer to work a little hard and nibble the meat from the bone. I’m part of the first group. Life is hard enough, and I want my ribs (rather, the pig’s) tender. 😉 If you’re on my team, then these ribs are almost all that you need for your 4th of July dinner. Close the deal with this dessert, and you are in for a memorable meal!

A PIE FOR YOUR 4th OF JULY

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TWO YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese

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