31. March 2014 · Comments Off on Where Once Again We Prove Pork Rules · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , , , ,

Chinese country-style pork ribsOne of the challenges of getting groceries from the co-op is that the protein selection of the week is generally beyond our control. And sometimes we end up with cuts we’ve never cooked with before, or have only used rarely. Here, it was country-cut pork ribs. Which aren’t really ribs proper, but are from the area between the loin and the shoulder blade. The ones I got were individually cut, a long thick strip which I split into two pieces each. The total weight of the package was just short of two pounds.

I’d tried making these before, and you really can’t treat them like you would spare ribs or baby backs. Honestly, the way they were packaged I thought they were St. Louis cut spare ribs, so when I opened them up, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to make them work for my intended use. I’d decided to attempt Chinese-style pork spareribs, which are generally made with belly cuts. Lots of fat to render and keep things from getting leather-tough despite long cooking times. Which I wouldn’t necessarily have here.

What the hell. Onward!

The first thing I needed was some five-spice powder. Which I didn’t have. But, I have a spice grinder and an iron pan. And a well-stocked spice rack. So…

Chinese Five-Spice Powder
Take six star anise pods, 12″ of stick cinnamon (three 4″ or four 3″ sticks) broken into chunks, a teaspoon and a half of black peppercorns, a teaspoon and a half of whole fennel seed, and a teaspoon of whole cloves. Put them into a small iron skillet over medium-low heat, and toast until just fragrant. Remove from skillet and place in spice grinder. Grind into a fine powder and store in an airtight jar until needed.

The Marinade
Whisk together 1/3 cup hoisin sauce, 1/4 cup light soy sauce (Pearl River Bridge Golden Label Superior Light is great), 3 tbsp of dry white wine, 2 tsp of garlic minced fine, 2 tbsp of honey, and 3/4 tsp five-spice powder.

I placed the ribs in a plastic container just big enough to hold them and poured over the marinade. For the next hour, I left them soaking in the sauce (covered) at room temperature, giving the container a tumble/shake every 15 minutes or so. In the meantime, I heated the oven to 325°F and put a wire rack over top of a 9×13″ glass baking dish and placed both in the oven, then added about six cups of boiling water to the dish. You may have to use a bigger pan if you’re making more ribs.

When the ribs were finished marinating, I placed them on the wire rack over the dish where they cooked for a half-hour. The water provides moist heat and keeps any extra sauce/marinade from burning.

After the first half-hour period, I basted the tops with the leftover marinade, flipped them, basted the underside and pushed them back in for another half-hour or so of baking. Just before the end of the second baking period, I increased the heat to 450°F, basted the ribs again with more of the marinade, turned them, and basted the tops again. Back into the oven for another 20 minutes or so, until the fatty ends just started to char and the glaze was browned and glossy.

With the thicker cut, I thought I’d let them sit for a bit before serving. About 10 minutes uncovered seemed about right. Covering them with foil would have trapped steam and ruined the crunchy bits.

The verdict – just about perfect. Moist. Most of the fat rendered out. Tender. Little burnt flavorful bits around the edges. Sweet/spicy glaze working wonderfully with the richness of the meat. And I have no reason to think this wouldn’t work well with meaty belly-cut St. Louis ribs as well.

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