Sunday, April 20, 2008

April 20: Chinese Glazed Spareribs

It is perfectly lovely to be back in the ample and disorganized bosom of my family after an equally-lovely weekend with The Cutest Little Pregnant Woman On Earth and her hilariously doting husband. I am endlessly amused by his obsessive need to register for every single baby first aid and safety thing on this earth, like every first-time father I've ever met. I didn't have the heart to tell him that we did the same thing, never used anything in those kits even once, and have now lost pretty much every single object in all of them, except the rubber bulb nose-sucker, which Max uses in the bathtub.

We ate some delicious food at the baby shower as well, including four kinds of cheese that The Cutest Little Pregnant Woman On Earth claims that none of her relatives have heard of, let alone tasted. She claimed that pre-cubed cheddar-jack cheese would have been more than sufficient; I claimed that I had a reputation to uphold and bought a bunch of stuff that I didn't think of as particularly exotic, like smoked gouda and roasted garlic cheddar. That cheddar, by the way, was so stinking delicious, I almost wish that T.C.L.P.W.O.E. had been serious about putting cheese in my suitcase. Not only did I broaden a bunch of Kentuckians' food horizons, I had mine broadened by T.C.L.P.W.O.E.'s mother-in-law, who makes this perfectly insane dessert called pave, pronounced pahv-AY, which is apparently graham crackers dipped in milk, some other stuff, and the key to everything: two cans of sweetened condensed milk, boiled for two hours--what I mean is, you boil the actual cans, with the milk still in them, and they turn into this incredibly rich, delicious caramel that would have been a fairly amazing ice cream topping, or drizzled over a poached pear or a baked apple...oh baby.

And now I am home, with my boys, who I've missed so much this weekend. Boy did it feel great to have Max jump into my arms in the airport, especially after sitting next to a girl who I am not certain wasn't completely strung out on drugs, whose panic attack started before we even pulled away from the gate and never really stopped until I flagged down a flight attendant, brought the puking, sobbing, hyperventilating girl to her attention, and offered to trade seats with, well, pretty much anybody on earth at that point, but her boyfriend specifically, who was a couple rows behind us, wearing a t-shirt that said "bang this" on the front of it, fast asleep, and totally unaware until that point that his poopsie was moments away from totally dissolving into acute hysteria. I'm sure that flying Southwest is fine for normal people, but as I am a certified freak-magnet, I don't think it was the best choice for me.

I am not a huge fan of Chinese food, especially restaurant Chinese food, as you probably have heard me say before. I love some of the better flavors in Asian food, though: Thai basil, lemongrass, ginger, soy, five spice, Szechuan peppercorns, Thai bird chiles.

One of the things that I think could be so good is those spareribs from Chinese restaurants. Talk about great potential--sticky, chewy, flavorful, sweet, spicy, moist, and tender. Really, though, way too often, they're just insipid.

Almost everything is better at home than it is in a restaurant. You've got control over what goes in; which changes the tenor of a dish from being, you know, whatever shows up at your table to something that's really yours.

I am really kind of looking forward to trying this, although, yet again, it's from Cook's Country. If I'm going to keep complaining about Cook's Country, I'm really going to have to stop liking their food so much.

Glazed Chinese Spareribs

2 racks pork ribs (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds each), preferably St. Louis cut or baby back ribs
1 cup hoisin sauce
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 (6-inch) piece ginger , peeled and sliced into rounds
6 garlic cloves, smashed
strips of orange peel from 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
30 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves, stems chopped coarse (reserve leaves for glaze)
8 scallions , white parts cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve green parts for garnish)

1 (10-ounce) jar hot red pepper jelly
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Minced scallion greens greens

1. For the ribs: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. With tip of paring knife, loosen membrane on underside of each rack of ribs. Grab membrane with paper towel and pull it off slowly in single piece. Combine remaining ingredients in large roasting pan. Add spareribs to pan, turning to coat both sides, and arrange meaty side down. Cover pan tightly with foil and cook until just tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Transfer ribs to large plate.

2. For the glaze: Strain 3 cups cooking liquid from roasting pan into large nonstick skillet (do not wash roasting pan) and discard solids and remaining liquid. Using wide spoon, skim fat from liquid. Stir in jelly and vinegar. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat and cook until syrupy and reduced to 2 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Off heat, stir in cilantro and cayenne.

3. Heat broiler (do not raise oven rack). Pour enough water into roasting pan to cover bottom and fit pan with flat roasting rack. Reserve 1/2 cup glaze for serving. Arrange ribs on rack meaty side down and brush with glaze. Place roasting pan back on middle rack in oven and broil until beginning to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip ribs over, brush with more glaze, then broil, brushing ribs with glaze every 2 to 4 minutes, until ribs are deep mahogany color, 9 to 12 minutes (watch broiler carefully). Transfer ribs to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 10 minutes. Slice between bones, transfer ribs to platter, and brush with reserved glaze. Sprinkle with scallions.

Make Ahead: The ribs and glaze can be prepared through step 2 up to 2 days in advance. Wrap the ribs tightly in foil and refrigerate. Transfer glaze to microwave-safe bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Before serving, allow ribs to stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Heat glaze in microwave on high power until warm, about 1 minute. Proceed with step 3 as directed.


Kimberly said...

I am so glad you came to Kentucky for the baby shower. Tell Dan and Max I say thanks for sharing you. I had a wonderful time. I will get you the pave recipe, because it truly is delicious. I had it for breakfast. Yum!

Neen said...

You know, your description of T.C.L.P.W.O.E. and her familial entourage is very Jane Austen-like. (That's meant as a compliment, I promise!)