Battle Plantains: One for the Road

For those of you who know me (or even those who don’t and read in my little space), these little Iron Chef get-togethers have been one of my favorite ways to spend time with friends over the past couple of years. For one, I get to cook, and that’s an easy way to make me happy.

But for two, I get to see some of my favorite people, all in one room. We get a few short hours to chat, to drink decent wine, and to talk about food. If being with them wasn’t great enough as is, adding those elements only exponentially makes it better.

I started Iron Chef as an excuse to hang out with friends and do all of those things I mentioned above. I didn’t realize it would last for two years, and I didn’t realize we’d pick up so many competitors, er, friends, along the way. This little group of people, they mean a lot to me, every last one of them who’ve ever participated, and it is hard to say goodbye to an event I’ve looked forward to so much.

And while I don’t generally believe that all good things must come to an end, this time I get it. While I hope to one day start up an IC-SF, my Iron Chef Chicago days have come to an end. And while my IC Chicago days have come to an end, I do hope someone decides to continue it, and I’ll continue to keep my fingers crossed that it lives on, and that good food, good wine, and good friends continue to hang out together.

For my last competition, it was Battle Plantains. Now, I can’t say I really cook with plantains all that much. Heck, I think the only time I’ve ever cooked plantains is at a dinner event I helped my friend Caroline with (another Chicago event I will surely miss..), and we made some killer tostones. And so, rather than focusing on the plantains, I focused on finding something I’ve been wanting to make that could go with them.

I made pulled pork. Again.

Yes, you’ve seen these shenanigans around these parts once or twice. What can I say – I’m Southern at heart, and pulled pork is in my genes, I suppose. Plus, I had an idea for a twist and found a good recipe for a mango BBQ variation that was sure to impress. The only problem? No plantains involved. I decided that was a minor detail and made it anyway.

The Top Three:

  1. Heather’s Plantain & Mango Pulled Pork ‘Sandwiches’
  2. Michael & Kenna’s Plantain Cuban Sandwiches
  3. Jennifer’s Plantain Bread with Hazelnut Cream Cheese

As it turns out, it was a minor detail. Either the competition was rigged in favor of it being my final battle, or the plantain chips sandwiching the pork were enough to bring it all together. Either way, I’m heading to the West with a win in my back pocket, hoping in two months I’ll get to pick one last ingredient for my Midwestern friends.

Mango Pulled Pork
Adapted from Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira; serves 4-6 in sandwiches or a party when used as bite-sized pieces (plantain chips recipe below)

printable version (pork and chips)
printable version (pork only)

ingredients
1 boneless pork butt (~ 3 lbs)

rub
2 T brown sugar
1 T smoked paprika
2 t kosher salt

bbq sauce
1/4 c canola oil
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T g ginger
1/2 large onion, finely minced
1 serrano pepper, finely minced
kosher salt
1.5 c mango puree (bought as is, or made using canned mangoes pureed in a blender)
1/3 c fresh lime juice
3 T apple cider vinegar
2 T molasses
3 T Worcestershire sauce

for serving
plantain chips (see below) & cilantro OR
hamburger buns & pickles
also lovely as a tostada ūüôā

instructions
Rub
combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl, then rub it onto the pork until well coated. Set aside while you make BBQ sauce. You could do this a day ahead and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

BBQ sauce
In a large saucepan (preferably a Dutch oven)¬†warm the oil over low heat until hot. Add the cumin, cinnamon, and ginger; let simmer, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the onions and serrano and a little salt, to taste. Saute until they soften but don’t let them get any color. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Simmer¬†about 5 minutes. Taste and season.

Add the pork shoulder to the saucepan, coating it with the sauce. Cover, and gently simmer until the pork falls apart easily, stirring and turning often, about 3 hours.

Remove the pork from the saucepan and shred it using 2 forks. Return it to the sauce and stir to coat with the sauce. Serve however you plan to. (I sandwiched a large tablespoon of pulled pork between two elongated plantain chips, sprinkling a little cilantro on top of the pork.)

Plantain Chips

printable version (chips only)

ingredients
canola oil
2 ripe plantains
kosher salt

instructions
in a medium saute pan, fill with oil up to ~1 inch. let oil get hot (but not smokey). meanwhile, peel plantains and cut into three chunks, lengthwise. using a sharp knife (or a mandoline if you’re fancy; I wasn’t), cut into 1/4″ strips.

once oil is hot, fry off strips about 5 at a time, flipping over after 1-2 minutes on each side. drain on paper towels and serve.

(if you’re making these for the pulled pork, they can sit out for a bit to cool before being sandwiched in between the pork and a little cilantro.)


Keeping it Simple

I took a trip to San Francisco, my future home, this past weekend. I wonder when that won’t sound weird.

My cat took the trip with me, taking her first, and hopefully her last voyage across the country via a 747 loaded with passengers. She was relatively well-behaved, and fortunately she handled the situation much better than I’d anticipated, only meowing constantly during the drive to the airport and during the last hour of the flight. She even clung to me for dear life during the security walk-through, and here I was worried she’d claw and run away. Not too bad, really, all things in perspective.

We made it into the San Jose airport, Chris waiting at the baggage claim, and drove into Cupertino only to find that my cat’s sister, who’d taken the maiden voyage¬†earlier in the week,¬†was not nearly as enthused about big sis’ arrival as we’d expected she’d be. Growling and hissing throughout the weekend, she made sure to assert herself as much as possible, claiming her territory with a quickness and keeping consistent with that theme way after I’d left on Sunday.

Aside from the cat fights, literally, the weekend went just fine. I did realize that, the second I leave my husband alone for a week, he regresses to bachelor mode. Meaning, I opened up his fridge and after two weeks of living there, there were still 4 items in it: eggs, milk, crystal light, and Target brand shredded cheese (!). The pantry also held three distinct items: cereal, Frank’s hot sauce (for the eggs, silly), and cat food. The only thing missing is a case of Bud Light in the door, but I’m gonna chalk that up to him having a cold and being a little bit busier than he’s used to.

That being said, I felt the need to make dinner Friday night. For one, I hadn’t cooked since our big party, which I should remind you was only a week ago so that isn’t really that long. But second, I felt the need to make that temporary apartment feel a bit more homey, and buying olive oil and pasta was a good start.

Let’s just say that the kitchen is lacking a few amenities, but it’s by far stocked with enough tools to make do. Needless to say, it’s a kitchen where you have to keep things simple, and I’m ok with that for the next few months. Heck, I don’t even know if I have it in me to churn out some of these 10-step dishes I’ve talked about in the past, even if I wanted to. Moving is hard work, that’s for sure. But even so, there’s always pasta, and that means a lot.

Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
serves 4

time commitment: less than 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
1 T olive oil
1 lb ground organic pork
2 16 oz jars pasta sauce (I used San Marzano tomato-basil)
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 box spaghetti

instructions
in a skillet, heat olive oil. toss in pork and cook until browned. dump in pasta sauce, add salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer.

meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti for about 10 minutes, or until al dente. drain, and serve with above meat sauce.

Verdammt gut

You may remember (but you probably don’t, or if you did it would be weird) a comment I made a few months ago about Germany. German, to more specific. I considered myself quite the ‘language buff’ in high school and college. For a while, my intended major was business with minors in French and Spanish. I had dreams of being a big-time international businesswoman, racking up miles like George Clooney and living out of hotels with only the best room service, a constant supply of freshly-made cookies, 700-count sheets, and a suite with French doors opening out to the sun each morning.

That lasted approximately 1 semester. I hated economics, I did not like the idea of constant groupwork and presentations using pie charts, and the business building was slam on the other side of campus from my other classes. I liked the language coursework though, and I had full intentions of sticking with those minors until I took that damn genetics class.

I took both Spanish and French in high school, and to be totally honest, they were both easy to me, though it was probably because our classes were full of hoodlums (myself included) who acted up all the time, deterring Se√Īora Williford and Madame Whatever-her-name-was from teaching too much anyway.

For whatever reason, I left the Spanish behind (which I now regret) and continued with French for a couple of semesters at college. Once I challenged myself to take French AND German at the same time. Ballsy, yes; smart, no.

Decidedly, the German language was not for me. I couldn’t get the difference¬†between¬†der and das and the crazy crazy noun inflections; most of all, I couldn’t get anywhere close to sounding German, and when I tried I was too busy laughing at myself (I also would not make a good actress, I know).

The only phrase I could say and know it was right was, “Ich komme aus Bombay” which translates to “I come from Bombay”. Why did I say that?! Who knows – we were told to pick names and countries of origin, so I thought being from India sounded pretty rad for someone in German class. It was short-lived, all of it.

Ironically enough, the Hubs is of 100% German descent, but I didn’t hold that against him when we met. Furthermore, I’d probably consider German food to be my absolute least favorite type of food (at least of what I can think of now). And don’t take that the wrong way – I like German food. Bratwurst? Mustard? Pretzels? Let’s not forget the bier und Rie√ülingen (beer & Riesling). And when, thanks to the CSA, I found myself with some red cabbage and pork chops, I couldn’t get the German themed combo out of my mind. I knew the cabbage needed a good braise, and both cabbage and pork needed more pork – bacon. It seemed to be a match made in heaven, and it was.

That said, I racked my wee ol’ brain and conjured up one more German phrase to add to the only other one I know: “Dies ist gut. Dies ist verdammt gut.”

Pork Chops with Braised Red Cabbage
Adapted from Gourmet, 2006 via Epicurious.com, serves 4

time commitment: 45 minutes, mostly active time

printable version

ingredients
6 bacon slices, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red cabbage, halved lengthwise, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 granny smith apple, sliced into thin sticks
1/4 c sherry vinegar
3/4 c water
2 T sugar
1/2 t caraway seeds
1 1/4 t salt
3/4 t black pepper
1 T canola oil
4 (1-inch-thick) bone-in rib pork chops (2 1/2 to 3 lb total)

instructions
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450 F.

Cook bacon in a 4- to 5-quart wide heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, and transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Heat remaining bacon fat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add cabbage and apples and turn with tongs until coated with fat. Stir in sherry vinegar, water, sugar, caraway seeds, 3/4 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper and braise cabbage over moderately low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 25 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat pork chops dry and sprinkle both sides with remaining salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown seasoned chops, turning over once, 5 minutes total, and transfer to a shallow baking pan (1 inch deep). Roast chops in oven until thermometer inserted horizontally 2 inches into center of a chop (do not touch bone) registers 145 F, 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir half of bacon into cabbage, then finely chop remaining bacon for sprinkling.

Let chops stand in pan, loosely covered with foil, 5 minutes. Serve chops over cabbage, with any pan juices spooned over and sprinkled with bacon.

Banh & Me

If you can believe it, we seem to have a difficult time figuring out what to have for lunch on the weekend. The weekdays are generally covered since I cook Sunday thru Wednesday, but after a Friday and/or Saturday night out, or even order-in sushi or Thai, Saturday and Sunday can get a little dicey.

A few months ago (maybe even a year ago), this new little Vietnamese sandwich shop opened up across the street, a shop previously hosting a ‘gourmet kitchen’ where one could buy or make meals using fresh, top-of-the-line ingredients. It was obviously a place I’d never been to, but given the economy and the location I wasn’t surprised it practically became a sandwich shop overnight.

Needless to say,¬†Bon Bon¬†quickly became my go-to for weekend¬†lunch. The sandwiches were big enough to share, and only 4 bucks each! Plus, they serve bubble tea, which I previously traveled all the way up to Western & Addison to get. And if you’re into it, they have a ton of Vietnamese candy to try. Of course, I’ve already frequented the place a couple of times this year, and I posted a quick snippet in the ¬†‘Chicago Food’¬†section, which is a new piece I added a few weeks ago to document all of our ventures out of my kitchen ;), so check it out.

Given the ridiculously low price of Bon Bon’s sandwiches, not to mention the fact that I could literally walk to it in my PJ’s if I wanted to (yes, I do still have them on often at noon on the weekends), I never really intended to recreate their ‘bread n’ butter’ banh mi sandwiches, especially my favorite minced pork version. But as usual, there are always a slew of recipes I absolutely can’t resist in Bon Appetit, and last month a pork meatball banh mi was one of them.

It seems I am an avid fan of the meatball, no? Although the latest version was Moroccan, I also made a Mexican meatball stew a few weeks ago that was excellent, but it was too similar to the lovely ancho pork and hominy stew I posted about late last year and therefore didn’t warrant¬†real estate here. These meatballs you see right now? Golly gee willikers, I cannot even describe to you how stupendous they are; a perfect blend of salty, spicy, sweet, so perfect I could have skewered them and eaten them all alone if I hadn’t already pre-tasted the equally perfect pickled carrot/daikon mixture and spiced mayo that would accompany them, sandwich-style.

When you put them all together, encase them in a soft but slightly toasted French baguette, it is nothing short of delightful. And if you don’t have a Vietnamese sandwich shop across the street from you, the only reason you’ll miss it is for the bubble tea.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2010; makes 4

printable version

ingredients
hot chili mayo
2/3 c mayo
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 T sriracha

meatballs
1 lb ground pork
1/4 c finely chopped cilantro
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 T fish sauce
1.5 T sriracha
1 T sugar
2 t cornstarch
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t coarse kosher salt

Sandwiches
2 c coarsely grated carrots
2 c coarsely grated peeled daikon (the shredder on the food processor works like a charm here)
1/4 c unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 c sugar
1 t coarse kosher salt
1 T Asian sesame oil
4 6-inch-long baguettes (likely cut from 1 long baguette)
4 large fresh cilantro sprigs

instructions

hot chili mayo: Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

meatballs: Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Sandwiches:
Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. If doing in batches, keep warm in 300 F oven.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 F. Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Toast bread for 5 minutes. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops. Garnish with cilantro.

Barbeque: Gooder than Snuff

Have ya’ll ever been to North Kakalaka? Let’s just say, if you haven’t, and if you ever do, a little preparation for the lingo might benefit you or else you may find yourself ‘running around like a chicken with its head cut off’. I am Southern, after all; it’s only fittin’ that I use my manners and translate a few for you¬†:).¬†So here we go.

Hug your neck: this is how we talk about showing affection. “Aunt Faye, that fried chicken looks so good it makes me wanna hug your neck!”

Bless his/her heart: this is what you say in the same sentence before you say something that’s not very nice. “Bless his heart, that boy has a face only a mother could love!”

Fixin’ to: what you say when you’re about to do something. “I’m fixing to warm up some of this tasty leftover barbeque.”

Gooder than snuff: when something is really, really great. “This vinegar-based barbeque sauce you made is gooder than snuff.”

Fit to be tied: angry. “When Ralph dropped that pe-can pie on the floor, Luna was fit to be tied.”

Down yonder: further down the road. “The best barbeque in Duplin County is down yonder on Hwy 13.”

Barbeque: this is not what you non-Southerners use as a verb, which is actually ‘grilling’. Barbeque is a noun, and there are many different barbeque varieties in the South. “The only barbeque I care to eat is from Eastern North Carolina.”

Full as a tick: basically, when you have eaten so much you’re about to explode. “I ate so much barbeque and red velvet cake that I was full as a tick.”

Clearly, this here list is not all-inclusive. Do you know some more? While you’re thinkin’ about it, consider trying your hand at one of my favorite Southern dishes, eastern NC bbq. And don’t you dare consider using another kind of sauce – vinegar-based is the only way to go. Don’t ruffle my feathers, now!

Eastern NC-Style Slow Roasted Pulled Pork
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2009; serves 16

if you’ve got barbeque joints in your backyard, you may not feel the need to make your own. but up here in the midwest, it’s a necessity. if you do use bone-in, allow extra time to let the pork tenderize even more. if you need less time, boneless works just as well. serve with Southern-style coleslaw – either on the side, on your samich, or both (like me).

printable version

ingredients
2  T dark brown sugar
1  T smoked paprika
1  T chili powder
1  t salt
2  t ground cumin
1  t freshly ground black pepper
1/2  t dry mustard
1/2  t ground chipotle chile pepper
1  (5-pound) boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
2  c water, divided
1 t liquid smoke
1/2  c apple cider vinegar
1/3  c ketchup
vinegar-based Eastern NC bbq sauce (recipe below)

instructions
To prepare pork, combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub sugar mixture evenly over pork. Let pork stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 225¬į.

Place pork on the rack of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Pour 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Place rack in pan. Bake at 225¬į for 1 hour.

Combine 1/2 cup vinegar and ketchup in a medium bowl; brush pork with ketchup mixture (do not remove from oven). Bake an additional 3 hours, basting every hour with ketchup mixture.

Pour remaining 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Cover pork and pan tightly with foil. Bake an additional 3 3/4 hours or until a thermometer registers 190¬į. Remove from oven; let stand, covered, 45 minutes.

Shred pork with 2 forks. Serve with sauce.

Vinegar-Based Eastern NC bbq Sauce
chiknpastry recipe; makes 2 cups

printable version (sauce only)

ingredients
1.5 c apple cider vinegar
1 c water
1 T tomato paste
4 T dark brown sugar
1 T crushed red pepper flakes
2 t smoked paprika
1 t chile powder

instructions
combine all ingredients in small saucepan and bring to boil. reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. add more red pepper flake, if desired.

Stewy Indian Giver

ancho pork stew

I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. I might be what some would call an “Indian giver” (Simps – don’t tell Jon I’m talking about his people). I know, amidst my excitement about the oozing with tastiness triple ginger cookies, that I offered to give you guys control of the next post. As things go, that would have ‘technically’ been this post. You all aren’t all that nitpicky though, are you? Will you forgive me? Forego the little details, pretty please?

pork spice mix

You see, I wholeheartedly intended to write 4 straight posts about all those cookies I made. I really did. But two things happened that caused me to veer a wee bit off track.

  1. I worried that maybe I was just a tad too excited about those cookies, and maybe you are not as excited? I was sorta hoping for a close voting battle, a little competition, for the next cookie post. I mean, I did give you a choice, right – the chance to pick the next cookie? I thought that was cool. I thought ya’ll liked cookies as much as me. But I think I must have been delusional as the voting wasn’t quite the fierceness I was anticipating.
  2. Probably more importantly, I worried about ya’ll being all chilly, teeth chattering in your abodes as you nibbled on little morsels of ginger and sugar cookies and chocolate bark. Morsels that surely fill the cookie tins for the work crowd or your home-snacking desires but definitely do not satisfy the soul. Morsels that don’t stop the shivering and nullify the goosebumps caused by (in these parts, at least) the single digit windchills.

jalapeno corn muffins

You know what will take your temp up a notch or two? Stew Рit warms the heart and makes that weather seem like a non-issue. Stew makes you want to wrap your sweatered arms around someone you love and stay indoors all weekend without a care in the world.

Specifically pork stew infused with ancho chile powder – the smells emanating from the kitchen, wafting into all nooks and crannies are enough to make you forget about all those sweet treats and instead focus on those Mexican spices, peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, and hominy – if only for a little while. (And I do mean a little while – this is a straight-up under 1 hour recipe from start to finish. Cook it on Monday – I dare you).

stew and muffin

Not to mention a little palm-sized nugget of corn meal, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno. I love cookies, but I can’t (or shouldn’t, rather) dunk cookies into a glowing bowl of ancho-spiced broth and come out with anything close to what happens when you douse these babies with soup broth. I mean, you can eat them without the stew juices, no doubt, but¬†in some households it’s better to sop up juice with muffins rather than lick the bowl clean with your tongue. Just sayin’. Although,¬†you could do both…

stew and muffin

So yeah, I reneged on the cookie offer. But only temporarily – I promise. I hope you forgive me :). In the meantime, whip yourself up some of this yummy stew and some sauce-soppin’ muffins. I’ll be back next week to share another cookie recipe – and from the looks of the comments so far, I’m guessing it’s gonna be those cardamom-clementine sugar cookies. Ya might wanna bake those up for Santa!

Ancho Pork & Hominy Stew
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2009; makes 6 servings
300 kcal, 2.1 g sat fat, 28.9 g protein, 6.1 g fiber

printable recipe

ingredients
2 T ancho chile powder
2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t g cumin
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T olive oil, divided
2 c chopped onion (1 lg yellow onion)
1 1/2 c chopped green bell pepper (1 lg pepper)
1 T minced garlic
1 28-oz can hominy, drained
2 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth
1 14.5-0z can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

instructions
combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl (set aside 1.5 t spice mixture) and add in pork, tossing well to coat.

heat 2 t oil in Dutch oven over med-hi heat. add pork and cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. remove pork and set aside. add remaining 1 t oil to pan and add onion, pepper, garlic. saute 5 minutes or until tender. return pork to pan. add spice mixture, broth, hominy, tomatoes; bring to a boil. partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.

Cheddar-Jalapeno Corn Muffins*
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009; makes 12 muffins

printable recipe

ingredients
5 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 c yellow cornmeal
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c corn (fresh or thawed)
1 1/4 c buttermilk
1 egg
1 3/4 c grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and small-diced

instructions
spray or butter muffin pans and preheat oven to 425 F with rack in middle.

whisk together cornmeal, salt, baking powder and soda in large bowl.

whisk together corn, buttermilk, egg, melted butter in another bowl and then stir it into the flour mixture until just combined. stir in 1 1/2 c cheese and jalapeno.

divide among muffin tins and top muffins with remaining cheese. bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. cool on rack and serve warm or room temp.

If desired, muffins can be frozen individually on a sheet and put into ziploc freezer bag for individual use ūüôā

*Muffins gluten-free, not dairy-free

I Want My Baby Back Ribs

ginger baby back ribs

Okay. I know… before you even read, or scroll to the recipe, or whatever you do when you get to the chik n’ pastry blogsite, you are probably wondering what in the hell is wrong with me. Why would I ever ever ever say I don’t want BBQ sauce?! I mean, what else does a Southern girl eat her ribs with? Heck, anything with?

So let’s be clear here, before going any further. I adore barbeque sauce. I adore the way the sticky, gooey, molasses-and-ketchup-flavored-sauce-with-a-hint-of-apple-cider-vinegar-that-I-could-make-with-my-eyes-closed tastes on some baby back ribs, cooked low and slow on a sunny summer day to the point where they fall off the bone before they make it to your mouth or for that matter even in your hands because they. are. that. damn. tender. and. juicy. and. oh. so. perfect. in. every. way. I love the way you finish eating said ribs and the morsels of ooey goodness that is said bbq sauce remain all over your mouth, your face, your hair, your clothes, and all 10 of the Bounty tri-fold paper towels you used along the way. Make me choose what type of rib to take to my grave and hands down, I’d choose those in a heartbeat. Shoot, less than a heartbeat.

rib sauce


But, barring any unforseen accident or health malady, I do not plan to receive a visit from the Grim Reaper any time soon. That being said, I do feel that an occasional visit to the dark side is acceptable. If you are, like me, in the prime of your life and ready to try something different in the way of ribs, I suggest you consider a venture to Cambodia to try their style of bbq, complete with flavors of ginger and honey on a background of soy and fish sauces. If you’re not quite ready for that type of adventure, thank Bon Appetit magazine for having Steven Raichlen, bbq extraordinaire, tour the globe via a ‘barbeque trail’ and then write about it in the July 2009 issue.


Then, thank me for insisting that you try this recipe, as you will undoubtedly be wowed by the abundancy of flavor that’s packed into this marinade. Meanwhile, you’ll find yourself also feeling a bit sheepish by suggesting I’d lost my mind. I haven’t – not this time.


grilled ribs


Wow. Just wow. We made these this past weekend – we were long past due for a ‘Jennifer&Jon get-together’ (and getting the band back together for another gig on the Rock Band II World Tour). Plus, Chris & I both finished up Spring quarter of school the week before and were in need of an event reminiscent of summer break. And after our grilled meal in Hilton Head, Chris had quite the hankerin’ for the ol’ Weber. Ribs were the answer.


Marinated in a blend of ginger, honey, fish sauce, and soy sauce, these are not your typical ribs for sure. Why, they don’t even cook low n’ slow but instead cook ‘high n’ quick’. The marinating is the long part but surely worth the few hours to really layer the flavors. Be sure to baste during the marinating to allow the flavors to continuously work their way into the ribs. Oh baby – these are baby back ribs that you don’t wanna forget.


ribs and sides


Want to carry these tasty Asian flavors through the rest of your meal? I made a peanut-saucy Asian slaw and some gluten-free sesame noodles that were super easy and just as tasty.


Ginger & Honey Baby Back Ribs
Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2009; serves 6



ingredients
Ribs & Marinade
2 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pound baby back pork ribs, cut into 6-7 rib sections
1/4 cup peeled ginger, cut into chunks
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T sugar
1 T kosher salt
1 T fresh ground black pepper
3 T honey
2 T soy sauce*
2 T fish sauce


Dipping sauce
6 t kosher salt, divided
6 t ground white pepper, divided
3 large limes, halved


*Gluten-free available if needed

instructions
For ribs & marinade:
Place rib racks on work surface. If not done already, use a small knife and carefully pry membrane from underside of each rib. Place ribs on rimmed baking sheet.


Combine ginger, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in processor and puree to blend. Add honey, soy sauce, and fish sauce and process to blend well. Adjust seasonings to taste. (Don’t be alarmed by the overwhelming smell of the fish sauce – it does NOT overpower once grilled!). Spread spiced marinade on both sides of ribs and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours, basting occasionally with accumulated marinade on baking sheet.

For dipping sauce:

Place 6 small bowls on each of 6 plates. Place 1 t salt and 1 t pepper side by side, then place lime in plate beside. Have guests squeeze lime juice into mixture to taste.


Grillin’:
Spray rack with cooking spray. Prepared grill to medium heat. Spoon accumulated marinade back over ribs. Place rib racks, rounded side down, on grill rack. Grill, uncovered, 8 minutes per side, then cover grill and grill until cooked through, about another 8 minutes per side.

Transfer to cutting board. Cut into single rib pieces.