When I think of ribs, I think of my dad. My dear ole dad. Grilling has always been HIS THING. Even if it meant standing in the driveway with a golf umbrella during a tornado warning with occasional hail (yeah, that happened). Even in the middle of those brutally long Ohio winters when temperatures dropped so low the inside of your nose would most literally freeze. Even after that one time he got a little carried away with the lighter fluid and singed off half his beard, even then, dad was out there grilling.
When dad makes ribs, he slathers them in barbecue sauce, tucks them tightly in foil packets, throws them on his Texas-style offset smoker, and lets them hang out for HOURS . It’s a simple, straightforward technique, but it’s pretty much impossible to replicate this sort of perfection in a tiny apartment kitchen with nary a smoker to be found. Remember that first time I made mussels and they were an embarrassing abomination? Well, true to form, my first attempt at making ribs was a complete and utter failure. When I lifted the crockpot lid after ten hours of slow cooking, I found the meat had shriveled so much I could see more bone than brown. I was irrationally optimistic as I pulled a bit of meat off with a fork and sampled the day’s wares. It was, undoubtedly, the dryest meat I’ve ever laid tongue on. Ten hours in the crockpot and a little liquid smoke seemed too good to be true. This just in: it was.
For Mary vs. Baby Back Ribs, Round II, I modified my approach. Who knew simmering ribs on the stove top and finishing them in the oven would make for super moist meat? Boy did it ever. With just a slight twist of the bone, the meat slid right off.
Chinese Baby Back Ribs
For the braise:
1 rack of pork baby back ribs, cut down to fit your pot
1 white onion, peeled and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 nub of ginger, sliced
1 head of garlic, slice in half
1 cup soy sauce
water to cover
For the finishing sauce:
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2-3 tsp sriracha, depending on heat preference
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 green onion, sliced
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Braise: Place the ribs and all braising ingredients into a tight-fitting pot, then add enough water to cover the ribs by 1 inch (approximately 2 cups). Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the ribs are tender (about 1.5 hours).
Finish: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients, except for the green onion and sesame seeds. Line a sturdy cooking sheet with foil, then place the ribs on top. Use a grill brush to lightly paint the sauce on both sides of the ribs. Continue until all the sauce is used. Bake the ribs until the sauce begins to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Cut ribs into pieces, baste with pan juices, and top with green onion and sesame seeds.
Make ahead: to make this dish ahead, once the braising step is complete, allow ribs and braising liquid to cool in the pot, then place in the fridge. To finish, wrap ribs tightly in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then proceed to the “finish” step above.
Disclaimer: as a member of the North Carolina Pork Council Blogging Network, I was compensated for the cost of pork used in this post.