I WANT MY CHAR SIU BABY BACK, BABY BACK, BABY BACK RIBS
One of the real benefits of working from home is that, in between writing articles, working on proposals for new books or firing off answers to the plethora of e-mails that have filled my inbox every morning, I get to cook.
I get to cook a lot.
Oddly enough, Sybil does not seem to mind returning home to find the scent of a hot supper filling her nostrils, particularly when that smell emanates from something that once went “oink”. She is definitely a fan of her porcine products and anytime I suggest a pig centric supper the offer is greeted with a nod of enthusiasm.
Today, it was rib time. Butchers in L.A are, if I am being brutally honest, a bit ropey and, although it might surprise people to hear it, I have found much of the quality of what I buy to be well below what I can find in London, even at a supermarket.
That being said, I do have a semi decent butcher within walking distance and one thing that he always has on offer is a great selection of ribs. There are meaty spare ribs, chunky beef ribs and, best of all, my personal favourite baby backs. I buy these more often than my cardiologist might advise and have any number of ways to prepare them.
Today, for some reason, my thoughts turned to Char Siu, that bright red pork preparation that is such a favourite in Chinese restaurants. I had tried to make it a few times before, but usually using pork loin, which is my least favourite park of the pig. I can’t help feeling every time I eat it, that I might as well be eating the paper it was wrapped in for all the flavour it gives out.
Ribs on the other hand are a different animal (well, part of the animal, but you know what I mean) altogether and I decided to pick up a couple of slabs of baby backs from Denny, my butcher at Victor’s and give them the char siu treatment.
The results were, I am delighted to say, a huge success as we polished off one thick slab with another left to feed us both for tomorrow. Just in case anyone is vaguely interested in giving it a go, the recipe is below.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
2 Slabs of Baby Back Pork Ribs (ask the butcher to remove the membrane)
FOR THE MARINADE
3 Cloves Garlic (Peeled & Minced)
2 Inches of Fresh Ginger (Peeled & Minced)
2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 Tbsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 Tsp White Pepper
3 Tbs Honey
¼ Cup Dark Soy Sauce
¼ Cup Brandy (Optional)
¼ Rice Wine or Dry Sherry
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Hoisin Sauce
3 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 Lemon (Juice & Zest)
FOR THE GLAZE
¼ Cup Tomato Ketchup
¼ Cup Hoisin Sauce
3 Tbsp Honey
¼ Cup Brandy (Optional – use orange juice of you don’t want to use alcohol)
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a saucepan and heat through until the honey has melted and they have all combined together.
Allow the marinade to cool and then massage well into the ribs.
Place the ribs in a Zip Loc bag and allow to marinate for at least four hours (better over night)
Line a large baking tray with foil and place a wire rack on top.
When the ribs have marinated, place them on the wire rack and pour a little water underneath. This will create steam as they cook and keep the ribs moist.
Place two layers of foil over the ribs and fold to create a complete seal. Again this will keep the steam in and keep the ribs moist while cooking.
Cook the ribs at 400F/220C for around two hours.
While the ribs are cooking, prepare the glaze by heating all the ingredients in a pan over a gentle heat.
After two hours, remove the top layer of foil to reveal the ribs.
Glaze each slab and return to the oven.
Cook at 450F/230C for ten minutes, being careful they do not burn.
Glaze once more and cook for a final ten minutes, again making sure they do not burn.
Give the ribs one final glaze and serve with white rice and lots of napkins.