Saturday, June 12, 2010

Oven-Barbecued Spareribs with Chinese-Style Barbecue Sauce

Sometimes cooking for A. can be –– well –– frustrating.

He is a busy man with a lot on his mind, and while I hate to say it, from time to time he forgets to, ahem, show his appreciation.

Or to even comment on the meal that I have prepared.

I suppose, if one looks at this optimistically, the tradeoff is that when he does dole out the praise I know that he is sincere.

Like the time I made a pork and apricot dish and A. quipped that this was a dish that Jonathan Gold needed to know about. It was that good.

No small compliment!

The other night I cooked up a batch of oven-barbecued spareribs with Chinese-style barbecue sauce. When A. tasted them, he said that if I ever opened a restaurant this dish would absolutely need to be on the menu.

This is huge, especially from A.

Thanks, baby!

He's right.

These ribs, thanks to the Chinese-style barbecue sauce, are –– to take advantage of an overused word that I typically hate –– phenomenal!

Believe me, this is not overstating the case.

My mom found this recipe in the June 1981 issue of Gourmet. I was nine years old then, and she's been making it ever since. Naturally, I have since stolen it from her.

The magazine suggests that this is a perfect dish for a bachelor party. Perhaps. Really, any celebration would do.

Better idea: Halve the recipe and eat it with your husband for a few meals over the course of a week or so.

If you like pork and have a strong appreciation for butter, pay attention. If you love spicy, tangy, garlicky barbecue sauces, start your grocery list.

There are not that many ingredients in this dish, and the preparation of the sauce and the pork ribs does not take overly long. Cooking the ribs, however, does take a while.

I've made these ribs many times, so this time I didn't bother to read through the recipe. Mistake! I forgot about the lengthy cooking time, and Fe and I were chained to the oven all afternoon and evening.

So worth it though. And burning myself twice in the same place, on the scar of another burn from twelve years ago? –– Worth it too.

The recipe instructs you to use bone-in country style spareribs. I've had trouble finding them with the bone in here in Los Angeles.

Alternatively, I've used boneless country pork ribs with great success. The meat is very moist due to the high fat content in the pork, to the process of blanching the ribs prior to baking, and to the liberal use of sauce during the baking process.

There is a not insubstantial amount of butter in the sauce. Two sticks! I wouldn't dream of cutting back on this. The richness of the butter balances the heat of the chile-garlic sauce and the acidity of the rice-wine vinegar. The ample measure of brown sugar (two cups!) ties all of the flavors together.

The result is a sauce that thrills your nostrils as the chile and vinegar evaporate during the cooking process. It is salty and robust from the soy, and tangy and bright due to the tomatoes and vinegar. Sweet -- but not too much so -- from the sugar.

This sauce strikes a perfect pitch of flavors.

Thank goodness the recipe makes nine cups, because you will notice the sauce slowly begin to disappear as you eat up spoonful after spoonful, while pretending to baste.

I always serve these ribs with rice. Simply put, I want something else over which to ladle the sauce.

This time, I also served roasted asparagus and Japanese negi onions.

This was a little rich for my taste, but A. loved it. I would prefer an acidic asian slaw or sharply dressed salad to offset the heavy dose of fat that comes with these ribs.

These ribs are especially good for entertaining, because you can do everything in advance and finish the ribs off with a final thirty minutes in the oven right before the guests arrive. Walking in the door, they will undoubtedly be enticed by the sweet and vinegary aroma that is filling the house.

And when they sit down and devour the sticky, messy, pork?

You'll almost certainly be guaranteed a heavy calendar-load of dinner parties in the future.

Oven-Barbecued Spareribs with Chinese-Style Barbecue Sauce

12 pounds country-style spareribs, bone-in

4 1/2 cups chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
3 cups tomato purée
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup rice vinegar
6 tablespoons chile paste with garlic (Sambal Oelek)

In a large heavy stainless steel or enameled saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes, until softened. Add the tomato purée, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chile paste, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Makes about 9 cups.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Trim the excess fat from the ribs. Leaving the ribs attached, blanch them in batches in a large pot of simmering water for 30 minutes, and drain them. Arrange the ribs meaty side up in 2 baking pans large enough to hold them in one layer and bake them for 20 minutes.

Lower the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush the ribs lightly on both sides with the sauce and bake them meaty side down for 20 minutes. Turn the ribs meaty side up, baste them generously with the sauce, and bake them for 20 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, cut between the bones to separate them, and return the ribs meaty side up to the pans. Baste the ribs generously with the sauce and bake them for 20 minutes. (The ribs may be made ahead up to this point. Reheat the ribs in a 350 degree oven, turning them once for 30 minutes, or until they are heated through.)

Serves 8.

1 comment:

Monique said...

I miss this dish. It has been forever since I have gotten to eat it.