Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Salt and Pepper Pork Ribs

I've had many versions of this recipe at Chinese restaurants, many of which used pieces of pork sirloin, which were bony, yet still had lots of meat intact. I love the experience of gnawing (yes, gnawing) on the succulent bones, getting every bit of the salty, spicy batter that coated their surface. The occasional prize of a succulent piece of pork was just a bonus. For this recipe, I decided to use whole baby back ribs, which provides the best of both worlds: ample bone, yet enough meat to satisfy the carnivore in you. The double frying method ensures an extra crispy crust. Use the salt mixture judiciously, but don’t skimp. It’s what makes the dish.

Salt and Pepper Pork Ribs
by Gary
Adapted from Salt & Pepper Pork Chops

Serves 4

For the Salt and Pepper Seasoning:
2 Tablespoons coarse salt
1 Tablespoon Szechwan peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

For the ribs:
1 rack (4-5 pounds) pork baby back ribs, cut into individual ribs
1/4 cup Chinese cooking sherry or dry white wine
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, run through a press
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, thinly sliced (remove seeds and membrane if desired)
1 teaspoon Salt and Pepper Seasoning mix

For the coating:
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon Salt and Pepper Seasoning mix

For the preparation:
2 cups peanut oil
1/2 cup scallions, green onions, or yellow onions, sliced
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, thinly sliced (remove seeds and membrane if desired)
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Salt and Pepper Seasoning mix, as desired
Aleppo pepper, as desired

To make the Salt and Pepper Seasoning, combine the salt and peppercorns in a medium cast iron skillet. Heat over medium high heat and stir constantly, until salt begins to toast and turns a light gray color. Use caution as the peppercorns will give off strong fumes. Remove from heat and spread out to cool on a plate. Place salt, peppercorns, and five spice powder in a mortar or coffee grinder. Crush or process until the mixture turns into a fine powder. Set aside.

For the ribs, rinse, pat dry, and place in a shallow, resealable bag or non-reactive container. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over ribs, turning to coat. Marinate at least one hour or overnight, refrigerated.

To prepare the coating, combine the flour, cornstarch, and seasoning mixture in a shallow dish or bowl.

To cook the ribs, heat peanut oil in an electric skillet or Dutch oven to 350°F degrees. Preheat oven to low, or 200°F. Remove pork from marinade and wipe away any excess. Dredge in the coating, shake to remove excess, and then carefully place in the hot oil. Repeat until approximately half of the ribs are cooking. Do not crowd the pot. Cook ribs about four to five minutes per side, or until evenly browned. Remove to a paper towel-lined pan and keep warm, uncovered, in the low oven. Allow oil to come back to temperature before proceeding with remaining ribs. Cook until all ribs have been fried. Bring the oil back up to temperature again, and return the first batch to the oil, turning until the coating is very crispy, about two or three minutes more. Remove, allow the oil to return to 350°F once more, and re-fry the remaining batch of ribs. Remove and drain.

To finish the dish, remove all but two or three tablespoons of oil from the pan (alternatively, you may take some of the frying oil and place in another large vessel, such as a wok or large skillet). Heat over high heat and add onions, peppers, and garlic, seasoning with a pinch of the Salt and Pepper Seasoning and Aleppo pepper. Cook until just fragrant, but still crisp. Add the ribs to the pan and toss to coat. You may also arrange the ribs on a large platter, sprinkle with additional Salt and Pepper Seasoning, then top with the stir-fried vegetables.

Serve with steamed vegetables and white rice.

Note: The oil used for frying may be strained and reused. Keep covered at room temperature, or store in the refrigerator. It will have a delicious, nutty flavor and seasoning, and may be used for deep frying, stir frying, or even just to season vegetables, meat, or any other main or side dish.

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