Recipe: chinese-style honey hoisin barbecue ribs
Jeremy and I sat at the rocky edge of a familiar alpine lake last summer. These special places that we visit regularly hold memories that are awakened when we arrive. It’s like greeting an old friend. I stood up on a boulder in the breeze as my eyes scanned the beautiful surrounds. After a while Jeremy asked what was on my mind.
“I don’t think Kaweah will ever be able to come up and swim in her favorite lakes again.” My voice broke and I had to whisper the last few words. Kaweah loves being outside. She was a complete nut in the mountains for well over a decade, always straining to walk ahead no matter how tired she was, sniffing marmots and pika on the wind like it was crack cocaine. And then there were those running leaps into half frozen mountain lakes, taking several crazed laps around the water, tear-assing around on shore, soaking wet and chuffing with excitement. She lived for her hikes and swims.
Kaweah spends much of her time indoors now, except for her potty breaks. We make an effort to give her “Kaweah time” either in the yard or on the deck where she can sniff the latest news in the neighborhood. Her legs are so weak that walks are pretty much out of the question. So the other day, after scoping out the Slate River on one of our trail runs, I sat with Kaweah in the backseat of the car as Jeremy chauffeured us to a trailhead. All of the rivers in Crested Butte are moving fast and full with the spring runoff, but there are always side ponds (mostly beaver ponds) with currents gentle enough for an old girl like Kaweah. Jeremy carried her out into the water.
jeremy lowers kaweah to see if she struggles (i.e. doesn’t like it)
carrying her back for dip #2
jeremy spots kaweah as she paddles around
We weren’t sure if Kaweah would hate it or love it. It’s hard to read her sometimes, but she seemed to enjoy the swimming and the mobility – being free of her feeble hind legs. She took a few laps before getting pretty tired, at which point she swam to shore where Jeremy picked her up and we toweled her off and plied her with lots of loud praise (she’s mostly deaf) and treats. It’s a mere shadow of her glory days, but it seemed to be the highlight of her week.
asserting her independence
swimming solo and looking good
Kaweah was completely tuckered out for the rest of the day and part of the next day. We’re not planning to make it a daily routine. We want to make her happy, not kill her. Luckily for her, we are running the grill a lot more with the warmer weather – and THAT makes her VERY happy. I sometimes think I catch her staring at the grill longingly, or perhaps it’s the rack of ribs cooking inside the grill?
rack of pork ribs, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, chinese five spice, onion powder, chili garlic sauce, apple juice
rub the ribs with the chinese five spice and the onion powder
Who doesn’t love summertime ribs? It’s one of those dishes meant to be shared and eaten in good company. What drew me to this recipe was the Chinese twist on the rub and the marinade/glaze. Chinese five spice, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce… sounded good. Very good. I cobbled together a recipe from a couple of recipes, plus I added a “steaming” step to make the ribs a little more tender. It takes time (marinating, grilling), but it’s not terribly complicated at all.
pouring the rice vinegar in with the hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and chili garlic sauce
pouring the marinade into a ziploc with the rack of ribs
I really like to use ziploc bags for marinating meat. You can moosh them around and handle the meat without getting it all over your hands, it takes up less space in the refrigerator, and it’s easy cleanup. A rack of ribs is generally too large to fit in a ziploc bag, unless you fold them up (why not?) in thirds and tuck them into the bag. Just be sure to squish the marinade around to cover all of the rack. When you are done marinating, remove the rack and reserve the marinade for glazing.
ready to grill
grill the rack over indirect heat for 30 minutes
Indirect heat in grilling just means that the coals are shoved to one side of your grill or you have one of your burners off and the meat is on the “cool” side. The next step after the initial 30 minutes of grilling is to enclose the ribs in a leak-proof foil pouch with a half cup of apple juice. Set this on the grill (indirect heat, once again) for another 30 minutes. This helps steam the meat and make it more tender.
ribs in the foil pouch
pour in the apple juice
after 30 minutes
The last step is to remove the ribs from the apple juice steam pouch and set it on the grill (indirect heat, but higher temperature). Baste the ribs with the reserved marinade. Because that marinade had raw pork in it, I’d make sure to give the last glaze a good 10 minutes to set. If you plan to serve the glaze on the side with the ribs, either make a fresh batch or simmer the marinade on the stove until it is bubbling.
basting with the marinade
These are not falling-off-the-bone tender ribs (my favorite kind), but they are awfully tasty. The ribs have a good meaty bite with hints of that Chinese five spice peeking through the sweet and savory sticky glaze. It’s no wonder that Kaweah was trying her best to follow us between the grill and the kitchen when we made these ribs. The girl has a nose for what’s good.
gettin’ all up in your grillz
Chinese-Style Honey Hoisin Barbebcue Ribs
a grilled mashup of recipes from Food52 and Epicurious
4 lbs. rack of pork ribs (spare ribs, baby back, St. Louis style)
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp onion powder
1/3 cup honey
1 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsps oyster sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
1/2 cup apple juice
Pierce the ribs all over with a fork (I forgot to do this). Combine the Chinese five spice and the onion powder and rub on the ribs. Whisk the honey, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and chili garlic sauce together and marinate the ribs in the sauce overnight to 24 hours. [I folded the rack of ribs in thirds and stuffed them into a gallon-size ziploc bag with the marinade.]
When ready to grill, remove the rack from the marinade and reserve the marinade for basting. Heat your coals or grill to 300°F with the coals pushed to one half of the grill or one of your burners turned off. Place the ribs on the side of the grill with indirect heat (NOT over the flame or coals), bone-side down for 30 minutes with the lid closed. Meanwhile, make a leak-proof foil pouch large enough to seal the rack of ribs. When the ribs have grilled for 30 minutes, place the rack in the foil pouch. Set the foil pouch back on the grill on the indirect heat side, pour the apple juice into the foil pouch, and seal the foil pouch tightly. Close the lid and grill for 30 minutes at 375°F. Unwrap the ribs from the foil packet and set the ribs on the grill (still on the indirect heat side). Reduce the temperature to 250°F. Baste the ribs with the marinade. Close the lid and let cook for 5 minutes. Flip the ribs over, baste, and cook for 5 minutes. Continue doing this until the ribs have cooked for 30 minutes. Make sure the ribs cook for at least 5-10 minutes after the last basting. Remove from grill, slice into individual ribs, serve.
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