Recipe: chinese black bean ribs
We made a quick trip out to Crested Butte this past weekend to check on our place and to sample some of the four plus feet of snow they received in the two weeks prior. It was made even shorter because we lost an hour to Daylight Saving Time. But I figure it’s all a wash – lose and hour here, gain an hour there. On the road to CB, I asked Jeremy if he liked Daylight Saving Time. A good many people rail against it each year, but I could go either way. “Oh yes, I love it,” he nodded as we drove over Monarch Pass. “I love to have enough light after work to grab a quick ski or run before sunset.”
The loss of an hour in exchange for longer evening light and changing all of our analog wall clocks is worth it to me. It’s like waking up from the long dark slumber. My mind bounces to spring skiing, trail running, HUCKLEBERRIES!, alpine hikes, wildflowers, waterfalls, and summer thunderstorms. Colorado is once again sitting under sun and blue skies, so it really feels like spring has given winter the boot. Subtle shifts in our diurnal temperature cycle means melt in the afternoon that refreezes into ice come morning. For now, it is still technically winter and so I plan to see it through to the end.
bubbles the goldfish at the copper mountain donut shop
skate skiing the lovely nordic trails in crested butte
sastrugi and shadows at sunset
For such a short trip to Crested Butte, I didn’t want to bother with cooking anything elaborate – or cooking anything at all! I decided to make it easy on both of us and bring leftovers from the week. That way we could reheat our food without having to scrub the kitchen down or do tons of dishes. One of the dishes I brought was Chinese-style black bean ribs. Despite the balmy weather, we still dropped below zero (°F) overnight, which meant it was already in the teens when we got home from skate skiing. So a hot bowl of steamed rice topped with these tender stewed baby back ribs was the perfect thing to warm our bellies.
green onions, cilantro, garlic, baby back ribs (cut)
sake, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce, black bean garlic sauce, vegetable oil, oyster sauce
measured and prepped
Two racks of baby back ribs will get you to about 4.5 pounds or more. More isn’t a bad thing, really. The recipe has you slice the ribs into 2-rib sections, but I cut them into 1-rib sections to make them easier to maneuver during cooking and easier to eat. I did make a few substitutions because I was out of dried chiles and didn’t have fermented black beans. Instead, I used chili garlic sauce and black bean garlic sauce. There is no such thing as too much garlic. You can find almost all of the sauces at any Asian grocery store and probably some western grocery stores, too.
add sake to the black bean garlic sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce
stir in a cup of water
The preparation for this dish is fairly minimal: stir the sauce together, chop or smash the aromatics, and quickly sear the ribs. It’s the cooking time that gets you. I used my wide Dutch oven and had to sear the ribs in two batches. That’s okay. When the first half of the ribs are seared, remove them to a large plate and then sear the second half. It takes about 5-6 minutes to sear each batch. After the ribs have been set on a plate, sauté the green onions, garlic, and chiles – or in my case, the chili garlic sauce – together in the same pan you used to sear the ribs. When the aromatics become fragrant, add the sauce.
brown the ribs in oil
remove to a plate when browned on both sides
sauté the aromatics
pour in the sauce
Once the sauce comes to a simmer, add the ribs to the pot. The recipe then covers the pot and simmers the ribs for an hour. I think in the future, I’ll opt to use my pressure cooker for super tender ribs. However, this time I decided to follow the recipe to see what the difference would be. After one hour, my ribs were not quite as tender as I would have liked, so I let them simmer an additional hour. The extra hour of cooking helped to make the rib meat more tender, but it wasn’t that falling-off-the-bone style with which I seem to have a mild obsession. Still, they were quite tasty and easy enough to eat.
place the ribs in the sauce to simmer
after 2 hours of simmering
Remove the ribs to your serving dish (a bowl is advised) and de-fat the sauce. You can accomplish this by skimming the fat off the top – a method I find maddeningly inefficient – or you can do the ziploc bag trick, which I love. The trick is to let the sauce cool a little bit, then pour it carefully into a gallon ziploc bag. Remove as much air as you can (doesn’t need to be precise) and seal the bag. Hold the bag so one of the bottom corners is sitting within your vessel (a really large measuring cup, a pot, a bowl, whatever) and use a sharp knife tip to slice a hole in the bottom corner of the bag. Let the liquid pour out until the fat layer reaches the bottom, at which point you want to pinch the corner closed and throw the bag and fat away. Careful not to burn yourself. Now you have de-fatted sauce. Serve this with the ribs. Yes, do this.
pour sauce over the ribs
garnish with green onions and cilantro
These savory, earthy, slightly spicy ribs are such a delight to eat. They are perfect with a bowl of steamed rice and some Japanese cucumber salad – both of which balance the salt of the ribs with sweet and sour. And don’t forget that sauce. It’s great on the ribs and even better on the rice. The ribs reheat beautifully, so making them ahead for a quick weeknight meal is a no-brainer!
chinese black bean ribs with rice and vegetables
Chinese Black Bean Ribs
from Food and Wine
1 cup sake
1/2 cup Chinese fermented black beans, chopped (I used black bean garlic paste)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tbsps oyster sauce
1 cup water
2 tbsps peanut or vegetable oil
4 1/2 lbs. baby back ribs, cut into 2- or 1-rib sections
8 small dried red chiles (I used 2 tbsps of red chili garlic paste)
8 garlic cloves, smashed
2 bunches of green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces (and slice a few thin for garnish)
cilantro for garnish
Whisk the sake, black beans, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and water together in a medium bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large enameled cast-iron casserole until very hot. Brown half of the ribs in the oil for about 2-3 minutes, then flip the ribs to brown the other sides. Remove the ribs to a large plate. Brown the remaining ribs and remove those to the same plate with the rest of the ribs.
Add the chiles (or chili garlic paste), garlic cloves, and green onions to the oil and cook over medium-high heat until fragrant. Pour in the sake mixture and let it come to a simmer. Place the ribs in the casserole, cover with the casserole lid, and simmer over low heat. The original recipe calls for an hour of simmering, but I really prefer my ribs more tender, so I simmered for 3 hours. Choose what works best for your tastes. Remove the cover and let the sauce simmer for another 10 minutes to reduce the liquid.
Place the ribs in a large bowl. De-fat the sauce by skimming the fat off the top. Or, you can pour the slightly cooled sauce into a large (gallon) ziploc bag and poke a hole in the bottom corner of the bag with the tip of a sharp knife to let the sauce drain into a vessel, pinching the corner off before the fat drains out and discarding the bag and fat. Serve the ribs with a little sauce poured on top and the rest of the sauce on the side. Garnish with sliced green onions and cilantro. Serves 6-8.
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