Red Cooked Country Style Pork Ribs over Sticky Rice


I haven’t blogged for a week, although I have certainly cooked.  I need to start a series called “Lolita’s One-Shots”, or something like that — dedicated to single snapshots of all the lovely dinners I make for me and my man on nights when I don’t have the time or inclination to exponentially extend the cooking experience as it does to take pics about it along the way.  I also cooked extensively for others this week by catering a party for a small multitude of my Harvard undergrads (shout out!); spending the better part of three nights braising figs in wine, concocting compotes with cherries and cranberries, toasting a couple hundred crostini, and deviling several dozen eggs really takes up time.  But tonight I finally had the time, inclination, and inspiration to create something special for our dinner: sweetly braised pork two ways with a rich Chinese glaze over a tight nest of sushi rice capped with coriander and sliced scallions.  Thanks to Kiam Lan Kho at Red Cook for this recipe for “Hong Shao Rou” (紅燒肉) - I could taste my dinner before I even set a pot on the heat.  Richly sugary, savory and silky: a symphony of flavors that satiates the senses.  Easy – and worth it.

Red Cooked Country Style Pork Ribs and Slab Bacon over Sesame Sticky Rice

3/4 lb country style pork ribs
1/4 lb slab bacon (pork belly would have been better, but I didn’t have any)
several cups cold water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar
2-3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 whole star anise
3 cloves minced garlic
1/8 cup dry sherry
1/8 cup mirin
1 bunch scallions
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 cup sushi rice
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

These lovely country style pork ribs and slab bacon are from Blood Farm, which I’ve blogged about ample times before (like, the last 10 or so postings, I reckon) — they are my new favorite business evah.  Since I didn’t have pork belly, as the recipe called for, I worried that my country style pork ribs, which come from the loin – the opposite of the belly – wouldn’t be the right cut, so I added a small block of slab bacon (which is smoked (and therefore partially cooked) pork belly) to enough boiling water to cover.  I do this in my wok – the only cook surface my meat and sauce will need.  I boil for about 20 minutes, skimming as much gunk from the surface as I can as I go.

I then pick out my meaty bits…

… and strain the braising liquids into a bowl, reserving a couple cups to cook with later.

After wiping out my wok with a clean cloth, I add my sugar and vegetable oil to it, and set this to melt over medium heat.

These two components don’t melt evenly, but I can see the sugar pooling into brown liquid within the oil, which signifies that it’s ready.

To this caramel goodness, I add my meatwads, and I let them sear for a few minutes on this side…

… before flipping them to sear on the other.  Here comes the “red-cooked” — as the sugar browns and melds with the meat and fat, it turns a rich russet color.

The rest of my flavors include garlic, 1/2 my scallions,  soy sauce, mirin & dry sherry (to substitute for the Shaoxing  wine that I did not have), and my star anise.

The garlic, star anise, and scallions go in first.  I toss well to blend the flavors.

Then in goes my liquid ingredients: my mirin, sherry, and soy sauce, and the liquid I reserved from par-boiling my proteins.  I set this to simmer over medium heat…

… cover, and walk away for about 45 minutes.

After said 45 minutes, I can pull my meat apart with just the gentlest of tugs.  But there is still a lot of liquid left, so I remove the cover and let the sauce reduce while continuing to braise my meat for another 20 minutes or so — while I make my rice.

As this happens, I mince the rest of my scallions and pull the leaves off some cilantro – making about 1/2 cup.

My sauce has reduced to a thick glaze — just what I wanted.

Fork tender bites of pork and rich smoked bacon seasoned with a sweet, sticky, salty glaze, and served over a bed of rice drizzled with toasted sesame oil and flecked with minced green onions and coriander leaves.  Fresh, snappy, light, sweet, and filling, this dinner makes me wish I was in the Orient, where flavors are laced with mystery and distinction, riddled with tradition and history, honored by time and a sublime sense of taste.  I understand that my Western perspective generalizes the myriad subtleties of the kind of cultural richness China represents, but I wish, hope, and dream that I can someday appreciate firsthand the beauty they have to offer.  Until then, I will enjoy Chinatown, and I will explore my own abilities to render their savory perfection in my own humble ways.  Tonight’s offering was, if I dare say so myself, a step in the right direction.  Delicious!

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