Saturday, February 2, 2008
Pork Riblets Simmered in Caramel Sauce
This dish is another exploration into Vietnamese cooking and, out of all the recipes in Into The Vietnamese Kitchen, I chose to cook it because, hey, I am a sucker for ribs. And the technique seemed interesting and educational. So, a winner on all fronts. That the end result is delicious (and affordable!) is an additional bonus.
Pork ribs! One slab, St. Louis style spareribs...about 3.5 pounds. I had them cut in half. Imagine a slab of ribs with the bones aligned vertically. Bisect ACROSS the bones (left to right)...have the butcher do this for you. I am trimming off some of the more obvious bits of fat. Cut the ribs between the bones into individual pieces.
Marinate the ribs overnight using 3/4 of a grated onion, 1.5 tablespoons of sugar and 4 tablespoons of fish sauce.
Cook's treat: Grilled pork trimmings with a meyer lemon, sugar, fish sauce, chili paste dipping sauce...sooooooo good.The next day, build a grill or preheat the broiler. I used the broiler. Scrape off the excess marinade (but don't throw it away!) and line the ribs on a tray and broil until slightly charred. Before:
Flip the ribs over to char the other side.
Time to make the caramel sauce. Let me warn you: MAKING CARAMEL CAN BE DANGEROUS! BOILING SUGAR IS MUCH, MUCH HOTTER THAN BOILING WATER SO PLEASE BE CAREFUL!!!! Add 1/4 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a pan. Turn heat to low. It's going to take a while but the caramel goes from this:
to this:to this:
When it's coffee colored, drop it into a sink which is full of water. It'll help cool the pan down so the caramel stops cooking and doesn't burn. When the pot is in the sink, add 3/4 cup of water. The sugar will furiously bubble when you throw in the water but this will also help with the cooling process.
At this point, some of caramel will have solidified so put it back on the stove over medium heat to help dissolve the sugar:
Chuck the charred ribs into a pot along with the reserved marinade. Add 4 tablespoons of fish sauce, 7 tablespoons of the caramel sauce and plenty of cracked black pepper. Add enough water to just cover.Bring the pot to a boil. See how that weird scum forms? Skim it off.
Drop the heat to a bare simmer and cover. I use a sheet of foil to create an even tighter seal between the lid and the pot.
Simmer for 45 minutes. Then open the lid and cook for 20 more. Take out a rib and eat it. Is it tender? If not, simmer for 20 minutes more.
Time- Not much. Prep will take around 10 minutes. Grilling takes no time at all, just leave them in the broiler and check on the ribs every now and then. Making the caramel sauce can take some time but it's easy...just let the sugar melt and caramelize. Simmering is simmering. Maybe 2 hours total, 30 of which is active work.
Total- $$7.40...will make many, many ribs. 3.5 pounds worth!