Friday, March 25, 2011

Short Ribs or Spare Ribs? Let's Just Ad Hoc Them

OK, I really need to read the recipes in this Test Kitchen series. Remember when I got confused about how much chipotle to add? And sometimes I end up doing a recipe and realize I don't have all the equipment to make it per the cookbook.

Well, in the masterful "Ad Hoc at Home" cookbook (award-winning cookbook, that is) by Thomas Keller, everyone voted to have me test the roasted pork short ribs recipe (40%), over the pan-roasted duck breast (31%), lemon bars (18%) or romanesco sauce (9%). Simple enough.

So I got started on getting my ingredients, and this was an extremely easy recipe because it was just salt and pepper, and letting the pork slow roast in the oven. So what went wrong? I misread that the recipe calls for pork short ribs. I bought pork spareribs.

Is there a difference? I'm not exactly sure, but I think it probably is because the spareribs I got didn't necessarily seem "short." I blame it on the fact that 1) I had spareribs on my mind because I recently used a recipe that called for pork spareribs and 2) the Ad Hoc cookbook had a glazed pork spareribs recipe right next to the short ribs recipe.

Well, it is what it is. So here's how the roasted pork spareribs recipe turned out if Ad Hoc wanted you to make roasted pork spareribs.

First of all, not everyone stocks pork spareribs. The baby back ribs are more popular, but the spareribs are more fatty. (Wonder if it would be easier shopping for short ribs?) After letting the spareribs get to room temperature, I generously seasoned them in salt and pepper. Keller specifically says to use gray salt (or coarse sea salt) and I happened to have gray salt, so I was good there.

Then I had to pan-fry them in a pan in batches to get them brown, using Canola oil in the pan. This was a real chore because to fry up all my spareribs, I had to fry four times to fit all the spareribs in the pan. And because this cut was fatty, there was a lot of oil splashing around. After awhile with my pan all fatty, it created a lot of smoke and my place started to get really smokey.
But once I was done browning the spareribs, I placed them on two baking sheets with racks and cooked them in the oven at 350 degrees for about two hours. (I love my new oven with the window and light. I can monitor the cooking without opening the door like I used to do.) Again, because the spareribs were so fatty, my new oven got a lot of oil splatter that I used the self-cleaning option for the first time afterward.

Here are the spareribs after they came out of the oven. I let it rest for about 30 minutes before cutting into them. And that was it. See, pretty easy recipe. But was it too simple?

Here's the final dish, served up with some braised Savoy cabbage as suggested by Chef Keller. I have to say, even though they weren't short ribs, they still looked pretty scrumptious, huh?

My tips and warnings about this recipe:

  1. Buy "short ribs," not spareribs or baby back ribs.
  2. The cut of pork meat is very fatty, so be prepared for a lot of clean up. Use a splatter guard if you have it.
Ease of cooking: The instructions are so simple, and that's part of the Ad Hoc approach, to make simple dishes that are home-like but delicious. But actually, not every recipe in the cookbook is this simple. So of the simplest sounding dishes actually require a lot of steps. But this one can't be any easier. Just season and bake and forget about it.

I had my doubts because this recipe didn't call for anything but salt and pepper. I thought it'd taste plain and boring, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. By generously seasoning with salt and pepper, these roasted spareribs tasted like one of my favorite Chinese spareribs dish that's like a dry roast. The natural fatty flavors of the pork add to the whole experience, brought out by the salt and pepper. And because the fatty parts get all crispy, it was like eating crispy bacon in certain parts.

Overall grade: A-
because this was super simple to make and satisfying to eat. I just knocked it off a bit because it's so fatty (translation: bad for my cholesterol).

Don't forget to vote for next month's Test Kitchen in the poll on the upper right hand column. The featured cookbook is actually a Christmas gift from my sister. It's the "Antojitos" cookbook by Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Maley and it's from a New York Mexican restaurant. I thought it might be interesting to try a Latin recipe because some of you know I'm not a fan of Mexican dishes because I think they seem pretty much the same (meat, lettuce, tortilla, beans). So maybe trying a Mexican recipe will change my mind about Mexican cuisine. Pick a good one!


Hungry Dog said...

I can imagine doing the same thing! :) But it looks like they turned out just fine so maybe the cut doesn't matter at all. I still need to get this cookbook...

foodhoe said...

I have bought that cookbook for two people, but not for me... mostly because the recipes look so complicated. I love shortribs, but have mostly had them braised, but your mis-ead still looks pretty delicious (read crispy bacon)!

Carolyn Jung said...

I just love the recipes in that book. Have made quite a few and loved them all. Definitely will have to try the rib recipe now, especially since you say it comes out like Chinese salt and pepper pork ribs. YUM!

Mrs. L said...

Now I have to not only try this recipe, but buy this cookbook (I know, surprised I haven't already bought it and added it to my collection yet).

absquatulate said...

!!! Is this where you are posting these days? Guess I should update my bookmarks.