Beef Spare Ribs Chinese Style
I'm late again and for that I apologize. In my defense I have already written this post once. In fact it was buttoned up and ready to publish. But when I hit the publish button I got a message that there was a problem and Wix needed to refresh. So, thinking that everything I had already written was auto-saved I hit refresh. Yeah...when the page came back it was blank. Nothing. I checked the drafts folder and again, nothing. I was so disheartened I just walked away. I even toyed with the idea of just letting this week go without any posting, but that was just me being pissy, something one should never give into - if you can help it.
So, here I am, looking at the same picture I started with on Tuesday and contemplating whether or not to try to re-write the post I wrote or come up with something else. Something tells me what's gone is gone. So let's move forward, shall we?
Did I mention I'm going to be a grandpa? Yep, my oldest daughter Madeline is pregnant with a girl. She's due in either late June or July. I say either because in my experience birth never happens according to anyone's timeline. Due dates are at best a stab in the dark. Madeline's due date was December 12th. She came November 20th and her gestational age was right on target, meaning she showed no signs of prematurity. Put simply due dates are really just educated guesses.
Regardless of when she actually gets here Sam and I are ecstatic over the prospect. I've been itching for a grandchild for a while now. I know there are a lot of adults for whom the prospect of babies brings about all kinds of anxiety and uncomfortableness. Me, I love babies. One of the best things to happen to us in the last two years is Sam bringing her work home. Babies are amazing. They are as authentic as you can get and nothing can brighten your day more than watching a baby light up when you enter a room. I am absolutely hooked.
One of the most frequent questions I get when talking about Madeline's pregnancy is what I want my grandparent name to be. In all honesty I'm a firm believer in letting you grandchild name you, which means it'll be a year or more before I actually know. I named my maternal grandfather Hipa. It came about one day when I was two or three and my grandparents came for a visit. He walked in the door and my mom said, "Hi, Pa!" and that became his name. I'd hate to deprive myself or my grandchild of such an experience, but neither my daughter or my wife are having it. As such I've settled on the temporary moniker of Poppy. We'll see if it holds.
Experience has taught me that children will call you what they want to call you. When my own were young I wanted them to call me Papa. They insisted on Daddy. It's only now as adults that they regularly call me Papa. Kids...
One of the things Madeline has asked of me is that I help her come up with Instant Pot recipes to help her cook for her family. The Instant Pot specifically because her experience with the kitchen is closer to Sam's than mine. She's capable in the kitchen but she doesn't love it the way I do.
That brings us to this week's offering. I've been playing a good deal lately with Asian food. I find I go through phases of taste and right now Asian flavors are really hitting my palate. This version of Chinese Spare Ribs is not only incredibly tasty but super economical. There are a couple of pantry items you may not have, but you can still make a great meal without them. If you want the full experience, hit up your favorite Asian market or order them online.
You can make do without it, but corn starch is an important ingredient. First off you want to place your spare ribs in some kind of container. I like gallon sized ZipLock bags for this purpose. Splash in a 1/4 of soy sauce and then sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of corn starch. Mix it well. The soy is a marinade and seasoning. The corn starch helps "velvet" the meat which is that unique quality Asian style meats achieve that both renders the meat succulent and smooth to the palate.
Let the ribs sit while you pull together the sauce and your aromatics. For the sauce I use around a 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of soy, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, a tablespoon of sesame oil, some sort of hot sauce, and a pinch or two of Five Spice Powder. First the hot sauce. If I don't want to too hot I'll opt for Sriracha. A tablespoon or so goes quite well. If I do want a bit of a kick I'll use a garlic chili sauce. Sriracha makes one, which might be confusing but the garlic chili sauce comes in a jar, straight up Sriracha comes in a squirt bottle and they are two very different things.
Five Spice powder is a blend of, well, five spices. You can buy it pre-blended or make your own. Most common blends are cinnamon, fennel, star anise, clove, and Szechuan peppercorns. If you don't have it you can still make a tasty dish, but in my opinion Five Spice powder just takes it all to the next level.
My aromatics are minced ginger, garlic, and two or three dried Arbol chilis. You can skip the chilies if you want but I find they add an extra dimension to the dish. They are not especially hot and if you are not familiar with them they are the little dried chilies most often used in your favorite American style Chinese restaurants. They are a multi dimensional chili and quite useful in your pantry. I use them in just about every cuisine I make.
If you like a thicken sauce (and who doesn't?) go ahead a make a slurry of corn starch and water. Just take a tablespoon or two of corn starch and mix it with two or three tablespoons of cold water. You can mix this and set it aside for the end. It will settle so just give it a quick stir before you add it.
Once you've got everything together, hit the saute button on your Instant Pot and let it get hot. You'll know it's ready because the display will read "Hot." Add a couple tablespoons of oil and sear the rib bones. Sear them just long enough to get a little crust on the meat and some fond in the bottom of the pot. Fond is those little brown bits that stick to the bottom of your pan. Fond is flavor.
Once you've seared the ribs set them aside. Now add your aromatics. Stir them in the oil and fat left from the ribs and scrape up the bits of fond. Once you can start to smell the garlic and the ginger add in a bit of the sauce and use the liquid to make sure you get all the fond off the bottom of the pot. Some Instant Pots register burns and will give a fault. Getting the fond off the bottom of the pot makes sure this doesn't happen.
Once this is done add the rib bones back to the pot with the remaining sauce. Put on the lid and make sure the quick release valve is closed. Set your Instant Pot to pressure cook, high for 35 minutes.
Now you can make your rice. Since your Instant Pot is busy with the ribs we'll make rice in a pot on the stove. Don't worry you got this.
First, wash your rice. Rice is extremely starchy. As the grains tub against each other in transport a fine powder of starch forms. Washing your rice removes this extra starch and keeps your rice from becoming gummy and sticky. Use whatever rice you like. I prefer a medium grain rice like Jasmine. To wash your rice just swirl it around in a pot with water. You'll notice the water quickly becomes milky. Pour this off. You can do this with a wire mesh strainer or just be careful not to pour out the rice. I recommend washing the rice at least three times. You'll notice the starch level of the water is significantly reduced each time.
Now, how much water? Notice I didn't tell you how much rice? That's because you really don't have to measure. I try and cook enough rice that I'll have plenty left over for other dishes throughout the week. It keeps pretty well and is easy to reheat. If it gets past it's prime I'll use it for fried rice and finish it off. When measuring for water, use your finger. Hold your index finger, pointing down with the tip right on the top of your measure of rice. Add water until it reaches three-quarters of the way up to your first knuckle from the tip. That's it. The perfect amount of water.
Now for cooking the rice just remember 10-5-5. First put the pot on the stove and bring the pot to a boil. A glass lid is handy but not necessary. Once the pot is boiling turn the heat down to medium-high and cook for 10 minutes. After those 10 minutes, turn the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. Finally, turn the heat off completely and let sit for 5 more minutes. Your rice is done. It is vitally important that once the lid goes on you do not lift it. If you don't have a glass lid you can tell the rice is boiling because puffs of steam are escaping the lid. Also, you can hear it.
Once your Instant Pot is done, hit the quick release to vent off the steam. When your pot has de-pressurized remove the lid and just take a minute to savor that aroma. Yeah, you just did something good here.
If you want a thicker sauce, now is the time to add that slurry. First pull out the ribs and any meat that has fallen off the bones. Give the corn starch and water a quick stir and pour in. You might need to hit the saute button just to add some heat here but stir until the sauce thickens. Add the ribs and meat back in and stir to coat.
Now it is time to eat. Spoon up a bowl of rice and top with the ribs and sauce. I like to garnish this with some sesame seeds and sliced scallions. Enjoy.