Sunday, December 26, 2010

Braised Pork "Country Ribs"

A few days ago, getting away from the intensive pre-Christmas cooking that involved me both at home and at our restaurant, I prepared an inexpensive cut of pork I often see at the supermarket but rarely use. "Country-style" pork ribs are the lower side of the loin when the more expensive ribs and surrounding meat are cut off. The section contains some bone and lots of meat, along with some marbling of fat that predicts moist tenderness. The portion is cut crosswise into five to six strips, each containing some rib.

I got a 3-pound portion and braised it like I would beef short ribs. The difference was that the meat was more plentiful, the price considerably lower and the cooking time shorter.

This went with mashed potatoes, since there was meat with some vegetable and a lot of thick gravy-like liquid. I just had some of it leftover after several days of rich Christmas fare. It tasted homey, delicious, if I say so myself, and satisfying.

I did not try a wine with this, but would go for a medium-bodied red, such as a fruity Merlot or Tempranillo, or even a dry Riesling or a Viognonier.

The recipe serves six, generously.

Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs

3 pounds "country-style" pork ribs, as meaty as possible
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Rendered fat or olive or canola oil
1 medium-small onion, chopped
1/2 large stick celery, chopped
1 medium-large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons red wine
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup unsalted chicken broth or water, plus more as needed
1 whole clove
2 bay leaves
Small pinch of thyme
1 10-ounce bag frozen French-cut green beans

Trim any large pieces of fat, if present, off the ribs. Dust ribs evenly with mixture of salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Select casserole pan or dutch oven big enough to hold meat in one layer. Over medium heat, melt a little of the trimmed fat, or use a tablespoon olive or canola oil. Gently fry meat pieces, turning them frequently until lightly browned on all sides.

Prepare vegetables and add to fried meat, turning meat pieces. Vegetables will settle to bottom. Fry gently about 5 minutes, turning frequently and scraping bottom of pan.

Add soy, ketchup, wine and Worcestershire. Turn pieces while frying gently several minutes.

Add half a cup of broth or water, the clove, bay leaves and thyme. Simmer, covered, turning meat from time to time. Add a little broth or water as needed to keep half an inch of liquid around meat.

As meat becomes tender (total cooking time of 40-50 minutes), add frozen green beans, without thawing. Stir and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, until beans are tender and meat is beginning to fall apart.

Taste sauce from time to time during the later stages of cooking. Add salt, if necessary. Remove bay leaves and clove, if you can find it.

Serve with mashed potatoes or potatoes boiled, lightly salted and buttered.

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