Bad to the Bone

Who isn't readily baited by alluring street food? I regularly watch Andrew Zimmern eat his way through food stalls in exotic countries around the globe. A few months back, I made his wings recipe that is inspired by food sold on the streets of Malaysia. We found a local Asian grocer to procure sake, oyster sauce and mirin. What a fun exercise scouring the aisles for those special ingredients. The wings were sublime and I plan to make them again soon. 

While scanning Instagram a pair of weeks ago, I came across a photograph posted by David Lebovitz. The image was that of caramel bubbling in a pot with a hand pouring a can of beer into the blend.  David Lebobitz, as you may remember, is the mastermind behind our beloved pork carnitas. Buy a sizable pork shoulder, salt it the night before. Brown it in your Dutch oven and then add water, garlic, a cinnamon stick and spices. Pop it in the oven and wait for the magic to happen.

Teach yourself how to pickle red onions or jalapeƱos. Find a Latin grocer near to you and buy cotija cheese. Set up a taco bar at home and stand back as your friends ogle at your gastronomic prowess. I happen to be making the wonderful dish this very evening. We are having a dinner party and guests include my folks, who are in town from Germany and those of partner-in-crime. 

After a bit of due diligence, I learned David was preparing Vietnamese pork ribs. His ribs are inspired by the recipe on page 379 of Molly Stevens book All About Braising. Her book is a must for anyone who has a Dutch oven, wants to learn how to maximize its potential and master the art of braising. On Saturday night, I aim to try my hand at what her book calls the "world's best braised green cabbage". Watch this space.

Two weekends ago, we gave the braised pork ribs a whirl. Perfect for a cocktail party. Outstanding for a football game. The end result was phenomenal. The real deal for sure. Sweet, savory, spicy and finger licking good. Molly encourages braising the ribs the night before but we did not. Perhaps the next go around when our timing is better. 

For whatever bizarre reason, I shrieked with excitement when the sugar and water concoction changed to the color red giving certainty to the fact that we had caramel. The splendiferous aromas that filled our home were unbelievable. A Texas girl born and raised, I don't mess around with ribs. What's the old saying, go big or go home?  Go big!

Pork Riblets Braised in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce
Adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens


2 lb pork ribs
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
The juice of 2 limes
1/3 cup of fish sauce
1/2 cup of sliced chopped green onions
Cracked pepper
Kosher salt
2 TBS chopped ginger
1 TBS Sriracha 

On we go

1. Separate your pork ribs with a knife and salt them. The day before is ideal but if you are strapped for time as we were, do it the day of. 

2. In your Dutch oven, spread the sugar in the bottom.  Pour 1/4 cup of water and the juice of the 2 limes over the sugar. Please let this sit for a minute so that the sugar absorbs the liquids. Turn your stove onto medium heat until the sugar starts to dissolve. Reduce the heat to medium low and let the caramel cook. You know you are in business when it turns a reddish color. Black and you have gone too far, start over.

3. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat. Add the ginger and Sriracha. Next, add the remaining 1/4 cup of water and the fish sauce. Return the caramel to medium high heat, stir and let it boil until you have a uniform sauce. Now add 1/3 cup of green onions and a couple of cracks of pepper. Let everything simmer for another pair of minutes. Please take the Dutch oven off of the heat.

4. Now add your pork ribs to the sauce. Give everything a big stir ensuring that the ribs are coated. You now want to simmer over low heat - do not let the mixture come to a boil. Cover and braise for approximately 90 minutes. Every 20 minutes or so, bring out the tongs and move everything around.

5. We served ours with the extra chopped green onions and a squeeze of lime. These puppies are tasty but make a bit of a mess so put extra napkins out.

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