Dinner tonight

It's finals week for my girls. The stress level at my house has reached an apex and we need some meals that will provide comfort, that can be eaten quickly, and won't require a knife and fork. I looked at my meal choices for the week and realized if I stuck to this plan we probably wouldn't sit down to a meal together. The girls would grab a bowl or plate of whatever was offered and sit at their desks until I could lure them away with a snack or some other break.

Now that is not my idea of a great week. I love our time together as a family, so tonight we are having ribs. You can't grab some and return to reading a book or editing a paper while eating ribs. Keyboards do not have a strong affinity for rib sauce. True fact. The girls will have to sit at the table with us, answer questions, and hold a conversation for at least a few minutes before they run back to their rooms to hit the books.

Ribs take a bit of effort, and I can't believe I decided to make them on a school night. These need a braise and then I elected to slosh them with some sauce and run them under the broiler as the natives students were getting restless. The recipe as written below directs you to cut them into individual ribs, deep fry them until crispy, and then coat them with the sauce. I liked my version but I think they would have had a little more flavor if I finished them on the grill. The smoke and caramelization would have upped the flavor of the sauce. However you choose to cook them, they are tender and tasty, and will keep your kids around long enough for you to hear about their day.

Spicy Baby Back Ribs
Serves 4-6
1 orange
1 lemon
2 bay leaf
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
2 whole star anise
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 sprig each thyme, rosemary and oregano
1 small knob peeled ginger
1 stalk lemon grass
4cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons salt
3 pounds baby back pork ribs
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup oyster sauce
1/3 cup black bean chile-garlic sauce
3/4 cups sambal chile sauce
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
3/4 cups orange juice
Peanut oil, for frying
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Sliced scallions, for garnish.

Juice the orange and lemon; reserve the rinds. In a large pot, combine the juices and rinds with the remaining braising liquid ingredients and 16 cups water. Place the ribs in the large pot, cutting them up, if necessary, to fit bring to a simmer over high heat, and then turn heat to low and simmer, covered, 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the ribs are tender but the meat is not falling off the bone.
Remove ribs from braising liquid and discard liquid. 
Cool ribs for about 1 hour. Slice into individual ribs and refrigerate, uncovered, until cold, at least 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: in a bowl, whisk the hoisin, oyster and black bean and sambal chile sauces with the rice wine vinegar and orange juice.
In a large heavy pot, heat enough peanut oil for deep-frying, to 350 degrees. Fry the ribs in batches until golden-brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Toss the ribs with the sauce in the bowl until completely coated. Serve garnished with sesame seeds and sliced scallions.
Yield: 4-6 servings

Cooks note: For times sake, or if you hate the idea of deep frying, you can follow my method. After braising the ribs I placed them on a foil lined sheet pan. I coated each side with sauce and let them sit for 20 minutes. I preheated the broiler, slicked more sauce over the ribs and then broiled them until they were warmed through and the sauce had become sticky. About 10 minutes.


  1. I'm thinking it's time to tap the Kaye Syrah archive for some dinner ideas. I SO love what you do!

  2. Oh thank you Megan! That is so nice of you to say.