Thursday, November 20, 2008
Maiden Voyage of the Slow Cooker: Hoisin Garlic Ribs
My fiancé Matt is quite good with presents. When we first started dating, he gave me a weekend subscription to the New York Times, which saved me a painful pre-coffee trip to the newsstand and suggested to me that he might be interested in sticking around for a few more weekends. My parents were totally impressed (perhaps that was the real goal.)
Since I've gotten more interested (obsessed) with recipes that involve lowww and slow cooking, I may have mentioned once or twice that a slow cooker would be a worthy addition to our kitchen. Also, my friends Laura and Adam made an AMAZING brisket in their slow cooker that I just might have praised a few times. Matt knows how to take a hint, and since my birthday we've had a slow cooker on our counter just waiting to be tested.
While I love my dutch oven and will continue to use it frequently, I don't love leaving the oven on for eight or twelve hours at a time. And I don't love being stuck in the house for that time, either. I've noticed that slow-cooker recipes online are somewhat limited to Sandra Lee-style easy recipes, but I think the electric slow cooker absolutely has a place in the serious gourmet kitchen.
For her maiden voyage, I rubbed St. Louis style ribs (sawed in half by the butcher at Whole Foods) with garlic, ginger, and ground sichuan peppercorns. After a bit of marinating (but no browning), I threw them in the slow cooker with three sliced onions and about two cups of liquid (sake, beer, hoisin, sriracha, fresh orange juice, honey, soy sauce.) The ribs cooked for about 12 hours on low while I slept. It was a little weird waking up to the smell of garlicky chinese food, but amazing to literally have dinner cook on its own. No stirring, no worrying. I refrigerated the ribs in a baking pan with the liquid and skimmed the fat when I got home. After a bit of covered reheating in the oven, I brushed the ribs with a mixture of hoisin, sriracha, honey, and orange juice to sweeten them up a bit. After glazing, we crisped each side in a hotter oven for about 10 minutes.
And they were pretty incredible. The meat fell from the bones into our mouths—you couldn't really nibble. The meat was falling apart, the bones were falling apart, and the taste was rich and intense, balanced with the sweet and spicy glaze. We had planned to finish watching a movie while we ate, but these ribs were so good we couldn't concentrate on anything else. Plus, it's hard to read subtitles while you're licking your plate.