Monday, February 23, 2015

Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs with Mango & Lime

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Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs with Mango & Lime
Serves: 4
Difficulty: Moderate
Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs with Mango & Lime
Mangoes are the starting point for this wonderful recipe – add a bit of lime and a dash of rum and we are out of February gloom and into a sunny mood. The additional tropical flavors of lime, chilies, ginger and coconut milk only seem natural. Take yourself to the Caribbean with this entrée.  As the mango cooks, it gives itself up entirely to the sauce, thickening it and contributing to a wonderful pale orange color. Serve with some Jasmine rice cooked in broth, chopped onion and a bit of coconut milk, add parsley for a bit of color and you have the perfect addition to sop up the sauce.
Key ingredients
Country-style pork ribs are relative newcomers to the meat case, promote the shoulder-blade section of the pork loin, and are not as lean as the pricier rib chops. Because they have the tougher, fattier character of the pork shoulder, they are best cooked slowly in any sort of braise. Shopping for them can be confusing, since they appear in a variety of shapes arising from the top end of the loin or bottom end of the shoulder.  For this recipe my favorites are cuts from the shoulder with bone in. They are never symmetrical so look for an even mix. 

  • 2½ lbs bone-in country-style pork ribs
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tb olive or peanut oil
  • 1-2 small cardamom pods
  • 1 large ripe mango, (about 1 pound), flesh chopped into ½ inch dice
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 6-8 ounces)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • One 2- to 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1½ tsp grated lime zest
  • 3 Tb golden or amber rum, such as Mount Gay (not dark)
  • ½ C unsweetened coconut milk
  • ¼ - ½ C freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste preference
  • Lime wedges for serving, optional 
To prepare the cardamom: With your fingers or the side of a large knife, split open the cardamom husks. Remove the dark, grain-like seeds and discard the husks. In a mortar or a spice grinder, crush the seeds to a fine powder. Set aside.
Cardamom seeds with the husk removed
Pat the pork ribs dry with paper towels. Season all over with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large deep heavy lidded skillet or braising pan over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add the pork ribs, in batches so they aren’t crowded, and cook, turning once with tongs, until they are browned and the fat is starting to crisp up, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the browned pork ribs to a platter and return skillet to medium heat.
Country pork ribs
....after browning
To the skillet, add the onion and sauté, stirring until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, serrano, cardamom, cinnamon, and lime zest, stir to distribute them evenly, and sauté until fragrant, another minute or two. Pour in the rum, stir to loosen any tasty browned bits left from browning the pork, and simmer until there is almost no liquid left about 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, lime juice and mango and stir.
Serrano, lime zest and garlic for additional browning
Adding the mango
Settle the pork ribs in the sauce, adding any juices that seeped out from the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover tightly, and reduce heat to low. Simmer quietly, turning the ribs once halfway through until the meat is fork-tender, about 1½ hours. Check after 5-10 minutes, and if sauce seems to be simmering too vigorously, lower the heat or place a diffuser beneath the pan. If, when you turn the ribs, you notice the sauce is beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan, add ¼ C water. Occasionally the sugar content of the mangoes will cause the sauce to stick.

Ribs now ready to simmer....
So much of braising depends on trapping the moisture in the pot so it can meld together with the natural juices of the food you are braising. Even with a well fitting lid, I like to reinforce the seal by laying a sheet of parchment paper over the ingredients, pressing down so that paper just touches the food. While a secure lid is important, the addition of parchment paper directly above the meat reduces the headroom in the pot, which helps concentrate the braising juices further. In effect this creates a tight cycle of evaporation and condensation and bastes the food directly. The further these vapors have to travel, the more dilute they become.

By the time the pork is ready, the sauce will have cooked down and begin to caramelize around the edges of the skillet. Remove the cinnamon stick.

My preference is to let it cool down at this point and refrigerate overnight.  This allows me to skim the fat off the top before reheating the next day and proceeding. If time does not allow, skim the surface to remove as much fat as you can. Once fat has been removed, stir with a large wooden spoon so that the mango collapses and thickens the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the ribs and serve to cheers.  Really.

For additional country pork rib braise, see: Orange-soy braised country pork ribs


Adapted from Molly Stevens, All About Braising

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