When I was growing up in Spanish Harlem, almost every Friday evening the family would go to Chinatown to the Wah Kee Restaurant. This restaurant no longer exists. It was a hole-in-the wall joint on Doyers Street. You had to go down a stairway to the basement where the restaurant was located. And the dinner was always the same: egg drop soup, steamed vegetable dumplings, Cantonese noodles, friend rice, and baby spare ribs. It never deviated. This was what we always wanted. The spare ribs were unlike anything we had at home. They were "Chinese"---that is, lathered in soy sauce and sesame oil. The ribs we had at home were different: they were seasoned with black pepper, salt, oregano, garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinegar; then baked to perfection. If my mother had added Kikkoman soy sauce we would probably have considered them "Chinese" as well.
In my later years I've come to appreciate my mom's spar ribs more and more. And I'm always experimenting. Once a friend gave me half a gallon of genuine Vermont maple syrup. So I thought, why not cook the suckers in maple syrup? And that is the recipe that follows. True to my Nuyorican roots, I accompany these ribs with yellow rice. But you can serve them with baked potatoes, or French fries. Add a green veggie and you have a superb meal. It's not the ribs we had at the Wah Kee restaurant, but they are marvelous nevertheless.
MARINATED PORK SPARE RIBS
2 slabs or racks pork ribs (2-3 pounds)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 ounce Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup maple syrup
1. Wash the pork ribs under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Place in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag. Add pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. Drizzle with the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and maple syrup. Thoroughly coat the ribs with the mixture.
3. Cover and marinate up to 5 hours in the refrigerator, turning and tossing the ribs once or twice.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread out the ribs, bone side down in a baking pan. Add 1/2 cup water to pan, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, turning the ribs once or twice to facilitate even roasting. Note that during the baking the drippings in the pan may dry put. If that is the case, add 1/4 eup water as needed. You will need the drippings for the rib sauce.
5. Remove ribs from oven and set aside. Pour the drippings from the baking pan into a small pan. Simmer over medium-high heat until the sauce begins to thicken (about 3-5 minutes). Brush this thickened sauce over the ribs.
6. Set the oven to broil; and place the ribs (in a pan or baking sheet) in the oven rack about 6 inches from heat source. Broil until the sauce is slightly caramelized, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest, covered, about 10 minutes. Cut between the bones to separate the individual ribs. Note that sometimes the ribs may fall apart when fully cooked. This makes it easier to separate them.
Yield: 4 servings.
Labels: Allium chinense, Angus, Apple pie, BBQ Ribs, Black pepper, Chinese cuisine, Fried rice, Pork ribs, Spare ribs, Worcestershire sauce