Father’s Day is coming up and everyone is thinking “grill”, but have you ever thought sous vide? Depending on where you live (weather-wise), the grill is not always a convenient option. The cooking methods deliver different results and they can’t be compared, but with sous vide nobody has to hover over the grill which is nice.
The following is a guest post, recipe and photos by Brenda (@mightyvanilla) with random Follow Me Foodie input.
Eating meat off the bone is a carnivorous pleasure. I love the saucy meatiness of ribs, and meat cooked on the bone is more flavourful than boneless (don’t get me started on boneless skinless chicken breasts). Rib meat has a fair amount of connective tissue so it requires a longer cooking time at lower temperatures. This makes sous vide an ideal preparation method.
The 5 volume set of Modernist Cuisine contains pages and pages of cooking tables for the cooking times and temperatures of many different types of meat and their cuts. The tables are broken down further by the final texture of the protein, along with their suggestion of which option they prefer the most. For pork ribs, they listed the following options:
60C/140F for 48 hours results in a tender, yielding texture (preferred)
65C/149F for 48 hours results in a tender, flaky texture
75C/167F for 7 hours results in a very flaky texture
(The single volume Modernist at Home also contains cooking tables but only for the more common cuts of meats. The same sous vide times and temperatures are listed for pork ribs, as well as a pressure cooking suggestion of 35 minutes at 15psi.)
I decided to go with Modernist’s preferred choice of 60C/140F for 48 hours. For the flavouring, I wanted to try something a different from the usual BBQ sauce. A quick search on the internet yielded this recipe for Thai glazed pork ribs on the Sous Vide Supreme website. I liked that the glaze ingredients contained some of my favourite Asian seasonings (ginger, garlic, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, lime leaves) and I used it as a starting point to what I had on hand. I also significantly decreased the amount of salty ingredients since the ribs would be cooking for 48 hours. Plus a chamber vacuum sealer was used to seal the ribs in the bags, which meant that the seasonings would flavour the meat more than a regular marinade process would.
Sous vide cooking is truly a set it and forget it technique. The initial preparation is simple: mix the glaze ingredients in a bowl, cut the pork ribs into individual sections, divide the ribs and glaze evenly between sous vide bags, seal in a chamber vacuum sealer. Then comes a leisurely 48 hours of waiting. (Though if you are like me and didn’t get the ribs into the water bath until late at night, you can turn the temperature up a few degrees near the end so that dinner is on the table at a reasonable hour. I’ve found sous vide to be a very forgiving and flexible cooking technique.) When the ribs were fully cooked, the liquid was drained from the bags and reduced to the consistency of a sauce. Some of it was brushed onto the ribs and then the ribs were broiled for 8-10 minutes in the oven (or they could be finished on a hot grill). The heat of the broiler gave the ribs a nice dark caramelization and pulled the meat back from the bones.
The flavour of the marinade had completely penetrated the meat and I could taste the flavours infused throughout. I especially liked that the lime leaf flavour was still present. Due to the long and slow sous vide process, the meat was thoroughly cooked to firm/tender but with a nice pinkish colour.
Since this was an Asian flavoured pork, Mijune suggested playing around with the idea of Sweet and Sour Pork with Pineapple. I love fresh pineapple, and it pairs extremely well with Asian herbs. To keep things simple, I diced up ripe pineapple and stirred in some chopped mint and Thai basil. Another option is to serve the ribs with a side of crispy pineapple chips, or top them off with crumbled crispy pineapple bits.
The ribs were garnished with chopped mint, Thai basil, cilantro, green onions, chopped roasted peanuts and crispy pineapple chips (optional). The pork was delicious on its own but it was even better with the fresh herbs and pineapple, and the peanuts gave it just enough crunch. I served the pork and pineapple with steamed rice but it would also be delicious with noodles. The meat could also be removed from the bones, shredded, and incorporated into an Asian salad.
Serves 4-6 as part of a main course or an appetizer
Notes for success
Slice the baby back ribs into individual ribs and place them into a large mixing bowl.
Soak the tamarind paste in warm water for 5 minutes to soften. If there are seeds and fibers, squeeze them with your fingers to extract as much flavour as possible, then strain the tamarind water into a small saucepan and discard the seeds and fibers.
Add the remainder of the glaze ingredients to the saucepan and simmer over medium heat for several minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
Pour the glaze over the ribs and stir to coat them evenly.
Place the ribs in a single layer into bags and divide the glaze evenly between them.
7. Prepare the garnishes. Roughly chop the Thai basil, mint and cilantro. Thinly slice the green onions, and roughly chop the roasted peanuts.
8. When the ribs are cooked, removed the bags from the water and allow them to rest in their liquid and cool slightly.
Strain the liquid from the pouches into a small saucepan and reduce the juices over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Remove the lime leaves from the ribs.
Place the ribs into a large bowl and pour about half the reduced sauce over the ribs. Stir to coat the ribs evenly with the sauce.
Place the ribs onto a cookie sheet in a single layer and broil for 8-10 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. They can also be finished on a hot grill.
Garnish the ribs with herbs, peanuts and/or crispy pineapple chips.
It is tricky to get pineapples crispy, and dehydrating is best, but baking will also work although timing may require adjusting. It takes patience to make pineapple chips and if your pineapple is extra juicy and very ripe, it can take a bit longer. The goal is to remove the moisture which takes a low temperature and a lot of time.