Happy Ribtoberfest, everyone!
I know it’s not October, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be Ribtober. If it were up to me, we’d also have Ribtember and Ribril*, so it’s probably a good thing for all of us that it’s not up to me.
Tonight’s ribs come to use thanks to The Food of Thailand: A Journey for Food Lovers a book about authentic Thai street food and home cooking written by three Brits. They (the ribs, not the Brits) are accompanied by sweet corn cakes, cucumber salad and a decidedly non-Thai but outstanding bottle of Saison (a crisp summer Belgian ale).
*Doesn’t that sound like a pharmaceutical? “Ribril is not for everyone. If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, talk to your doctor before starting Ribril. Side effects may include nausea, dry mouth, uncontrollable palm sweat, male pattern baldness and Scurvy.”
Sometimes when I’m playing Scrabble and can’t make any good words, I try to use my letters to create the name of a false prescription drug. I should probably talk to someone about that.
The rib marinade starts with my simultaneous favorite and most tedious kitchen task: mincing a great big pile of garlic. Sometimes I find it soothing and meditative and fragrant, and I’m drawn into the rocking motion of the knife. Other times, it’s stinky and sticky and boring and I wish I had house-elves to do it for me. Tonight was the former.
The garlic went into a bowl with plum sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, oyster sauce, pepper, brown sugar (I couldn’t get my hands on the palm sugar specified) and freshly ground coriander and star anise.
The best one I ever came up with: Axibdia. If it were real, I think it would treat a liver disorder.
Maybe chopping the garlic was only satisfying because I knew that it was destined for a rack of baby back ribs, but does it really matter? I slathered half the marinade onto the ribs then wrapped them up and left them to sit for the recommended 3 hours to overnight, by which I mean 45 minutes. Because sometimes I forget to read the recipe in advance. I know you all think I’m some rich and famous, infallible blog celebrity, but I’m really just like you. Except that I wear solid gold pants.
Kidding! They’re just an alloy.
If you have high cholesterol, a family history of kidney disease or are a Libertarian, Axibdia may not be right for you.
You know the corn cakes are going to be good, because look at that picture. It’s so fucking cheerful, it’s like the Wiggles are doing the cooking. Corn, chiles, shallots, curry paste, fish sauce and cilantro are bound with egg and rice flour to make this goddamn bowl of joy.
A quick plug here for Whole Foods’ store brand frozen corn. There was no more fresh corn in the store and it’s not really corn season in these parts anyway, so I grabbed the frozen. While I’m sure that these would be worlds better with fresh sweet corn, the frozen kernels were remarkably sweet and crisp. (As well they should be, for whatever I’m sure I paid at Whole Foods. I try not to look.)
I set the bowl aside so the rice flour could get it on with the egg and firm the mixture up a bit, helping the cakes retain their shape, as such:
Some of the kernels popped. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I was surprised.
I fried up the cakes in a shallow layer of vegetable oil until they were golden brown and crispy on the outside. While they were cooking, I diced up a cucumber, tossed it with mirin, rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt to make a refreshing counterpoint to the chiles in the corn cakes. I set it in the fridge to chill while I returned to keep watch over the stove, which was shooting shards of hot oil distances of up to 7 feet from the pan.
Meanwhile Brian, aka the Gnocchi Ninja, aka the Galloping Scientician, aka the Human Furnace, aka the Grill Master was outside with the ribs despite the fact that it was 9:30 at night and raining lightly. All for the love of smoked pork.
Sometimes there are…no words.
Let’s take another look:
I know, right?
Brian threw some hickory chunks onto the coal for some smoky goodness, which was shockingly not the right thing to do; it gave the ribs vaguely kielbasa-y tones that didn’t really go with the flavors in the marinade.
It is important to note that adding hickory chunks to your coal while grilling is almost always the correct thing to do, and that this was an aberration.
I normally reject ribs that have been cooked for anything fewer than 3.5 hours, and these were only on the grill for about 45 minutes. But in the name of maintaining positive relations with the Thai people I suspended the rule for one night.
Are you fucking kidding me? This is like the best of all possible plates of food.
Aside from the weird kielbasa thing, this was an outstanding meal.
Let’s start with the most obvious: ribs. They’re pork, so +2 right there. They’re inherently magically delicious, and are rendered more so with a sweet and savory, garlicky marinade. The sauce is thick enough to cling to the meat as it’s grilled, and the sugars make a chewy glaze.
The ribs were great, because ribs are almost always great. The corn cakes and cucumber salad though – especially with a bit of sweet chili sauce drizzled on top – were truly excellent. The combo of flavors represented the essence of Thai culinary philosophy: a perfect balance of salty, sweet, hot and sour. The hot, freshly fried cakes were crisp on the outside, and a bit creamy on the inside; the cucumber was cool, bracing and just sweet enough.
I’m thinking the corn cakes would hold fairly well in a low oven, and would also be pretty good at room temperature. I’m pretty sure they’ll be making an appearance at one of our many summer barbecues.
Can’t wait for Ribruary!