Friday, July 17, 2009

Pork Rib and Shiitake Mushroom with Napa Cabbage, a Lovely Asian Stew

This stew is by far one of my favorite recipes to make, particularly whenever I can get a discount on some beautiful pork ribs, particularly "Southern style" ribs when they have them. I also like to serve it in the traditional Chinese way, which I'll describe below and which might be the very best way to bring a family together at mealtime. I do this in my Dutch oven, though any heavy, large pot will work. I freaking love my Dutch oven.

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 2-3 pounds of pork ribs will make a very hearty stew. I bet it could be done equally well with beef ribs, for what it's worth.
  • 1 head of Napa cabbage (Chinese leaf cabbage), roughly chopped
  • 2 medium-large carrots, sliced on a bias or into substantial chunks
  • one half of a sweet or yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced thin and on a bias
  • approximately 4 oz. of white mushrooms (roughly a dozen of them if they're fairly small), cleaned and quartered
  • 8 oz. shiitake musrooms, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger root, sliced into coins
  • 4 cups of water or stock (or, replace 12 oz. of it with Tsingtao Chinese beer)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or a bit more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
  • salt to taste
  • Optionally, add a small handful of Szechuan peppercorns.
Instructions:
Chop all of the vegetables except the cabbage and have them ready. Rinse and pat the pork dry and then season it with salt. Start getting the pan hot over a medium-high burner. When the pan is hot, begin to sear the ribs. After they release, 2-3 minutes, flip them and sear the other side. The searing doesn't need to be complete; it's mostly for flavor anyway. When the meat is finished searing on both sides, remove it from the pan and add the oil and vegetables but not the ginger and garlic. Let them cook for a minute or two and then add the ginger and garlic (and optional peppercorns). Soon thereafter, deglaze the pan with the beer (if included) and then add the water and soy sauce. If beer is not included, simply add the water and stir. Put the ribs back in and bring the entire pot up to a boil, half covered. When it begins to boil, turn the heat to medium-low and let it cook mostly covered until the meat is very tender, perhaps two hours, stirring occasionally. If the stew begins to get too thick, more water can be added as needed. Chop the cabbage and add to the pan ten minutes before serving time, stirring it in and adding salt to taste. Serve on its own or with bowls of (brown) steamed rice. If it was cooked with beer (or not), serving it with the same beer is a decent idea if you're into that kind of thing. Pay attention to the bones, many of which will have become liberated from the meat. Eating the ginger is also optional.

Serving it the Chinese way is simple. Scoop most of the stew into a large serving bowl that will be placed in the middle of the table (a small table works best for this). Place a spoon in the bowl for spooning up the liquid. Everyone gets a bowl of rice (and chopsticks for added fun, excitement, and authenticity). Each person then picks out of the stew whatever they want from the serving bowl and either adds it to their bowl or delivers it straight to their mouth. Typically, only enough is added to the personal bowls to lightly cover the top layer of rice, although some of the liquid should be spooned in fairly early to saturate some of the rice further down. It's really a wonderful way to eat!

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