It’s 3:00 in the morning, my eyes spring open and my brow furls. “Did I double, triple or quadruple the fish sauce in that recipe?” The question flashes through my mind like a nightmare fueled by too much pizza with “the works” plus double onions, anchovies, jalapeños and pineapple.
THREE in the morning is the absolute worst time to come face to face with perceived reality, whether it’s true or not. The day before this disturbing awakening, I had decided to triple a recipe for an easy and quick barbecue sauce for pork ribs in Saveur Magazine. Now, in the middle of the night, I was sure that I was going to poison everyone with way too much salt from the fish sauce. We were going to die like everyone at the dinner party in the final scenes of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. (The whole party succumbed to botulism from the salmon mousse which the hostess made from canned salmon.) I enjoy dark humor but it’s difficult to appreciate at times like this.
I got out of bed as quietly as possible and trekked down to the basement. After retrieving the marinating ribs, I began correcting my error. I decided that diluting the sauce with something sweet was the answer. I removed the marinade to a bowl, scraped the ribs clean and added several tablespoons (15 ml. x several) of mirin, a sweet Japanese condiment similar to sake but with a much lower alcohol content and 40-50% sugar. Think Japanese rice liqueur.
I put everything back together, said a most serious prayer over it and went to bed.
I made sure I was the first to taste the charcoal-grilled ribs the next evening to check on saltiness. SUCCESS! It was delicious and not the least bit over-salty. I have no idea how the original recipe tastes because I have made it this way ever since and everyone loves it.
Country-style Ribs with Quick Hoisin Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from a recipe in Saveur Magazine
- 2 pounds (907 gr.) country-style pork ribs
- 4 tablespoons (60 ml.) hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) mirin
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pounded to a paste with a mortar and pestle
- Place all ingredients in a tall measuring cup and whiz for a few minutes with an immersion blender.
- Place the ribs in a resealable freezer bag, pour the sauce over and seal, removing as much air as possible.
- “Massage” the bag to distribute the sauce evenly over the meat.
- Place bag in the refrigerator to marinate for at least a few hours, preferably overnight.
- Prepare charcoal or gas grill and cook until internal temperature reaches 155°F (68°C).
We enjoyed this barbecue with a Bhutanese Red Rice Salad and Red Chile and Pecan Slaw. Stay tuned for these recipes.
A perfect wine to quaff with this would be Argyle Winery’s 2007 Black Brut – a fruity, bubbly Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.
“The 2007 Black Brut is a powerful blast of rich berry flavors lightly floating on a delicate cloud of bubbles. Currants and blackberry dance a lively waltz with notes of vanilla and rose petal on the palate as the finish goes on and on. The generous fruity body of this bubbly makes this a joy on its own, but its crisp acidity and supple texture beg to be enjoyed with a full-flavored meal.”
~ Argyle Winery
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities