Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Maple Anise Braised Country Ribs

When I had first begun to cook with the intent of blogging my endeavors, braising used to intimidate me; I felt that it was one of those cooking methods relegated to culinary school graduates who were especially talented in its intricacies.  Partly because I thought braising was laborious and required somewhat special dexterity. Partly because it originated in France and I therefore thought that automatically meant difficult. My first attempt at coq au vin, and the many stews I made thereafter, proved me wrong. It has now become one of my go-to methods whenever want to make something special for just the two of us or when I do not have much time to stand around in the kitchen.

Braising  is the method of cooking that incorporates both dry and moist heat. The food to be braised is first seared on high heat (the "dry" heat), then cooked in the oven or on the stovetop in a highly seasoned liquid (the moist heat) which usually consists of an acid such as a wine or vinegar. This liquid has a two-fold purpose: tenderizer and sauce. By cooking the food covered and in a medium high heat for a long period of time the product is a  soft, highly flavorful dish that is hard to accomplish simple by searing or roasting alone. Pretty straightforward isn't it? 

What I have found is that braising is a useful way of adding flavor to foods without injecting additional fat into the dish. Granted that some recipes call for searing in a significant amount of fat, in my humble (albeit unqualified) opinion, this is not necessary. Not if you have a well-seasoned cast iron or other no-stick pot. Get the pot hot, add the meat,  allow to cook undisturbed for about two minutes, flip, cook undisturbed for two additional minutes, remove, and voila, a perfectly seared piece of meat or vegetable. The other great quality of braising is its convenience. Once the meat is seared, the liquid is added, all you now have to do is place in the oven or stovetop and allow to slow cook for a couple hours undisturbed will you do other things. The day is yours.

Maple Anise Braised Country Ribs
Serves 4 to 6

2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup maple syrup
3-4 whole star anise
1  cup sherry
1 tbsp whole black peppercorn
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
4 lbs country style pork ribs

1. Place oven rack in the middle of the oven and set to 325 degrees F.
2. In a large dutch oven, bring the first seven ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium high heat and sear each piece of meat for two minutes on either side. 
4. Add the seared ribs to the liquid in the dutch oven, making sure that each piece is covered. Place in the middle of the oven and braise for 2 hours, until the meat is soft and practically falls apart.
3. Remove the ribs to another dish and place the dutch oven with the remaining sauce on the stovetop and cook until almost reduced by half. Pour thickened glaze/sauce over ribs before serving.


doggybloggy said...
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Foodycat said...

They look lovely! The sherry and star anise must give a sort of Chinese-y flavour to it. Yum!

alexander said...

one word. WOW. That looks incredible! Thanks for sharing!

marina said...

it was most definitely wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Great idea! I can't wait to try!

Sophie said...

I've never thought of combining maple and anise, it sounds deliciously fragrant. The ribs look tender and tasty!

Heather said...

I made these last week and am considering making them again this week! They were really, really good. The entire house smelled amazing and the flavor was fantastic - a very nice change from all the BBQ recipes out there. Thanks for sharing!

Natasha said...

Weren't the aromas just magnificent?! Happy you enjoyed this recipe and I'm even more appreciative of your feedback.