I am a carnivore at heart, so when I want to cook a meaty meal, I want advice from the King of Meat himself, celebrated butcher Pat LaFrieda. An exquisite slab of seared Porterhouse steak graces the cover of his new cookbook, Meat: Everything You Need To Know (Atria, Sept.), and it got my attention along with 75 recipes featuring family favorites and a host of meat-centric dishes from renowned chefs and restaurants.
LaFrieda’s narrative on trade secrets and his life as a butcher, along with eye-popping spreads of meaty cuts, had me contemplating actually ordering an entire side of beef. When he sings the praises of his shop’s chopped beef, my hamburger-lover’s knees buckle. But truth be told, being a bit burger-ed out this summer and the grill needing a scrub, I decided to prepare LaFrieda’s recipe for oven ribs with an Asian twist—Plum and Sesame Glazed Lamb Denver Ribs—for a perfect end-of-summer meal. From New York City’s China Grill, they are “the best ribs I’ve ever tasted,” according to LaFrieda. There was a challenge I couldn’t ignore.
I’ll confess: I had no idea what a Denver rib was exactly, but I went to a nearby farm specializing in grass-fed lamb, determined to pick up some. When the purveyor told me he had none of these petite spareribs from the breast of the lamb, he suggested lamb “country ribs.” Now surely a rib is a rib, right? Not quite. Country-style ribs are not really ribs at all, I learned. They come from the blade end of the loin, close to the shoulder. Yet, these little bone-in meaty cuts certainly looked up to the task. I purchased three pounds, certain that LaFrieda would approve of my aplomb.
The rib marinade featured the expected hoisin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic, while surprise ingredients included mellow white miso paste and a soaking of plum wine for a fruity aroma. I carefully selected a Japanese variety from the liquor store shelves based on bottle shape and label design. I expected a dash of sesame oil for that characteristic Asian nuttiness implied by the recipe title, but instead, the sesame flourish would be added at the very end with an optional sprinkle of toasted black and white sesame seeds.
Oven ribs are not labor-intensive. This “set-it-and-forget” approach requires wrapping well-marinated ribs in foil and letting the 250º oven do the rest through low-and-slow cooking of three or more hours. Unveiling the finished melted meat and drizzling it with a vinegar-based glaze of mirin, rice vinegar, orange blossom honey, ginger, garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes created a plate of glistening ribs. I included LaFrieda’s tangy, crunchy side of quick, sweet, and spicy cucumber pickle, a perfect balance to the rich and tender lamb.
Fragrant and piquant, these ribs make an impressive appetizer. Next time, I will add a side of rice for a main dish. LaFrieda says you can substitute pork spareribs, but the cut of lamb I opted for worked well. This elevated twist on ribs was not a heavy, plum sauced, or overly sweet plate. The floral, light Asian bend allowed the lamb’s flavor to shine, yielding a finger-licking, fun dish.
LaFrieda’s recipe collection and meaty codex are more than a bible for meat-loving, macho kitchen cooks. This elegant rib recipe showcases the potential for home cooks to bring meat to magnificence.
Plum and Sesame Glazed Lamb Denver Ribs
Makes 6 to 8 appetizer servings.
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plum wine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic (about 1 large clove)
4 racks lamb Denver ribs, about 1 1/2 pounds each
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 small cucumber, very thinly sliced
1 small fresh red chile (such as jalapeno or Fresno), seeded and cut into thin strips
1 cup mirin
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons toasted mixed black and white sesame seeds (optional)
1. For the lamb: In a nonreactive baking dish or another container large enough to contain the ribs, combine the hoisin, wine, vinegar, brown sugar, miso, soy sauce, and garlic. Put the rib racks in the marinade and turn to cover the ribs all over with the marinade. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and put the ribs in the refrigerator to marinate for at least several hours or overnight.
2. For the salad: In a medium bowl, stir together the vinegar and honey. Add the cucumber and chile and toss to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 5 hours before serving.
3. When ready to cook the lamb, preheat the oven to 350°F.
4. Remove the ribs from the marinade and lay them bone side down in a baking dish. Cover the ribs with a sheet of parchment paper and then cover the pan tightly with foil. (The parchment keeps the foil from eroding from the vinegar in the marinade.) Put the ribs in the oven to roast until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, about 3 hours. To check for doneness, pull on one bone; it should pull away easily from the rack.
5. For the glaze: In a medium skillet, combine the mirin, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Stir over medium heat to combine the ingredients. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the sauce until it thickens to a glaze, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
6. Remove the ribs from the oven and brush them with the glaze. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, if using. Serve the spareribs warm, with the salad on the side.
Copyright © 2014 by Pat LaFrieda from Meat: Everything You Need to Know published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Meat: Everything You Need to Know by Pat LaFrieda. Atria, Sept. ISBN 978-1-4767-2599-4