As much as I enjoy playing in the kitchen, I like to balance “project recipes” (I’m looking at you, Paleo Chicken Bastila.) and dead-simple dishes that require almost no work with a big flavor payoff. This is my first in a series of Super Simple recipes that are made with minimal fuss, just a few ingredients, and produce leftovers that can be used in other dishes.
I don’t know what’s gotten into me this week, but I’ve been on a serious Asian food kick. My poor cumin has been languishing in the spice cabinet as I reach for the Chinese five-spice powder and ginger. We recently got a new delivery of grass-fed beef that just about filled our freezer, so I’ve been working my way through back inventory of frozen meat. Tucked into far left corner of the freezer, I found two packages of pork spare ribs and instantly had a craving for Asian-spiced pig. What I did not have a craving for, however, was spending a buttload of time in the kitchen or tending the grill.
I did zero internet research and didn’t even flip through my favorite go-to cookbooks — I just opened my spice cabinet and starting experimenting. The result was fall-off-the-bone-if-you-look-at-them-askance ribs, infused with the complex but comforting flavors of Chinese five-spice powder.
Our first meal was simply the unadorned ribs with some crudité alongside; our second was a nourishing bowl of broth spiked with lots of ginger, bok choy, and tender morsels of pork I pulled off the bones by winking at them.
You can absolutely use this approach for beef ribs, and I suspect it will also work great on larger beef and pork cuts, like shoulder and stew meat. With good spices and a slow cooker, you really can’t go wrong.
Prep 2 min. | Cook 6-12 hours in slow cooker
3-4 pounds pork or beef ribs
salt & ground black pepper
coarse (granulated) garlic powder
Chinese five-spice powder
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1. Lay the ribs on a cutting board and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Now rub a good amount of five-spice powder onto the ribs. I didn’t measure, but I was pretty aggressive with it; the top of the ribs were pretty evenly brown with powder.
2. Measure the rice vinegar and the coconut aminos into the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the ribs, cover, and cook on high for about 6 hours or on low for 8-10. Really, you can’t cook them too long. They’re ribs; they’re very forgiving.
3. Chill the liquid left in the bottom of the slow cooker so the fat separates. Bring the remaining liquid to a boil, simmer for a few minutes, then use as a dipping sauce for the meat.
Serves 2; easy to double, triple, quadruple | Prep 2 min. | Cook 2-8 hours in slow cooker | Assembly 5 min.
beef, chicken, or pork stock
a big hunk of fresh ginger
a few garlic cloves
leftover 5-Spice Pork Ribs
1 head fresh bok choy or spinach, coarsely chopped
3-4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs (optional)
1. Place your stock in the slow cooker. Peel the ginger and cut into 1/2-inch slices; add to crockpot. Peel garlic and lightly smash with the flat side of a knife; add to crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours (or more).
2. When you’re ready to eat, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons water, and when it starts to boil, throw in the bok choy, sautéeing in the steam until it’s just tender. Divide among serving bowls. In the same pan, stir fry your desired amount of pork until it’s hot. Place the pork in the serving bowls, then ladle hot broth into the bowls until the veg and meat are almost covered. Sprinkle the top with sliced scallions and garnish with wedges of hard-boiled egg, if using.
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