Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs

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Okay – admittedly, I like my barbequed pork ribs as much as anyone.  But once in a while, I get tired of the same old pork with barbecue sauce in the slow cooker thing, and I get a hankering for some pork ribs that are “non-barbeque.”  You can certainly find literally hundreds of various kinds of barbequed pork rib recipes, but there are a few to be found that provide a markedly different flavor.  Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs, adapted from Food Network’s Melissa d’Arabian’s “Ten Dollar Dinners,” — these mouth-watering pork ribs are fall off the bone tender, moist, and succulent, will satisfy your longing for pork ribs, but with a decidedly non-barbeque flavor.

I just love this recipe!  It is fun to prepare, simple to put together, fills the kitchen with wonderful aromas, and above all…it really tastes good!  It has become a serious family “go-to” meal, and country-style pork ribs are usually reasonably priced, so it’s easy to keep some in the freezer, ready at short notice to become a delightful and flavorful dish.  I prefer the cuts with the bone in, as I believe the flavor is better than the boneless variety.
Braising is an English term derived from the French word “braiser,” and is a combination cooking method wherein typically the food is first seared or browned at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a specifically desired flavor. Braising relies on heat, time, and moisture to break down the tough connective tissue collagen in meat, making it an ideal way to cook tougher cuts. Pot roasting, pressure cooking, and slow cooking are all forms of braising.
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I have a set of Berndes German cookware that I just love – it is so efficient and cooks everything so nicely, with minimal amounts of heat — but once in a while I just love the taste of food prepared in good old cast-iron.  For this recipe, I used my covered cast-iron Dutch Oven, and I don’t think you can beat this dependable old-time standby to bring out those wonderful flavors you want.

Prep Time: 50 min
Cook Time: 2 hr 0 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4

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Before the performance begins, I always love assembling the cast of characters!

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Ingredients

3 pounds bone-in country-style pork ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (or 1/2 green and 1/2 red pepper; or chile peppers – see chef notes below)
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/4 cup Bragg’s apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan (or you may substitute your favorite cognac and/or 1 TBSP of balsamic vinegar (use cognac along with balsamic vinegar)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 & 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Lay out the ribs on some paper towels and pat them dry; sprinkle one side with salt and pepper.  Meanwhile, heat 2 TBSP of EVOO in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Carefully place the ribs into the pan, seasoned sides down, then sprinkle the remaining sides with salt and pepper.

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Don’t crowd the pork – leave some room between the pieces, and work in batches if necessary.  Once browned, remove the ribs and set them aside.

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Reduce heat to medium, and add the remaining 1 TBSP of EVOO to the Dutch Oven.

Saute the carrots, celery, bell peppers and onions, sprinkled with a small amount of salt and pepper, for about 5 minutes, or until soft.

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Add in the garlic and cook until you can smell the garlic flavor – should be about 1 minute or so.

 

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Stir in the tomato paste, and continue to cook for about 3 more minutes.  The vegetable mixture will turn decidedly red from the tomato paste, but this will help temper the vegetable flavors.

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Pour in the vinegar (or vinegar/cognac) to deglaze the pan, use a wooden spatula to ensure deglazing is complete.

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All those elements that are scraped up will add to the overall flavor.  Add the crushed red pepper and bay leaves.

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Place the ribs back into the Dutch Oven, then add chicken stock until half-way up the sides of the ribs.

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(As I began to prepare this recipe, I discovered I was out of chicken stock, so, in keeping with my ex-Marine Corps principles of “Adapt, Improvise, & Overcome,” I used Progresso Tuscany Chicken Broth instead.  Turned out just fine, but I have included chicken stock in the basic recipe because I believe it contributes to a much better flavor overall.)

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Adjust heat until the mixture is simmering, then cover and place into the oven.

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Braise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until meat is tender.

 

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After 1 hour, remove the cover and allow the sauce to cook down and the pork to brown for the last 30 minutes.

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Garnish with parsley and serve with your choice of side dish.

Creamy Polenta is my choice as a most wonderful adjunct to this recipe, although other side dishes qo equally well, such as cheesy grits, mashed potatoes, yellow rice, or spoon bread.  Although Creamy Polenta is my first choice it as a partner with the ribs, (it is literally a culinary marriage made in heaven!) it can also be prepared as a stand-alone recipe, as polenta has so many possibilities as a side dish for so many different recipes.

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CHEF NOTES: As indicated in the ingredients list, while apple cider vinegar is the primary deglazing ingredient, you may also substitute or add cognac and/or balsamic vinegar.  Use at least one of these, and if you use two or even all three, it will only add succulence to the overall flavor of the dish.

Instead of using Country-Style Pork Ribs, try substituting chicken leg quarters or chicken thighs instead of pork

In addition to the recommended vegetable list, consider adding sauerkraut, fresh green beans, or shredded cabbage to the mixture. If you opt for any of these, you can either reduce or adjust the quantities of the other vegetables.

Also, if you like things spicy, consider either substituting some chile peppers instead of bell peppers, or even adding them in addition.  These are simply more choices that give you “chef ownership” of any dish you prepare – which can be as mild as you want or as hot as you want – and any combination of heat in between.

And, last but not least, even though I believe the Creamy Polenta as a side dish is a marriage made in heaven, you can also substitute cheesy grits, mashed potatoes, yellow rice, or spoon bread.

As always, remember – you are the chef and the possibilities are endless!

Bon Appetit!

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Adapted from Food Network’s Melissa d’Arabian’sTen Dollar Dinners

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4 Comments

  1. Tasty stuff. I too am smitten for the cast iron. Oh there is no medium finer, nor more nostalgic, than a well-seasoned cast iron pan handed down through the generations. An apt choice for your savory looking, country style ribs. Well done sir!

  2. Thanks you guys! Guess I am definitely from the “old school.” Memories of growing up included a lot of “iron,” and every once in a while I just have to get back to the basics!

  3. You know my husband drooled for hours when he saw you were making these. Thank Goodness I invested in a whole set of Lodge Cast Iron which included a handy dandy dutch oven (with a lid that doubles as a frying pan – i love practicality) I’m always leary about making pork because it’s one meat that just doesn’t get along with me too well. We have a love hate relationship when it comes to cooking. These look like no fail Dad so putting them on my to do list for sure!!!

    1. I think you will like them. The braising process really gets the sauce infused into the pork and the meat comes out tender enough to cut it with a fork. It’s really a simple and quick recipe too.

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