Thanksgiving alternative: Pork ribs with chili-fruit sauce
Chef and TV personality Daisy Martinez offers a great way to spice up your turkey day. Forget the usual fare and try this recipe for your main course.
Rice makes 6 servings; pork makes 12 buffet or 8 main course servings
- 6 cups (or as needed) homemade or store-bought chicken stock
- 1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/4 cup achiote oil (recipe follows)
- 1 cup sofrito (recipe follows)
- 1/4 cup alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
- 1 serrano chile, stemmed and finely chopped (seeds and all)
- 2 tablespoons kosher or fine sea salt
- 4 cups long-grain rice
- 7 to 8 pounds boneless country-style ribs, trimmed of most but not all excess fat
- 3 tablespoons achiote oil (below)
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- Store-bought adobo seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cups manchamanteles (recipe follows)
For the rice: Heat 6 cups broth and the coconut milk in a medium saucepan just until steaming. I don't usually heat the liquid before adding it to the rice, but if cooked too long, coconut milk can scorch and give the rice an off flavor. Heating the coconut-broth mixture beforehand means the liquid will come to a boil faster and cook down faster, lessening the chance of burning the coconut milk. Heat the achiote oil in a 4 to 5-quart heavy pot or dutch over medium heat. Add the sofrito and cook, stirring, until the liquid is evaporated and the sofrito is sizzling. Stir in the alcaparrado, chile, and salt and stir for a minute or two. Add the rice and stir until it is coated with seasoned oil and the grains start to turn chalky. Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the heated coconut milk and broth. If there isn't enough liquid to cover the rice by the width of two fingers, add more as needed. Bring the liquid to a boil. Boil (without stirring!) until the liquid is boiled down to the level of the rice. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot and cook — without lifting the lid or, God forbid, stirring — until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. The rice can be held in a warm corner of the stove with the lid on for up to 45 minutes. Serve very hot or warm. For pork ribs: Cut the spareribs into single serving size pieces if necessary. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and put them in a large bowl. Rub the achiote oil into all sides of the ribs with your hands, then sprinkle the vinegar over them and toss to mix. Season liberally with adobo, rubbing the seasoning into the pork and making sure all sides of the ribs are well seasoned. Let them stand at room temperature for an hour or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (Hint: 2 days is better!)Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add as many of the seasoned ribs as fit without touching. Brown them well on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove them to an 11 x 15-inch baking dish (or other dish in which they fit snugly in a single layer) and repeat with the remaining ribs. Spoon the manchamanteles over the ribs, wiggling the dish so the sauce works its way between the ribs. Cover the dish with a sheet of parchment paper and then a sheet of foil, crimping the foil to the sides of the dish to make a tight seal. Bake until the ribs are fork tender, about 1 ¾ hours. Remove and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate 1 to 2 days. You could serve the ribs right away, but they will be noticeably better after a couple days when the flavor will have permeated every inch of the ribs. Also, the fat will rise to the top, making it easy to remove before reheating.
Bring the ribs to room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spoon/scrape the fat from the top of the sauce and ribs. Bake the ribs, uncovered, 20 minutes. Remove the baking dish from the oven and, very carefully, turn the ribs over in the sauce. Return to the oven until heated through, 20 to 25 minutes. (It's unlikely, but if the ribs appear even slightly dry, cover the dish after turning the ribs.) Spoon a little of the pan sauce over the ribs and serve them from the baking dish right away.
Alcaparradois a bottled condiment that contains coarsely chopped or whole green olives (whole olives are sometimes pitted, sometimes not so check the label), chopped pimiento and capers. It is available in Latin markets and most supermarkets with even a tiny Latin food section. If you can't find it, no worries: Coarsely chop enough pimiento-stuffed olives to equal the amount of alcaparradocalled for in the recipe. If you have them, toss in a small amount of capers.
Makes about 7 cups, enough to serve with the turkey and provide generous leftovers
- 2 ripe medium plum tomatoes (about 8 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large white onion (about 1 1/4 pounds), halved then cut into thin slices (about 4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup ancho chili paste
- 6 cups homemade or store-bought chicken broth, or as needed
- 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, with juice
- 1 mango, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 4 ounces dried apricots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2/3 cup)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Kosher or fine sea salt
Core the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Heat a small, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the tomatoes skin side down and cook, turning once, until charred on most of both sides, about 8 minutes. Set them aside. Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they just begin to take on some color, about 8 minutes. Add the oregano and continue cooking until the onions are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cumin, then the ancho paste. Keep stirring and cooking until the onions are coated with the chili paste. Stir in 6 cups broth and heat to boiling, then slip in the charred tomatoes. Adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering and cook until the onions are very tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, blend the sauce base until smooth. To avoid splattering, either cool the sauce to tepid or work in very small batches and/or use a folded-up kitchen towel to clamp the lid to the blender while it's running. Rinse out the pot.Return the sauce base to the pot. Stir in the pineapple with its juice, the mango, apricot, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and black pepper. Season lightly with salt and bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering. Cook until the sauce is slightly thickened and takes on a nice shine, about 20 minutes. The sauce may be prepared up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated.
Makes about 1 cup
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds
Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don't overheat the mixture or the seeds and oil will both end up discolored and unusable. Once they really get sizzling, remove the pan from the heat and let it stand until the sizzling stops. Strain the oil and discard the seeds. Store the oil for up to 4 days at room temperature in a jar with a tight fitting lid.
Makes about 4 cups
- 2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks
- 3 to 4 cubanelle or Italian frying peppers
- 16 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 large bunch of cilantro
- 7 to 10 ajices dulces
- 4 leaves of culantro
- 3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
- 1 large red bell pepper, cored seeded and cut into large chunks
Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It also freezes beautifully: Spoon it into sealable plastic bags in 1-cup quantities.
Ajices dulces, sometimes called ajicitos are tiny peppers similar in appearance to Habaneros and Scotch Bonnet peppers, but at the other end of the heat scale. They are sweet with a bright green, herbal flavor. Culantro is a leafy herb that smells and tastes like cilantro on steroids. Both ajices dulces and culantro are available in Latin markets. If you cannot find one or both of them, simply leave them out and use 1 ½ bunches of cilantro.