Sweet & Sour Country Style Ribs

Country style ribs are an under appreciated cut that is perfect anytime of year as well as usually being one of the cheapest to buy. This is a cut of pork with a little identity crisis because it isn’t an actual rib. They are really a blade chop that has been ‘butterflied’, laid open and cut through the rib. Having both light and dark meat on them, gives the different textures and flavors you taste. When sold at the supermarket, the bone side of the chop is turned up giving the appearance of a nice giant ‘rib’.

Loin chops, are the classic, beautiful pork chop we typically think of cut from the center, finely grained & even.

When I buy country style ribs, its usually in a ‘club’ pack size. Before freezing them, I cut most or all of the fat off and divide the remaining into meal size amounts. Even after that, the price is right. 

If your going to make a pork stew, don’t buy what is labeled as pork stew meat. Usually this is made up of little bits and pieces from all over the animal that were left over after cutting. Use the country style ribs and just cut them into cubes. You will be much happier with the end result.

The recipe I’m using today was adapted from one my mother made using spare ribs. Its unique in the way that instead of using a brown sugar/vinegar mix to create the sweet-sour flavor, it used juice from her homemade sweet pickles.

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Sweet & Sour Country Style Ribs
Instructions
  1. Remove excess fat from ribs & cut into serving size pieces. In a bowl with a lid, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, sweet pickle juice, water garlic, salt & pepper. Add meat & allow to marinate for at least an hour.
  2. In a saucepan, lightly brown 'ribs'. Preheat oven to 250 F. (I prefer a real low temperature to ensure VERY tender ribs). In a baking dish, place meat with about a 1/4-inch of marinade. Slow roast, uncovered, for about an hour.
  3. When meat is cooked, remove to a covered serving dish to keep warm. If you prefer, add cornstarch to remaining marinade then add to baking dish. Bring all to a boil to create a thicker sauce for you 'ribs'. Pour over meat in serving dish & serve.

Gingered Braised Beef

Ginger Beef appears to have its origins in a Northern Chinese dish called Geung Ngao Yuk. It is traditionally drier and less sweet than the popular restaurant version that we are familiar with here in Canada. Ginger beef epitomizes the evolution of Chinese-Western cuisine and while its status as an iconic Canadian dish may be under the radar, its the perfect springboard to jump off into the murky waters of Canadian Chinese food and its origins.

In 1975, a newly arrived family in Canada, from Hong Kong, decided to open a Chinese restaurant outside of Calgary, Alberta’s Chinatown. Two sisters, Louise Tsang and Lily Wong found an old cafe with a sign that said ‘Silver Inn’. The building was worn out but the sign was still in excellent condition. They started serving both Canadian and Chinese dishes which was the norm for many restaurant owners of Chinese decent during this period. But they found in order to suit the tastes of the North American palate, they initially  had to serve a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches. With the help of Lily’s husband, George Wong (who was also the restaurants’ chef), they began to adapt certain recipes. Because George Wong had experience cooking in England, he was used to the typical Western palate. Ginger beef was born, also known on their menu as ‘No. 65 – deep fried shredded beef in chili sauce’. Ironically, the dish has very little ginger in it and its actually the sweet chilies that are mistaken for ginger.

Although ginger beef is indigenous to Alberta, I think its safe to say, it can be found on pretty much any Chinese take-out menu in Canada. You would be hard pressed though to find anything resembling it in China, I’m sure. It is neither Chinese nor Canadian and yet it is both.

Today’s blog recipe moves away from the traditional deep fried beef to a marinated version using (of all things) ginger ale. Not only is ginger ale a great meat tenderizer but you get a bold ginger flavor without grating fresh ginger. Just a little side note… the term marinade, originally came from the use of seawater to preserve meat. The roots of the word are derived from the Latin word for sea (mare). This marinade works well with pork as well as beef. 

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Gingered Braised Beef
Instructions
  1. In a large resealable bag, combine all marinade ingredients with ribs. Marinate, refrigerated, for at least 2-3 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a baking dish with foil paper & place ribs in a single layer. Pour enough marinade over the ribs to come almost to the top of them but not covering the ribs. Place in oven & bake at this slow heat for about 2 hours. You end up with some real flavorful TENDER ribs & the marinade tastes so good over steamed rice.

Apple Taquitos with Salted Caramel Sauce

The last of the four blogs on our Merida holiday is a place Brion has had on his ‘bucket list’ for quite a while. Located midway between Merida and Cancun, Chichen Itza is the northern most of the major archaeological sites in the Yucatan. Consistent with the Maya culture at large, written information about the site is rather scarce. The Maya used their exemplary knowledge of mathematics along with celestial observations to construct monuments to observe and commemorate movements of the Moon, Sun and Venus.

The instantly recognizable structure of Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulkan or El Castillo. This imposing step pyramid has 365 steps – one representing each day of the year. Each of the temple’s four sides has 91 steps, with the top platform being the 365th. An amazing natural phenomenon takes place on the spring and autumn equinoxes each year. The sun’s rays falling on the pyramid create a shadow in the shape of a serpent. As the sun begins to set, this shadowy snake descends the steps to eventually join a stone serpent head at the base of the great staircase up the pyramid’s side.

The observatory, called El Caracol (or snail in Spanish) is another sophisticated structure of Chichen Itza. It has an interior staircase that spirals upward like a snail’s shell. The Maya’s were known to be advanced enough to predict solar eclipses.

Chichen Itza’s massive ball court measured 168 meters long and 70 meters wide. During games played here, players tried to hit a rather heavy rubber ball through stone scoring hoops set high on the court walls. Visiting these sites definitely gives you a lot to think about.

At the end of this part of the tour we were taken to a place called a ‘cenote’.  The northern part of the Yucatan is arid and the interior has no above ground rivers. The only sources of water are the natural sinkholes called cenotes. Some of these are small, while others are quite large. The one we stopped at was called X-CAJUM. You could swim in it if you wished. Due to it’s height, people needed to go down several meters underground to do that. It’s blue water is 35 m (115 ft) deep and full of fauna. Interesting!

For my recipe today, I’ve made a Mexican dessert. The word taquito is essentially a diminutive of the word taco, with the suffix ‘ito’ meaning small. Translated means ‘small taco’. The difference between a taco and a taquito is basically in the size. A taquito can also be a small tortilla and filling that’s rolled with the ends left open and fried. This version has an alternate name, ‘flauta’, meaning small flute.

The taco is such a beloved culinary treasure because it is so portable. It can be stuffed with just about anything and can be eaten at any time in the day. There are breakfast tacos and savory tacos but Mexican cuisine is not all about being spicy. There is an amazing dessert side that is simple and delicious.

 No doubt this is a very American/ Canadian recipe, but still a tasty version.

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Apple Taquitos with Salted Caramel Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Salted Caramel Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Salted Caramel Sauce
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, bring sugar, cornstarch, salt butter & milk to a gentle boil & cook until thickened about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat & add extract.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 13 X 9-inch baking dish; set aside.
  3. In a small dish, combine sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg; set aside. Chop apple pie filling into small pieces. Spread tortillas with a thin layer of caramel sauce. Cover caramel with diced apple filling.
  4. Roll tortillas & place in prepared dish. Brush with butter & sprinkle with sugar mixture. Bake for 15 minutes until golden & bubbling at ends. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping if desired.

Roasted Okra Fries with Chicken Wings

CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!

In Canada, July 1st marks the day for Canadians to show pride in their nations history, culture and achievements. From coast to coast, the country’s birthday is marked with colorful parades, firework displays and singing of the national anthem, O Canada!

This is the date of the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867. 

Canada Day has been called a few names in the past. It used to be known as Dominion Day, the First of July, Confederation Day and July the First. 

Food and drink are almost as synonymous with Canada Day as the colors of red and white. Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event for the day. For us it will be chicken wings with some tasty little roasted okra fries.

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Roasted Okra Fries with Chicken Wings
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Roasted Okra Fries
Chicken Wings
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Roasted Okra Fries
Chicken Wings
Instructions
Chicken Wings
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine oil & spices. Add chicken wings; toss to coat evenly. Place wings on prepared pan & bake for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove from oven, wrap in foil to keep warm until served.
Okra Fries
  1. Adjust heat to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place okra on baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil & massage into each piece. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once or twice, until lightly browned & softened.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, okra fries can be breaded with cornmeal as well before roasting.
  • Both chicken wings & okra fries can easily be done on the BBQ if you prefer, rather than turning on the oven.

Shrimp Tetrazzini

Food historians have all agreed on the fact that this retro classic dish is not Italian. Truth is it was named after the Italian opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini. Chef’s often named dishes after prestigious clients at their restaurants. 

Tetrazzini is a rich dish combining cooked spaghetti tossed with either cooked poultry or seafood (never red meat) and a tangy sherry -cream parmesan cheese sauce. Sauteed mushrooms (a must), along with steamed peas, asparagus tips or broccoli florets are common additions.

Whether it is made individually or as a casserole, it is sprinkled with sliced almonds and additional parmesan, then broiled or baked until crunchy and bubbly with a golden top.

Time and home cooking have stripped away many of the dish’s continental flourishes, with modern versions of tetrazzini being more sturdier and less grand. The recipe means different things to different people with shortcut recipes sometimes using canned cream soups. Although tasty, they never quite measure up to the original iconic dish.

Brion and I absolutely love this meal. It might be a bit more expensive but using the Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano as opposed to generic parmesan cheese is well worth it in this recipe.

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Shrimp Tetrazzini
Instructions
Pasta
  1. In a large stockpot, bring 2 1/2 liters of water to a boil & add 1 1/2 tsp salt. Break pasta in half & add to boiling water. Cook pasta until slightly less than al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain well & return to stockpot. Add the butter, Parmesan & pepper. Toss until butter is melted & pasta is evenly coated. Transfer to a large bowl & set aside.
Shrimp
  1. In the same stockpot, bring water, wine, lemon juice, lemon rinds & bay leaves to a boil. Add the shrimp. Start timing immediately & cook for 3 minutes. By the time 3 minutes are up, the water should be boiling. Drain immediately & rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze any remaining juice from the lemon over all. Toss into spaghetti & set aside.
Vegetables
  1. Slice the mushroom caps. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat; add mushrooms, garlic powder & salt. Increase heat & cook until mushrooms are losing moisture & mixture is juicy, about 6 minutes. Add unthawed peas; cook until almost no moisture remains, 5-6 minutes. Stir into pasta mixture & set aside.
Sherry-Cream Parmesan Sauce
  1. In the saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Increase heat to medium & add flour, salt & cayenne pepper. Using a whisk, stir constantly, cooking until mixture is thick, smooth & bubbly, about 30 seconds. Add cream, in a slow stream, stirring constantly, cooking until smooth, thickened & drizzly, about 2 minutes. Turn off heat. Sprinkle in the Parmesan, stirring until mixture is smooth, adding milk/broth if necessary. Add the sherry, to taste. Add & toss into pasta mixture.
Topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Transfer mixture to individual dishes or one casserole dish that have been sprayed or lightly buttered. Without pressing down on top of the mixture, use a fork to evenly distribute tetrazzini. Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the top, followed by the Parmesan cheese.
  2. Bake, uncovered, on center rack for 25-30 minutes. Top should be golden brown & casserole will be bubbling around the sides. Do NOT overbake. Remove from oven & allow to sit 10-15 minutes before serving.