Category Archives: Food and Drink

Recipe: Mastering Chinese-Style Ribs at Home

I started my quest with a recipe from the invaluable Katie Workman, friend to frazzled cooks everywhere, who has a knack for making food that children like and that also tastes good to adults. Her recipe for Chinese-style ribs is so easy that I’ve made it countless times, simply baking the racks at low heat for tenderness, then raising the heat and basting them for stickiness. I serve them as dinner, not an appetizer, with freshly cooked rice and a bright green vegetable like smashed cucumbers or stir-fried bok choy.

But the dish needed improvements to get closer to my grail ribs. After some research and development, I decided to skip Ms. Workman’s step of cooking the marinade (life is too short, and none of the traditional recipes make you do it); added fragrant five-spice powder; and introduced an important twist to the roasting method.

That twist — a steam bath — comes from Ms. Phillips, as does the five-spice powder. (She does not endorse ketchup.) Ribs that are roasted start to finish in an oven usually come out gnarled and dry. To fix that, some cooks boil them before roasting, which completely denatures the meat. Bathing the ribs in steam by adding hot water to the roasting pan produced the precise texture I was after: tender and succulent.

Fatty-skinned birds like geese and ducks, and well-marbled cuts of meat like pork ribs, shoulder and belly, are used for siu mei because the fat continually bathes the meat as it cooks. When choosing racks for this recipe, whether baby backs or full spareribs, make sure that the meat is well marbled with fat, and that there’s a substantial cushion of meat between the bones.

Other than red fermented tofu, most of the traditional ingredients of siu mei are easy to find in Asian markets (and many supermarkets). The alcohol used need not be rice wine: Vodka, gin or another clear spirit has the same effect of enabling the flavors in your marinade to penetrate the meat.

Many modern Chinese cooks use maltose instead of honey for cha siu, because it produces a high-gloss, lip-smacking exterior. But the taste is virtually the same: The flavor of honey gets lost among the strong tastes, leaving only sweetness and a little stickiness behind.

Ms. Phillips, who lived in China for two decades and is the author of the encyclopedic cookbook “All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China,” said the goal for cha siu ribs is creating layers of flavors and textures. This recipe easily accomplishes that, with very little work and without a grill.

NYT > Food

Modern Russian Dumplings That Nod to the Past

At Luda’s Dumplings, where he is the chef, Eugene pledged to follow his mother’s precepts — always use the freshest ingredients; mix everything by hand — if not exactly her recipe. The dough, for example, is made with organic flour and is “not as soft” as with traditional pelmeni, he said; growing up in Sheepshead Bay, a historically Italian neighborhood, he fell in love with pasta and wanted the dumplings to have a texture closer to al dente.

Of the six fillings available, the most robust and wintry in spirit is Siberian-style beef and pork, here grass-fed Angus beef shoulder and pastured pork butt, ground in-house and evenly split so neither lords over the other. One pierce, and the juices run.

In other versions, a mash of potato and Cheddar has surprising buoyancy, and spinach, melded with feta, Parmesan and mozzarella, retains its vivid green. But pulverized shrimp loses some of its briny character, muffled by Parmesan and ricotta inside a dough stained pink by beet juice.

All are enhanced by a choice of three toppings per order, among them soul-brightening dill, mushrooms chopped and sautéed until almost duxelles and slightly carnal, and roasted garlic minced so fine, it’s undetectable to the eye but an insistent imprint on the tongue.

Each dumpling is crimped with a doily-like fringe, the skin thin enough that you can see the shadows of its interior. Credit Sasha Maslov for The New York Times

Best are pickled jalapeño slices, which give a little jump to the meal. (Higher-end toppings, for a $ 1 premium, include a drape of melted mozzarella, snippets of bacon and a poached egg that when slashed unleashes its caldron of yolk.)

Each order comes with two sauces, for dipping or pouring. For those who hew to tradition, there’s the bracing simplicity of vinegar or the velvety soft landing of sour cream, perhaps even better mixed together.

More maverick are variations of sour cream spiked with, by turns, raw garlic, Sriracha, chipotle, horseradish and pickled jalapeño, each with its own clarifying flare. “I know my mom would yell at me if she saw some of these things,” Mr. Tulman said.

Old-school pelmeni molds, looking like panels of honeycomb, hang above the counter. But Mr. Tulman shapes his pelmeni on a machine visible in the next room, built in Russia and customized with extra rollers so as not to overheat the dough when it’s compressed.

For dessert, there are slightly damp farmer cheese pelmeni with cocoa-infused skins, nicely muddled with sour cherries and chocolate flakes that promptly wilt into sauce. A lighter finish comes with kompot, a decidedly sweet fruit punch. It’s another nod to Luda, although Mr. Tulman allows that he’s been “experimenting” with the likes of pineapple and mango.

“Things in Russia we never had,” he said.

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Luda’s Dumplings

Recommended Dishes Pork-and-beef dumplings with roasted mushrooms and dill; spinach-and-cheese dumplings with pickled jalapeño slices and roasted garlic; potato-and-cheese dumplings with poached egg, parsley and sliced pickle.
NYT > Food