Monday, March 10, 2014
Though I subscribe to most of the major food magazines, I look at the recipes more than I make them.
However, in the November issue of Saveur Magazine, there were some intriguing food ideas introduced by the cover caption, “Best Fall Comfort Foods”. The actual article was titled, "The Food I Dream Of”--about the writer’s experiences with Portuguese food from the Alentejo region, “rich with rustic foods.”
The one that popped most for me was Braised Spareribs with Potatoes, Entrecosto no Forno.
Besides the pork, the most important part of the preparation called for using a paste of red peppers called massa de pimientao, a commonly used condiment in the region. The magazine gave instructions on how to make the paste, a 5 day process that involved curing red peppers in salt. Too much effort, I thought. But it also gave the alternative of using a commercially made product made by a food company called Incopil and available at Amaral’s Market in New Bedford, MA.
Again, that effort seemed daunting to track it down. I’m annoyed by such otherwise good food magazines as Saveur that give recipes with hard to find ingredients—without including easier alternatives. Granted with internet searches and mail-order sources, most exotic products can be found easily enough.
I began to look around our food shops to see if it was available. If it wasn’t then perhaps one day I’d make the darn paste or order it from a shop like Amaral’s and pay the relatively expensive shipping cost for an item that only costs $4..
I checked out Micucci’s, Rosemont and Aurora Provisions to no avail. Hannaford’s and Whole Foods didn’t pan out either. However, both had a similar product: a red-pepper spread at Whole Foods and a red-pepper tapenade at Hannaford’s. I bought both.
Looking at the ingredients list of each, the Whole Foods product seemed close enough to the paste. It’s called Ajvar (mild), a Mediterranean style roasted red pepper and eggplant spread.
The recipe preparation is actually simple. It calls for spareribs, but I chose to use country style ribs on the bone. The original recipe calls for spreading both sides of the ribs with the paste. I did this with the Ajvar. You then put it in a casserole dish, cover it and marinate overnight.
The ribs readiy to marinate in the red-pepper-eggplant spread
I made one more change. I added sliced onions to put in the bottom of the dish. I thought, what’s better than potatoes and onions cooked together?
Ultimately, the real star of the dish is the finished potatoes, which picked up all those juices from the Ajvar and the pork and emerged beautifully flavored.
Herewith, I offer my adaptation of braised country ribs with potatoes. The Ajvar worked out quite well, and the dish was delicious. Now that I’ve gone through the exercise, I think it might be worth the extra effort to make either the paste from scratch or buy it mail order.
The braised ribs and potatoes
Braised country ribs with potatoes and Ajvar
This is adapted from a recipe in the November issue of Saveur Magazine
1 1/2 pounds country spareribs
About 1 1/2 cups Ajvar
2 large onions, peeled and sliced thin
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
Spread the Ajvar (red-pepper spread) all over the ribs and place in a casserole dish in which they will be baked. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Remove and allow to reach room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Remove the ribs from the casserole. Cover the bottom of the dish with the sliced onions. Lay the ribs over the onions. Season generously with black pepper. Bake, covered, for 2 hours
Remove the ribs from the dish, scraping any spread on the ribs into a separate bowl along with the liquid left in the dish. Mix well until fairly smooth.
Raise the oven heat to 425 degrees.
Put the potatoes in the casserole dish, cover with half the sauce and onions, lay the ribs over the potatoes and pour the remaining sauce over the ribs. Season generously with black pepper. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.