Asian Sticky Baby Back Ribs Sous Vide

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I have been thinking about doing this recipe for a couple of months after having some Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs during my Asian cooking boot camp at the Culinary Institute of America.  There are tons of recipes out on the web for Asian Sticky Ribs and, of course, none of them agree on how to do anything.  That’s okay, because I only use them for inspiration. I always end up taking my own road.

I kept my ingredients simple since this was the first time making Asian Sticky Ribs.  Next time, I may start it venture out a little.  I used commercially available Chinese Five-spice.  You can experiment with the flavor profile by actually using the base spices (star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel, clove, and cinnamon) and varying the amounts. 

Ribs need a low and slow cook to become tender.  I chose to do the basic cooking Sous Vide since I can control time and temperature precisely.  The other thing that nobody agrees on is time and temperature for ribs.  The Sous Vide community seems to fall into two camps: The ~140F group and the ~165F group.  The former tend to cook their ribs for 24-48 hours and the later for 4-12 hours.  This is my first time with Baby Backs Sous Vide so I went with 160F for 12 hours in the dry rub and then finished them on the grill with the sticky sauce.  You can chose your method, time and temp of cooking.  The important point is having tender ribs that melt in your mouth and, of course, stick to your fingers. 

I wanted to maximize the surface area for the sticky sauce so I cut the rack into individual ribs before coating the ribs.  For ease of grilling, the two half-rack pieces can be left whole until ready to plate. 

I served my ribs over a Spicy Asian slaw (recipe that I picked up at the CIA and tweaked) and Japanese Potato Salad (recipe in the May/June issue of Milk Street magazine).  [As a side note, I run hot and cold on Cook’s Illustrated; however, I love Chris Kimball’s new effort.  He has taken on international cuisine and it doing an excellent job of bringing it into the American kitchen.  If you don’t already subscribe to the magazine and podcast, you are truly missing out on a fantastic culinary discussion. . . . Free advertisement complete.]

Wow, this is a keeper.  The meat was moist and tender and easily pulls away from the bone leaving it totally clean.  The sauce was not really sticky, but the flavor profile is definitely there.  You can taste the anise, the soy sauce and Hoisin.  The savory flavors of the ribs played well with the insane crunchiness and heat of the slaw and the cool, crunchiness of the potato salad.  Every bit was an explosion of flavor and texture.


  • 1 rack of Baby Back Ribs
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Dry Rub:
  • 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese Five-spice
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • Sticky Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Honey
  • 1/4 cup Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 3 tsp Chinese Five-spice


  1. Prepare the Baby Back Ribs by removing the membrane from the back of the rack.
  2. Cut rack into two pieces for ease of Sous Vide bagging.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the Dry Rub ingredients and mix well.
  4. Slather ribs generously on both side with yellow mustard.
  5. Coat both sides of the ribs with the dry rub and rub to evenly coat.
  6. Place ribs into a the Sous Vide bags and vacuum seal.`
  7. Refrigerate ribs for 8 hours or overnight.
  8. Prepare your Sous Vide cooking vessel and preheat water to 160F.
  9. Remove the ribs from the refrigerator and place into the Sous Vide bath for 12 hours.
  10. Near the end of the Sous Vide cooking time, combine the Sticky Sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
  11. At the end of 12 hours, remove the ribs from the Sous Vide bath, remove ribs from the bags and place on paper towels on a cutting board. Let ribs dry for 15 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile, fire up the grill for high heat cooking.
  13. When the ribs are somewhat dry, cut the rack into individual ribs and place in a large bowl.
  14. Pour the Sticky sauce into the bowl with the ribs and gently toss to thoroughly coat.
  15. Place the ribs on the grill and cook until the sauce has thickened and become sticky.  Recoat the ribs with the left-over sauce until it is gone.

The Ollie Burger

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And now for something a little different:

Anyone remember Lum’s Restaurant or Ollie’s Trolley?  The only reason to go to Lum’s was the Ollie Burger created by Oliver G. Gleichenhaus and the recipe eventually sold to Lum’s.  Only one Lum’s remains open, in Nebraska, and that Lum’s sadly has no Ollie Burger. 

 I have been on the search for a copycat Ollie Burger recipe for years and finally found what claims to be the original recipe ( and developed a method to use it to get the original flavor profile.  The suggested method did not impart the marinade spices into the burger enough. 

 The change I made was to marinate 3/4 lbs of boneless Short Ribs and 3/4 lbs of Sirloin, each cut into 1 inch cubes, in the Ollie Burger marinade for 2 hours and then course ground it into ground beef.  After forming 6 oz. burgers, I bagged them and cooked them sous vide for 45 minutes at 135F.  Once out of the water bath, I let the burgers rest for 10 minutes, basted them with more marinade and seared them on a super hot grill for about 1 minute on each side topping the burgers with mozzarella after flipping.  I then slathered a toasted multi-grain bun, not original, with Ollie’s Bun Sauce, plated the burger, and enjoyed.  This is the Ollie Burger.  I used one slice of mozzarella.  Next time, I will use two. 

No reason to fret if you have not yet explored Sous Vide cooking.   The key here is marinating the meat in the Ollie Burger Sauce and grinding it into the ground beef.  

Again not original, I served with a Japanese Potato Salad; recipe from this month’s Milk Street Magazine.  The potato salad almost stole the show, but not quite.  You need to get this recipe and try it.  I was able to snag Kewpie mayo at my local Wegmans, but will have to try the work-around (extra egg yolk and sugar) when the wife is around since she is MSG sensitive.

Grilled Chorizo and Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers

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I picked the last of my poblano peppers from the garden today. Fall is closing in and the temps are threatening to drop into the low 30s at night next week. Before I escape on a Caribbean cruise, I need to complete the harvest and clean out the garden.

Picking poblanos this summer has meant grilling Chorizo and Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers. I adapted this recipe from Joshua Bousel’s Grilled Chorizo Stuffed Poblano Peppers (

My adaptations to his recipe was driven by an attempt to make it a little healthier and through necessity. For the healthier part, I use quinoa in place of his white rice. On the necessity side, I cannot find all of his ingredients. In place of Mexican crema, I use creme fraiche and the zest and juice of half a lime. In place of the cotija cheese, I use queso fresco. For some heat, I added some jalapeños. Today, I used some of my Hot Fish Peppers in place of the jalapeños.

The poblanos from my garden are not large. I find the below is enough for 8 peppers. I freeze half of the stuffing and use it for the next batch.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2/3 lb Mexican chorizo, removed from casings and crumbled
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2 medium roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup creme fraiche
zest and juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large poblano peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add in chorizo and cook until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
2. Add quinoa, tomatoes, jalapeño, cilantro, creme fraiche, lime zest and juice and queso fresco to bowl with meat mixture and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
3. Spoon mixture into cavities of split poblanos.
4. Arrange grill for indirect cooking and preheat. Place poblanos over indirect heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Sprinkle on pepper jack cheese and continue to cook for another 15 minutes until the peppers are soft and the cheese is melted and browned.
5. Remove from grill and serve.

Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken (Pollo a la Brasa)

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Photo Aug 22, 8 14 37 PM

It was the inaugural meal for our new Weber 2290 rotisserie for the Weber Performer. I had to give it a spin (pun intended) as soon as it arrived.

The recipe was not mine so I will link to it instead of publishing it. The credit for this one goes to Mike Vrobel at The recipe for Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken can be found here: Pollo a la Brasa.
I made it without the drip pan potatoes, but I am sure they would have been awesome.

The key to this recipe is the Aji Amarillo paste. I was lucky enough to find it at Wegmans. Now I did make a few adaptations to the procedure. I marinaded the chicken for 24 hours. For the first 20 hours, I had the chicken in a one gallon sealed storage bag. For the final 4 hours, I removed the chicken from the bag and let the chicken skin dry out. This produces a crispier skin.

Photo Aug 22, 8 12 54 PM

In addition to lump charcoal in the Weber Performer, I used some soaked applewood chips for some added flavor. After 1 ½ hour of cooking, the chicken was moist, tender and absolutely delicious.

Photo Aug 22, 8 13 50 PM has numerous rotisserie recipes. Pollo a la Brasa will be the first of many that I’ll have to try now that the rotisserie is in place. I already have an order in place from the in-laws for a rotisserie roast beef.

Grilled Cod Lettuce Wraps with a Corn and Farro Salad and Pickled Cumcumbers

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Tonight was a home version of Dinner Impossible: veggies and a grain searching for a meal. I had tomatillos that I bought at the farmers’ market this weekend. I knew that I was going to make Salsa Verde, but not on what I would put it. I had Farro in the frig from the last Farro salad I made. When cooking grains, I always cook twice as much as I need so I have some in the frig that I can quickly grab. I had an ear of grilled corn left over from Sunday dinner. I had a store bought cucumber which I want to get rid of since the ones in my garden are ready to pick. My mission: what to make for dinner? Or maybe it was a home version of Chopped. One bad meal and you,re cut from the kitchen. Luckily, I also have a Wegmans as my pantry.

The winning answer tonight was Grilled Cod Lettuce Wraps with a Corn and Farro Salad and Pickled Cucumbers. There is a little prep work to do on this one, but beyond that, the meal is quick and easy. I spiced my Cod with Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic before grilling. You can add whatever spices you prefer. I find it hard to beat Chef Paul’s spice blends for Seafood or Steak.

You might note that there is no oil in this recipe. The only oil used was on the grill grates to prevent sticking. I also used lime throughout. You could use lemon. My wife is allergic to lemon so lime is used consistently.

Dinner Tonight

Grilled Cod Lettuce Wraps

1 Head Boston Bib lettuce
2 Cod Fillets
Red Cabbage Slaw, see below
Salsa Verde, see below

1) Prepare grill for indirect cooking.
2) Grill Cod for 15 minutes or until translucent.
3) Place some grilled Cod on top of a piece of Lettuce, top with Red Cabbage Slaw and Salsa Verde. Roll and eat.

Red Cabbage Slaw:

2 cups Red Cabbage, shredded thinly
3 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tsb Kosher Salt
Fresh ground Pepper, to taste

1) Combine first three ingredients.
2) Add fresh ground pepper, to taste
3) Refrigerate until use.

Salsa Verde

4 Medium Tomatillos, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic
1/2 cup of Red onion, chopped
2 Tbs Cilantro
2 Serrano Peppers
Zest and Juice of one Lime
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1) Place first six ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth.
2) Add Salt and Pepper, to taste.
3) Refrigerate until use.

My Sides, Corn and Farro Salad and Pickled Cucumbers

Farro Salad

Corn and Farro Salad

1/2 cup of cooked Farro
1 ear of grilled corn, stripped
2 Tbs Red Onions, chopped
2 tsps Cilantro, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1) Combine first five ingredients.
2) Add Salt and Pepper, to taste.
3) Refrigerate until use.

Cumcumber Salad

Pickled Cucumbers

1 Cucumber, sliced
1 Tbs Kosher Salt
2 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbs Cracked Black Pepper

1) Place slices of Cucumber on serving place.
2) Sprinkle with Kosher Salt and Cracked Pepper.
3) Sprinkle with Red Wine Vinegar.
4) Refrigerate until use.

Most of the prep can be done in advance and all you will have left to do before servings is grill the Cod and set the table. Simple. healthy and delicious. Enjoy!

Farro and Herb Stuffed Mushrooms

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Farro and Herb Stuffed Mushrooms

This is an easy, healthy and tasty accompaniment to any entrée. The Farro is toasty and crunchy. The Black Truffle Oil ties the Farro mixture well with the mushrooms. The Mushrooms are moist and earthy.

You can substitute any herbs or cheeses in the below. I used mint, because I served it as a sidedish to grilled lamb chops with a mint/za’atar aioli. I used the four cheese blend, because I happened to have it in the frig.

Brush your mushrooms with some EVOO or marinate them in your favorite marinade before cooking. I marinated mine in Chiavetta’s Barbecue Marinade, a Buffalo NY product. It’s amazing. I use it all the time. If you cannot buy it locally, it is available on Amazon or directly from Chiavetta’s Catering. I highly recommend it.

A word on salting your Farro water: Michael Ruhlman points out in his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty” that adding salt to your boiling water is not done to enhance the boiling process. It is done to flavor whatever is being cooked in the water; in this case, the Farro. Most cooks add a scant pinch of salt to the water and that seasons nothing. Add generous salt to your boiling water. You will be amazed at the difference it makes in the finished product.

1 cup Farro
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 cups water
2 tsp Black Truffle Oil
1/2 tsp fresh Rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh Chives, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh Mint leaves, chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
4 Portobello Mushroom caps
Blend of shredded Mozzarella, Parmesan, Romano and Asiago Cheeses

1. In a medium sauce pan, heat Olive Oil over medium-high heat.
2. Add Farro and sauté until the Farro is fragrant and starts to brown.
3. Add water and salt to the sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until Farro is al dente.
4. Strain Farro and add to mixing bowl.
5. Add Truffle Oil, Rosemary, Chives and Mint to bowl with Farro and mix.
6. Salt and Pepper, to taste.
7. Grill Portobello Mushrooms over high heat for 7-10 minutes.
8. Move Mushrooms to indirect heat with the gill side up. Spoon in Farro/Herb mixture. Top with shredded cheese and continue to cook until the cheese melts and slightly browns.
9. Serve immediately.

Grilled Moroccan Lamb Chops with Mint Za’atar Aioli

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Moroccan Lamb Chops

OMG, every once and awhile you hit a homerun or a hole-in-one or so I have heard. It has never happened to me. From a recipe standpoint, this counts. If I were a professional chef, this would be my new signature dish. I seriously considered not sharing it, but I will be able to prove that I published it first. This is a new personal best.

I recently saw an episode of Guy’s Big Bite where Guy Fieri made Grilled Lamb Chops with Olive Tapenade. The lamb chops looked good, but I didn’t care for the direction of the Mediterranean theme. Grilled Moroccan Lamb Chops with Mint Za’atar Aioli was quickly conceived. Now I’ll admit the Espresso is not Moroccan or even a traditional meat spice, but it did give it a rich, earthy overtone and is a nice counterbalance to the sweetness of the lamb.

Toasting the coriander, cumin and cinnamon brings out the essential oils. I much prefer to toast and grind the spices than rely on pre-ground spices. Whether you consider this a dry rub, a dry brine or curing is up to you. The salt draws the moisture out of the lamb. The moisture mixes with the spices and is re-absorbed into the meat. This technique works great on your Thanksgiving Turkey and works just as well on the lamb chops.

Za’atar is a Mediterranean spice mix of dried herbs, sesame seeds and sumac (no, not the poison variety). You can make your own, pick some up at the international section of some supermarkets or buy it at a Mediterranean market or on the Internet. I can buy it at the local Wegman’s. The Mint Za’atar Aioli balances the richness of the lamb. You could do something similar with mint, za’atar and Greek yogurt. You could also omit the Za’atar if securing it proves too difficult. You will want to make the Aioli in advance to give the flavors a chance to meld.

The easy route is to use store bought ground spices and a spiced mayonnaise or Greek yogurt, but doing the prep is worth the effort.

I paired the lamb with Farro and Herb Stuffed Mushroom (that’s a recipe for another day) and a side salad straight from the garden for a tasty, healthy dinner.

Grilled Moroccan Lamb Chops

4 Lamb Loin Chops (approx. 1 lb.)
1/2 Tbsp Whole Coriander Seeds
1/2 Tbsp Whole Cumin Seeds
1/2 Cinnamon Stick
1/2 Tbsp Ground Espresso Beans
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

1. Gently toast the Coriander Seeds, Cumin Seeds and Cinnamon stick in a hot, dry pan until fragrant. Grind the toasted spices in a spice mill or using a mortar and pestle. Thoroughly mix the spice mixture, ground Espresso Beans and Kosher Salt in a small bowl.

2. Place Lamb Loin Chops in a one Quart freezer storage bag. Generously coat Lamb Chops with the spice mixture. Seal the bag removing most of the air. Place into the refrigerator turning occasionally for 8 hours or overnight.

Moroccan Lamb Chops - Dry Rub

3. Remove the chops from the refrigerator one hour before grilling. Remove the chops from the bag. Brush off any excess spices, blot dry with paper towels and let air dry until ready to grill.

4. Set up your grill for both direct and indirect grilling. Over direct heat, quickly sear the Lamb Chops on both sides and then move them to indirect heat. Continue to grill until the internal temperature reaches 130 for medium-rare. Remove to a serving platter and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. The internal temperature should continue to rise to 135-140. Serve with Mint Za’atar Aioli (recipe below).

Mint Za’atar Aioli

1 Egg Yolk
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/3 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Za’atar
1 tsp Fresh Mint, finely chopped
1/3 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. Place all ingredients into a mason jar or similar vessel except for the oil, salt and pepper.


2. Insert an immersion blender into the bottom of the jar and blend for a minute to two.
3. Drizzle in the oil while contining to blend until thick and smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Refrigerate for several hours before serving to enhance the flavor.
5. Remove from refrigerator 1/2 before serving.


In the end, it’s just a couple of cleaned bones and a clean plate.