Montmartre Caramelized Pork ribs in Creamy Polenta
This is the dreamfood that my husband to be and I had on the week we went to Paris and got engaged, autumn of 2007. We had been fighting earlier in the day and were swept up in the rain, the magic of Montmartre-- Sacré Coeur and Amelie and Picasso, and each other's nuances of moods and ravenous appetites. The bistro where we experienced this dish (and sadly, I forgot to write down the name and do not know the address, but can probably find my way there from Pigalle) was recommended by the owner of another bistro we had found in the Little Black book of Paris, but due to overbooking, could not accomodate us. The young, SF-Giants fan chef/owner bolted after us when we left his establishment and apologized profusely, and very kindly directed us to his friend's bistro just around the corner. It was a very Paris experience. Already tipsy from our pit stop at a very American sports bar to watch the Fiji and UK soccer game, hungry and in a better mood, we had no idea what awaited us at a tiny little bistro that specialized in artisinal wines and regional cuisine.
I tried to capture the elements of that dish, not knowing enough French or having the audacity to ask for the recipe-- so here is my interpretation of flavors and sensations -- the pull apart from the bones tenderness of the meat, how it was infused with spices and flavors I would never know, the caramel outer skin and the dreamy/creamy polenta to absorb all that sugary and savory richness. I've added seasonal vegetables to set off the richness and orgy of gustatory sensations, to make it more grounded. This dish will make you fall in love and should be made and consumed with care. A lovely dish for autumn and winter, or on a typical San Francisco summer evening. (Travel Tip! If you are in Montmartre, add to the whole experience by visiting the Musée de l'Erotisme in nearby Pigalle earlier in the day.
1 rack of pork baby back ribs (organic, if you can get it)
1 bunch leek, chopped roughly
1 whole white onion, studded with cinnamon sticks and black peppercorns
5 bay leaves
1 large golden apple, cut into thick rounds
1 unpeeled carrot, large cuts
1 handful of fresh parsley
1 cup jus
juice from 1 large pomegranate
1/2 cup Grade A maple syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup combo white & brown sugar
1. Wash the pork ribs in cold water, careful to take out any impurities
2. Line the bottom of large pot with the golden apple rounds, place ribs on over and add the spice studded onion and bay leaves.
3. Pour cold water (enough to cover meat and to make a nice broth)
4. Boil rapidly. As soon as the first layer of impurities foams up to surface, turn off fire and skim foam by placing several paper towels over the top, then taking out along with the impurities. Also ladle out any remaining gunky stuff.
5. Put back in low flame for 3 hours. Then take out pork ribs (keep whole if possible) and place in a shallow casserole dish.
6. Purify the broth by passing over several sieves. Set aside.
7. Take a ladleful of purified broth and place into a bowl. Take all the spices and vegetables; mash through a sieve, using the broth to liquify.
8. Take the liquified vegetable/spice and pass through a finer sieve. This will be used for the marinade.
10. To prepare marinade: cut pomegranate in half and squeeze out as much juice as possible into the vegetable/spice jus, careful not to add any seeds or foreign material into the marinade. Add the maple syrup and stir. By this time, the aromas will be intoxicating that you may be tempted to take little sips before pouring the marinade over the pork ribs. Make sure the meat is covered well by marinade, then wrap in foil and let sit overnight and into the day.
11. Come home from a long day of work and get ready for the most mouthwatering pork ribs of your dreams.
12. Take the marinated ribs and bring to room temperature.
13. Meanwhile, prepare polenta, adding sage and parmesan cheese as desired. Also, some pureed chestnuts would be very good.
14. Make side vegetables, such as mushroom ragout or ratatouille.
15. To make the caramel: Boil water and add sugar until liquid starts to turn blonde then smoky amber.
17. Take marinated ribs, drain a bit, then sear in caramel. Be careful!
19. Turn ribs over if you can, then add the marinade. Transfer to an oven-friendly dish and bake on 400 degrees for about 10 minutes, until the caramel skin forms and your mouth is watering
20. To serve: In a shallow large bowl, spoon a big circle of polenta. Around the circle, place the side vegetables artfully. Then, very slowly and with respect, take the Montmartre caramelized pork ribs and perch on the circle of creamy polenta goodness. Pour the natural sauce from the ribs, open a bottle of wine, and get a bit of crusty French baguette . Bon apetite!