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Slow-cooked ribs get flavor boost from broiler

By Betty Shimabukuro

LAST UPDATED: 4:45 a.m. HST, May 4, 2011

I love America's Test Kitchen, the operation that gives us Cook's Illustrated magazine, a PBS television show and many online and words-on-paper sources of cooking advice. Test kitchen editors are finicky in a fascinating way, explaining why this procedure or that ingredient works better than another, based on hours of repeated testing of every imaginable combination of techniques and products.

They have a new cookbook, "Slow Cooker Revolution," a timely tool for my monthly series, "Slow Ono," which began in January as an exploration of local-style Crock-Pot dishes.

The test kitchen never settles for mediocre, so the editors take aim at common shortcomings of Crock-Pot cooking, namely diluted flavors and mushy textures. Sometimes their solution is to bump up the seasonings, sometimes to precook or post-cook on the stovetop, broiler or in the microwave. The downside is this can make some recipes too fussy for those who want their slow-cooker to deliver convenience as well as a hearty meal.

I combed this book for a recipe in which the fussiness would be worthwhile, and this was it. These ribs cooked up tender and full of flavor, capitalizing on the hours of slow cooking. You could do without the follow-up broiling and glazing — but if you take the trouble you will be very satisfied.

This recipe offers a great tip: Stand the slab of ribs up around the crock, rather than cut them up and pile them on top of each other. This allows for much more even cooking.

"Slow Ono" continues on the first Wednesday of every month. Meet me here June 1 for a slow-cooker luau.

Slow-Cooker Hoisin Baby Back Ribs

Adapted from "Slow Cooker Revolution" (America's Test Kitchen, $26.95)

6 pounds pork baby back ribs
Salt and pepper, to taste
10-ounce jar jelly (for example hot pepper, apple or guava)
1/2 cup cider vinegar

» Sauce:
1 cup hoisin sauce
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup red wine (or I used whisky)
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves chopped
8 green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons minced ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 3-inch strips orange zest
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Season ribs with salt and pepper and arrange upright around the sides of a 6-quart slow-cooker. Meaty sides should be facing outward, and the thicker part of the ribs should be at the bottom. Overlap slabs if necessary.

Combine sauce ingredients, reserving some cilantro leaves and green onion for garnish. Pour over ribs. Cook on low until tender, 6 to 8 hours. Ribs should not be so soft that the meat is falling off the bone.

Place ribs on a greased broiling rack, meaty side down. Tent with foil and set aside.

Pour liquid from slow-cooker into a measuring cup. Let settle a few minutes, then skim off fat. Strain 3 cups liquid into a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in jelly and vinegar. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

Remove foil from ribs and brush with sauce. Broil until beginning to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Turn ribs, brush with more sauce and broil until well browned and sticky, about 10 minutes longer. Brush with more sauce occasionally.

Tent with foil again and let rest 10 minutes. Slice ribs, garnish with reserved cilantro and green onion; serve with extra sauce. Serves 6.

Approximate nutritional information (with 1/4 cup sauce per serving; not including salt to taste): 1,050 calories, 60 g fat, 22 g saturated fat, 220 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,300 mg sodium, 68 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 43 g sugar, 59 g protein


Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Write "By Request,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. Email


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