The smell of spring

Cynthia Stone
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No, not flowers—although there are a few sneaking out of the ground here and there. I’m talking about the shed warriors firing up their grills for the first time this year.

It’s not been a bad spring so you diehards are probably way ahead of the game, but it was only this past week that the delicious scent of grilling meat has been wafting into my backyard.

Unfortunately, I’m in a temporary home awaiting another move and a deck party is not on my agenda for a while. That doesn’t stop me from smelling the smells and accepting any invitations that come my way.


Asian-style barbecued pork ribs

Can your first barbecue be anything but pork? Whether you grill these outside or slow roast them in the oven, you will recognize and savour the distinctive flavours.

If you really don’t want to use alcohol then try all orange juice, but I believe it adds something special to the final product ... and by the time these are cooked there’s virtually no alcohol left.

Five-spice powder used to be hard to come by, but I’ve seen it in every grocery store I frequent in the past few years, and you can’t substitute its distinctive taste. It’s a great all-purpose spice blend to have in your cupboard because it’s not just for making Chinese food—it’s delicious in many meat, fish and vegetable dishes.

How many people you can feed with these depends entirely on what else you are serving. If you’re having a carnivorous weekend then I’d plan on at least half a rack per person.

One last note, side ribs are cheaper, but they have more fat, so if you are using them, trim well.

This recipe is better—and meatier—with back ribs but either will work.

2 full racks pork ribs

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup each rye whisky, honey and soy sauce

2 tbsp. rice wine or white wine vinegar

1 tbsp. Asian style chili paste

1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1 medium onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and grated

1 tbsp. five-spice powder

1 fresh lime, juice and rind

1 tbsp. molasses

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Pat ribs dry and place in a shallow glass dish. Whisk together hoisin sauce, orange juice, whisky, honey, soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste and sesame oil. Stir in onion, garlic, ginger, and five-spice powder. Using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, cut off a few strips of lime peel—keep them large enough to fish out later—and add to marnade along with lime juice. Pour over ribs, cover tightly and refrigerate at least one hour but overnight if at all possible.

Remove ribs and dry thoroughly; reserve marinade. Indirect heat is the key for barbecuing these successfully. If you have a double grill, turn one side on low (or put the charcoal all on one side) and place ribs on the other. You can also put them on the second rack, if you have one. Barbecue for 1 1/2 hours on the lowest heat possible.

Meanwhile, bring the marinade to a vigorous boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered until mixture is thick and syrupy—about 20 minutes. Add molasses and set aside to cool.

After ribs have grilled for 1 1/2 hours, start painting them with cooked marinade every few minutes. Two hours should do the trick but you can tell when the bones wiggle easily away in the meat.

If you don’t have a barbecue, these ribs are absolutely delicious from the oven. Cover with foil and roast at 225 degrees F for 2 1/2 hours. Remove foil and cook another hour or so, flipping them at the halfway mark. Paint them with the reduced marinade in the last half-hour.

Serve with green onions sprinkled on top and remaining cooked marinade on the side.


Barbecued steak with chimichurri sauce

Chimichurri comes from South America, but it goes with any meat, fish or vegetable you care to mention. Its powerful garlic bite and fresh herbal flavour liven up a drab winter’s day but serve it at your first barbecue and it becomes the harbinger of summer.

This sauce is better if it can rest for at least a couple of hours, but can be made up to two days in advance. If you’re thinking of substituting a bottled version, don’t bother.

You can, however, substitute dried oregano for fresh, just reduce the amount to 1 tbsp.

Chimichurri Sauce:

1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

2 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves

6 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


4 New York strip, sirloin or other steaks of your choice

1 tbsp. smoked paprika

2 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

For the sauce, place parsley, oregano and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and pulse a few times. With the processor running, add olive oil in a fine stream. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use, but let it come back to room temperature before serving.

For the steaks, allow to sit at room temperature for an hour. Dry thoroughly. Combine paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and oil to form a paste. Rub briskly into steaks. Grill over high heat until done to your taste—for medium-rare you want 135 to 140 degrees F in the centre and that will take four to five minutes a side, depending on your barbecue.

If you want to cook these indoors, get a heavy skillet smoking hot — you don’t need any oil. Lay the steaks in carefully—don’t crowd the pan—and cook until quite brown on one side. Flip once and brown on the other side.

However you cook them, let the steaks rest at least 15 minutes. Serve with chimichurri sauce and a simple side or two for the perfect spring meal.


Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher

in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her

c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86,

St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: South America, New York

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