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~ Teriyaki-Style Slow-Cooker Baby-Back Spare-Ribs ~

IMG_5862How you cook spare-ribs is your business.  Here in Happy Valley, sometimes we smoke 'em, sometimes we grill 'em, occasionally I make them in the oven, and, recently, I've started experimenting with slow-cooking them.  Past that, even if you aren't a fan of crocket science, it might interest you to know that Japanese-seven-spice blend and teriyaki sauce, when substituted for traditional Tex-Mex rubs-and-mops is a delicious alternative to typical ribs -- give 'em a try.

IMG_5816Do not confuse spicy "Japanese-seven-spice" powder with aromatic Chinese five-spice powder.  They are completely different.  "Shichimi togarashi", originated in Japanese apothecaries in the 17th century after chiles were introduced to Japan as medicinal.  The ratios in each blend (like all homemade spice blends) vary a bit, but, all contain: cayenne, sesame seeds, orange peel, ginger, szechuan pepper, poppy seeds and seaweed.  While the cayenne and szechuan pepper aren't incendiary, once the blend is applied or added to food, it is anything but low-key or ho-hum.

I won't lie, the machinations of making ribs in a slow cooker never seemed right -- like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I've seen people bend entire racks, slice and stack sections, even cut them into individual riblets   That type of rib abuse is why I never attempted it, but, as a person who likes my ribs fall-of-the-bone tender, there was never a doubt the slow cooker could achieve that.  After all, just like a Dutch oven placed on the stovetop or in the oven, it's what slow cookers do, tenderize meat -- especially the cheap, tough cuts.  The lid seals and traps the heat and moisture in the pot, preventing evaporation and heat loss, which provides plenty of time for everything-that-can-make-meat-tough (the muscle, connective tissue and fat) to break down.

IMG_3106Meet Crockpot's Casserole Crock. For me, it's my latest acquisition in a long line of slow cookers.  I now currently own ten different brands, models and sizes -- which is odd because, me, not-the-queen-of-crockpot-cooking, uses a slow cooker, maybe, five-six times a year. While Crockpot rightfully peddles this one as a casserole crock (because it is essentially a 13" x 9" x 3" casserole), and, it's intended to make-and-take slow-cooked casseroles (it's got lock-in-place handles and a stay-cool handle for carrying the entire contraption), I saw it as a vehicle for baby-back ribs (trimmed to fit into it's bottom), to cook evenly, in comfort -- single-layer spa-style.

IMG_3175I bought two.  Simmer down.  At about $45.00 each, it wasn't that big of an investment.  My rational was: Joe buys baby-back ribs vacuum-packed at Sam's club.  Each package contains three racks.  After eye-balling the dimensions of the Crockpot Casserole, I knew with certainty, that between the two of them, I could slow-cook all three racks -- to feed a crowd.  With basketball's March Madness in full-court-press and PSU still alive, I was happy to plug them in today.

Important Note:  Armed with two crockpot casseroles, for my own purposes, I am slow-cooking three very large racks of baby-back spare-ribs this afternoon.  That said, past this sentence, the recipe is written for one crockpot casserole which will accommodate two small racks of ribs.

IMG_3118Because the inside bottom dimensions of the casserole are approximately 11" x 6", that requires cutting each rack of baby-back ribs into either 2, 11" lengths (cut each rack in half), or, 3, 6" lengths (cut each rack into thirds).  Besides being more manageable, I chose 6" lengths because they are a perfect portion for each person.

IMG_5760 IMG_5760 IMG_5760 IMG_5760 IMG_5765 IMG_5765~Step 1.  To prepare the ribs for seasoning, pat them dry in some paper towels and remove the silverskin from the underside of each rack.  If you don't know how to do this, read my post ~ How to: Remove the Silverskin from Spareribs ~.  Using a large chef's knife, slice each rack into thirds.  Unless you like generally like food spicy (firey-hot), judiciously (lightly sprinkle) each section, top and bottom, with Japanese Seven-Spice.

IMG_3143 IMG_3143 IMG_3143Step 2.  Spray the inside of the crock casserole with no-stick cooking spray. Arrange the ribs to fit, in a single layer, slightly-overlapping in a spot or two if necessary.  (For my two-crock purposes, four of the largest sections and five of the smallest sections, fit snugly and nicely between the two crocks respectively.)

IMG_5775 IMG_5775 IMG_5775 IMG_5775 IMG_5775 IMG_5775~Step 3.  Using a back and forth motion, slowly drizzle 3/4 cup teriyaki sauce, homemade or thick-consistency store bought* over the tops of ribs. Cover crockpot. Cook on high for 2 hours, then, low for 2 hours. The tip of a knife or the tines of a fork, when pierced between any two ribs will glide through and come out on the other side.  If desired, adjust heat to keep ribs warm for up to 1 hour prior to finishing them as directed.

IMG_5807* Note:  Homemade teriyaki sauce is thick and drizzly.  At its thinnest, it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, and, at the discretion of the cook, in many cases thicker than that.  That said, many store-brought brands are watery (similar in consistency to soy sauce), and, they will not work in this recipe.  Ideally, the teriyaki sauce should be similar in consistency to a hearty barbecue sauce.  What I keep on-hand and my store-bought recommendation is: Mandarin brand teriyaki sauce

IMG_5800 IMG_5800~Step 4.  Preheat broiler with oven rack positioned about 5" under the heat.  Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil, then place a sheet of parchment in the bottom of pan.  Remove lid from crockpot.  One-at-a-time remove the ribs.

IMG_5765 IMG_5765~Step 5.  Arrange ribs, side-by-side and slightly-apart (no overlapping) on prepared baking pan. Using a pastry brush generously paint the the tops with additional teriyaki sauce (about 3/4 cup). Place under the broiler 3-4 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and starting to show signs of light browning.  Watch carefully.  All teriyaki sauces contain some form of sugar, which goes from lightly-browned to burned quickly.  If a thicker coating of teriyaki is desired, brush tops a second time and return them to the oven for 1-2 more minutes.

Plate 'em & serve 'em for dinner (w/plenty of napkins)...

IMG_5858... atop teriyaki-dressed noodles tossed w/a veggie stir-fry:

IMG_5880Teriyaki-Style Slow-Cooker Baby-Back-Spare Ribs:  Recipe yields 2-4 servings per casserole (allowing 1/3-1/2-rack per person).

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; crockpot casserole; 1-cup measuring container; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; pastry brush

IMG_3220Cook's Note:  In the event you're looking for a traditional Tex-Mex-type barbecue rubbed-and-sauced recipe for spare-ribs, my recipe for ~ Bone-Suckin' Slow-Cooker Baby-Back Spare-Ribs ~ was not only the maiden-voyage of my crockpot casseroles, they were the inspiration for today's Japanese teriyaki-style ribs. There's more:  I've developed recipes for ~ Low & Slow-Cooked Crockpot Casserole Meatloaf ~ and ~ Warm & Cozy Crockpot Casserole Rice Pudding ~ too!  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)


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