Millets, single malt and a fine set of ribs
A purloined bottle of Glenlivet gives smoky, subtle life to a family menu catering to three generations and a vegetarian
“What is this?” The wife, after a deep intake of breath, had spotted what I had forgotten to quietly put back.
“Surely you did not use my good single malt as a marinade for your pork ribs?”
It was too late to explain why the bottle of Glenlivet was on the kitchen counter, next to the salt, masala container and oil. Damn, I thought I had put it back. I obviously forgot, and now there was no option but to confess.
You see, I airily told the glowering wife, you brought me such fine pork ribs—which she had, “imported” the store owner told her—that I had to use the best from your bar.
That disarmed her, the vegetarian holdout. After all, she was anxious that I eat those ribs and do something for myself instead of producing a vegetarian entrée each time. Last week, as you will doubtless remember dear reader, I had focused on a purely vegetarian foxtail millet (and a quick version with fish) and mused that a heavier meat would be more apt.
So, I used the frozen rack of ribs that had been awaiting my attention.
I tend not to cook things that I alone eat because it is time consuming. Sometimes though, it is satisfying to eat the things only I like. That’s one reason I haven’t eaten some meats—actually specific organs—for a long time: paya (trotters or hooves); brain; liver and gurda-kapoora (kidneys and, er, testicles). The other reason is health, but with recent research implying that dietary cholesterol may not affect cholesterol in the bloodstream, I have eased up on some restrictions.
The pork ribs were a safe bet because my seven-year-old loves pork, but these particular ribs lacked what she liked: fat. They were either carefully trimmed of fat or appeared to be from a pig that was either genetically bred to be lean or was athletically inclined. So, while she was keen to taste the ribs, she lost interest when she realized there was no fat.
The advantage of cooking for everyone is that you can borrow and merge ingredients. That evenings, as the pork ribs roasted in the oven (see recipe), I was also making fresh pesto with pasta for my daughter, her friend and my wife. The basil came from our now-flourishing little kitchen garden, and I reckoned that the leftover pesto could be paired nicely with the base
of millets that I had laid out for the pork ribs.
The millets were a day old and quite dry. I did not have the time to create a sauce that would have given the millets life—and adding dal, the only liquid-y thing around, would be a travesty—so I reserved some of the liquid released by the chops and mixed it with the pesto and the millets.
Nevertheless, it was difficult to cook exclusively for myself. I ended up cooking three sets of ribs: one for myself, one for my 85-year-old father and one for the children, since they expressed interest. My marinade is described below. The children’s version did not have single malt and used a milder spice, while the one for my father used an Egyptian dukkah spice, gifted by a cousin.
The three sets of ribs went into one oven, so it took only a little extra effort to vary the marinades.
The central source of inspiration was undoubtedly the single malt. I am usually partial to Old Monk rum as a marinade, but I have used a single malt once before, and I was pleased with the subtle, smoky result. The wife was annoyed then, and I did not imagine she would be pleased now.
Since I was alone at home, I reckoned, what she did not know would not annoy her. My scatterbrained ways put paid to that idea. I suspect, though, that she may not object as much next time.
Single Malt Pork Ribs On A Bed Of Pesto-Flavoured Foxtail Millet
3-4 pork ribs
Half tsp Samar’s magic masala (or red-chilli powder or chipotle)
2 tbsp Glenlivet (or equivalent single malt)
Sprig of rosemary
Salt to taste
2 bunches of basil
2 tbsp walnuts
3 large garlic pods
Salt to taste 3 tbsp olive oil
Marinate the pork ribs in masala, Glenlivet and salt. Place a sprig of rosemary on the ribs and wrap in foil. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. I baked three sets of ribs in different marinades, so if you’re doing just one set, 35-40 minutes may be enough.
Open the foil and drain off the liquid. Keep aside. Brown the ribs for 10 more minutes at 200 degrees Celsius if you wish.
In a small food processor (or with mortar and pestle), roughly grind the basil and other ingredients for the pesto. If using mortar and pestle, reduce olive oil to 1 tbsp.
Blend the reserved pork-rub liquid with pesto and mix well with foxtail millet (for recipe, see last week’s column on Livemint.com).
Create a bed with the mixed millet and place the ribs on top to serve.
This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar is the author of The Married Man’s Guide To Creative Cooking—And Other Dubious Adventures.
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