You know you’re paleo when…your favorite section at the grocery store is the meat counter.
I never thought I’d be a member of that club. It wasn’t long ago that I’d make a beeline for the ground beef and scurry out of that sea of pink as fast as I could. I was immediately lost amongst all the butts and the shoulders and the chops.
But man, times have changed. I’m proud to say I’ve finally mastered the meat section. I’m at the point where I’m starting to see the potential inside each of those little cellophane packages, rather than feeling overwhelmed by the possibility of ruining an expensive ingredient. Taking more risks in my cookups has been really fun.
Which brings me to this week’s rather unusual recipe.
Before you lose all faith in my culinary abilities, let me make a quick clarification about my choice of protein. “Pork ribs” can refer to a number of styles of ribs. The ones you’re probably most familiar with are baby back.
But the kind I use here are country style, which means they’re thicker, meatier and less boney. In fact, they’re not ribs at all! They’re cut from a portion of the hog’s shoulder, also known as the butt. (See? Confusing!) This photo is a good illustration of the difference:
To be honest, you could use just about any cut of pork here and end up with great results. What you’re going for is a tender, pull-apart-y texture, which you can certainly get with a loin, shoulder/butt, or even cubed stew meat. I decided to go with the ribs because a) they were on sale, and b) I knew the low and slow approach would make them shine.
A few more recipe notes: The chili paste I use here is nothing fancy. Just the jarred kind you’ll find in just about any Asian food aisle. If you’re concerned about spiciness, don’t be. Your first meal might be fairly hot, but it will mellow out quite a bit after a few days in the fridge. You can always omit the cayenne if you’re worried.
You’ll also notice that I use light coconut milk. I don’t usually buy light coconut milk because it’s just a watered-down version of the regular stuff. And it’s usually more expensive! Talk about a ripoff. Regular coconut milk will work just fine, but if you’re like me and you don’t love a super milky curry, just use half the can + ½ cup of water.
The squash makes this dish fun and seasonal and the Asian flavors give it a refreshing, exotic twist. The squash melts into a perfectly creamy, just-sweet-enough sauce, which beautifully complements the tender pork. Give it a try if you’re stuck in a winter produce rut. Or if you’ve been looking for a reason to experiment at the meat counter!
- 3-4 lbs. country style pork ribs
- 1 small leek, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. chili paste
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp. fresh or frozen ginger, minced
- 1 tsp. cumin
- ½ tsp. cardamom
- 1 tsp. garam masala
- 1 Tbsp. curry powder
- ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 3 tsp. sea salt
- 1 small head cauliflower, chopped into florets
- 3 lbs. winter squash of choice, cubed (I used a combo of butternut and delicata)
- 1 bunch kale, rough chopped
- 1 14.5 oz. can light coconut milk (or ½ can regular coconut milk + ½ cup water)
- 2 cups chicken broth (homemade is best!)
- Handful fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
- Cover the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker with your chopped leek.
- Position ribs as evenly as possible on top.
- Next, prepare your “curry paste.” In a medium bowl, combine chili paste, fish sauce, ginger, dried spices and salt, and stir in your coconut milk. Pour this soupy goodness evenly over the meat.
- Top ribs with cubed cauliflower and squash and season liberally with salt.
- Pour in chicken broth.
- CAUTION: Resist the urge to mix! You want the squash and cauliflower to steam on top of the meat so they don't get too mushy. Once you’re halfway through your cook time, feel free to move things around, but not before then.
- For super tender, fall-off-the-bone meat, cook on LOW for 7-9 hours or HIGH for 5-6 hours.
- Once the meat is done to your liking, stir in your chopped kale and cook on LOW for an additional 10-15 minutes.
- Remove bones, mix in some fresh cilantro, and serve over roasted spaghetti squash, caulirice or white rice.
I mixed in a little fresh cilantro and ate mine atop some lovely spaghetti squash, but caulirice or white rice would be delicious as well!