Why can’t looking for apartments be as easy as looking for recipes? We’ve been looking for a place to move to, on and off, for two years now, with no end in sight. When I look for recipes, I find what I need most of the time. The two processes are actually quite similar. Step 1: narrow down search by criteria. Step 2: Try it out. This is where they start to diverge and force a completely different step 3, and that’s where apartment hunting becomes my least favorite activity now.

Baby Back Rib in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce 2

Step 1: Narrowing Down the Pool by Criteria

Aparment Hunting: For an apartment, we’re looking for a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment, good light (we practically live in a cave right now), allows pets, and a washer/dryer in the unit, or the ability to install one. I keep in mind some pluses, like I would love to have outdoor space, doorman also comes in handy, and it would be the bomb if they had a gym/pool. On most real estate sites, it’s usually easy to search by area, price, and square footage.  I usually look at floor plans too because some places in NYC have bathrooms in weird places or cut rooms into little closet-sized boxes.

Recipe Hunting: Recently, I bought baby back ribs and I didn’t want to make BBQ style ribs. I wanted something different. So I searched for recipes on-line and through my cookbooks, narrowing down through criteria like, not too many rare ingredients, doesn’t use machinery I don’t have (like a smoker), and sounds tasty. I landed on a pork ribs recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog that he found on Chubby Hubby. It was definitely interesting, using fish sauce and caramel, and the rest of the ingredients were manageable.

Step 2: Try it

Apartment Hunting: After I spend a crap load of time setting up appointments to see these apartments, I go meet the brokers there and have a ball. Oh, it was mislabeled, the building actually doesn’t allow dogs. Oh, it’s not really a 2 bedroom, but it can be made into a junior 2 bedroom if you don’t mind an awkwardly shaped living room. Oh, they had to replace the roof recently so oops there’s an extra $200 monthly surcharge to cover the costs for the next year. The apartment is on the second floor right on top of a busy bar, or it’s on top of a restaurant that has a rodent problem, or nothing has been replaced inside since 1960.

Recipe Hunting: So, it was time to to make these ribs and I realized I didn’t have any lemon. It was raining (which means I’m homebound) so I used lime, and I didn’t have shallots, so I used onion. Wouldn’t it be nice if apartments were so adaptable? David Lebovitz recommended kicking up the pepper so I did. The result was wonderful. I was sold. I thought it might be too sweet or too fishy for meat, but it’s not, just a nice saucy way to serve over rice. I could see this being very kid friendly.

Step 3: Try Again

Apartment Hunting: If you fail to find the right apartment, you return to step 1 and try again. The problem is that we have been cycling through for about 2 years now and that stinks! I’m ready to give up.

Recipe Hunting: I don’t always find or make the perfect recipe on my first try but if I go back and try again, it’s likely to work the second time, and will definitely work by the third. (Next time I make this, I’m putting a lot more onion in because I loved the caramel onions and need more!)

Why can’t apartment hunting be more like searching for recipes?

Baby Back Rib in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce on Rice 7

Baby Back Ribs in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce
~adapted from Molly Stevens recipe posted on Chubby Hubby
~2 entrees of 4 appetizers

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup sliced onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 slab baby back ribs (about 2.5 lbs), cut between the bones
  • rice to serve
  • pickled mustard greens to serve (optional)

Instructions -

1. Spread the sugar on a wide heavy bottomed skillet. Pour 1/4 cup of water and lime juice over it and let it sit for one minute. Heat it on medium heat until the sugar is melted and reduce the heat to medium low, letting it boil and turn red.

making caramel sauce making carale sauce 2

2. Remove it from the heat source and stir remaining 1/4 cup water and fish sauce in slowly. Make sure to distance your face from the pan (as it will steam). Return to the heat and allow it to boil and thicken for a few minutes. Add onion, black pepper, and white pepper, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

add onions to caramel sauce

3. Add ribs to the caramel sauce and stir to coat.

ribs just put into caramel sauce

Bring them to a simmer over low heat. Cover and braise for 90 minutes, but turn and rotate ribs with tongs every 15  minutes. Keep it at a constant simmer but do not allow it to boil. They are done when the meat comes off the bone easily and they are very dark brown.

meat comes off bone clean

Serve as is for an appetizer or over rice (and optional pickled mustard greens) as a full meal.

Baby Back Rib in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce 5

*Note: You can cool them and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. They an be reheated in an oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

posted by jessica at 02:27 PM Filed under Fusion, Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.