ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Sour and meaty. Those two words describe this found recipe that we first heard last May. Here are some more.
EDWARD LEE: This dish is really all-purpose, best for any occasion you want. I've never seen anyone eat just one portion.
SIEGEL: That's chef Edward Lee, author of "Smoke And Pickles," talking about his recipe for pork ribs and sauerkraut. It's Southern. It's German. It's Korean. It has some roots in New York, too. And Edward Lee says it's basically his life on a plate.
LEE: I grew up in New York City where sauerkraut for me was always about kind of sidewalk hotdog carts - cheap, bad, over-boiled sauerkraut on top of awful kosher hotdogs. And I always loved it but, you know, it was never this incredible gourmet thing. Well, lo and behold, when I was 30, I moved to Louisville, Ky., and I met my then-fiancee. And we used to go over to her house in Indiana, which is just over the bridge. And I remember she pulled out this jar of sauerkraut. So it was my then-future-mother-in-law's sauerkraut, and I thought, oh, it's just sauerkraut. I have had sauerkraut a million times before. And I remember eating it and going, wow - crunchy and crispy, but very sour - not overly sour. There's a really nice balance between sour, and there's a little lactate which builds up, so it's kind of creamy.
I was just in awe of this sauerkraut. And, you know, my mother-in-law is a very down-to-earth kind of woman. And I started talking all this culinary stuff, and I said, did you add any juniper berries or is there any clove in there? And she just gave me this sad, poor look and just said, son, this is cabbage and salt. (Laughter) And that was it.
So I had all these jars of sauerkraut and immediately thought, I don't want to put it on a hot dog. It's disrespectful to the sauerkraut. So I wanted to come up with a recipe that really will let the sauerkraut shine. So I started thinking about boiled pork ribs. My grandma used to make it all the time, but she used to make it with kimchi. And so I thought, what if we substituted the kimchi with the sauerkraut and did it in a slightly more Germanic flavor profile versus Korean - so maybe take out the ginger and add mustard and take - you know, and I tried a couple times.
And we made this dish sort of braised and let the pork ribs get real soft and tender, and then sort of in the last 15, 20 minutes, I added the sauerkraut into it. It's really tender, very soft, melting pork ribs, and then you have this sauerkraut that's warm but it's still crunchy and crispy, and the broth takes on some of that sour flavor, and it's really good.
SIEGEL: That's chef Edward Lee, the man behind Louisville's 610 Magnolia restaurant. You can get his recipe for pork ribs and sauerkraut on our found recipes page at npr.org.
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