La Boca chef Nicolas Arriola is originally from Argentina where cooking with fire is a tradition rather than a trend.
At La Boca Arriola cooks over a flame grill and in the asado, an Argentinian fire pit in which whole lamb and pig is slow cooked.
The secret, he says, to slow cooking over fire is in the brining, the marinating of the meat in salted water.
“Brining is very important as it allows some of the blood to drain while helping the meat to absorb some of the water,” says Arriola. “During the cooking process, the blood usually dries out while the water remains in a liquid state, allowing a longer cooking time and producing a more tender result.”
Some recipes, he says, are not suitable for flame grill or the asado, such as his recipe for chimichurri pork ribs.
“This recipes is done in the oven, if you do it on the grill, the herbs and spices would be burned and you would lose a lot of the flavour.
“The chimichurri is an Argentinian recipe. Chimichurri basically means ‘a mix of everything’, so there is really no right and wrong, but it needs to be sour so there has to be vinegar involved. I also use olive oil, a lot of parsley and smoked paprika, and of course onions and tomato.
“It’s best to make it chimichurri 36 to 48 hours in advance to allow the flavours to develop, but for this recipe it doesn’t matter because the flavours will develop during the cooking process anyway.”
Chimichurri pork ribs
2-3 kg baby pork ribs
3 litres water
390 g salt
390 g sugar
20 g bay leaves
30 g parsley, finely chopped
10 g coriander leaves, finely chopped
10 g dried oregano
30 g garlic, peeled and finely chopped
200 g brown onion, finely chopped
50 g tomato, medium, finely chopped
5 g chilli flakes
100 g pure olive oil
40 g red wine vinegar
10 g table salt
10 g smoked paprika
Macerate onion and garlic in vinegar for 30 minutes.
Add tomato, coriander, oregano, chilli flakes, smoked paprika and parsley.
Mix well to combine before adding olive oil and salt.
Blend ingredients until fully emulsified.
Mix the salt, the sugar and the bay leaves in 1 litre of boiling water until the salt and sugar are dissolved, then add 2 litres of iced water to cool down the solution.
Marinate the pork ribs in the brine for 6 to 8 hours. The brine will help the meat to keep the internal moisture during the long cooking process.
Rinse the pork ribs, dry them with a clean towel and soak them in the chimichurri for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C for 30 minutes.
Place the pork ribs on a flat tray, reduce the temperature of the oven to 120°C and cook for 90 minutes.
Every 20 minutes brush the ribs with the remaining chimichurri.
Serves 6 to 8
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