COUNTRY-STYLE RIB STEW
It occasionally puzzles me that a delicious form of pork ribs widely available in this area -- meaty morsels called "country-style ribs," with a much better meat to fat/bone ratio than baby backs -- very rarely turns up in any of my cookbooks or food references. The absence of recipes doesn't stop me from converting other pork or rib recipes when I find a batch of good, lean ones on sale, though, as I did today.
This rendition, loosely based on a Northern Italian "Pork stewed with Tomatoes and Onions" from Niki Hazelton's The Regional Italian Kitchen, is warming and hearty, great comfort food for a chilly night, and they went delightfully with a big mound of garlic-accented mashed potatoes.
Using a heavy cleaver, chop 1 1/2 pounds of country-style pork ribs into 1-inch cubes, bones and all, removing any easily removable fat.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil to sizzling in a black iron dutch oven or chicken frier, and brown the pork cubes on all sides; add a tiny bit of water if necessary to keep them from sticking, plus salt and pepper to taste and 1/2 cinnamon stick; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and braise for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cut 1 large onion in half, then cut each half into wedges. Mince 2 or 3 large cloves of garlic. Bring 1 cup tomato sauce and 1 cup water to the simmer, and stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.
Remove the lid from the skillet with the pork pieces and raise heat if necessary to boil off any remaining liquid. Remove excess oil from the skillet, then stir in the tomato sauce, onions and garlic, reduce heat to low, cover, and continue simmering for another 40 minutes (for a total of 1 hour). Stir occasionally, adding a little water if it gets too thick, or uncovering at the end and raising heat to reduce if it gets too thin. Just before serving, stir in 1/4 cup chopped flatleaf Italian parsley and check seasoning.
As I said, it made a wonderfully comforting winter dish with mashed potatoes, but the sauce would also be fine over pasta or rice.