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Here at Dealbreaker we take food very seriously and so do you. Mostly as it relates to eating, say, 144 oysters in one hour, sheet-cake sized cupcakes in a 30 minutes, the entire contents of a vending machine in a single day, boxes upon boxes of limited edition KFC sandwiches as fast as you can, or a mountain of Starbursts with the camera rolling. Sometimes, though, you want to just eat a normal, if not highly tasty meal. That’s where Dealbreaker’s Chef de Cuisine comes in.
Being Chef de cuisine here at Dealbreaker is a huge responsibility, one I’ve always treated as a privilege rather than a right. We’ll get into how I ended up in this gig at another time, but for now, just know that it’s an opportunity I’ve been dreaming of my whole life: cooking for you, the Dealbreaker people.
I may not be building a wood-burning oven in the lobby of your firm, making your junior analyst my sous chef or hand-feeding you veal croquettes as you short another million Herbalife shares, but I might as well be. Whether it’s a private tasting menu to celebrate your latest 6-figure bonus, a 30-day nutrition plan designed to keep you alert all night to monitor overseas markets, or just my own desire to share with you my childhood favorites, make no mistake: I work for you.
Would it make my year to be informed by Dealbreaker’s maître d that I needed to prepare a menu for Lloyd Blankfein, Steve Cohen, and Lenny Dykstra? Yes. Would it be an honor to find out that my kitchen would be the site of an attempt at reconciliation between George Soros and Adriana Ferreyr? Of course. Would I panic upon hearing from my sommelier that we were out of Charlie Gasparino’s favorite chianti 15 minutes before his reservation, and then send my best men out to make it right, knowing the stakes are so high? I’m human, after all. But at the end of the day, I’d bring the same level of passion to the plate when serving them as I would you. Take Chinese take-out spare ribs, for instance.
These portable delacies are among my all-time favorites but something I only recently learned how to perfect. Now I’m not talking authentic Hunan, Szechuan or Cantonese spare ribs that you can get in Flushing or Sunset Park. No, my weakness are the sweet, charred, meaty spare ribs that I would always order from Great Wall on Fischer Boulevard, as part of the $5.95 “BBQ spare ribs” combination platter with pork fried rice, Wonton soup and an egg roll. Extra duck sauce please.
To this day I judge a Chinese-American place by how well it does spare ribs and pork fried rice. The rice should taste slightly smoky (that’s actually sesame oil). The ribs are never going to be completely juicy, but they shouldn’t be dry like sawdust. They should have ample meat, and while they’re charred, the sauce should still be lathery enough where your hands get dirty. Oh, and they should have bones on them because they just should. So should wings. SO SHOULD WINGS.
So, Chinese ribs. A year ago, I finally mastered that recipe. The secret, I learned, was a pool of water under the ribs as they roasted, which ensured they never dried out but still sucked in their marinade. Immediately after I first got the ribs right, life started changing. Most notably, my dream job became a reality. During my excruciating tryout for Dealbreaker’s Chef de cuisine job, a 7-week ordeal that incorporated the toughest elements of Top Chef, Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen, I banked on my spare ribs wowing the tasting panel during the final competition. And boy did they ever. The moment I walked out of the kitchen and got stuffed into a windowless van by masked Dealbreaker security guards that night, I had a true Larry Bird moment and asked myself out loud, “Who’s finishing second?” (One of the conditions of my employment here was to sign something saying I’d never disclose details of the application and interview process, but let’s just say one of my competitors may’ve once grabbed hot dogs with the founder of a hedge fund that recently became a family office.)
So now I’m here, and you’re here, and you know you have your guilty pleasures. Mine are the Chinese spare ribs, only I don’t feel guilty at all. They’re delicious, and anyone who tells you they aren’t is either vegan or dumb. Sorry. It’s just true.
I don’t give recipes the way typical Chefs de cuisine give them, by the way. I talk to you like you’re a human being, because we’re in this together. Get used to it. It’s the only way we can really get to know each other, understand our likes and dislikes. The relationship between a Chef de cuisine and the people he cooks for is the most important relationship in life. Don’t tell me otherwise. At this point, I don’t know whether you have a clue in the kitchen, so we’re going to do this my way. I’ll be gentle, I’m not an animal.
Dealbreaker Chef de Cuisine’s “Chinese” Spare Ribs
Adapted from a recipe on allrecipes.com from a reader named IBNSHISHA.
Ingredients (for four servings):
6 TBSP hoisin sauce (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp)
2 TBSP ketchup
2 TBSP honey
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP white wine (you can use sake)
2 tsp rice vinegar (some other vinegars’ll probably do)
2 tsp lemon juice (fresh!)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp grated fresh garlic
½ tsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder (not easy to find, you can order on Amazon)
2 pounds pork spare ribs (if you’re great at cutting the ribs from the big slab, then do it. If you’re not, get the ones that are presliced or your life will be hell)
Steps (Keep in mind that your oven is probably different than the Chef de cuisine’s Viking, and so you’re really going to need to eyeball this.)
1. Mix everything but the ribs together in a glass dish, then put the ribs in there and turn to coat them. Marinate this in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 335 degrees (not a typo), and pour a little water on your broiler tray or a similar-looking pan. Put a grate or a rack over the pan so that ribs can rest on the rack but won’t be touching the water. Put the ribs on the tray but save the marinade.
3. Put the broiler/rack combo in the middle of your oven and cook, turning and brushing the ribs with the marinade every 10 minutes. Do this for about 40 minutes. You know your oven though. Opening the oven lets the heat escape, so make sure you’re paying attention to what they look like. They should be getting some dark reddish color.
4. After ABOUT 40 minutes (4 turns), turn the oven up to 475 and do one last glaze with the marinade. Move the broiler/rack combo to the hottest part of your oven (whether it’s the top or the bottom) and cook them for about 10 more minutes or until they look like the ones in the picture. I made those ones.
5. Eat. They’re great. Make them with some rice. If you’re good I’ll give you a recipe for that some day, too.