Panko and Membranes

After a weekend of gluttony where Jim and I ate out on both Friday and Saturday nights, then warmed up some frozen (but homemade!) ragu for an easy pasta dinner on Sunday, Monday I redeemed myself and cooked us one of the most unhealthy dinners we’ve ever had at home.

Courtesy of my holiday-gifted subscription to Food & Wine, I indulged with their recipe for Asian Baby Back Ribs with Panko-Crusted Mushrooms. I even started marinating the ribs on Sunday night. I’m making this thinking-ahead thing into a habit.

One thing puzzled me though–the bit in the recipe about removing the membrane on the underside of the ribs. What the hell is a membrane doing on my ribs? Jim, ever close with our butcher, had promised me he would ask about it when he bought the ribs. Going to the butcher is such a joy for him, I don’t like to intrude.

But, unexpectedly, when Jim received the ribs, they were frozen. I’ve often wondered why the butcher keeps some meats frozen and others not. A question for our next Saturday visit, I suppose. In any case, Jim figured that the membrane, whether there or not, could not be removed from frozen ribs. The problem became ours to solve.

Helpless as always with meat, I just couldn’t figure out if the membrane was there or not. I stood at the counter, lifting the rack this way and that, cutting slashes through some white stuff that could have been membrane. We scraped at the meat with a spoon, as Jim had seen on America’s Test Kitchen. (Yes, it’s his favorite show.) Was it there? Would it kill us if we left it on by mistake? Jim finally went on the trusty Internet, and after finding some pictures, deemed that from the looks of things, said membrane must have already been removed. Also, some other site said the butcher usually does it. That’s all I needed to hear. I threw the ribs in with the marinade, and settled in front of the television. Good night.

So that was Sunday evening. Monday was a new day. While the ribs cooked in the oven, I moved on to phase 2 of the recipe: the panko-crusted shrooms. I am embarrassed to admit that my parents knew about panko before I did, but it’s true. My parents are cooler than I am.

But the panko worked wonders on the fried little guys. Even after swimming around in oil for a few minutes, the crumbs were still very crusty in the end, like crunchy bits of confetti. The ribs were good too, fairly juicy and light, with a nice bite of rice vinegar. I did make our usual arugula salad, as I felt so guilty about all the meat and fried bits. Fried bits tend to do that.

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Nedim said,

    Thanks for inviting us over!!!

  2. 2

    Lisa DeMayo said,

    Ok, well here’s the first problem…. New Yorker and ribs. Not a good mix. Get out to TX and I’ll show you some fool proof ways and the meat will fall right off the bone! (I’m just kidding… I’m sure it was good… there I’m kidding again.)

    Good story! I’ll come back to the site!

  3. 3

    C-Love and Special BBQ Sauce said,

    An epicure in the making no doubt! Does this mean you are going to become a food critic? If so, let me know when you want to review my special boeuf hache d’aide dish. It is a Franco-Italia-American fusion, similar to a cassoulet. Oh wait, nevermind, I think I made it for you one night back in the TA. Mmmm…Keep up the good writing!

  4. 4

    Sue Dravillas said,

    The secret of the membrane or sheath on the underside of ribs was revealed to me
    many years ago. It toughens when cooked. Sometimes, it is quite thick and if not
    removed the ribs will be noticeably tough.
    To remove use a paring knife. Start at the small (narrow) end of the slab and
    carefuly peal up an edge all across a bone without
    making a tear in the sheath. Work under until you can grasp the width of the
    sheath with four fingers holding it against your palm. Now turn the slab so the
    narrow portion is “north” and the wider end is “south” grasp the sheath and “yank”
    it down. (As if removing a strip of tape or wallpaper.) If it tears – you can easily see
    where the tear began, just pick up the paring knife and repeat. This can be done
    even if the ribs are frozen. Of course, if it has already been removed there is
    nothing to peal! Butcher Shop- done – Supermarket- never! Sue

  5. 5

    […] onion rings were nice and crunchy though, and we wondered if they were breaded with panko, our new favorite bread crumb […]


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