Kitchen Catastrophe 66 - 5 Fingers of Death! (Five-Spice Ribs)

Kitchen Catastrophe 66 - 5 Fingers of Death! (Five-Spice Ribs)

Why hello there, and welcome to Kitchen Catastrophes, I’m Jon O’Guin, and let me tell you, things have been BUMPING at the O’Guin household of late: my mother was gone for a week, my brother moved back, I had a day trip to Seattle, my mother’s birthday lead to a big change for the household that we’ll get into on Thursday, but trust me when I say I am BUSHED right now. And no, grandma, that is not the new slang for “high”. I assure you, people aren’t co-opting phrases that were last popular in the 40’s for their drug slang.

"Boy howdy, this reefer is the cat's pajamas!"

In any case, while my mother was prepping to leave, I set up a menu that would allow me to make new recipes 4 days in a row, so I would be massively ahead in pictures to prep for the site posts. I ended up making 2 and a half of them, and then just eating Taco Bell and frozen skillet dinners. However, one of the recipes I made received intense acclaim from my mother, while I actually mildly preferred the second one. So let’s talk about that one first, because IT’S MY SITE, MOM, I POST WHAT I LIKE.

Childish tantrums established, I should reveal I actually have to cover the second one because the “NEXT TIME” stinger from Thursday’s post only applies to this one and the half-recipe I did, so I either make past me a liar, or write about 5-spice ribs. And I’m perfectly fine talking bout bone meat.

Part 1: wherein Jon forgets to make jokes or talk about today’s recipe and instead rambles about how hard life is being a middle-class, college-educated white male. Whose dad has cancer, so, you know, he’s got ONE leg to stand on.

Fuck off, Title Jon! I know I wrote you post-reading my next 4 paragraphs, therefore technically making you Future Me, but I also hate Future Me, so you can still go to hell!

Paradoxical Time Taunts aside, today’s recipe comes from All about Braising, by Molly Stevens. We picked up this cookbook with a simple set of goals: since my father’s still trapped in the whole “no intense chewing” gig, and we’re still stuck on “Cook everything”, my mother and I thought “Hey, this is a book all about a cooking technique that typically requires little devoted attention or energy,  producing tender results…Well, can’t see when that would ever be useful.”

Similiarly, sure, Shelves SOUND good, what with not making you bend over all the time, but who cares about that when you can store things on the floor?


So we picked it up, and immediately ran into our ever-present issue: my dad’s palate. I’ve complained before, at length, about the stoic staidness of his favored foods, and now, with him facing near-constant nausea, his odds of trying new foods has dropped precipitously. Compounding this problem is the fact that something is actively altering his tastes. Whether it be the sickness, the meds, or the pain, foods don’t taste right to him. Things he’d normally like are now off-putting, and he can’t eat much of what he DOES like. In short, his suffering is a grim parade of every worst thing food can be: there’s not enough of it, it tastes bad, AND it makes him sick.

So, faced with this challenge, I said, “…Yeah, sounds like life sucks for now, see ya when you’re better!” And just made foods I would like.


Of course that’s not TOTALLY accurate. What I DID was resolve myself “Hey, we’ll make him what he wants, what he asks for, and then I’ll make myself whatever I want, without worrying about if he’d like it.” My last trip to a grocery store, I described my basket as “viciously partisan”: there was almost nothing in it I think he would have eaten if he was WELL. Spanish Ham, Hawaiian Tea, African Soup, it was an international bonanza.

And stacking onto that idea of an international bonanza was today’s recipe: Honey-Glazed Five Spice Ribs. 

I want my baby back baby back baby back baby back, oh god I went crosseyed.

Now, I’ve stated time and again that neither my family nor myself are strangers to barbecue, grilling, or meat in general. Therefore, it was with some chagrin that I had to note that I’d never had ribs prepared the way this recipe does them. Ribs, in my experience, are smoked, baked, roasted, or grilled. Braising was a new experience. Of course, these were baby-back ribs, which have less fat than other types of ribs, so the idea of low, slow cooking for them wasn’t completely foreign, it’s just normally much drier.

Speaking of foreign dryness (ew), let’s talk about the spice of the hour: Chinese Five Spice powder. If you’re unfamiliar, Five Spice is blend of flavors used in China since time immemorial. It’s a potent combination, the warmth of cinnamon, the sweetness of anise, the heat of Szechuan Peppercorn, with cloves and fennel furthering the sweet, warm. funky notes. It tastes a little like if someone made a black licorice cinnamon roll, in the nicest way.

Looks like dirt, though, so how great can it really be?

It’s the core of the spice rub for these ribs, and the backbone of their final flavor. The rub is simple enough: salt, brown sugar, five-spice. And when I say Five spice is the core, I mean it’s almost all of it: the recipe is basically ½ tbsp brown sugar, ½ tbsp salt, and 2 tbsp Five spice. That’s a supermajority right there, able to overturn (LAW YOU HAPPEN TO DISLIKE) without having to listen to (PRESIDENT YOU ALSO DISLIKE). Ha! Political!

But yeah, you mix that shit up, rub it on the ribs, and wander the fuck off. After 12 to 24 hours, THEN you actually show up and do something. And that something is basically “Pour some shit on it, and toss it in an oven”.

The shit you pour is of course not actually poop, but rather a mixture of a tablespoon of molasses with 8 ounces of lager beer. And that’s actually something of an issue in my house. See, as has been noted, I am something of an alcohol enthusiast. My brother literally worked for a brewery for some time, and my mother loves to collectnew types of beer. The problem being that, well, almost all of them are ales. Scotch Ales, Stouts, Ambers, Pales, all ales. Eventually, I found a single can of a summer Lager deep in one of our fridges, and, assuming my constitution could bear it, I went “Yeah, sure” and used it.

This beer was probably 8-10 months old.

The mix sits around the ribs (the instructions make a point that you pour the mix AROUND the ribs, not over them, presumably to protect the rub) as it braises. Now, in my opinion, the next bit of the instructions is kind of contradictory: You’re supposed to TIGHTLY cover the container with foil, and then baste the ribs every thirty minutes. Basting, of course, being “Opening the covering, and spooning some of the liquid over the ribs, and then covering it again.” Now, when moving containers that were sitting in 325 degree ovens, I don’t really like having to open tightly wrapped hot metal two times. I didn’t NOT do it, I just said “Ow.Ow. Hot. Ow” every time I had to open it.

Now, if you’re in need of a break after doing 2 whole things in 90 minutes of cooking, the recipe notes that you can just leave the ribs at room temperature for several hours now before finishing them. My family had no time for that, because while I was cooking this dinner, I was reheating leftovers for sides, my mother was doing one of the fifty loads of laundry we’ve done in the last three weeks, and I’m certain some part of the house was nearing actual fire damage. So I just immediately jumped to the final step, THE BROIL.

If they look like this already, you messed up. This is an AFTER picture, damnit.

Take your ribs and coast them in a funky little glaze. It’s 3 tablespoons ketchup and 1 of…hon…ey…HOLY SHIT. Oh goddamnit. How the hell did I fuck this up?  I’m sorry guys, I’m reading the recipe, and I’ve just now noticed that it’s 3 tablespoons HONEY, and 1 of Ketchup. I totally flipped that. Damn it, now I have to make this again and do the glaze RIGHT to see how it changes. Anyway, it’s honey, ketchup, and fish sauce.  Slather on the ribs and broil for like, 7 minutes. I’m just all mixed up now.

But, even with that mix-up, the ribs were still pretty darn good. Kind of candy-like, nice and meaty, a good tang. We had them with an Asian salad, and left-over bimbimbop. What’s a bibimbop, you ask? Tune in next Monday to find out! In the meantime, feel free to like us on facebook, message Jon with all your complaints, and support us on Patreon!





Honey-Glazed Five-Spice Ribs


1.75 – 2 lb rack of baby-back ribs

               Spice Rub

2 tbsp five-spice powder

1.5 tsp coarse salt

1.5 tsp brown sugar


1 cup lager

1 tbsp molasses


3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp ketchup

½ tsp Fish Sauce



1.      The day before you want to eat, combine the rub ingredients and apply to the ribs. I stored mine in a 9 by 13 pan, and then cooked them in it too, so if you can, that should do just fine. Rub both sides, cover with saran wrap, and let them chill for 12-24 hours.

2.      Then, heat your oven to 325 degrees. Mix the braise ingredients and pour into whatever container you wanna cook the ribs in. 9 by 13, roasting pan, whatever. Cover tightly, cook 90 minutes, basting every 30. The ribs are done when you can slide a knife beside the rib easily.

3.      When you want to finish the ribs, mix together the glaze ingredients. Get some baking sheets and line them with foil. Cut the ribs into individual ribs, and paint them on every every side with the glaze, the set on the foil. Broil, about 4” from the heat, for 7 minutes, turning once, until ribs are glazed and blackened in spots.