Brian Huskey, acclaimed OC chef-owner of the two Tackle Box restaurants, shares secrets of his luscious Korean ribs in Cathy Thomas’ Kitchen. Chef will prepare his juicy ribs at the Newport Beach Wine and Food event.

Korean ribs offer irresistible succulence. The well-marbled beef cut crosswise into thin meaty slabs caramelizes to perfection on the grill.  Dubbed “flaken ribs,” each chew yields a balance of sweet-soy-ginger soaked flavors.

For decades, I added 7-Up to the marinade, but in the hands of Brian Huskey, executive chef-owner of Tackle Box in Corona del Mar and Costa Mesa, a tastier marinade version is spiked with Asian pear. The pear does double duty: It adds subtle sweetness while tenderizing the meat.

He accompanies the ribs with a perky cucumber “salad,” a quick pickle laced with a pinch of Gochugaru Korean chili flakes. The bright red bits of pepper add gentle heat and a welcome hint of sweetness, while the cucumber’s bright rice vinegar-based brine complements the ribs’ richness.

Huskey competed on BRAVO’s Top Chef season 11, and his flagship eatery was acknowledged as one of OC’s “2017 Best Restaurants of the Year” by Orange Coast magazine. He will prepare his delicious ribs as part of the Newport Beach Wine and Food event held from Oct. 4-7 (www.newportwineandfood.com). He will grill at the Fire It Up! Party at Balboa Bay Resort.

Favorite knife: The first knife he bought (using his second culinary paycheck) was his well-used Global chef’s knife with a blade made of high-tech molybdenum/vanadium stainless steel.

OC restaurant pick: He lives close to Water Grill in Costa Mesa and enjoys walking there from his home. He orders a drink from the bar along with a showy seafood tower.

A chef’s breakfast: Whatever he cooks for his daughter is sampled with a bite or two for quality control – usually a simple egg variation, bacon, plus Tater Tots, yogurt or fruit. If he is enjoying brunch at a restaurant, he is a sucker for Eggs Benedict, chilaquiles or breakfast sandwiches made with croissants. Oh, and a Bloody Mary.

 Biggest culinary mistake: He cooked chicken breast without the skin, revealing that he was eliminated from Top Chef for this reason after reaching the top five.

Drink of choice: Tequila followed by a lager or pilsner.

Dream project: Opening a Tackle Box in a remote location.


Tackle Box “Home-Edition” Korean BBQ Short Ribs and Spicy Cucumbers

Yield: about 5 to 6 servings, 3 ribs per person

Short Ribs:

4 large yellow onions, peeled, cut into chunks

6 peeled garlic cloves, dark root ends removed

1 1/2-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled, sliced

1/2 Asian pear, peeled, cut into chunks, can substitute Bartlett pear if desired

1/2 cup dark soy sauce or Korean soy sauce

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 to 3 tablespoons rice wine or sake

4 tablespoons Asian (roasted) sesame oil

1 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper

15 to 18 flanken-cut short ribs

Vegetable or canola oil for oiling grill grate

Cucumbers:

8 Persian cucumbers

Enough kosher salt to sparingly cover

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon Gochugaru Korean chili flakes (available online or in Asian markets)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Asian (roasted) sesame oil

Kosher salt to taste

Garnish: toasted sesame seeds

  1. Marinate ribs: Place onions, garlic, ginger, Asian pear in food processor. Process until part of mixture is pureed while a small portion is a little chunky. Place in large nonreactive bowl. Stir in soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil and pepper. Add ribs and toss a little to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours – eight hours is better, but no more than 24 hours. If you look at the video, you will see how chef layers the meat and marinade in a stainless-steel roasting pan.
  2. Meanwhile, cut cucumbers into 1/4-inch wide crosswise slices. Place in colander in sink and toss lightly with salt. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, shaking occasionally to remove water that is released. Lightly rinse with cold water and drain well; pat dry. In a bowl mix all remaining cucumber ingredients except sesame seeds. Add cucumbers and toss. Can be prepared several hours in advance and refrigerated. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
  3. Heat grill to medium-high heat. Wipe clean grate with oil (I use a folded piece of paper towel held with tongs and paper towel dipped into vegetable or canola oil). Grill ribs until cooked through and nicely caramelized. Serve on platter accompanied with quick-pickled cucumbers.

Tackle Box locations: 3029 E Shore Ave., Corona Del Mar, as well as 3321 Hyland Ave., Suite E (SOCO), Costa Mesa

Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”

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