Secret to signature dish unveiled

PO’IPU — The restaurant Joe’s at ie Green at the Kiahuna Golf Club Po’ipu is popular for its breakfasts.

It’s been voted by readers of The Garden Island the Best of Kaua’i for them.

But Chef Michael Stauber cooks up special dinners for his diners as well.

Nothing gets regulars and guests revved up more than his barbecue ribs.

“I change the menu every two to three weeks. I’ve tried taking off the ribs, but people get mad,” he said.

“A ton of people came in and said, ‘We saw your write-up in the LA Times, and I had to try them.” According to the co-owner of Joe’s on the Green, Caroline Fredriksen, visitors e-mailed the Los Angeles Times editors, and said their critics underrated the ribs.

“They said they were even better than what the critics had said,” Fredriksen said.

The secret to his barbecue ribs is in the ti leaves. Stauber said he cooks the ribs much like cooking kalua pork or laulau.

“Most places you go, their ribs are tough and chewy. And in the South, they have all these big smoking ovens. I don’t have a big smoking oven, so there had to be a way for me to do them,” Stauber said.

And so he tried cooking them with ti leaves and water.

“It keeps them from drying out,” he said. “You try our ribs and they’re re ally tender and they’re really good.” He’s also made a signature sauce for the ribs, which is a mix of the tangy barbecue taste and Asian influences.

Being from San Francisco and migrating to Kaua’i in 1992, Stauber said he experiments a lot with fusing cuisine.

“I’ve done a lot of different types of things, being from the Bay Area and, of course, here we do a lot of Pacific Rim,” he said.

“The good thing about cooking is you can change things to the way you like it. One thing I feel about cooking is to not be afraid. Dishes may not work the first time, but the important thing is you tried.” Stauber then stressed the importance of catering to the individual tastes when cooking at home.

“You’ve got to constantly be tasting it,” he said. “Baking is a science. You have to follow the recipe to a T because of chemical reactions with the yeast and other ingredients,” he said.

“Cooking is more of a feeling. You cook to your own tastes and preferences,” Stauber continued.

“Then you say what you liked about it, and what you didn’t like about it.

With the barbecue sauce, if you don’t like a lot of ginger, then leave it out,” he explained.

“If you like something, you add some more.” The last touch Stauber adds is fun.

“Cooking and eating is supposed to be fun,” he said. “People don’t enjoy it as much as they should.”

Michael’s Asian Barbecue Ribs

Ribs:

4 ti leaves

St. Louis-style pork ribs (approximately 1 pound per person)

Roasting pan large enough to hold ribs

Cold water

1/4 cup Hawaiian salt

1/4 cup liquid smoke

Michael’s Barbecue Sauce

1 small onion, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

1 tablespoon lemongrass

2 ounces rice vinegar

2 ounces shoyu

1 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons plum sauce

2 tablespoons hoisin

1 tablespoon dry mustard

2 tablespoons liquid smoke

4 bottles Heinz ketchup

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 tablespoon Tabasco

For the barbecue sauce, heat heavy pot on medium-high heat. Saute onions in olive oil and sesame oil until soft. Add garlic, ginger and lemongrass, and cook for two to three minutes. Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Reduce heat.

Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often. Adjust seasonings to taste.

To prepare the ribs, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place ti leaves in roasting pan. Place ribs on top. Cover with cold water, add salt and liquid smoke. Cover with ti leaves. Cover pan with foil and place in oven. Bake ribs for two to three hours, depending on quantity. Check after two hours by pulling on the ribs. Ribs should come apart easily. Remove them from the pan and let rest for half an hour. Grill on both sides for five to six minutes, and brush sauce on both sides. Remove and brush with sauce, and serve with side of choice.

• Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.com.

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