There is no shortage of pork recipes in Croatian cuisine, and of course cabbage is a natural accompaniment to…well, every Croatian dish. Here we braise the cabbage right along with the spare ribs, creating a very flavorful broth along the way. And we all know sopping up the juha with some fresh Croatian bread is the best part.
The traditional version of this dish includes smoked bacon, which we’ve omitted. By using some chicken stock instead of water, tomato paste and extra herbs we were able to get a really tasty broth without it.
Sometimes a girl just has to have some spare ribs, even if it means running the oven for a couple of hours on a hot summer day. You could cook these on the stovetop instead, careful to keep the heat at a gentle simmer and not to let it boil and toughen the pork. Or circle back this fall when you’re really craving some comfort food. The recipe is very forgiving, so use it as a general guide and adjust to your tastes.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 lbs pork spare ribs, trimmed and cut into individual ribs
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock (or water)
- 1 head green cabbage, chopped (about 1 in. squares)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
- Pinch of hot pepper chili flake (optional, to taste)
- Dash or two of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, sear the ribs for a couple of minutes on each side, and transfer to a plate.
- Turn the pan down to medium, and remove any excess oil, leaving about 1 tbsp. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 275F. Pushing the vegetables to the edges, create a hotspot in the middle of the pot. Add the tomato paste here and gently ‘bloom it’ for 3-5 minutes stirring frequently to prevent burning but allowing it to form a fond on the pan. This step creates great flavor depth and removes the canned taste from the tomato paste. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
- Deglaze with the wine, scrapping up all that beautiful fond you just created. Now add the chicken stock, garlic cloves, cabbage, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, Worcestershire sauce and chili flake. Add additional water if needed, to cover the cabbage.
- Bring everything up to a gentle simmer, then add the ribs back into the pot (with any pork juice accumulated on the plate). Cover and cook in oven until super tender, about 2 hours, removing the lid for about the last 30 minutes to allow broth to reduce slightly.