Grill Like a James Beard Award Winner for Labor Day Weekend

Executive Chef-Partner Paul Kahan of One Off Hospitality shares his recipes for Pork Country Ribs.


s your grill prepped and ready to be fired up for Labor Day weekend? Labor Day (the first Monday in September) is recognized to honor the American labor movement and to celebrate the workers that have brought strength and prosperity to our country. Most people are afforded time off work to bask in the glory of a celebrated 3-day weekend, enjoyed with summer dishes and good company. Whether you are attending or hosting, there are meats to be grilled and sunburns to be acquired. And if your menu plan isn’t already locked in, shopped and secured, may we suggest a recipe for Pork Country Ribs, provided by James Beard Award winning Executive Chef-Partner Paul Kahan of One Off Hospitality? We love that this dish begs to be shared, perfect for any holiday BBQ attendance and makes for the perfect crowd pleaser by way of effectively feeding large groups. You might be thinking/wondering where or not your grill status is up to par with that of a chef whose claimed the accolade of James Beard Award winner, but don’t worry, this recipe is easy enough for the home griller to make at any skill level.

Start your grocery list with marbled shoulder blade chops, not to be confused with those regular slabs of ribs. The marinade sings a tribute to South East Asian flavors, using a gluten-free Japanese soy sauce as the base. Throw in Chinese mustard, palm sugar, garlic, ginger, cilantro, scallion, Sambal hot sauce and sesame oil, and you’ve got yourself a show stopper in the works.

High heat is vital while grilling the Country Ribs. According to Kahan, you’ll want to create a beautiful, tasty caramelization of the marinade, so using a very hot grill is the way to go. Pair these beauties with a Watermelon and Sungold Salad, and you’ll have the best spread at the block party.

Paul Kahan, photography by Michael Salisbury.

Pork Country Ribs with Watermelon and Sungold Salad

Serves 4 to 6

“Everyone who has ever worked at The Publican can tell you that we push acid and salt almost to the point of too salty or too acidic. We like salt, and we like vinegar, and we like fat, and the combination of the three — when they’re balanced — is pretty hard to beat. The combination of the Pork Country Ribs with Watermelon and Sungold Salad is the perfect example of our Holy Trinity.” — Executive Chef-Partner Paul Kahan

You’ll Need:

  • 1 tbs sambal 
  • 1⁄2 cup grated palm sugar 
  • 4 sprigs cilantro 
  • 1⁄2 yellow onion, sliced 
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, minced 
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1⁄2 cup soy sauce 
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced 
  • 1⁄4 cup rice wine vinegar 
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 tbs sesame oil 
  • 3 pounds pork ribs, with or without ribs (you want a good mix of meat and fat) 
  • 2 tbs Chinese mustard 
  • Watermelon and Sungold Salad (recipe follows) 


  1. Combine the sambal, palm sugar, cilantro, onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, scallions, vinegar, pepper and sesame oil. Put two-thirds of the marinade into a resealable plastic bag and reserve the remaining one-third in a separate container. 
  2. Slather the ribs in the mustard, then submerge them in the marinade in the resealable bag. Let them marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or as long as overnight. 
  3. Build a fire on one side of a charcoal grill and let it burn down to embers. 
  4. Start the ribs on the hot part of the grill — you’re really trying to get a char, so you want to brown and even burn any fat on there. Cook for about 1 1∕2 minutes, flip, then dip the ribs back in the marinade. Put them back on the grill and repeat three more times, so the ribs cook for about 12 minutes total. 
  5. Serve with the Watermelon and Sungold Salad and sharp knives. 

Watermelon and Sungold Salad

“We offered this salad with the pork ribs on the first menu we ever did— and it really is the best thing you ever had in your life. It’s a cold salad, which goes against the whole traditional French cooking thing of hot accompaniment with hot dish, cold accompaniment with cold. But we don’t care.” — Executive Chef-Partner Paul Kahan

You’ll Need:

  • 1 large shallot
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbs green coriander seeds
  • 1⁄3 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 1⁄2 tbs honey 
  • 1 cup olive oil 
  • 1 1⁄2 cups watermelon, or any other seasonal melon, cut into 1-inch cubes 
  • 1 1⁄2 cups Sungold tomatoes, halved 
  • chopped cilantro 


  1. Mince the shallot and work in the salt and pepper to make 1∕4 cup haché. Add the green coriander seeds to the haché shallot and run your knife through it a couple more times. Transfer the paste to a bowl and whisk in the champagne vinegar, followed by the honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while you whisk until you get the right acidity and the dressing is emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more vinegar, honey, salt or pepper if necessary. 
  2. In a large bowl, season the watermelon and tomatoes with salt and pepper and dress with about 3 tbs of the vinaigrette, making sure you scoop out some of the solids (the shallot and coriander seeds) and add them, too. Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary or add more vinaigrette, then dump the lot over the ribs and garnish with cilantro. 

Haché is the French word for “minced,” and it refers to a technique that we use for all our vinaigrettes. It’s when you mince a shallot, add a pinch of salt and pepper, run your knife back through it, then use the side of your knife to mash it all into a paste. This not only ensures that your shallot will be minced really well, but it’s also extra insurance that your salad will be well seasoned since salt added after a vinaigrette is made doesn’t always dissolve.

Reprinted with permission from “Cheers to the Publican” by Paul Kahan and Cosmo Goss with Rachel Holtzman, copyright © 2017. Photography by Peden + Munk. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Available wherever books are sold.

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