Brian Huskey, acclaimed OC chef-owner of two Tackle Box restaurants, shares the secrets of his luscious Korean ribs in my home kitchen.

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 soda to the marinade, but in the hands of Brian Huskey, executive chef-owner of Tackle Box in Corona del Mar and Costa Mesa (SOCO), 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 bright rice vinegar-based brine complements the ribs’ richness.

Huskey competed on BRAVO’s Top Chef season 11 (reaching the final five), and his flagship eatery was acknowledged as one of OC’s “2017 Best Restaurants of the Year” by Orange Coast magazine.

Favorite knife: The first knife he bought (using his second culinary pay check) 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 seafood tower.

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.

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
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 2 hours – 8 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 Avenue, Corona Del Mar, as well as 3321 Hyland Avenue, Suite E (SOCO), Costa Mesa

Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s Produce!

Cherry tomatoes are often the tastiest tomato in the marketplace. Here’s a speedy way to show them off in pasta.

Weeknight Pasta Pomodoro

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 pound dry penne or fusilli or farfalle pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use, plus more for drizzling
3 large garlic cloves, minced
Pinch dry red chili flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups ripe cherry tomatoes, halved if large, left whole if on the small side
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups whole fresh basil leaves
4 green onions, thinly sliced, including half of dark green stalks
Flaky sea salt such as Maldon, to taste
Garnish: grated Pecorino cheese
Minced Italian parsley

  1. Bring large pot of salted water to boil on high heat. Add pasta and cook until just barely al dente, about a minute less than indicated on package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat large, deep skillet on medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, red chili flakes, salt and pepper; cook about 1 1/2 minutes, or until garlic is softened but not browned. Add tomatoes; cook about 5 to 8 minutes, until lightly browned around edges and slightly shriveled.
  3. Add pasta and toss. Add enough of reserved pasta cooking water to make mixture a little sauce-y. Cook about 1 minute. Add butter, basil and green onion slices; toss to coat. Divide between shallow bowls or rimmed plates. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with flaky salt, Pecorino cheese and parsley. Pass pepper mill at the table.