Meet Chris Shepherd: A Man of Many Tastes

Chris Shepherd with Yeon Ok Lee, Kong Ju Rice Cake, Houston
Chris Shepherd with Yeon Ok Lee, Kong Ju Rice Cake, Houston

Chris Shepherd of Houston’s Underbelly will be cooking the fall Symposium’s Tabasco luncheon on Saturday. Shepherd describes his food (and the city of Houston) as “New American Creole,” in that it’s an international melange of cultures and foodways. The menu at Underbelly pays homage to the tucked away, strip mall-centered, mom-and-pop restaurants that often go unheralded. There’s also a pamphlet Shepherd keeps at his restaurant filled with a list of local eateries around town, and the message: “‘We’d love to have you back at Underbelly, but we politely request that you visit at least one of these folks first.” Raised in Tulsa, OK, Shepherd attended the Art Institute and worked at Brennan’s of Houston and Catalan before opening his first restaurant, Underbelly, in 2012. You can read more about Shepherd and his commitment to Houston’s diversity in a January 2013 Food Arts article by Nikki Metzgar (which was also selected for inclusion in Cornbread Nation 7: The Best of Southern Food Writing last spring).

On Saturday, Chris and his team will be serving a dim sum-style luncheon highlighting Houston’s diverse menus. Below, you’ll find a Crispy Ham Ribs recipe from Chris, with a Tabasco spice and Steen’s molasses sweet glaze.

Crispy Ham Ribs

For ribs

  • 2 slabs of pork ribs (brined)

For the brine

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 1⁄2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 cups brown Sugar
  • 1 1⁄2 ounce curing salt no. 1
  • 2 slabs pork ribs

1. Warm the water to dissolve all the salts and sugars. Let the brine cool and submerge
the ribs. Weigh it down and keep them submerged for 4-5 days in the refrigerator.
2. After the ribs have come out of a brine, place them in a smoker at 225 degrees for 5-
6 hours or until almost tender.
3. Place them in the cooler and let them set. Once cooled portion them into single ribs.

For the glaze

1/2 cup Steen’s
1 cup Sweet and Spicy Tabasco

Combine all ingredients together and simmer for 20 minutes. Reserve for finishing.

To finish: Place on a medium high grill to achieve a nice char and warm through. In a large bowl toss the ribs in the sauce and take to the plate. Garnish with cilantro and green onion.