I don’t know too much about Korean food, but on the rare occasions that I dine on dishes like Bibimbap or Galbi Jjim at one of the homespun Korean eateries here in Nashville, I always experience this brilliant palate awakening. The spices, sugar and chili pepper heat, fermented vegetables and grilled meat hit on all the taste buds: Sweet-salty-sour-bitter-umami.
And I chide myself: Why don’t I eat here more often? Why don’t I try to cook like this?
The truth is, I tend to cook in my culture-comfort zone–which is a mish-mash of Italian-French-Southern-New American whatever! But today’s post reflects a little expansion beyond that zone.
It’s not authentic Korean, to be sure. The seasoning of the meat–soy-ginger-garlic-sesame—falls in line. Lashing it with the sweet-sour crunch of pickled red cabbage and grassy fresh cilantro fits too–although it’s much tamer than traditional Kim-chi. And, eating it wrapped in a griddled corn tortilla makes it more like Mexi-Korean fusion.
No matter. The result is simply delicious.
Kogi BBQ, a food truck in the Los Angeles area, gets the credit for originating the cleverly filled tacos over 6 years ago. It’s an idea that has caught on across the country–and inspired all manner of taco fusion treats.
My prompt started back in December, when I had purchased–and overbought– some boneless beef short rib for a big family meal. (which was a classic French preparation.) I put the extra meat into the freezer, knowing that I’d soon have the chance to use it in a different flavor profile:
Tacos inspired by Kogi, for our community potluck.
I did a little research, and put together my plan.
First: the marinade. Easy to make–what is key is allowing enough time for it to permeate the meat. Six to eight hours, if you start in the morning. A 12 hour-overnight would be even better. Don’t worry if you can’t locate an Asian pear. I used an apple that I already had! The texture and mild sweet fruit taste gets communicated into the mix.
Note: if you cannot, for whatever reason, get short rib then I recommend flank steak. These Korean-style beef tacos at Cooking Light use it to great advantage—marinated and grilled.
Next: The Sear and the Braise. It’s important to get a nice rich brown finish on the beef. The marinade goes far in that regard, caramelizing as you sear the meat. Once you’ve accomplished that, you smother the strips in deglazed juices from the pan, along with the remaining marinade.
Cover and place into a low oven and forget about the meat for the next two to three hours.
What emerges, after that time, is succulent beef, steeped in garlicky gingery tastes.
You really don’t need a knife to shred the meat for the filling–pick it apart with a fork.
Save all those braising juices, too.
I didn’t have the time needed to make Kimchi, which is about a week. Instead, I whipped up a quick pickled slaw, using red cabbage and red onion. In short order, it provided a snappy sweet-sour topping.
Finish the taco with some cilantro and a stripe of Sriracha sauce.
Gosh, these were good.
KOREAN STYLE BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIB TACOS
3 pounds boneless beef short ribs
marinade and braising mixture
1 Gala apple or Asian Pear, cored and chopped
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons sesame oil
a few pinches red pepper flakes
Place the apple, onion, garlic, and ginger into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse the ingredients together.
Add the soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, water, and sesame oil. Process until smooth.
Place the meat into a non-reactive bowl or container. Pour about 1/2 of the marinade over the meat (reserving the rest for later use in the recipe.) Make sure the meat is well coated. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Cover and refrigerate–marinating overnight is best.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place a large skillet or pot on medium heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil.
Remove the beef from the marinade and brown the pieces a few minutes on each side.
Place the browned pieces into a shallow baking dish.
Pour remaining marinade over the beef.
Cover with aluminum foil and oven-braise for 3 hours.
When done, the meat will be juicy and fork-tender.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, break it up into small pieces for the tacos. Pour braising juices over the meat. Keep warm until ready to assemble the tacos.
Makes 2 dozen 6 inch tacos
“PICKLED RED” RED CABBAGE AND RED ONION SLAW
1/2 head red cabbage
1/2 large red onion
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible and place into a mixing bowl.
Slice the onion as thinly as possible and add to the cabbage.
In a separate bowl, whisk the vinegar, sugar, and salt together.
Pour over the slaw and let marinate for 20 minutes.
warm beef in braising juices
pickled red slaw
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves picked and coarsely chopped
24 6 inch corn tortillas
Sriracha hot sauce
Place a skillet on medium heat. Brown the tortillas on both sides–about 1 minute a side.
Spoon in the beef. Top with pickled red slaw, fresh cilantro, and a squirt of Sriracha hot sauce.
I haven’t gone out for New Year’s Eve–not for many years now. It’s become tradition for friends to come to our place. We cook something extraordinary, something de luxe; then we feast, tell stories, play games, reflect on the year, our moments of gratitude, and talk about what might be in store in the months to come.
Lobster has often figured into the mix.
For many NYEs, we’d have a community lobster pot. I’d make a spicy-winey poaching bath, and everyone would bring their own lobster tails, ready to take the savory plunge. We’d serve that luscious meat with lemon butter as part of a 4 course seated dinner. It’s very fun, very delicious,
also very laborious.
So we changed things up.
Now everyone brings an appetizer or two to share. The buffet table fills up quickly with delectables such as Vietnamese Summer Rolls, Fig-filled Brie in Puff Pastry, Bibb Lettuce Cups with grapefruit and avocado, “Cowboy Caviar” (gotta start eating those black-eyed peas!) and baby crabcakes with citrus remoulade.
This year, lobster is part of the scenario, in a more casual–yet still luxurious, way. I decided to make little lobster rolls—of the buttery yeasty Parker House type– flecked with sea salt, then stuffed with lobster salad. I make the same spicy-winey bath to cook them–recipe to follow–so that if you take the notion to just eat lots of poached lobster and drawn butter–well, here ya go.
For the salad, the meat is lightly dressed. You don’t want to mask that sweet lobster taste. Lemon, green onion, red bell pepper, celery, and a little Sriracha lend it the right crunch and zing.
Notes about the Parker House style rolls: My recipe uses sourdough starter along with a boost of dry active yeast. If you don’t have the starter, no worries. Use 2 packages of yeast, also increasing the amount of flour (add 2 cups) and milk (2 cups) I also use honey instead of sugar.
Recipes for this kind of roll abound on the webs. The main thing to remember about these rolls—which are buttery and rich, yet light as the ethers—is that milk, butter, and an egg are key to making the dough supple and elastic.
If you don’t have time to make the rolls, Cooking Light offers an easy-peasy solution here:
Lobster Roll recipe, using hot dog buns
Spicy-Winey Bath: (for 6 Lobster tails)
6 cups water
2 cups White Wine
1 Lemon, cut in half
2 Celery Ribs and leaves, chopped
1 small Onion, quartered
2 cloves Garlic
1 Bay Leaf
2 teaspoons Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Celery Seed
1/2 teaspoon Mustard Seed
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
Place all these ingredients into a large covered stockpot and simmer until onions are softened–about 25 minutes. (this will accommodate up 6-8 lobster tails)
Prepare the lobster tails for their bath: Using kitchen shears, cut up the center of the thin cartilage underside of the tail and snip off the sundry flippers. Gently crack the base of the tail backwards to make it easier to remove meat after poaching. Rinse well.
Plunge the lobster into the gently rolling bath and poach for five-seven minutes. Remove the now bright orange-red tails from the bath. Allow to cool.
Remove the cooked meat. Discard the shells.
The Lobster Salad:
2-3 ribs of celery, finely chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
1/2 cup good mayonnaise (such as Hellman’s or Duke’s)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce
Cooked lobster tail meat, cut or pulled into bite-sized pieces
SOURDOUGH PARKER HOUSE ROLLS
1 cup “fed” sourdough starter mixed with 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup water
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 pound butter, divided
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 package dry active yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
The night before: mix your starter in a bowl with flour and water. Stir well. Cover with plastic and leave at room temperature for an hour. Then refrigerate.
Ready to make the rolls:
Remove the sourdough mixture from the refrigerator.
Warm the milk on low heat, add 1/4 pound (one stick) butter, then the honey and salt. Stir until the butter is melted. Remove from heat. When the mixture feels tepid, stir in the package of dry active yeast.
Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sourdough mixture.
Using a dough hook, begin to mix, adding the egg, and the flour, a cup at a time.
Knead until the dough comes together into soft elastic mass. Cover and allow the dough to double in size—about 1 1/2 hours.
Melt the remaining 1/4 pound butter in a saucepan set on low heat.
When dough is doubled in size, turn it out onto the work counter that has been dusted with flour. Divide the dough ball in half, setting one piece aside.
Brush baking sheets with butter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Brush with melted butter and cut into squares. You should get 16-20 pieces. Roll each piece around your finger and place onto the buttered baking sheet. Leave 1/2 inch space between each roll.
Brush their tops with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until rolls are light and golden. Cool on a rack before slicing and stuffing with lobster salad (and a piece of leaf lettuce, if you like.)
TWO GRATITUDE MOMENTS FROM 2014
This year has been rich and full of wonder. The launching of my cookbook, Third Thursday Community Potluck, features high on my list, to be sure. I am so pleased with the result. The book is beautiful. I couldn’t have imagined anything finer. I am so grateful for this accomplishment, at this stage of my life.
I am also so grateful for all of the support I’ve received from family and friends for this effort. Here are three blogging friends who came to my book signing in the Washington DC area last month. We knew one another from our blogs, but this was the first time that we met in person. Big hugs to Tracy of Amuse-Bouche for Two, Nichole of And Baby Cakes Three, and Domenica of Domenica Cooks and American Food Roots. Y’all rock! The connections that we make through our blogging, sharing our mutual love of food and community, is what it’s all about.
Last, and best is grandson Zachary. Bill and I, aka Pops and Nanaroo, enjoyed a wonderful Christmas visit with him. The boy loves food! And he knows that nothing compares to licking the beater.
Happy New Year, Everyone. All best wishes for love peace health and prosperity in 2015.
A few years ago, farmer and friend Tallahassee May introduced me to this vibrant root vegetable, the Watermelon Radish. An apt name, I thought, for this member of the daikon family. It grows rather large–its size and heft ranging from golf ball to soft ball. A slice through the outer mottled green peel reveals a shock of magenta ringed in white.
I later learned that this heirloom is a native of China, and the Chinese have given it a better name: Xin Li Mei, which means Beautiful Inside.
Sometimes our challenges in the kitchen mirror those in the world: how to uncover that inner beauty so often hidden?
Unlike other radishes—such as cherry bombs, white icicles and French Breakfasts, which have a bright snap and crunch—the slower-growing watermelon radish can be a bit on the tough side.
I discovered this the first time I made a snack with them. Prepared in the French manner, it was a simple tartine: salted radish slice over soft butter on toasted bread. The big brilliant coins curled up on the open face sandwich, their earthy taste buffeted by leathery texture.
This time, I thought that the radishes might benefit from some “down time,” relaxing in a light vinaigrette before I’d place them on the rounds of bread.
I used avocado oil–clear, clean, slightly nutty in taste–to cloak them, (although a favored olive oil would work well too.) followed by a generous frill of grapefruit zest, a squeeze of the tart juice for acidic counterbalance, and scatter of coarse sea salt.
I covered the gleaming coins in plastic wrap. An afterthought (after I’d set aside the camera too), I placed a tea kettle, as a weight, on top, and left them alone for about an hour at room temperature.
Meanwhile I sliced a crusty baguette, slathering each piece with creamy chevre.
Then, lifted the kettle and peeled back the plastic.
Time in the marinade, under the kettle’s weight infused a delightful citrus essence into the radish slices. Salting tenderized. Avocado oil made them glossy.
One by one, I placed the watermelon jewels onto the smeared bread rounds. Then took a bite.
Hmmm. Beautiful, inside and out.
MACERATED WATERMELON RADISH-CHEVRE CROSTINI
1 pound watermelon radishes
coarse sea salt
4 tablespoons avocado oil
zest from one grapefruit
1-2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
12 ounces chevre, softened
1 crusty baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thick, toasted if desired
small bundle fresh chives, optional for garnish
Wash, peel and slice the watermelon radishes into thin rounds. Arrange the rounds on a plate or platter and sprinkle coarse sea salt over them. Drizzle avocado oil over the radishes, followed by sprinkles of grapefruit zest. Squeeze some grapefruit juice over the radishes too.
(Eat the grapefruit–or keep to slice on a salad!)
Cover with plastic wrap. Place a weight (like a tea kettle!) on top and allow the liquids to macerate the radishes, for about an hour.
Spread the softened chevre over the baguette slices. Uncover the platter of radishes, and place a macerated round on top of each slice. Garnish with chives.
Makes 3-4 dozen.
Creamy peanut butter, spread to the bread’s edges, a layer of blackberry jelly, capped with another slice of wheatberry bread. A quick double-cut into triangles, then a wrap and tuck into the lunchbox. Anything else? A nice piece of fruit. A cup of yogurt. Every now and then, a cookie.
But always a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
That was my morning routine, for many years, getting my daughter ready for school. I couldn’t count how many PB &Js I’d assembled of the course of her school career. But I do remember how miffed I got, when I learned that she had been making them for herself whenever she stayed with her dad. Until she said,
“But Momma, you make the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!”
I softened, of course. And I thought about the love that went into that simple lunch. Financially, we’d experienced some lean years, for sure. But, unlike many in America and around the world, I never had to worry about Not being able to provide her nourishment.
I thought about those many mornings packing lunches when I was learning about the important work of The Lunchbox Fund.
I recently learned about this organization through Nichole Gulotta of The Giving Table. In food education and activism, I place my focus locally, for the most part. But it is important to open the lens wider. Last year, mobilized by Nichole, we raised awareness about hunger and food insecurity in America, a call to action aligned with the release of the documentary, A Place at the Table.
Today, through Nichole’s initiative, our team of 100 bloggers is shining the light on childhood hunger in South Africa, where over 12 million children live in poverty. The South African government does have programs that feed 8 million of them. But that leaves 4 million with nothing. Founded in 2005, The Lunchbox Fund is dedicated to bridging that gap, providing school feeding programs for these kids who have been left out entirely. The work they are doing is changing lives. And, through our network of bloggers participating in this outreach, we can help.
Our goal, throughout this week, is to raise awareness, and raise $5000.
That money will stretch far, and provide a daily meal for 100 South African children for a year. That’s impressive bang for the buck. If you feel moved to donate, as little as $5 or $10 would make a big difference.
Do good deeds wherever you can. We are all in this together, on this beautiful planet.
Sometimes we extend our hands out into our immediate community. Other times it is our community-at-large, wide, wondrous and ever connected.
THREE HEALTHY DELICIOUS SANDWICHES TO TUCK INTO YOUR LUNCHBOX:
I ‘ve included some easy, affordable recipes, right for any lunch: Fresh Dill-Tuna Salad, Gala Apple-Golden Raisin-Peanut Butter Wrap, and Herbed Quinoa-White Cheddar-Vegetable Wrap. I encourage you to check out Cooking Light’s Ideas for the Lunch Box Brigade for other healthy and tasty ideas for packing.
FRESH DILL TUNA SALAD SANDWICH
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 heaping teaspoon fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 rib celery, diced
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 6 ounce can of tuna, drained well
1 tablespoon toasted sliced almonds (optional)
handful lettuce leaves, cleaned and dried
whole wheat bread
In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, Dijon, lemon juice, fresh dill, garlic, black pepper and salt.
Stir in the diced celery and red onion. Add the tuna and toss gently until well combined.
Place the lettuces on a slice of bread. Scoop on the tuna. Top with another slice. Cut and serve.
Makes 2-3 sandwiches
GALA APPLE-GOLDEN RAISIN-PEANUT BUTTER WRAP
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1/2 gala apple, thinly sliced
soft flour tortillas
Slather the tortilla with your favorite peanut butter. Place thinly sliced apples in the center. Sprinkle with golden raisins or currants.
Roll it up. Slice in half, at an angle. Wrap it and tuck it in a lunchbox.
WHITE CHEDDAR-HERBED QUINOA-VEGETABLE WRAP
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1/4 red bell pepper, julienned
handful of fresh spinach leaves
1 ounce white cheddar, shredded
2 tablespoons coarse grain mustard
whole wheat tortillas
Place red onion into a small bowl. Add vinegar, parsley, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir well.
Fold in the cooked quinoa.
Spread some coarse grain mustard over the tortilla. In the center, spoon on a mound of quinoa. Place the julienned vegetables on either side of the quinoa, followed by a layer of spinach leaves. Sprinkle on the white cheddar. Roll tightly and wrap in plastic
Makes 2 generous sandwich wraps.