There’s something about having a grill at the table that makes any meal an occasion. Add friends on a cold winter evening and it becomes a down-right event! A couple of weeks ago we brought our grill and butane stove to our friends’ home for a feast of our favorite flavors from Korea — bulgogi lettuce wraps, kochujang chicken, watercress dumplings, and lots of laughs. Everything but the bulgogi meat was cooked before it was brought to the table, so only the bulgogi needed attention during dinner.
The bulgogi lettuce wraps were quickly renamed “lettuce burritos” by the junior diners at the table since the rolls required as-you-eat assembly (think: fajitas). Thin slices of garlicky sesame flavored beef are quickly cooked, then are wrapped in a lettuce leaf already layered with rice, pickled vegetables and kimchee. The contrast between hot and spicy meat, neutral rice, cool lettuce, and piquant veggie pickles is quite addictive. Each diner makes her own wrap and can play with proportion and flavors to suit their own taste.
We’ve seen the butane stove and canisters at most of the Korean chain stores here in metro DC, including H Mart and Lotte, as well as Korean Korner in Wheaton. For setting up the stove and grill, and sources for stoves on Oahu or West Coast, see our original post.
We first tried bulgogi lettuce wraps several years ago at another friend’s home, where we sat down to this lovely feast after a lesson in making homemade napa kimchee! Our hostess, June, cooked the bulgogi meat at the stove so we “students” could focus on the assembly of the rolls and oohing and ahhing over our homemade kimchee. Even without a tabletop grill, assembling bulgogi lettuce wraps at the table can add a nice spark to your next weekend family meal or dinner party!
JUNE’S BULGOGI LETTUCE WRAPS
Inspired by June L-S
For 4-6 adults, a part of a multi-course meal
For the Beef Marinade:
1 lb (450g) thinly sliced rib-eye, flank or skirt steak
1/2 Nashi pear, thinly sliced
1 tsp. sea salt
3 TBL toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. raw sugar
1 finger of ginger, peeled and sliced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. light soy sauce
Combine meat with all seasonings for marinade in non-metal bowl or zipper plastic bag, and marinate at least 8 hours or overnight. The pear is added less for flavor than as a natural meat tenderizer. If nashi pear is not available, you can use 1 kiwi or a slice of papaya to accomplish the same thing, but June warns not too marinate more than 3-4 hours if you use these fruits because they are much more potent tenderizers than the pear, and will turn the meat to mush! (Sounds like a great science experiment, doesn’t it?)
Have ready at the table:
Small container of oil for grill
Washed and dried green and/or red lettuce leaves, torn into 4” pieces
Pickled radish and/or cucumbers (recipe below)
Bowls of cooked medium grain rice, 1 for each diner
Remove meat from refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Drain marinade and discard. Gently pat meat dry.
Turn heat down to medium-low, and turn meat over once to brown both sides. Diners can help themselves directly from the grill as the meat cooks. Using clean tongs or chopsticks, remove meat to serving plate if it cooks faster than people are eating.
Let each person assemble their own wraps:
* Lay a piece of lettuce on your plate
* Add a mouthful of rice, about 1 TBL or so, on top of the lettuce
* Add a couple of slices of pickled cucumber, radish and kimchee
* Top with one slice of bulgogi
* Wrap lettuce around fillings
* Munch, swallow, repeat!
Possible accompaniments: miso soup, watercress or spinach with sesame dressing, or dumplings.
Use this basic method and dressing for either daikon or cucumber
If you want both pickles, repeat recipe for each vegetable
1/2 small daikon radish OR
1 English of other long cucumber
2-3 TBL sugar
Peel daikon and cut lengthwise, then thinly slice into half-moons or thin strips.
If using cucumber, peel leaving thin stripes of green peel for contrast, then cut in half cross-wise on the diagonal, then lengthwise. Thinly slice cucumber on the diagonal.
Place vegetable in colander set over a bowl or plate. Sprinkle sugar evenly over and through vegetable. Set aside for 30-45 minutes to just wilt veggies (cucumber will take longer than daikon). Meanwhile make dressing.
3 TBL rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. raw sugar
1/2 -3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2-1 tsp Korean red pepper flakes (can substitute Aleppo pepper)
Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in medium bowl. Taste for tartness — salt will mellow the sharpness of vinegar, but it should still be tart. Add pepper flakes and mix through.
Do not rinse vegetable! Add lightly sweetened, wilted vegetable to dressing and set aside for about 1 hour for flavors to infuse. Divide pickles into 2-3 small serving bowls and place bowls around the table to allow each diner to easily reach the pickles as they assemble their bulgogi rolls.
More Table-top cooking:
Vietnamese style BBQ Pork
Born in Hawaii and spirited away to this strange and chilly place by his human pets, this island cat seemed none too pleased with his first encounter with cold, wet snow...
After being unceremoniously plopped into the snow by one of his humans, Kio’s tail tells the tale of this island cat’s opinion of the surprising white stuff...
“Will somebody let me back inside already!??”
Haiku gladly traded places with her younger housemate — it’s been 4 years since she’s had a chance to sniff out snow!
“Snow is much better from this side of the glass!....”
Yesterday was the first day of weeks-long celebrations of the beginning of the Year of the Ox. It’s snowing today and tomorrow, so we hope for better weather by Sunday when D.C.’s Chinatown will host a parade, lion dance and other festivities.
To start the celebrations of Lunar New Year 4707, we opted for a cozy dinner at home with spicy garlic eggplant, dry-fried Sichuan-style long beans, hot & sour soup, and watercress dumplings.
I use the term “dumpling” deliberately because these little packets of happiness can’t really be classified as Japanese gyoza, nor as Chinese wontons, Korean mandoo, Polish pierogi, Italian ravioli, or any other filled “pasta pocket.” But they are “ono,” nonetheless. When I learned this recipe from my mom, we used to make them with spinach, but watercress is definitely better. The slight bitter undertones of the vegetable counters the fattiness of the meat and balances the dumpling. Earlier this month we made these dumplings with pork instead of turkey for a dinner party, and the contrast between the savory veg and fatty meat was even more appreciated.
The watercress we’ve found since we moved away from the Islands are quite a bit smaller than what we were used to finding on Oahu. The stems and leaves are smaller, and are sold in smaller bunches than their Hawaiian cousins. We need 2-3 bunches of these smaller cress to equal the amounts we are accustomed to for our soups or flash-cooked greens. But for this recipe, one bunch is just about right.
Dumplings are often thought of as appetizers, but we often make a dinner of them with just rice and miso soup. And this is a great project for the kids or a group of friends — the additional hands make quick work of filling and folding all the little pouches.
The cooking method described below combines the best of pan-frying and steaming: the dumpling is crispy on one side from initial pan-frying, and juicy and cooked through by steam. You will need a large flat bottomed skillet with a fitted lid for this. For a more calorie-conscious dish, you can line a steamer with lettuce leaves or wax paper and just steam them (about 5 minutes or until meat is cooked through), or you can add them to simmering broth to make a full-meal soup. Steamed or fried, alone or as part of a larger meal, these dumplings have tried and true appeal with children and adults alike.
50+ dumplings, plus extra filling
1 small bunch watercress, about 1/2 lb (225g)
Wash well and drain, but do not completely dry. Remove thickest stems. Pre-heat wok over medium-high heat. Add watercress with any water on leaves after washing to hot wok. Stir through until vegetable is just wilted and still bright green. Remove from pan, and allow to cool completely. Finely mince leaves and remaining smaller stems, and set aside until needed. This can be done up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated until needed.
1lb (450g) ground turkey or pork
3-4 stems scallions, thinly sliced
2 tsp. sake or very dry white wine
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 slice (coin-size) of fresh ginger, minced (about 1/2 tsp)
1 large clove garlic, minced
generous seasoning with sea salt and ground black pepper
Combine meat and all seasonings, and massage well to incorporate. Set aside in fridge for at least one hour, and up to 24 hours, to allow flavors to marry. Add cooled cooked and minced watercress, and combine well.
1 package round gyoza wrappers, about 10 oz/ 280g (50-60 sheets)
small bowl of water
Place a scant teaspoonful of filling in the center of one wrapper. Dip your finger in water, and wet the edge of top half of wrapper. Bring bottom half of wrapper over the filling and press the center down to seal. Pleat the sides of the wrapper around the center, then press down to seal. Because the filling is rounded, the sides will naturally want to fold over each other. Set aside and continue until filling or wrappers run out.
Have ready: a lid that fits snugly over the skillet you are using, a small container of oil for easy pouring, and a small cup of water.
Pre-heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 TBL. oil to pan, and swirl to coat entire bottom of pan. Place dumplings in pan, making sure they do not touch (or they will stick together), and gently press the filled center against the pan. Let fry about 30 seconds, then add about 2 TBL of water directly into the pan — trying not to pour water onto the dumplings themselves — and immediately cover with lid. Turn heat down to medium, and let cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until pan stops steaming. Do not remove cover while steaming!
Carefully remove lid and check whether filling is thoroughly cooked by gently pressing on the meat-filled center: it will feel firm when the meat is cooked through. Using spatula or small fish slice (UK), remove dumplings to serving plate and cover to keep warm.
Turn heat back up to medium-high, and add 1 TBL oil to pan, coating bottom evenly. Add more dumplings, and cook as you did the first batch. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.
Serve with rice, miso or other light soup, and Dipping Sauce (below) for a light meal. Or serve as an appetizer or part of a buffet.
In each dipping bowl, combine the following ingredients:
3 TBL rice vinegar
2 tsp soy
1/4 tsp sugar (optional)
3-5 drops chili oil
We don’t often have wine, other than sake, with Asian meals. But we’ve been waiting for an excuse to try this French wine called “Wasabi White” from the amusing Now & Zen label (Alsace). We both love the wines of Alsace but were a little skeptical about the cutesy label. Wasabi White proved to be in keeping with our expectations of Alsatian wines as being food wines first and foremost. It was both dry yet with enough fruit to tame and round out the rich and spicy notes in our meal, especially the garlic eggplant. In keeping with the Asian theme, we used large teacups instead of wine glasses!
Cassoulet (CAH-soo-lay). One of the great winter comfort foods, and certainly not for the calorie-shy — beans long-simmered with pork fatback and rind, as well as sausages, and duck, goose or lamb. A true peasant dish in the best sense, taking the humblest of ingredients and raising them to glorious heights with care and slow cooking.
As with all the best foods, there are as many recipes for cassoulet as there are cooks. At the foundation are the three great traditions around the Provencal districts from which cassoulet is said to have sprung — traditions that dictate what combination of meats will flavor and provide the unctuous bath for the lowly bean. Debates rage and blood pressures rise about whether duck or goose confit is better, and whether the inclusion of lamb is merely tolerable or absolutely sacrilegious. To claim one’s cassoulet “Castlenaudry” or “Toulouse” one would probably seek out ingredients actually from those regions. But it seems to me more in keeping with the spirit of cassoulet to use ingredients closer to home, and to elevate the meal with great love and attention rather than with pricey ingredients.
This particular cassoulet, while scrumptious, was not my best example. For one, the beans were much too small to capture and hold all that lovely fatty broth. I don’t know what I was thinking using navy beans, but it was a serious brain fart. I also did not make a duck confit, and instead just browned the duck legs and added them and their rendered fat into the beans. The most garlicky sausage I could find on short notice was a Louisiana-style andouille, which together with the pork belly were also browned and added to the cooking pot, with their rendered drippings of course. One pound of dry beans, 2 duck legs, 3 sausages, 2.5 lbs of pork, loads of garlic, thyme, parsley, tomatoes, water, seasoning and breadcrumbs — that’s it. Six hours and 2 days later, choruses of “Bon Appetit.”
But even the most ardent fan of cassoulet (have you met my husband?) will concede that this is a dish best savored in deep winter when the biting cold will lend some justification for the extra pounds that will definitely ensue. Why ensue? Because cassoulet is a dish that makes no apologies for the pork fat, duck or goose fat (ha, ha, guess what “confit” is!), and sausage drippings that conspire to create the oh-so rich broth in which the beans will bake and swim. This is something we make only once a year, though it’s been at least 4 years since we last had this at home. Tropical Hawaii was much too warm for such a rich and hefty dish — seriously, this is Portuguese bean soup on steroids.
“Cassoulet forever”We missed the buzz about cassoulet that circulated around the U.S. in November, on Election Night. Evidently a mischievous French-speaking cameraman declared his love for his Maman’s cassoulet by holding high signs that said “cassoulet” or “cassoulet forever” behind American broadcasters reporting on Mr. Obama’s victory. The signs were clearly visible in many news broadcasts, prompting a flurry of internet searches in the U.S. for the term “cassoulet” (it was reported to be one of the top Google searches on Election Day.) Some people even wondered out loud — including a broadcaster on live TV, “Who is Cassoulet?”
LOL (ou RaHV?)
We happened to make a cassoulet this weekend at T’s request. This is one of his all-time favorite foods — he even likes the canned stuff one can find on any supermarket shelf in cassoulet’s mother country. It was a celebratory meal, too, as we opened a special wine to toast our incoming president and in between sips and mouthfuls rocked with Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, U2, MaryJ Blige, Stevie Wonder, and Garth Brooks (who knew he was a little bit rock ‘n’ roll?!), who were performing down the street at the concert at the Lincoln Memorial that was the kick-off for the inauguration of our 44th President.
So Mr. Obama, we saved you a plate. And our first toast was also for you:
“Vive le President! Long live the 44th President of these United States!”
Kale Crisps. This is one of the best food ideas ever. And so easy! Since we were first introduced to the concept on recipezaar in early December, we’ve adapted it and made it five times.
It’s great on its own — as a snack food as addictive as potato chips/crisps (we dare you to eat just one...), but it also makes a nice crunchy side dish for a sandwich or a buffet, and even a garnish for soups.
And it’s good for you: Kale, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt — baked for 10 minutes in an oven.
Are you wrinkling your nose? Are you thinking, “I don’t like greens, this isn’t for me.” Would you believe me if I told you they actually taste like potato chips? They even smell like potato chips when they’re baking. I don’t know what alchemy or magic is going on here, but it’s true. These crisps come out of the oven light as air and seem to melt in your mouth after the first satisfying KAA-runch!
This dish is going out to Ramki at the imaginative One Page Cookbooks who is sponsoring the “Recipes for the Rest of Us” Event — a blog event to encourage newbies to try their hand at cooking. He’s accepting entries until Jan 10th, so there’s still time to join the fun! Ramki’s site features literal one-page cookbooks (some have 1001 recipes on them!) that can be printed in their entirety on a single sheet of A-4 paper (European standard). If this recipe were in one of Ramki’s books it would be something like: Wash kale well, tear off leaves, dry leaves, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake.
Whether you already love greens of all kinds — as we do, or it’s part of your New Year’s resolution to learn to like greens, or you’re cooking for someone(s) who would wrinkle their nose at any thing leafy or green, one nibble is all it will take...
1 bunch of kale (about 1 lb/450g)
A drizzle of olive oil — no more than 1 TBL.
The key here is to wash the kale, as with any green, well. We prefer the vinegar wash to remove as much pesticide/fertilizer residue and dirt as possible. Simply add a couple of teaspoons of vinegar to a non-metal container (glass or heavy plastic) with 2-3 quarts/liters of water. Have a second container of 2-3 quarts/liters clean cool water. Plunge the kale leaves in the vinegar solution, massaging the leafy parts gently. Remove, and rinse in the clean water, swishing gently. Now rinse a handful of leaves at a time in running water. Allow to drain.
Remove the leaves from the stems. You can cut them off, but I prefer to tear them. Hold a branch with the stem side up, and gently (always gently) tear away bite size pieces of leaves from the branch.
Spin or pat the leaves dry. Or air dry. Any method works, just as long as the leaves are completely dry before you continue.
**Preheat oven to 325 F/180C.
Place completely dry leaves on a large baking sheet (cookie sheet or jelly roll pan), and drizzle regular or light olive oil over the top. Massage — gently, of course — the oil through the pile of leaves, then spread out on the pan. (You may need 2 pans or to do this in 2 batches for 1 lb. of kale.)
Sprinkle with sea salt to taste (we use about a 1/4 teaspoon for each pan). Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the leaves turn from jade green to dark forest green, and take on a translucent look. You’ll notice the potato chip-like aroma emanating from your oven, too.
Allow to cool on pan, about 2 minutes... if you can resist them for that long!
Enjoy guilt-free munching all through the New Year!
We haven’t featured a recipe that I could serve to my father, who suffers from gout, in a long while. Since kale and sea salt are considered moderately alkaline (better for gout-sufferers), and olive oil is a neutral, I would feel comfortable offering this to him as an alternative snack to the peanuts he loves but which are highly acidic and therefore a no-no. This will be included in the GDC Round-up.
Other recipes featuring cooking greens similar to kale:
Brussel Sprouts with Coconut
Garlic Braised Mustard Cabbage (aka Gai Choi)
Tian of Potatoes and Mustard Greens
Greens and Cheese Pie
Choi Sum with Spicy Garlic Sauce
Pasta with Sweet & Tangy Beetgreens