Delayed and Inspired

A shortened homage to flavors I love.

This week’s menu is a little abbreviated. There are reasons. Probably. 

For example, rather than making excuses for a lazy dessert, I was just lazy and didn’t make one at all.   Also, as I write this, I’m already 30 minutes late in getting it posted – which may tell you a bit about the week I’m having.  I’m having a week.  And it’s only Tuesday.

It is Tuesday, right?

This week’s menu is the result of my near obsession with Korean cuisine and with some of the flavors employed in several traditional dishes.  None of the dishes in this week’s menu are traditional Korean dishes – they simply use some of the same flavors, some of the same ingredients. 

I’ve left out a couple of dishes that we actually enjoyed along with what you see. The first is rice. Other than telling you to buy good quality rice, and evangelizing (once again) for the amazing rice cooker we use at home, I don’t have much to tell you about cooking rice. The internet will happily step in to help you there. The other is Tteokbokki - a fabulous dish of rice cakes stewed in a spicy gochujang based sauce. I’ve left it off because it is a traditional dish, and I simply can’t do it justice. I do recommend trying it if you have access to good Korean food, or checking out any of the many recipes you’ll find for it.

Crispy Pork Belly with Sesame Ginger Glaze

Pork Belly is pretty much delicious in all its forms, but this method of preparing it has the advantage of rendering out some of the fat – making it just little less overwhelmingly rich.  I mean, it’s still rich.  Just not like Richie Rich rich. You don’t need a huge portion to be satisfied – so it’s great snack or appetizer, or just something great to have with a tooth shatteringly cold bear.

1 lb pork belly, sliced
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
2 green onions
1 tsp minced ginger
1 clove garlic

Sliced jalapeno pepper, sesame seeds, and sliced green onion tops for garnish

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Arrange the pork belly slices on a sheet pan lined with a rack.

Roast the pork belly slices until crispy – 30-40 minutes depending on your oven.

Remove the pork from the oven and cut the slices into 1-2 inch pieces. Reserve 1 tsp of the fat/drippings for making the sauce.

Pell, trim, and mince or microplane the garlic.

Trim, and thinly slice the green onions.

Add a tsp of the rendered fat from the pork belly to a pan over medium heat.

Add the garlic, ginger, and sliced onions to the pan and cook until fragrant – about 2 minutes – stirring constantly to keep from burning or browning.

Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, and sugar.

Once the sugar and honey have dissolved, add the pork pieces to the pan and cook over high heat, tossing frequently, until the sauce has formed a thick glaze.

Scatter with sesame seeds, and top with thinly sliced peppers and green onion.

Serve immediately.

Cheesy Gochujang Lobster

I first saw this lobster on one of those videos about street food that  the Twinstafacespaces throw into one of my timelines.  I’ve tried to find it a few times since – but mostly I get distracted watching other videos about street food from around the world and forget that that was why I started looking in the first place.

So while I can’t credit the actual video, I know I was struck by both the preparation and by the flavor combination.  Lobster, gochujang and …. Cheese?  So I decided I had to try it and the thing is ITS INSANELY GOOD.   I mean it’s weird, but the spiciness of the gochujang (a Korean fermented pepper paste that you can get various heat levels – I like the extra hot) is balanced by the sweetness of the lobster – and somehow doesn’t overpower the flavor.  And the cheese.  Well, it remains a universal truth that pretty much anything is made better by adding a pile of melted cheese. 

4 lobster tails
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp gochujang
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp warm water

Peel, trim, and finely mince or microplane the garlic.
In a large, non-reactive bowl, mix the garlic, gochujang, honey, and water to form a smooth sauce.

Cut away the bottom of the lobster shell and the tiny swimming legs.

Grill or broil the lobster, shell side up, for 2-3 minutes. 

Gently remove the meat from the shell.

Cut the tail meat into 1-2 inches pieces, and add to the sauce, tossing to coat well.

Place the cut and sauced meat back into the shells, and top with shredded cheese. 

Return to the grill or broiler and cook until the sauce and cheese are bubbling.

Top with herbs and sliced green onions as garnish and serve immediately.

Smashed Cucumbers with Sweet and Spicy Chili Vinegar

I’m pretty sure I’ve made a smashed cucumber dish for this newsletter before, but even if that’s true this one is worth sharing because Sweet and Spicy Chili Vinegar is amazing. 

There’s pretty much nothing to it in that it’s just vinegar with some aromatics and sugar and chili flakes added, but it makes the cucumbers taste amazing. So much so that I eat more than a couple bites – which is a bad idea because I’m allergic to cucumbers.  Worth it.

The key here is the smashing and tearing. It gives the cucumber bits rough edges that really capture the sauce. Also, smashing things is fun. Or therapy. Therafun.

1 English cucumber
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp red chili flake
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp granulated sugar

Add the chili flake, vinegar, garlic, ginger, salt, and sugar to a pan over medium heat. 

Bring to a low simmer and immediately remove from the heat.

Allow to cool completely.

Trim the ends off the cucumber and cut it into 4 inch pieces.

Using the palm of your hand or the flat of a large knife, crush the cucumber.

Tear the smashed cucumber into 1-2 inch pieces and toss well with the sauce.

Arrange on a plate and top with any remaining sauce.

Bulgogi Style Strip Steak

The first time I had Bulgogi was in the basement dining room of a now defunct Korean restaurant near Ohio State’s campus.   A friend, an adoptee born in Korea, had just returned from a trip to Seoul -both to learn about the country he was born in and for 1988 Olympics.  Regardless, on his return he took a handful of friends out to dinner to introduce us to the foods he’d discovered.  We were all about 14 years old. We lived in Ohio.  We were awestruck by the huge pile of spicy marinated beef that the server grilled right in front of us – on what to all appearances seemed to be a huge iron helmet.

Thirty years later, I’ve tried a lot more Korean foods – both traditional dishes, and some of the amazing mashups that have resulted as Korean cooks and cuisines have grown more widely known.   I still love bulgogi – and this dish isn’t it.  It shares some flavors.  So, despite the title I’ve given it here, I think of it more as a nod in Bulgogi’s direction.

2 12-14 oz New York Strip Steaks
1 tbsp chili garlic paste
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic
2 cloves garlic
2 Fresno chilies or other fresh hot red pepper
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 green onions

Peel, trim, and finely mince or microplane 1 clove of garlic.

In a non-reactive bowl,  mix 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp chili garlic paste, ½ tsp sesame oil, and the minced garlic.

Add the steaks and the marinade to a zip top bag, pushing out as much air as possible. 

Allow to marinade in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and pat dry.

Arrange the steaks on a sheet pan lined with a rack, and place them in the oven.

Cook until the internal temperature of the steaks is about 10°F below your preferred doneness. 

Peel, trim, and mince two cloves of garlic.

Thinly slice the chilies.

Trim, and thinly slice the white parts of the green onions. Reserve the green tops for garnish.

Add the garlic, chilies, sliced green onion, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil to a bowl and mix well.

Remove the steaks from the oven, and sear them quickly in a very hot pan.

Thinly slice the steaks and arrange on a plate, then spoon the sauce – including the chilies - over the meat.

Garnish with thinly sliced green onion tops.