January 3, 2008
Two things I mentioned yesterday factor heavily into today’s post too. First, the weather. Whoa it is cold. We are being mocked for enjoying the holiday season so much, apparently. Second, the new pot in my life. And the final element that completes the picture above was the fact that New Years Day, like a Sunday, calls for a meal that gives your day some purpose, but doesn’t have you chained to the kitchen all day. Something that you can invest in and something that will result in a soothing, memorable meal. But a menu that doesn’t hold it against you that you enjoyed one too many glasses of champagne the night before and thus need to put in some major couch time. Hypothetically.
A braise is just the thing to satisfy these New Years Day criteria: a braise takes hours, but requires very minimal attention, and the magic it works on short ribs—rendering them into fall-apart loveliness—is certainly comforting and memorable. Especially when it’s very, very cold out (okay, I promise to stop whining and start acting like the Minnesotan-turn-Chicagoan that I am) and when you’ve got the perfect new vessel for braising (that’d be the aforementioned dutch oven that I am obviously just way too excited about).
This meal also gave me a chance to re-create the lettuce wraps that I made for a holiday party in December. You see, when I made them then, I threw a little of this and a pinch of that into the pot and was delighted when they turned out to be delicious. But my delight quickly gave way to dismay when I realized I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d done. This time around, I diligently measured and took notes and I think the result was even better.
And after a holiday season of heavy, decadent bite-sized treats, these bright, flavorful and light wraps are a welcome change. But I’m not ready to give up hearty, hibernation-worthy food like the braised short ribs just yet. I’d like those kind of dishes to stick around—and stick to my ribs—for at least another couple months. Even if my better judgment has me serving lightly stir-fried, garlicky and fiery baby bok choy along the side.
(Click “more” for the recipes)
Korean-Style Short Ribs
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted and cooled completely
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons gochujang (Korean hot-pepper paste)
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
6 lb beef short ribs or flanken
3 cups water
1 (2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, smashed
Special equipment: an electric coffee/spice grinder
Accompaniment: kimchi (optional)
Grind sesame seeds to a coarse powder in grinder. Reserve 1/4 cup scallion greens, then whisk together remaining scallions, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, hot-pepper paste, sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons sesame-seed powder in a large bowl. Reserve remaining sesame-seed powder for serving. Add short ribs to soy sauce mixture, rubbing mixture into them. Transfer ribs to a large sealable plastic bag and seal bag, pressing out excess air. Marinate, chilled, at least 8 hours.
Transfer ribs to a wide 6- to 8-quart heavy pot and add water and ginger. Simmer, tightly covered, until ribs are very tender, about 3 hours.
Transfer ribs to a platter using tongs and keep warm, covered with foil. Skim fat from sauce and pour sauce through a sieve lined with a dampened paper towel into a bowl, then discard solids. Serve ribs with sauce in shallow bowls and sprinkle with reserved scallion greens and remaining sesame-seed powder.
- Ribs can be marinated up to 1 day.
- Ribs can be braised 2 days ahead and cooled in sauce, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Remove fat from sauce, then reheat, covered, over moderate heat and proceed with recipe.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 pound ground chicken breast
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon scallions, trimmed and minced
1/3 cup chopped water chesnuts
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 head of Boston lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
Heat sesame oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the chicken, using your spoon to break it up as it browns. Once the chicken browns, add the flakes, garlic, ginger, 1/4 cup of scallions and water chestnuts and cook for several minutes, stirring frequently. Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce and lime juice. Remove from heat and transfer to a serving bowl, garnishing with the remaining 1 tablespoon of scallions. Serve along side the lettuce leaves.