Saturday, February 23, 2013

Galbi (Grilled Korean Short Ribs)

By the end of this week, it will be March. I'm itching to grill over charcoal, but I'll be damned if I'm going to shovel a path to my Weber. So it's back to my much-used grill pan for some indoor grilling (

Korean barbecue is some of the tastiest cuisine on the face of the earth. This dish, which features a cut of beef that I revere, is a rich cornucopia of Asian flavors. The marinade makes the meat: soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, onion, garlic and Asian pear.

The key to Galbi is that you want thin strips of short rib, no more than a half inch thick. There are basically three ways to achieve that. If you buy English style short ribs (like the ones they sell at Whole Foods, which are cut along the bone), you must butterfly the meat into thin strips. This is a hassle, so I suggest you avoid this option.

The second option is can just ask your butcher to cut you flanken-style short ribs in half-inch thick strips (see photo above). Then all you have to do is marinate and grill. The third option, which is the cheapest, is to buy the boneless short ribs at Costco ($3.99 per pound) and just trim them into half-inch thick strips.

Because the meat is but a half-inch think, it cooks very quickly. When the meat is done, it is typically placed inside a lettuce leaf with a spoonful of rice and a dab of ssamjang, the spicy Korean bean paste. This recipe was created by David Tanis and serves four to six people.

3 pounds short ribs, cut in 1/2-inch slices across the bones, flanken-style (about 20 slices)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup rice wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or gochujang
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small Asian pear, peeled, cored and quartered (or use an ordinary pear or tart apple)
1-inch chunk of ginger, peeled
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Lettuce leaves
Sliced red or green hot pepper, optional
Ssamjang (spicy Korean soybean paste), for dipping, optional
Steamed rice, optional                  

  1. Pat short ribs dry with a paper towel and place in a wide shallow bowl. In another bowl, mix together soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, black pepper and cayenne.  
  2. Put onion, garlic, pear and ginger in the work bowl of a food processor. Grind ingredients to a smooth purée, then add to soy sauce mixture. Add sesame seeds. Thin with ¼ cup water. Pour marinade over short ribs and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Bring to room temperature, drain and discard marinade.
  3. Cook short ribs on a hot grill or under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until nicely browned but juicy. Pile grilled meat on a platter and serve immediately with lettuce leaves on the side. Accompany with sliced hot peppers, ssamjang and steamed rice, if desired.

Wine pairing: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Marinated Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Lemon and Mint

"A lot of people like snow.
 I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water."

-Carl Reiner-

I just returned from a two mile walk with my dog. The air temperature was 4º. The windchill was -4º. It was frigging cold out there and I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the chill...sick of the white landscape...sick of the ice underfoot...sick of always reaching for jackets filled with goose down.

I want it to be 74º. I want to be out on my deck, sipping a glass of Conundrum.  I want to be watching the smoke rise from the charcoal as it starts to catch. The coals will be ready to grill in just 15 more minutes, which is ample time to have enough swallows of the golden grapes to drain the glass.

This meal by Jamie Purviance reminds me of summer. It smells like summer. It tastes like summer. So, despite the fact that it's February 16, I'm encouraging all of you to bring a little summer to your kitchen table. It only takes 45 minutes to transport your family to the best season of the year. If your grill is encased in ice, use a grill pan or your broiler. This recipe serves 4 to 6 people.

"It's a smile. It's a kiss. It's a sip of's summertime!"

-Kenny Chesney-

Ingredients for the Marinade
2 tablespoons soy sauce
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
tablespoons fresh lemon juice
tablespoons Dijon mustard
teaspoon ground cumin
garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, each about 6 ounces 

Ingredients for the Quinoa Salad
3 cups chicken broth 
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
2 teaspoons Kosher salt 
1/2 cups quinoa 
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
3 scallions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced 
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed 
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves 
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves 
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest 
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a medium bowl combine the marinade ingredients. Place the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade, place in a bowl, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the broth, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa and lemon juice and stir just until combined. Cover the saucepan, reduce the heat to low, and cook until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the scallions, garlic, parsley, mint, and lemon zest and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, hot pepper sauce, and pepper, if desired.
  3. While the quinoa cooks, prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F). 
  4. Brush the cooking grates clean. Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the marinade. Grill the chicken, smooth side down first, over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the meat is firm to the touch and opaque all the way to the center, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once or twice. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.
  5. Spread the quinoa on a large serving platter. Arrange the chicken slices in the center of the quinoa and serve immediately.

Wine pairing: Conundrum White Wine

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Beer-Braised Henan Chicken Stew

Thirty-five minutes. That's all the time you need to create a favorite dish of Henan in east-central China. That's the amount of time it takes to walk two miles. That's the amount of time it takes to watch the ten o'clock news. That's the amount of time it takes to play three games of Team Deathmatch in Call of Duty.

Chef Danny Bowien owns Mission Chinese Food in both San Francisco and New York. His passion in life is creating slow food fast. In this dish, he has created flavors that taste like they've been melding for days when in fact it's only thirty-five minutes from start to finish.

This is a hearty stew for a cold, wintry day. And did I mention it's made with beer? Have you ever had anything bad that was made with beer? Just like bacon, everything is better with beer. So call up and invite five companions over (for my non-Mensa friends, this means the recipe will serve six). Tomorrow would be a good choice because we are going to have a big snowstorm. Then set aside just thirty-five minutes to take them all on a glorious, one-way trip to Henan, China.

1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds, broken down and cut into 10 pieces
1½ tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons fish sauce, plus extra for seasoning
¼ cup grapeseed oil
½ cup dried red chilies
2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns or whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons fennel seed
2 tablespoons cumin
2 pieces star anise
4 pods green cardamom
2 tablespoons Chinese chili bean paste or Sriracha
2 cups chicken stock or water
16 ounces lager-style beer, such as Budweiser or Tsingtao
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sugar
2 russet potatoes or 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into 1-inch dice
Black vinegar or Sherry vinegar, to taste
1 cup fresh cilantro sprigs

  1. Season chicken with salt and 2 tablespoons fish sauce and let sit 5 minutes. Meanwhile, set a heavy, deep pot over medium-high heat and add oil. Once oil is hot, work in batches to brown both sides of chicken pieces, about 6 minutes per batch, transferring chicken to a bowl as you go.
  2. Return chicken to pot, increase heat to high and add all remaining ingredients except vinegar and cilantro. Bring pot up to a rolling boil, cover and cook until chicken and potatoes are tender and sauce is reduced, about 20 minutes.
  3. Season stew with vinegar and extra fish sauce to taste. Distribute stew among four plates and top with cilantro.

Pairing: When in China, do as the Chinese do. Wash down your Chinese stew with Tsingtao Chinese beer.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Short Rib Chili Nachos

I hit the gym five days a week and upon my arrival, I am usually greeted by Tim Blackstone, also known in our tight little circle as "The Barnyard Dog". Tim is both a CrossFit and Brazilian Ju Jitsu instructor and an all-round athlete of some renown. Tim is also my video game partner and we have slain thousand of opponents in the countless hours we have logged in the many iterations of Call of Duty.

When I arrive at the gym and see Tim, I know that he is going to shred my ego with some brilliant, caustic and amazingly witty greeting. Tim never disappoints and acknowledges my arrival with the always clever "eat me". Having spent several hours planning and strategizing my equally brilliant retort, I respond to Tim "I want a meal. Not a snack." We both find this so incredibly amusing that we spend the next ten minutes man-hugging, fist-bumping and exchanging our secret Xbox 360 thumbshake.

If you have not finalized your meal plans for the Super Bowl, I have a recipe for you. This recipe is perfect for a crowd, because "It's a meal. Not a snack". It lets you take that ordinary snack, nachos, and with the addition of some "sent by the gods" short ribs, turn them into an extraordinary meal. This recipe is every bit as brilliant as one of  The Barnyard Dog's scintillating greetings.

This recipe was created by Melissa Clark and she shared it with the world in The New York Times last week. While it takes a little time, the results are worth it. So gather up 8 to 12 of your best friends for the big game and give them a meal...not a snack. (Cue Timmy for the fist-bump)

 4 pounds bone-in beef short ribs, patted dry
5 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
5 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2 jalapeño or serrano peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded if desired
1 onion, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro stems, and 1/4 cup chopped leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons chile powder, to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (12-ounce) bottle Mexican lager, like Negra Modelo
1 (13-ounce) package corn tortilla chips
8 ounces white Cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
4 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
Juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 cups store-bought fresh salsa, preferably salsa verde
1 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
Hot sauce, optional   

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Season short ribs with 3 teaspoons salt and the black pepper. Let rest while you prepare sauce. 
  2. Place a large, dry Dutch oven over high heat. Add garlic, peppers and onion to the dry pan. Cook, turning occasionally, until lightly charred all over, about 10 minutes. 
  3. Transfer garlic, peppers and onion to a blender. Add tomatoes with juice, cilantro stems, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt. Purée until smooth. 
  4. Return Dutch oven to medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Sear short ribs in batches, until well-browned all over, about 20 minutes. Transfer browned ribs to a bowl.
  5. Stir chile powder, cumin and coriander into pot and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste and cook until it begins to caramelize, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in tomato-pepper purée and beer and bring to a simmer. Return short ribs to pot, cover and transfer to oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, then uncover pot, give meat a stir, and continue baking until ribs are fork tender and falling off bone, 30 to 45 minutes longer, for a total cooking time of 2 to 2 1/4 hours. 
  6. Once ribs are cool enough to handle, remove from pot, reserving sauce. Shred meat and discard bones and gristle. If sauce seems thin, simmer on stove until it thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon. Return meat to pot.
  7. Heat broiler. Spread tortilla chips on a rimmed baking sheet. Top evenly with meat and sauce. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Broil until hot and cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. 
  8. In a small bowl, mash together avocados, lime juice and 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste. 
  9. Dollop avocado, salsa and sour cream over hot nachos and drizzle with hot sauce if desired. Scatter the chopped cilantro leaves over top.

Pairing: Ice cold beer (El Pacifico recommended)

The Barnyard Dog