Hello, Lover

Some of us get lucky in life. Sure, we all have our ups and downs; I don’t mean to say that you are either fortunate or unfortunate on all accounts. I’m speaking strictly about love here. What I’m trying to say, I think, is that those people who find true love – those people are lucky.

I’m lucky enough to be one of them.

In acknowleging said good fortune, I also appreciate that most people fall in love at least once in life. And when you fall in love, that feeling of happiness, of satiety, is one that at that particular time feels so permanent. Going without, or being without that love seems somewhat otherwordly.

And so, when I celebrated 4 years of marriage last week, to me it’s just another year of a bazillion I’ll spend with him. A bazillion years of drinking bottles of wine (barrels, rather), watching hours (days) of reality tv, repeatedly checking the time during Rush concert after Rush concert (do those guys ever quit??!!), jetsetting to country after country, and waking up day after day with the person I feel in my heart was meant for me.

I know for many, “forever” is only 1 year, or 5, or maybe 20 before it’s all said and done. Some good things, unfortunately, must come to an end. [For some reason, I just started singing a Every Rose Has It’s Thorn, but I reckon it’s somewhat appropriate to the tone of the sentence, no?]

Anyway, these “endings”, abrupt or slowly unraveling, don’t just occur in love. Sometimes, our favorite mascara gets discontinued, sometimes the movie theatre behind the mall closes, and sometimes, our favorite restaurant where we used to order our favorite dish vanishes into thin air. I’ve fallen victim to all of them, at one time or another.

But the restaurant-closing is probably the one that’s most relevant here: the restaurant that introduced me to “bibimbap” was open one day in December before the Christmas holiday, and by the time I’d returned it was shuttered. And although I ate there less than (maybe equal to) 5 times during it’s existence, I may or may not have died a little on the inside when I realized that the bowl of rice, veggies, and beef topped with fried egg and doused in Korean pepper paste would never again pass my lips.

I’m not afraid of recreating restaurant dishes. But you must agree with me here – you can recreate, or attempt to recreate, all you want. Sometimes it’s just never the same. And over a year I’ve held out, though I’ve looked up recipe after recipe for bibimbap. And finally, I decided I’d give it a try. But rather than recreating the exact dish, I took inspiration from a variation I came across, and tweaked it until it sounded a little more accurate.

Is it the most authentic bibimbap I’ve ever seen? Well, no. But I’m not looking for authenticity here. I’m looking for something reminiscent of that long, lost love. Something that’s pretty good right out of the gate, but with a couple more iterations and a little nurturing, it’s bound to be a love that will last forever.

Korean Bibimbap with Steak & Asparagus
Adapted loosely from Bon Appetit, April 2010; serves 4

like i said, you could leave this be and it’s going to knock your socks off, if you’re wearing them. i’ve already tweaked the pepper paste sauce a little, added some ingredients, and made a few changes to the marinade for the bulgogi. i added mushrooms to the ingredient list, because i kept wishing they were there with every bite. another suggestion is to try a short grain brown rice, which i remember being far superior. oh, and some corn would be nice too.

if you’ve had bibimbap before, i’d love to know what you think of it. it truly is a favorite of mine.

printable version

ingredients
1 lb New York strip steak, trimmed
3 T toasted sesame seeds, divided
1/2 c low sodium soy sauce
3 T + 2 t Asian sesame oil, divided
2 green onions, finely chopped
3 T light brown sugar, divided
1 T Chinese black rice vinegar
1 T garlic, minced
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 t Maldon sea salt
1/2 t hot smoked paprika
4 T Korean red pepper paste (gochujang)
1 lb slender asparagus spears, trimmed
1 c carrots, sliced thinly
1 c enoki mushrooms, or other variety
2 t evoo plus additional for brushing
4 large eggs
4 cups freshly cooked medium-grain white rice
Kimchi, optional, for serving

instructions
place steak in freezer for 1/2 hour to make slicing easier. meanwhile, make marinade, paste mixture, and sesame salt.

bulgogi marinade
combine 1 T toasted sesame seeds, 1/2 c soy, 2 T sesame oil, green onions, 2 T brown sugar, black rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes in medium bowl. once steak is somewhat firm, remove from freezer and slice crosswise into 1/8 thick slices. add to marinade and let marinate at room temperature for at least 1/2 hour. you can marinate overnight, if so remove from fridge at least 1/2 hour before cooking and let come to room temp.

paste mixture
combine 1 T sesame seeds, 2 t sesame oil, 1 T toasted sesame seeds, and 1 T brown sugar. set aside.

sesame salt
combine remaining 1 T sesame seeds, 3/4 t sea salt, and paprika in spice grinder or mortar and pestle. combine until somewhat smooth. set aside.

heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Toss asparagus with 2 teaspoons olive oil on large rimmed baking sheet. Sauté asparagus until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Return to rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle sesame salt over; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Tent with foil to keep warm, or place in warm oven. Repeat process with carrots or any other vegetables you use, adjusting cooking time as needed. Cook each vegetable separately.

Brush grill panor skillet with vegetable oil. Working in batches, grill steak until just browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to bowl; tent with foil to keep warm.

Crack eggs onto skillet. Cook until whites are set but yolks are still runny, 2 to 3 minutes.

Divide warm rice among bowls. Divide asparagus, carrots, then beef among bowls, placing atop rice. Top with fried egg. Serve with Korean hot pepper paste mixture and kimchi.

Advertisements

Going Green

Over the course of 29.9 years, I’ve ever so slowly heeded my parents’ advice, or demands, rather. I’ve eaten my vegetables. And I take that back – I’ve heeded my mom’s advice; my dad despises any food that’s green. In fact, he just hates green altogether.

My mama though, she bonded with my dad’s family over collard greens like you wouldn’t believe. Even though my parents are divorced, she still comes to Aunt Faye’s house for Christmas dinner with us, and I’m sure those collard greens are in the top three on her agenda. She eats beans and carrots and broccoli, and she never understood why even eating one spoonful (my “no, thank you” serving) was almost as bad as having one’s mouth washed out with soap, perhaps worse.

I remember it all very clearly. I remember those canned green beans, the fresh-from-gramma’s peas, and those lumps o’ mustard greens at Christmas that were dumped into a bowl and eerily similar to creamed spinach, without the cream. They all scared me; they were soft and chewy, reminiscent of baby food (except the mashed bananas, which I continued to eat for quite some time) and when paired with barbecue chicken and french fries, it was hard to take even one bite, let alone an entire serving.

I like to think that, had my mom fed me a dish of sauteed chard with steak and edamame, that I wouldn’t have turned my nose up at it. But since she didn’t, I’ll never know whether introducing chard in adolescence would have been a pivotal moment in my opinion of and love for greens, or not.

And though I enjoy chard in a hearty ribollita, or stuffed into pork chops, I think this dish may be my favorite use of this beautiful green leafy veggie thus far.

Though you’d think the sirloin would play a major role in this dish since it’s the primary source of protein, it actually takes a back seat, and the green components are really what stand out here. The chard is perfectly, barely-wilted and the edamame add a wonderful crunch; herbs thrown in at the end add freshness and brightness. Toss it all around with caramelized onions, asian flavors, and a new favorite of mine, red rice, and you’ve got yourself one lovely, healthy, vegetable-lovin’ dish; the steak happily lurks in the background.

So sure, years 1-25 were not full of vitamins A, K, and beta-carotene, but they are now, and happily so. My mom can finally be proud of her little daughter’s food choices. I doubt she even eats chard or kale, but I know it makes her happy that I finally do.

Collard greens? Southern I may be, but still, “no, thank you”.

Stir-Fried Red Rice w/ Sirloin, Edamame, & Chard
Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2010; serves 4

printable version

ingredients
1/2 c red rice
1 c water
3 T canola oil
8 oz thinly sliced sirloin steak
salt and pepper
1 lg vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 T minced fresh ginger
1 bunch red swiss chard, thinly sliced
1 c shelled edamame, fresh or thawed
3 T reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 c cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 T mint, coarsely chopped
lime wedges, for garnish

instructions
in a small saucepan, cover rice with water and bring to boil. cover saucepan and cook on low for about 25 minutes, until rice is tender. spread rice out on baking sheet to cool. can be made in advance and stored until needed.

in a large skillet, heat 1 T oil. add garlic and cook over mod-hi heat for 30 seconds. add sirloin, season with salt and pepper and cook, turning once, until browned – about 1 minute. transfer to plate.

heat remaining 2 t oil. add onion and ginger and cook over mod heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. stir in greens and stir fry over high heat until wilted, about 1 minute. stir in rice and edamame, then soy sauce and steak and stir well. season with salt and pepper. garnish with cilantro, mint, and lime wedges.

Converting to Chili

It’s safe to say it – I’m a chili snob. I mean, it’s not just chili; there are other things I’m snobby about too. I have, possibly after drinking too much of it in college, grown to severely dislike watered-down beer and will only drink ales, aka beers with substance, or soul. I have very slowly started to like whiskey, but only from small-batch distilleries and so far, only when combined with ginger. I think my cat is the prettiest and loveliest of them all, because she is, and that’s all I need to say about that. And when it comes to toothpaste, I prefer Crest Pro Health, in cinnamon, if available.

So yeah, it’s not just chili. But until I met Hubs, I was never a chili-likin’-girl. Past chilies have been too bean-laden (specifically of the way-too-large kidney bean variety), or conversely, too watery. Both prompt some level of embarrassment after my consuming them, either in foul smell or by the appearance of chili-stained shirts. Sometimes both, I suppose.

But shortly after the Hubs and I started courting, I met his sister’s fiancee (now husband), a fellow Southerner, and frequent wearer of Carhartts. He had me hooked after making his biscuits n’ gravy, but after a couple bowls of his chili I knew I had to find a way to stay in that family, at least long enough to procure his recipe.

And no, this isn’t that chili. But that’s the chili that converted me; it was thick (but no so thick I felt like I was spooning ground meat alone into my mouth), it was spicy, it wasn’t runny in the least, and it warmed my heart, filled my belly, and made me wonder what was the matter with all those other chili-makin’ wannabees.

This chili here, this chili gave me that same feeling. And then some. This one is all of the above, but it is also full of complexity and layered with flavor upon flavor. It’s spicy, that’s no lie. But it’s spicy in only the best way possible. It’s healthy, with a generous amount of beef but rivaled by just the perfect amount of beans, black beans to be specific. It’s exactly what you want when the winter won’t quit.

And at least in these parts, I don’t see myself making any summer salads just yet. The good news is that, at least for the few minutes I’m eating this chili (and perhaps the time before when the smell is wafting around every corner in our house), I don’t care for all that warm weather. Give me chili, good music, a magazine, and my electric throw and I’ll watch the snow all day long, smiling all the while.

Cold weather concoctions, previously:
Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine
Ancho Pork & Hominy Stew
Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Chili con Carne
Loosely adapted from Cuisine at Home; serves 8 (leftovers freeze well, too!)

printable version

ingredients
fajita seasoning
2 t g cumin
1 t smoked paprika
1 t onion powder
1 t dried oregano
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t g coriander
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t g cinnamon
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/4 t g ginger

chili
2 T evoo, divided
2 lb beef stew meat, cubed
1/4 c tequila
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted, preferably)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 white onion, diced
2 T garlic, minced
1 sm can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, pureed
1 T tomato paste
1 T mole sauce
1 1/2 c beef broth
2 T all purpose flour
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 lime’s worth of juice
sour cream
avocado

instructions
stir together all seasoning ingredients; set aside.

heat 1 T oil in Dutch oven. brown meat in two batches, adding 1 T oil again for the second batch. transfer to slow cooker. Deglaze pot with tequila, scraping up bits from bottom, and add to slow cooker. (if using a Dutch oven instead of slow cooker, just leave steak in pot and deglaze as instructed)

add tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, fajita seasoning, chipotle puree, tomato paste, mole to slow cooker. stir in beef broth and flour. cover and cook on high for 4 hours. (Dutch oven – bring to boil, partially cover, simmer over med-lo for 1 hour)

stir in beans and lime juice before serving, garnish with sour cream, avocado.

Meat & Potatoes Girl

steak-frites

Growing up, my family had a hearty rotation of meals. Each night was dedicated to a particular dish, and those dishes were infrequently altered. It wasn’t long before I had it figured out – my parents never really told us “the schedule”, but I eventually caught on. I was an honor roll student, after all. I started dreading Wednesdays and I perpetually anticipated Saturdays. As I type, I realize I might have felt that way regardless of the cuisine – to this day I continue to hate ‘hump day’ and love everything there is to love about Saturday.

Wednesday was meatloaf – I hated that meatloaf with a passion. Even now, I rarely choose to cook those lumps o’ ground meat. Thursday was fried chicken – my family’s fried chicken recipe will always be my favorite, no matter how much I heart Bojangles. The best part about fried chicken night was the fried gizzards. Maybe some of you have never heard of gizzards? Oh my – super tasty, my friend! The gizzard is a part of the digestive track in some animals and is helpful in digesting food. I’m sorry – that might not help in my plight to make them sound more appetizing, huh? When fried, they are delightful and chewy and sometimes downright difficult to grind. I don’t really eat them now, but I remember having them as an “appetizer” back in the day. Meanwhile, my cat was fed the chicken liver (not fried…) and we happily chowed down.

tri-tipbaked fries

Friday – barbequed chicken. The best darned bbq chicken you’d ever eat, sauce sopped up with bread. The only other night I vividly remember is Saturday – steak night. Of all meals, this was the night I most looked forward to. The down side to steak night was that most Saturday nights I was busy speed skating at the Galaxy Skating Rink, riding in cars with boys (isn’t that a movie?), camping out in the field behind my house, or various other things I’d rather not discuss here, thank you. As such, I frequently missed steak night, although I would occasionally stick around for dinner. My dad always cut up some cucumbers and submerged them in a bowl of apple cider vinegar and black pepper for us to snack on. He eventually started marinating his steaks in a bag of Italian dressing, and he grilled them to perfection, which was medium-rare/rare for he, I, and my bro and damn-near charred for my mom. Yes, her steak went on way before ours – and many times it had to go back to the ol’ grill as it was just way too juicy for her liking and just not quite leathery enough..

And while I loved those steaks, the cucumbers, and the gizzards, the item I craved the most from those Saturday dinners was the side – fried potatoes (which was also the side for Friday..we like fried potatoes). For whatever reason, my dad never cut up potatoes in the french cut fashion – he cut them into irregular chunks and fried those chunks in our much-used fry daddy. If I didn’t stick around for dinner, I knew there would always be a plate of those leftover potatoes sitting out when I got home – to the right of the stove, underneath the telephone and the key rack. They were good warm and fresh, but man, they were even better cold.

baked french fries

You might guess that my dad has not changed his cooking style. Me – I still like frying stuff, that’s no lie, but when it comes to fries, I bake ’em.  I mix ’em in some spices. Sometimes, I even eat them with aioli instead of ketchup or my old favorite, ranch dressing.

I still eat them with a nice, medium-rare/rare steak. Some things never change.

Tri-Tip Steak Frites w/ Red Wine Sauce
Steak adapted from Gourmet, October 2009; serves 4

printable recipe

ingredients
4 russet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into long thin strips
4 T olive oil
1 T paprika
1 T garlic powder
1 T chile powder
1 T Italian seasoning
1 (1.5-2lb) tri-tip beef roast (London broil), about 2″ thick, cut into 4 steaks
2 t cracked black peppercorns
1/2 t salt
1/4 c dry red wine
1/2 c water
2 T unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
3 T finely chopped tarragon
accompaniment: Dijon mustard

instructions
preheat oven to 475 F. in a large bowl, toss potato strips with 3 T olive oil and spices (paprika through Italian seasoning). spread strips onto two large baking sheets, trying not to have pieces touch. bake in oven on top and bottom third, rotating about halfway through, for ~45-50 minutes.

meanwhile, pat steaks dry, then rub with peppercorns and 1/2 t salt. heat remaining T olive oil in ovenproof 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. sear steaks on all sides, about 3 minutes total. transfer skillet to oven (once fries are finished) on top third rack and roast 9-10 minutes for medium rare. transfer to plate and let rest 5 minutes.

while steaks rest, add wine to skillet and boil, scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half, about 1 minute. add water and meat juices from plate and boil briskly until reduced by half, 3-4 minutes. whisk in butter until incorporated. season with salt and pepper.

sprinkle fries with tarragon. serve steaks with sauce and fries.