July 20, 2016

Korean BBQ Beef with Cucumber Kimchi

Korean BBQ Beef with Cucumber Kimchi

Raise your hand if, like me, you're completely bored with your dinner rotation? Just as I thought...we are all in need of some weeknight inspiration. Yes, even I, who literally makes food and develops recipes for a living has a hard time with the day to day grind of feeding my family.  Fortunately for me, we all love tacos and chicken and rice, and that's pretty much what we eat, in one form or another; fish tacos, pork tacos, chicken verde tacos, peanut chicken and rice, Mexican rice bowls, chicken curry and rice, yep, LOTS of the same kind of thing going on around here. Because of the monotony I often find myself in, I’m constantly grilling my friends and acquaintances alike regarding their secrets to making weeknight dinners more delicious and exciting. Knowing this about me, last month a friend asked me if I wanted to join her in some private Korean cooking lessons with a woman she knows and I'm almost certain my response revealed my overeagerness to participate.


The outcome is a beef that is slightly crispy in texture with a rich and complex flavor.

I arrived at our instructor’s house a stranger, but instantly felt at home as smells of sesame oil, garlic, onions, and broths and sauces of all kinds were wafting from her kitchen. To me, there is nothing more inviting in all the world than the smell of a fragrant and busy kitchen. The students were handed a schedule for the night, were assigned tasks and immediately got to work. I quickly learned that chopping veggies into matchsticks by the pound is not for the faint of heart, and as the instructor stood over our shoulders critiquing all of our performances (like a true grandmother) we couldn't help but laugh at how little we all knew about the necessary knife skills it takes to create a Korean meal. When I asked once (okay maybe twice) why she practiced a particular method in her cooking, her reply was always the same “because that’s how my mother did it,” which of course was good enough reason for me! Our gracious teacher that evening and for the next several weeks was a wealth of Korean cooking knowledge and tradition, combining flavors and methods foreign to me until then, and I was over the moon when she said I could share some of my favorites with our readers. (She has no social media presence of her own, and has asked to not be named).

After completing the course, I walked away with twelve unique and delicious recipes in my back pocket (and some new, very impressive knife skills if I do say so myself), but it was an easy choice as to which ones I’d be sharing first: Bulgogi and quick cucumber kimchi. Just writing those words makes my heart skip a beat. While both of these dishes are complex in their flavor profiles they contain very few ingredients and fall under the “easy” category when it comes to skill and difficulty level, and that my dear friends is what the young kids would call winning.

Bulgogi is beef sliced thin enough to absorb the maximum amount of flavor that the sweet and just barely spicy marinade provides, that is then barbecued in the Korean tradition. The outcome is a beef that is slightly crispy in texture with a rich and complex flavor. There's really just nothing quite like it. The accompanying quick cucumber kimchi is its most perfect ally; slightly sweet notes, some bright and punchy spice, but unlike its more traditional sister (cabbage kimchi) this version has a less fermented flavor and a wonderful bit of extra crunch.

Because everything is better in a bowl I layered the Bulgogi and kimchi over rice and a heap of colorful veggies and patted myself on the back. One more week night dinner in the bag, and it's not tacos or chicken! It's actually an incredibly flavorful and nutrition packed meal straight from a long line of incredible Korean cooks graciously shared and passed on to me, now you, here to save you from yet another boring meal. Bonus! If you’re feeling extra adventurous I’ll let you in on a little secret, Korean food + Mexican food flavors make for some of the best dishes I’ve ever consumed. Bulgogi is a fantastic base for tacos (yes tacos! I'm obsessed, okay?) quesadillas and burritos. The Modern Proper will soon be sharing our favorite ways to do this, but in the meantime enjoy this Bulgogi and cucumber kimchi and be sure to make enough for seconds and leftovers.

Korean BBQ Beef with Cucumber Kimchi

Serves 4

Bulgogi Bef (Korean BBQ Beef)

1.5 lb beef eye of round (have your butcher slice it thin, or slice partially frozen with a very sharp knife)
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp Korean red pepper
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 small sweet onion, sliced as thin as possible
sesame seeds
green onion, finely chopped

Quick Cucumber Kimchi

2-3 cups Persian or English cucumber, 1/2" diced
1 tbsp raw cane sugar
1 tbsp sea salt
1-2 tbsp Korean red pepper (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 small (baseball sized) sweet onion, sliced in half, and then very thinly sliced
2 green onions, finely chopped, green parts only

Bowl

4 cups cooked rice
red cabbage
bean sprouts
Sriracha (optional)

Method

  1. For the meat, combine soy sauce, honey, sugar, red pepper, garlic and sesame oil in a small bowl. In a shallow baking dish, arrange meat in a single layer and layer onions on top of the meat. Pour the sauce over the top of the meat and allow to marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Preheat a grill on high heat. Place marinated meat on grill and allow to cook thoroughly, until edges are crispy. Alternatively,  heat a skillet over high heat, until pan begins to smoke. Add the meat in small batches moving it around with chopsticks until cooked through on all sides and edges begin to get crispy. Continue with remaining beef. On a serving platter sprinkle the cooked beef with sesame seeds and green onions.
  3. For the kimchi, stir the sugar and salt over the cucumbers in a medium sized bowl. Allow to sit for 10 mins. This process will keep the cucumbers crispy. Over the top of the cucumbers sprinkle the coarse red pepper, sweet onion and green onions. Using your hands to stir, gently squeeze the kimchi while mixing all the ingredients together. This will allow the juices to come out of the onions pulling all the flavors together. This kimchi is best made a day ahead and can be stored for up to one week.
  4. To arrange the bowl, simply layer the meat, kimchi, cabbage and sprouts over the rice and drizzle with sriracha if you like it hot. Other vegetables that would be wonderful with this dish are carrots, radishes, bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, avocado or cilantro. I even think a fried egg would be delicious. Have fun with the possibilities and enjoy!

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