Quarantine Cuisine: Korean Kalbi Short Ribs
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
As long as we can't travel physically, we might as well travel culinarily!
Korean food is having a real moment in the Unites States. After years being overshadowed by Japanese cuisine in the upper echelons of the culinary world, Korean restaurants in major cities, particularly New York, are some of the most acclaimed new places in the country, and most food-centric cities are featuring excellent, affordable Korean joints as part of their portfolio these days. I've rarely had the chance to dine at the shiniest of these spots, such as Jungsik or Atomix, but did get the chance to visit the brand-new Momofuku Kawi in Hudson Yards in NYC this February, where I sampled the transcendental Korean-style raw crab dish that has rocked the city, and also ate a few years back at Parachute in Chicago, on Eater's 38 best in the U.S. list, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
While I've never visited Korea save for flying Korean Air (and devouring their famous bibimbap) a number of times, once the world re-opens, Korea is at the top of my list of places to visit. In the meantime, I can cook some Korean-inspired food, and possibly contemplate post-quarantine reservations at the best Korean joints in NYC!
Our order from Tebben Wagyu Ranches in Texas (the source of our surf and turf New York strip) included some glorious kalbi-style short ribs, the traditional cut for Korean-style short ribs. Kalbi ribs are cut across the bone rather than between, resulting in thinly-cut strips of short rib that readily take on a marinade.
Just look at that glorious marbling (and the freshly-painted cabinets, a preview of our quarantine kitchen remodel!)
I prepared a Korean marinade for the short ribs the night prior. This involved a cup of soy sauce, a quarter cup of rice wine vinegar, two tablespoons of sesame oil, 3/4 cup of brown sugar, three minced garlic cloves, a large minced shallot, and a minced pear (which apparently helps the meat tenderize). I took the strips of kalbi short ribs and placed them in a big Ziplock bag, and dumped the marinade atop, draining the bag of as much air as I could so the ribs were saturated. I placed them in the fridge and let them marinate overnight, meanwhile enjoying our simple salmon and asparagus dinner!
I wasn't prepared to make the host of sides that usually accompany a Korean meal, so I decided to use some of what I had in the fridge––namely, a head of baby bok choy, which I sliced in half and saturated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and gochujang (Korean chili sauce) and roasted for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. I had designs on one or two more sides for the meal, but found myself feeling a bit too lazy to prepare more. Such is quarantine!
Placing some rice (brown rice, sadly, since rice is apparently a hoarded commodity these days) in the Instant Pot, I was ready to prepare the ribs. I would normally grill Korean-style short ribs, but my grill in Iowa still eludes me as to how to make it function. So, I took them out of the marinade in a pan and poured a bit of marinade fluid over the top, cooking for about 12 minutes at 400 degrees. After, I flipped the ribs, heated the oven to broil for a few minutes, and put the ribs back in for 90 seconds, so they got a nice crispy texture on one side.
I plated the ribs with thinly-sliced scallions, the roasted bok choy, and the rice. The flavors were out-of-this-world and perfectly balanced, with umami, sweetness, and spice. The marbling of the ribs made them extra-special, and provided a lovely rich remnant sauce for the rice to absorb.
Next time, I would love to try some traditional Korean sides. There are so many, and to experience a fundamentally authentic meal, I can't wait to explore the possibilities.
Wine to cook by: I've written about Dominio IV before, but tonight we also had a syrah from their Three Sleeps Vineyard on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. The 2015 "Purple Flower" syrah had only 50 cases made, and the story on the back of the bottle read "Some flowers are dark and bright at the same time." I thought this was a great description for this wine, which has a violet aroma, plenty of dark fruit and body, but also a nice bright red fruit-driven palate. I love Dominio IV's pinots, but they also have a great profile of bigger reds, much like the tempranillo I featured with the surf and turf.
Flying back west this week! First, Greek chicken thighs, and then St. Louis-style ribs in the pit barrel cooker. Hope y'all are cooking excellent things!