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Bo Ssäm

I’ve recently been introduced to this new website Animoto.

Here’s a quick sample from Bo Ssäm night.  Thought this was a little more interesting than writing for once…

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more about “Bo Ssäm“, posted with vodpod

Pickled Mustard Seeds/Mustard Seed Sauce

The mustard seed sauce is an accompaniment for the Pork Belly Ssäm which, not uncommon for a Momofuku recipe, requires two additional recipes, pickled mustard seeds and quick-pickled cucumbers.

I’ll jump right into the pickled mustard seeds.  We pickled the mustards seeds a day early  during the prep for the ssäm night.  This was another item that was largely done by Jessica and I took photos.  It’s a pretty simple process, throw all the ingredients into a pot and cook until done.

Mise en place:

Everything into the pot and on to the stove it goes:

Forty five minutes later, the mustard seeds are nice and plump, ready for a night in the fridge.

Mustard Seed Sauce (pg. 173)

This was put together just prior to dinner.  Start with the pickled mustard seeds in a bowl and combine the other ingredients.

There are a couple of interesting ingredients in the sauce.  It includes diced quick-pickled cucumbers, the kirby’s require a pass through the mandoline and a fifteen minute quick-pickle (more salt and sugar from Mr. Chang).  I’ve posted that recipe earlier for the Momofuku pork buns.

The other interesting ingredient is Kewpie, a Japanese mayonnaise.  It’s the one in the tube with the red top, no photos of the brand because I left it in the hosts apartment.  It has a slightly different flavor to regular mayonnaise, perhaps due to the use of a different vinegar than regular mayonnaise.

We used a powdered Asian mustard but you could use the leftover packets from Chinese takeout if they are handy.

Also, notice the quick dice skills by the cook.  An experienced cook with a sharp knife is too fast for the camera…  Jessica also has a better knife, an easily recognizable brand.

Guess the brand of the knife… A quick mix and the sauce is ready.

One note for anyone who may cook with me in the future, or help out with anyone on a cooking blog in general.  The challenge working together in the kitchen for a blog post is remembering to slow down and take pictures.  Posing for the measuring cups, knife skills, and mise en place interrupts the flow in the kitchen.  Jessica was a good sport and very patient.

The mustard seed sauce is ready for the pork belly ssäm

Short Grain Rice (pg. 279)

A real quick post.  This is fairly simple as well, but a few steps are critical.  It is extremely important to rinse the rice ahead of time.  I’ve spoken to sushi chefs that insist three times is the correct amount, and others who recommend repeating until the water is no longer cloudy.  Either way, the rinse is very important.

Five easy steps for rice

  1. Rinse
  2. Drain
  3. Put in a pot equal parts rice and water
  4. Cook.  (Either in rice cooker or bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes.
  5. Fluff when completed

The rice comes out nice and sticky.  I do like the texture of the rice when it comes out this way.  It helps tremendously in presentation as well making it easy to put in a ramekin and tipped over in the center of the plate.

I’ve been inspired to try some sushi out home in the near future.  Maybe one project at a time.

Marinated Hanger Steak Ssäm (pg 169)

I’ll just come right out with the challenge of this dish.  At what point during the meal should you tell your guests the steak was cooked in the kitchen sink?

It’s a good idea to get the “ghetto sous vide” out of the way before your guests arrive and all they witness is the searing of the outside.  But I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Mise en place:

It’s a fairly straightforward marinade.  It might be worth substituting something other than apple juice for the next go around, but for now, everything into the bag.

Give it a good mix.

Rule #1 of marinades, make sure the zip lock bag is tightly sealed tightly before shaking things up.  Otherwise, things can get out of control…

“Accident!”

When your really cooking, sometimes accidents happen.  We had a good laugh.  Very entertaining that the hanger steak never hit the floor.  What are the chances that would happen again?  It took a while, but eventually, we assumed full control of the situation again.

It’s also more fun cooking with a friend.  You could imagine the fumbler trying to stop you from taking this photo with soy sauce and apple juice dripping from her hands.  Had i been the culprit, acting solo, I’m sure some colorful words would precede an immediate cleanup.  Who would want to clean up their hands to photograph a mess and finish cleaning up?

This went into the fridge overnight was pulled out around 4 p.m. the next afternoon.  Not the full 24 hour recommended, but a good 21 or so.

“Ghetto Sous Vide”

For a quick primer on sous vide cooking, check out Cooking Issues by David Arnold.  The basic idea premise behind sous vide is a low temperature cooking technique (under water) that allows greater control of the temperature.  A cook has the ability to cook meat under a gentle bath of water to a perfect target temperature, such as 125º for a perfect medium rare, and it is impossible to overcook, although it is possible to ruin the food with poor technique.

Restaurants use a very expensive immersion circulator, David Chang recommends a slightly less expensive hot running tap.  The first home machine, the Sous Vide Supreme, entered the market a few months ago around $449, and my landlord pays the water bill.  One day, when the startup goes public.

The marinade gets split up into four separate bags for the cooking method.  Note:  I should have put put them in separate bags for the marinade and left overnight.  This would require you to just pop the bags in the water bath without having to transfer the steaks from one bag to another.

This is one hot tap.  At a bare trickle the water comes out at an almost perfect 128º.

I just let the tap run for forty-five minutes, checking the temperature regularly, and poking the bags every so often to make sure the water is flowing completely around the bags.

After the cooking, the bags get shocked in an ice bath and cooked immediately.  They can be stored for a while like this, and seared on the outside when your ready to serve.  To be honest, they don’t look that appetizing before they are seared.

A quick sear adds texture and reheats them.

This side of the hanger steak shown above is prior to the sear.  You can see the beautiful grill marks on the the first photo.  The meat looks redder and undercooked compared to a typical medium rare.  I’ve read that this is not uncommon for anything cooked sous vide.  The gentle technique does not shock or “damage” the cells as much.  As we’ll see in a later Momofuku Ko recipe, short ribs cooked for days using sous vide are red and juicy.

As for the final product, the meat was extremely tender and delicious.  By itself, it most certainly would have been a success and well received, however, served with the bo ssäm and pork belly ssäm, it didn’t win the night.  I believe it received one vote for best of the night.  It was very good, but, at the end of the day, it’s extremely difficult to compete with pork belly…

Napa Cabbage Kimchi (pg. 74)

Pauchu Kimchi

Napa cabbage kimchi appears quite frequently in the Momofuku Cookbook.  The kimchi is a key ingredient for the brussel sprouts, kimchi consomme, fuji applas salad, bo ssäm, and a few others.  It’s one of the recipes you have to get used to, referring to the amount of times you will make it, and either plan for two weeks ahead or have some on hand.  I’ll have come a long way if I can ever make this without having to refer to the recipe.

Kimchi is the result of a fermentation, microbes (Lactobacillus plantarum) converting sugars to lactic acid.  Anyone who has toured a brewery or distillery has seen the process.  The fermentation occurs over one to three weeks.  I’ve heard the stories of Koreans burying the kimchi underground for months or years at a time.  Would be an interesting taste at that point…

It’s a pretty simple process:

  1. Cure the cabbage
  2. Mix the other ingredients
  3. Wait for nature (or chemistry) to do it’s work.

Certain chefs have signature dishes or techniques.  David Chang’s appears to be start with salt and sugar, wait a day.  It works well for the pork belly and pork shoulder, why stop now?  Grab a head of napa cabbage, cut it up, and add the salt and sugar.

It takes a surprisingly little amount of salt and sugar to work it’s magic.  While not exactly a cure, it draws a lot of the moisture out.

This mixture gets covered up and placed in the fridge overnight.  The next time I do this, I’ll weigh the cabbage before and after to verify how much water is drawn out.  That’s no longer borderline over the top, it’s clearly over the line…

Day 2

The ingredients:

The prep work requires a lot of mincing.  There is an obnoxious amount of ginger and garlic.  I prefer a spoon to peel the ginger, cut it into disks, sticks and mince.

and the garlic, I’ll spare you those pictures.

The kimchi requires two ingredients from the Korean market: kochukaru and jarred salted shrimp.  I wrote about kochukaru, a Korean chili powder, in my last post.

A man can play the helpless card in very few circumstances, shopping in ethnic markets is one of them.  The kochukaru required a little help.

The jarred salted shrimp is a bit of a bizarre item.  I’ll have to find a few more uses for this.  At two teaspoons per recipe, this jar will last for years, even with the all the uses for kimchi.

I’ll let you make your own comments on what this looks like…  I will add that I am sure the jarred salted shrimp is the source of the funky smell kimchi is famous for, although a strong argument culd be made for the fish sauce.

Mise en place in the bowl:

The kochukaru and sugar take on a ying-yang appearance which is appropo of the sweet and spicy nature of the ingredients.

Mixing it all the kochukura pigment dominate the final product.  It takes on a beautiful bright red hue.

It comes out a little thick but can be thinned out with some water to achieve the appropriate consistency.

Once the paste is ready the carrots and scallions are stirred in.

and the cabbage, drained of water into the mix..

and into a jar.

Throw the kimchi in the back of the fridge for a couple weeks and it will be all set to go.  Two weeks later we tried it the night before ssäm night, it was fantastic.  The word most frequently used to describe kimchi is pungent.

There are a couple good lessons to be learned that one can change for the next attempt.  First, knife skills are very important, the amount of time spent mincing the garlic and ginger is time well spent, achieving a consistent fine mince.  I will also reduce the amount of garlic used next time as it was a bit overpowering.

David Change advises curing in the refrigerator the whole time while traditionally, kimchi is cured in a cool place, or underground.  Harold McGee, in On Food and Cooking, recommends the for fermentation temperature between 41-57º F/5-14º rather than fermenting in the refrigerator.

Final piece of advise:

Michale Pollan, author of Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, advises Rule #33: Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi.  Foods such as kimchi yogurt, etc. have significant health benefits.  Lactobacillus plantarum provides particular beneficial properties.  A quick google search reveals more informations than I really cared to find…

Ssäm Night

Ssäm night’s are the reason I started this blog.   This evening was 2 weeks in the making.  A group of friends had the Bo Ssäm a few weeks ago and came back together to try the homemade version.  How did it turn out?  The short answer is better than the one we had at Ssäm Bar.

Bold statement and not any delusions of grandeur.  The recipe is not difficult at all.  Salt & sugar, cure overnight, throw in oven.  It’s not a testament to any skills as a cook or refined cooking technique.  It just happened to be a beautiful piece of meat and came out perfect.  But I’m already getting to far ahead.  That’s for another post.

Ssäm night for us was a tasting of the Bo, Marinated hanger steak, and pork belly.  It was just as easy to make all three since we had all the same accompaniments.  Throughout the night we nearly smoked our guests out of the apartment (from the oven), went through a bottle of soju, 7 bottles of wine, a fifth of Jack Daniels and ate a phenomenal meal.

One of the last things I’ve learned is the first thing you read in the title, typing ä into Word.  It’s actually quite easy, Option + U than hit the letter a.  The Facebook fan group seems to believe it is a diaeresis, not an umlaut., but there are differing opinions if anyone wants to weigh in on the debate.  One of the many interesting facts you learn cooking international foods.  I have not had many diaeresis vs umlaut discussions, in fact, that was the first, and most likely, the last.

I have to thank Jessica and J.  They graciously hosted the event, helped with the planning and cooking.  When your cooking for a large group, it’s always a good idea to get help, and since Jessica is a professional cook, (that sentence had a Burn Notice feel to it).  Actually, Jessica did most of the cooking while I took photos and tried to understand the rules of curling.

Ssäm night takes 2 weeks to prepare for and I’ll try and do some of these posts in order.  In one night, we covered almost 10% of the cookbook.  We made ten recipes, the cookbook contains about 115 recipes depending on what you’re counting, I’ll leave it to someone else to determine if the same pickle recipe applied to twenty different vegetables counts as one or twenty.  Nevertheless, it’s a significant portion of the cookbook with recipes requiring recipes.

I’ll start with a fun recipe.

Ssäm Sauce (pg 167)

This was a fairly straightforward condiment for the Bo Ssam, our ingredients, mix and it’s ready to go.  Why did I have to do it twice?

First, a quick Korean language lesson.  Many fans of Ssäm Bar are aware, by now, that Ssäm means “wrapped” in Korean.  The recipe for the Ssäm sauce calls for ssämjang, kochujang, grapeseed oil and sherry vinegar.

Jang means “paste”.  Ssämjang than translated to wrapping paste.  I found this particularly amusing.  One could imagine if the inventor of ketchup decided to call it French fry condiment, what other uses would be have for it?  Ssämjang itself is a soy bean paste.

The kochujang is a hot pepper sauce, kochu means pepper, so it’s literal translation is pepper paste.

Kochukaru is a Korean chile powder used in the napa cabbage kimchi recipe (coming soon).  I’m guessing that karu mean powder, but had trouble finding the translation on the internets.

Together the ssämjang and kochujang are a lovely kicked up spread for the Bo Ssäm.  The mixture gets thinned out with the neutral vinaigrette.

Following the recipe from page 167, the ssäm sauce comes out very liquid without the correct consistency and not at all what we had in the restaurant.  Here was the first attempt.

I tried to capture the consistency of the first by pouring it.

This was a good lesson in using common sense over blindly following a recipe.  I made another pass at it and eyeballed the amounts of oil and vinegar to make sure the ssäm sauce had the correct acidity and texture.  It came out fantastic.   you can see the two versions next to each other.

The bowl on the right is the second attempt, with the correct consistency and acidity.  I prefer mine a little spicier and would use more kochujang next time, or purchase a hotter version from the market.  Maybe I’ll run into the same attractive Korean girl who helped translate the labels for me.

One thing is for sure, this sauce has numerous application, and I’ll be finding creative ways to incorporate it.

pan-roasted asparagus poached egg & miso butter (pg. 90)

I was excited to put this dish together.  This was my first time cooking with miso.  My experience has been limited to miso soup and the eggplant with miso glaze appetizer often overlooked at Japanese restaurants.  I’ll probably get around to trying both of those with the extra miso sitting in the fridge.

Making the miso butter is fairly straightforward: measure and mix (first allow the butter to come to room temperature).

Mix the Miso and butter

Big butter streaks.. maybe it wasn’t quite at room temperature.  Switched to a different bowl so I could really get some good elbow magic.  As you can see, it gets better, but not quite there yet.

A few more turns and it was done.

With the miso butter set aside, it was time for the main dish.  These asparagus are probably a little thicker than those served in the restaurant.  I would say these were on the medium to thick side of things.

For those who are asparagus stalk snappers, I recommend an article by Harold McGee (The Curious Cook) in the NY Times.  If you choose to follow that, please leave a comment and let me know the results.

I moved ahead with snapping.  Notice the nice blister on the base of the thumb, a product of the pork belly roasting pan from six weeks prior!  It’s a dangerous hobby…

Peel the outer edges.

With all the prep completed, it’s fairly straightforward recipe.  Heat up so unsalted butter, not the miso butter.  It’s a little difficult to capture the first wisp of smoke.

It’s important not to shake the pan, just let the asparagus roast on one side and flip over to the other.  I’ve been told that David Chang doesn’t allow his cooks to use tongs, so i flipped it with a spatula.  Btw: if anyone can confirm this, I’d appreciate it.  The Bo Ssam is served with mini tongs…

While the asparagus is finishing up, take a few moments to heat up the miso butter with some sherry vinegar.  A couple tsp of sherry and the butter.

The miso butter loosens up a bit.  There’s time enough for this while the asparagus are draining on a paper towel.

And now it’s time to put it all together.  Plating it a similar to the photo on pg. 91.  Miso butter, roasted asparagus, slow-poached egg (from the prior post) and a few turns of pepper.

And the oozing of the slow poached egg.

For my palate, the miso butter was a little overpowering.  Miso has such a distinct flavor and powerful profile that it will be tasted differently by individuals.  It has a similar impact as chiles in a spice profile.  I could see friends discussing the amount of miso similar to other powerful spices or how much milk to put in coffee.  Next time I will adjust the ratio of butter to miso differently to tone done the strength.

Overall, this dish is simple and elegant.  Qualities alone that entice me to make it again.  The creaminess of the slow-poached egg could make any vegetable divine.  I wonder if the creamy yolk would improve on a Caesar salad or carbonara…


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