bibimbap, fried rice, homemade kimchi, korean rice dishes, things the missus loves


This meal began a few weeks ago the Missus and I took a kimchi making course with the very awesome, very knowledgeable Ms. Kate at Urban Farm Fermentory.

Selfishly, I signed up because I wanted to make sure I attended one of Kate’s workshops before she shipped out from Portland in the fall (which may not be happening after all). I also signed up because of rather disappointing trio of kimchi we had at Little Seoul a few weeks before. The Missus does love her kimchi and I thought it would be nice to be able to start making some at home for her. Well, at the last minute she was able to join me, so now she can make her own.

The class was fantastically fun and informative. While I’ve always been jealous of Kate’s canning and preserving ability, I was in awe of how much information she knew on the topic of fermentation and preserving. I wanted to kick myself for waiting so long to take one of her classes and would encourage anyone to sign up for one of the many workshops she’s doing through the UMaine Cooperative Extension.

At the end of the class, we each took home our own quart of self tailored kimchi.

But it would be a couple of weeks–one week getting funky and fermenting on the counter and one week in the refrigerator–before we would get to dive fork first into our creations. Truthfully, I didn’t know what we’d do with them. I’m not an overly huge fan of the dish (some that I’ve tried have been down right rank and overly funky) so there was some pondering over what would would now do with the two quarts that sat on our shelves.

But, drawing on our recent visit to Little Seoul, the Missus suggested making Bibimbap. Surprisingly, this was a dish that her Lithuanian mother made often when the Missus was growing up. My experience with the dish has only been the forkfuls of crunchy rice I’ve stolen away from her bowl when she’s ordered it out. Recently, there was also an article in Saveur magazine that was passed along to me by Lauren. Something in the universe (the Missus, very bluntly) was telling me that this dish needed to be made.

And there are two routes to go, it seems: the simple and the hard. The simple would basically be soy sauce seasoned ground beef over rice and topped off with a fried egg and commercially made kimchi or pickles, while the hard would get you as close to authentic as you can get, either making your own pickled salad or procuring them at a local Asian market. I planted myself somewhere down the middle.

There were definitely a lot of steps and ingredients to this dish with the recipe I chose from Rasa Malaysia website. But, there was already kimchi fermenting and I had, just a few days before, started a cucumber and garlic scape kimchi loosely based on a dish from David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook.

The rice, the centerpiece, took the longest time and most attention. Having actually never cooked sushi rice before, I relied on Just Hungry for a very in depth lesson:

To make 4 cups of cooked rice, you will need:

  • A heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, or an electric rice cooker
  • 2 cups of uncooked japonica rice or ‘sushi rice’ (or substitute Vialone)
  • 2 1/4 cups of water (If using a rice cooker, add water up to the specified level marked in the inner bowl)

Measure out the rice carefully into your pot and rinse vigorously under running water. Swish the rice around with your hands – the water will turn a milky white color.

Drain the cloudy water away and add fresh water, and swish the rice around again. Repeat this step 2 – 3 times.

Drain, leaving just a little water, and rub the grains together several times with the palms of your hands gently as if you were polishing them.

Add plenty of fresh water and rinse out the rice. Drain and rinse until the water is almost clear.

Drain the rice in a fine mesh sieve and leave for a little while, preferably at least 30 minutes.

Put rice in a rice cooker or pot. Add the water to the rice. At this point you should let the rice soak for a while. The length of time depends on the quality and freshness of the rice. The older the rice, the longer it needs to soak. Soaking for at least 30 minutes to an hour is generally recommended, but don’t soak for more than 8 hours or so or the rice will get a bit watery and lose any flavor. And if the weather is too hot, it might even start to ferment! (Some rice how-tos emphasize the importance of soaking, but I think the washing and rinsing is the most critical part of making proper rice, which is why it’s described in so much detail here.) Brown rice however does need to be soaked before cooking.

If you are using a rice cooker, just switch on (or if you need the rice later, set the timer; you can calculate in the soaking time here.) If you are using a pot, bring to a boil over medium heat then put on a tight fitting lid. Cook on high for 1 minute, then reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 4-5 minutes until you can see the surface of the rice, then reduce to low heat for about 10 minutes or until the water is completely absorbed. (Don’t open the lid to peek!) Turn up to high heat for a few seconds to get rid of any excess moisture if necessary.

If you are using a pot, remove it from the heat and drape a cloth over the pan for about 10-15 minutes to let it fully absorb the moisture and rest. This final step really makes a difference if you want grains that stick together but are not mushy or watery. A good rice cooker includes this resting time in the cooking cycle, and also allows for condensation to evaporate, so you don’t need the cloth draping step.

From the Rasa website, I took two recipes–of the five they have listed–and their instructions on assembly:

Seasoned Spinach Salad
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 pound (500 g) spinach, rinsed carefully
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute.
2. Strain the spinach into a colander and rinse with cold water. Take one handful of spinach at a time, and squeeze the water from the spinach. Lay the spinach on a cutting board and cut into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces.
3. Transfer the spinach to a bowl and add the sesame seeds, sesame oil, and salt. Mix well.

Seasoned Beef

2 oz rib eye cut into strips (or ground beef)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar

1. In a small bowl, mix together the beef, soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar. Let marinate for 15 minutes.
2. Heat a small skillet and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Because the crunchy bits of rice are extremely important (and just really f’ing good), make sure you have the pot (I used a cast iron skillet) until the oil smokes and keep the rice in the pan for at least 10 minutes.

To Assemble

1. Have the seasoned salads and beef prepared in individual bowls.
2. Place a cast iron skillet or pot on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil.
Heat the oil for 1 minute. Add the rice and spread it around the bottom of the pot to form an even layer. Cook the rice for several minutes or until the rice begins to brown on the bottom. You will hear the rice sizzle.

3. Carefully arrange each of the seasoned salads on top of the rice grouping each one like the spoke of a wheel. Place the beef in the center. Continue heating for 2 minutes.
4. Transfer the casserole to a heatproof pad. Set one fried egg in the center on top of the beef.
5. To serve: fold together the egg, vegetables, rice and 2 tablespoons of the Tangy Red Pepper Sauce. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to distribute that crunchy crust throughout the dish.

6. Serve in individual bowls with a drizzle of sesame oil and extra Tangy Red Pepper Dressing.

*You can make one fried egg per person to mix into individual servings.

smoked brisket, smoked pork butt, vegan nightmare, venison sausage

My Pig is Dead

There isn’t a tremendous amount to be said when you receive an invitation for a “Pork Smoke and Vegan Nightmare” from a friend. He’s a butcher, his wife is a vegetarian with a sense of humor. They’re a lovely couple. My one question to him was: Will there be vegans there? Thankfully the answer was “No.” Though I think any that attended would have earned a great deal of respect from the 25+ people on hand.

Which was good because it did live up to the threat. In all, there was 40+lbs of smoked pork, brisket, venison sausage and ubercheesey macaroni and cheese. There were butter rich pies, deviled eggs, desserts from The Italian Bakery and a homemade raspberry and rhubarb crumble.

There were rumors of veggie burgers and soy dogs but I don’t think any of the trio of vegetarians in attendance were brave enough to ask that they be cooked on the smoker, which was surrounded in a glorious pool of pork fat that our hosts dog kept trying to sneak off to drink from. There was a vinegar based coleslaw, chips and crudite for them to sustain themselves on. And several cases of beer. There was also Wanda Jackson on the radio.

It was a damn fine day.

beals ice cream, gelato/ice cream, ice cream sundaes, summer-o-rama

Summer-O-Rama: Ice Cream/Gelato

By the calendar, it’s not summer quite yet. Even by the weather, which has at some points been depressing and manic, it’s still spring. But, that hasn’t really stopped us from getting ourselves into a summer state of mind. With burger reviews done, Mr. A has a whole summer worth of assignments lined up for us and, from group consensus, Ice Cream and Gelato was our first task to be tackled.

It never really bodes well when you have to review something that has been recently voted a ‘Best Of..” as Beals Ice Cream was in the 2010 and 2011 Phoenix ‘Best Of..‘ readers poll.

There’s hype and expectations to live up to. Things that I’ve found hardly ever get fulfilled when theory becomes actual. I kind of punked out by picking it. My first option, enviably scooped up by the Werewolf, was Gorgeous Gelato–which the Missus and I recently visited for the first time and fell head over heels in love with. So, I went with the first one that came to mind and kicked myself later because I could have used this as motivation to visit a new (to us) stand.

That’s not to say, however, that I dislike Beals. It’s shop in the Old Port is a justifiable madhouse on a hot summer day, townies and tourists alike cramming in the small shop hoping for refuge and relief (which you will get ONLY if you have cash, so plan accordingly). But, it’s the drive up stand, on Veranda St., that I enjoy the most. It reminds me of the soft serve stands I frequented back in New York. So, when the forecasters were predicting 85+ degree weather we decided that it was a perfect time forgo cooking, head across Baxter Boulevard and have some ice cream for dinner.

And Beals definitely wins the award for options, either in flavor, topping or method of delivery(cone, cup, shake, sundae, etc…). It’s actually a bit overwhelming. I’ve impulse ordered the few times we’ve been there. Having had panicked when I’ve gotten up to that window, blurting out a flavor choice in which the ingredients were a bit sketchy to me, I obsessed a little over it. This time I made sure that my selection was picked several hours before I even left work.

While friends rave about the Indian Pudding, Grasshopper or Maple Walnut varieties, I thought the true measure of their quality would be how well they do a simple vanilla. I mean, any ice cream maker can throw a ton of candy into their base to hide any flaws, right? So, I would judge based on how well their basic vanilla was, while the Missus did opt for one of their many mix-in flavors, grabbing a single scoop sugar cone of their Toffee Heath Bar Crunch.

After we got our order and headed back to sit in the car, I asked her what she thought about it.
“It’s good,” she said in a way that was really was saying, “It’s ice cream, how bad can it be?” She seemed a bit ambivalent about the flavor and wasn’t swoony over it. And, when I finally got to dig into mine–a hot fudge sundae with vanilla ice cream– I kind of had the same inner shrug.

Yes, it was a good sized, fudge laden sundae but nothing about it was really interesting. Every single component of it tasted like the store bought sundae fixings my mother always had on hand in our house (Stewart’s/Friendly’s/Breyers Ice Cream, Hershey hot fudge sauce and Reddi-Whip ). I could have also picked all of these items up at Hannaford for around the same price as that single sundae ($5).

While I thought I would have this insane childhood food memory when I dove into the paper bowl, as it’s been quite some time since I’ve had a proper hot fudge sundae, I was left painfully disappointed. It evoked nothing. I was suffering from ice cream ambivalence.

Maybe it’s because, these days, I like my vanilla to have a little more bean to it, the fudge sauce a little more depth. Overall, I just want the sundae to have a little more flavor or what’s the point of leaving the house?

As I got halfway through, I just mixed the whole thing together into ice cream soup. This was the only thing that harkened back to my childhood days (where I probably had an ice cream sundae every night for 10 years straight growing up. Not only is my mother a hamburger addict, but she also–to this day–keeps at least 5 half-gallons of ice cream in her freezer at any given time). But, it wasn’t done for sentimental reasons, it was done as an easier way to just get through the dish.

While I thought my plan to order simple was fool proof, it turned out not to be. ‘Maybe I needed to give myself over to one of their dozens of mixed-up flavors for a better assessment of their ice cream?’ I wondered, knowing that it wasn’t true. It was another case of feeling that maybe I just didn’t see what others loved so much about a place. But, let’s be honest, their simple vanilla was…too simple. The next time a pang for Vietnamese hits and I find myself strolling over to their shop next to Veranda Noodle bar I think I’ll stick with my old stand by: Mint Chocolate Chip.

Beals Old Fashioned Ice Cream on Urbanspoon