Monday, March 22, 2010

Korean Braised Short Ribs (Kalbi Jjim 갈비찜): Taking advantage of the interrupted life

The other day I locked myself out of our online banking system.  I was sitting there and entering a series of required passwords and suddenly blanked on one.  Couldn't remember it.  I started typing in standard passwords, only to have the account lock me out after five unsuccessful tries.  This is a banking system that I've used for more than nine years and suddenly I couldn't remember one of the passwords in the series.  I stared blankly at the screen for a moment, and then BAM - it hit me.  I remembered it, only it was too late and I was already locked out.  I was forced to leave Husband a post-it explaining my misdeed and asking him to call the bank directly and fix it.

The next morning, I gingerly asked him if he had called the bank and he told me that he had.  Then he looked at my strangely, peering at me over the tops of his glasses and said, "What happened?"

"I just blanked and couldn't remember," I said shrugging my shoulders.

Peering again over the tops of his glasses, he asked, "Do you know it now?"

I was forced to admit that I remembered it right after I had locked myself out.  He just shook his head and went back to work and I started thinking about why I would forget such a thing.

I realized that mothers no longer have the luxury of thinking without interruption.  Conversations are interrupted, bathroom breaks are invaded by children (mine like to watch me for some reason), books are never finished and the day is never one straight line.  It is a series of broken lines, sometimes making it to their destination and sometimes not.  I would have remembered the password if I had been interrupted in between the series of them, but the sheer shock of having a few moments of uninterrupted time during the day to do this knocked the password right out of my head.  Nowadays I survive on interruption.  I've essentially become my own worst nightmare - I have the attention span equivalent of a five year old child divided by three children.

Cooking with a short attention span becomes more dangerous, because I do things like burn garlic when Istep away from the stove to answer a quick-turned-long question from Daughter, or I forget to flip things over and things only end of half cooked.  I go to the refrigerator to get something only to stare into it not knowing why I went there.  I'll shut it and turn around and it will only be minutes later that Ill remember what it was I wanted in the first place.  I've ruined sauces by overcooking them to the point of reducing them to their most basic carbon forms, and I've forgotten to season many things.  Cooking without focus and attention can lead to plates of somewhat inedible food.

But there are some dishes that are slightly more forgiving, and possibly even accepting of the scatterbrainedness that comes from being a mom with more than one's share of children.  As long as you have a timer that will ring to remind you of something, you're good to go.  This Korean braised beef dish is one of them.  There are a few steps, but you can step away between any of the steps and even if you forget to come back RIGHT on time, you'll be okay for the most part.  I made it today in between talking to Best Friend on the phone, cleaning the garage with Husband, and planning a trip to Southern California to see my parents.  No mishaps, no burnt anything.  Just a yummy dish of braised short ribs which go great with Bokchoy Salad, Green Bean Bits, Asparagus Bits or Ginger Slaw.
Korean Braised Short Ribs (Kalbi Jjim 갈비찜)
Serves 4-6 people (my family being the sauce lovers they are, this version makes a lot of sauce.)

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 lbs of short ribs (if you buy them from a US supermarket, you may have to ask them to cut the bones in half - so instead of a long 2 inch by 4 inch piece, you actually have a 2 inch square)
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup sake
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
2 carrots, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 potato cut into 2 inch chunks
1 large onion, cut into chunks

The preparation of the beef is the most important. First - drain the blood by soaking it in cold water. Dump all your beef, bones and all into a large pot and cover with plenty of cold water. Let the beef sit in the water, about 45 minutes or up to an hour.

Drain water.  The meat color will have become a somewhat muted red.

After draining, slice into the beef across the grain - essentially breaking the top of the meat, the chunkiest part into smaller pieces still attached to the bone. This allows for maximum soakage of the marinade and the sauce and maximizes tendering of the beef.

 Each piece should look something like this.
Cooking 1st round
Put all the sliced, soaked meat into a pot and cover with clean water. Bring the beef and the water to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 45 minutes. The boiling liquid will be brown, foamy and ugly.

After drain all the beef and WASH OFF all of the foam and dirty bits. Rinse well under cool water until you have "clean" pieces of cooked beef.  (You can break up the work and do this the first day, and then do the 2nd round of cooking the following day.  Simply cool meat, then cover and refrigerate until needed.)

Cooking 2nd round
In a clean pot (or the pot you used before but make sure it's clean) add the following
1 cup sugar
1 cup soy
1 cup water
1/2 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup sake
8 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
 Heat over medium heat until simmering.  

Add all of your beef to the simmering liquid.Cook over medium low heat - turning often and allowing different pieces of the beef to soak and cook in the liquid. Cook for 40 minutes or until the beef is tender.

Add  onion, carrots and potato.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are fully cooked, about 15 more minutes.

Printable recipe
 For presentation, you can finish the dish with a bit of egg garnish.

 I am hoping that I can eat this piece without being interrupted.


sillie smile said...

oh my gosh! that is me. thinking without interruption being a luxury, but then i end up interrupting myself with random, scattered thoughts!!

i just thought it was sleep deprivation. i guess it's every mommy?

i survive only because i'm a list maker :) hehehe...

kim said...

Thanks for the fabulous last-minute dinner idea! I was literally going to make a pot roast with carrots and potatoes tonight... this inspired me to kick it up a bit. Delish!!! The family loved it and I can't wait for tomorrow's leftovers. :)

Joanne Choi said...

Sillie thanks for the affirmation. I need to feel that I'm not the only one who is so scatterbrained.

Kim! Haven't seen you on here in a while - nice to see you back! I'm glad the meal turned out so well.

Janet @Gourmet Traveller 88 said...

Your Kalbi Jjim looks just like those in the Korean restos. Too bad I cannot buy those ribs in Switzerland. Yummy! I have to do it without bones : (

Laurie said...

Had this for dinner tonight. It was a hit!
Except for our son. He has a thing with food textures. Have to try leaner meat next time. But he liked the potatoes.

Thanks! : )

HungryBelle said...

Hey it's me again! Uh, I was wondering if the sake is absolutely necessary or if there is a substitute because I'm not sure if my mom is willing to buy sake for one meal. So I would like to know, since I know that the sake has a distinct taste from other alcohol. Also, if I do have to use sake with a certain dryness or is any fine?

Please get back to me, I'm very excited to try this and finally empty out the freezer of all the Short Ribs.

Joanne Choi said...

Hungry Belle -

Sake adds a flavor layer, but if you can't get it, just try adding a bit of dry white wine to it. It will achieve a similar affect. Sake adds a special flavor that pairs well with the soy mixture.

I have other sake recipes on my website (actually - all my marinades ask for sake) so you could perhaps justify to your mom that you'd be cooking LOTS of things with the one bottle of sake. I just get whatever is cheap at the market - there is usually a big bottle of a brand called Ozeki - it's about $8 for a huge bottle, and it works fine.

Yuri, Chris, and Aki said...

This looks amazing! :D I was wondering if it would be gross to save the beef broth from the 1st batch of boiling?

Thanks for the recipe! Can't wait to try it. :)

kimchi said...

omg. i just found you and I will HAVE to try out your recipe. it's slightly different than my mom's but as she always says, everyone's food tastes different, even with the same ingredients. Thanks so much! :o)

sunnyd said...

Hi Joanne...
Just wondering if I could use white radish instead of potato? What do you think?

Joanne Choi said...

Hi Sunny! Moo (radish) works just as well! One of my friends always uses moo and not the potato. :)

Anonymous said...

Way too much sesame oil and sugar for my taste, but your cooking instructions are well written.

Susan said...

Just made this right now and IT IS PHENOMENAL!!! Better than my mother's version only because she never measured anything and it never turned out the same way twice :) Thank you for reconnecting me with my 'roots' via food.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm so curious to know why you need to boil off the meat and throw away the broth first? I've seen that method in many other galbijjim recipes and always wondered, doesn't that drain off a lot of the yummy meat flavor? Thanks. I love your blog!

Joanne Choi said...

A traditional Korean cooking approach is very different from a western one. The point of boiling the meat and then washing away the water is to get the meat tender and also keep the braising liquid very clean. It also allows you to eliminate quite a bit of excess fat as well. The meaty flavor is not all lost however, so don't worry.

Anonymous said...

Going to try this tomorrow, I like to use brown sugar for most of my cooking, do you think I should use less than a cup....

Joanne Choi said...

try reducing the sugar by 2 tablespoons if you are going to use brown sugar.

Malinda said...

Thanks so much for this article, pretty useful material.

Anonymous said...

Kind of a dumb question, but if I want to double the recipe, does it matter if I put all the meat in one large pot or is it better to use two separate pots?

Joanne Choi said...

not a dumb question. You can put it all in one pot no problem.


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