Thursday, November 3, 2011

Soy-Braised Baby Potatoes (알감자조림): My 40th Birthday

11/1/11 was a pretty auspicious day for me...I turned 40 years old.  After anticipating the day for over a year, and celebrating the momentousness of almost being 40 for a year, I finally actually turned 40 yesterday.

To tell the truth, in between the jetlag, the return of school (Daughters go to a year-round school), the return of my students and the overall chaos of life, I didn't really much think about how the day would be special.  I was mostly thinking about how I would get through the day without losing my temper instead of the BIG event itself.  After all, I have been, in many ways, celebrating for much of 2011.  I went to the GLEE concert, 7 of my friends flew from various parts of the country to celebrate with me, I celebrated with Husband in Korea and all in all, felt supremely blessed to be turning 40.  The actual DAY was suddenly not that important.

I woke up very early (try 1AM due to jetlag) and looked at myself in the mirror and didn't notice any new wrinkles.  There weren't any extra white hairs and I didn't feel my joints ache or creak in an noticeably different way.  I was after all, only a day older than I was the day before and suddenly 40 turned out to be not that big deal at all.

That is not to say that my day was not filled with so many wonderful sweet moments.  I was greeted with a beautiful vase of orchids in the morning, delivered to my doorstep so that I would see it when I walked Daughters to school.  I started receiving texts, emails, Facebook postings, and phone calls as soon as 12:01 AM on November 1st rolled over.  (Actually, my friends who live abroad started posting and wishing me Happy Birthday on Halloween.)  Incidentally, my personal Facebook page was filled with well-wishers from lots of former students for whom I still harbor a very mushy spot in my heart, strangers who are Facebook friends through random online meetings, and close friends and family.  It was an interesting mix and one that made me smile.  How all those people ended up on one Facebook page made me both laugh and giggle.

Then they were the cards and presents.  Lots of presents (incidentally many of them clothes, so I think my girlfriends are trying to tell me something about the way I dress) and goofy cards including one that had Tyler Florence's face all over it....we won't go into the details, but let me tell you it was dang funny and made by a good friend.  There were sticky hugs from the kids and lots of well-wishers during the day.  I got to eat a burrito for lunch (a personal craving) and yakitori at night with two girlfriends who insisted that they take me out and get me tipsy.  (which I also did, but only just barely so, so as to be respectable.)  It was very funny how one very loyal friend introduced me at the restaurant as a "very famous food blogger" and that seemed to garner some extra attention from management, owner and waitstaff.  I'm not sure if I actually qualify as such with about 1500 followers, but hey, it got us excellent service and tasty food.

Aside from all the bells and whistles and hub-bub surround my actual birthday, which don't get me wrong, was  really wonderful and nice, I am still the same.  It's strange how the same I feel.  I don't feel a bit different than I did two days ago when I was still only 39.  All this time I had worried and struggled with the whole turning 40 shtick, only to discover that really, I'm still just who I am.

I made these baby potatoes for Son and Daughter for their dinner so that I could go and enjoy mine on my birthday.  I will only say that they loved them and gobbled them down and have insisted that I make them often.  I will, because aside from the time component (braising and reducing the liquid does take time), it is very simple to prepare.  Dump ingredients in a pan and cook.  How hard can it be?

These taste better warm, but are pretty fun to eat cold.
Soy-Braised Baby Potatoes (알감자조림)
Serves 4

1 lb small potatoes (think smaller than a golf ball, more like a ping pong ball size or less. Trader Joe’s has a 1 lb bag of “teeny tiny potatoes” which is what I used for this)
3 cups water
6 tablespoons soy sauce (I use low sodium)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup sake
5 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons Korean red chili powder (고추가루) (optional - only add if you like a bit of heat.)

In a large, heavy sauce pan, mix together water, soy sauce, honey, sake, garlic, and red chili powder. Add potatoes.

Place pot on stove uncovered and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so that the potatoes are simmering and the liquid slowly reduces. Allow liquid to reduce, stirring occasionally so as to coat the potatoes, until there is a shiny, saucy, almost glaze-like finish on the potatoes. (This can take between 35-50 minutes). Remove from heat.

Printable recipe

Still a potato, even with all the fuss.


Anonymous said...

I've noticed that you use sake in a variety of recipes. What does it do for the dish? I don't usually have it. Do you think there's something else I can use as a substitute?

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! I just celebrated 40 too :) thanks for your emails!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!
I just turned 40 too. I hope you have a great year :)

Joanne Choi said...

You can leave the sake out, although I do think that many Korean and Asian dishes benefit from the back note of wine or alcohol. It leaves a subtle perfume of a bit of something extra and is worth it. If you don't have it around, you can certainly leave it off, but if you cook from my blog, you'll see that I'll use it often in my Korean/Asian cooking.

Michelle said...

Happy birthday! I'm glad you had a great one!

New reader here -- love the blog, really :) The sweet/salty potatoes are always my favorite panchan whenever I go to a Korean restaurant. Never knew they were so darn simple!!

Jen said...

Well happy birthday!! ...10 days late! But, still Congrats on the landmark!
Lovely potatoes! I must make these sometime!

Stefanie said...

Happy belated birthday!! =)
These potatoes are awesome! The sweet and salty combination is yummy! My boyfriend likes it, even though he doesn't like his food to be sweet, but the spiciness balances everything.. I used cayenne pepper instead... Two shakes and it is pretty hot.. Thanks for the recipe and have a nice weekend!

Simply Tia said...

Happy Belated birthday. I'm Nov 6th. Hope you had an excellent day. And this dish looks fab! Will try soon.

Anonymous said...

making this now and it smells delicious. thank you for the recipe!

Elain Ponce De Leon said...

Just made these for dinner tonight. I just had a taste and they are SO delicious! Love them!!!


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