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Friday is tomorrow, this makes me happy.

What a day, what a week!

I feel like I’ve been running 100 MPH all week, anyone else feel me on this?

A friend and I went to the Korean grocery store this past Sunday.  I always buy too much!  I get excited about all the things I want to try making, forgetting that now I live on my lonesome, whoops…!  I’ll just have to have friends over!

Anyway, today was the first day I got to come home and prepare dinner.  All week I’ve been thinking about what I would do with this Ssamjang butter.  A few friends and I went to Mott St this weekend and they were generous enough to give us a little ssamjang butter to take home.  It’s savory, has a hefty dose of funk from the dwengjang,  I think the fat from the butter clings to your mouth and keeps the flavor longer…. Mmmm delicious… fat…

So, here’s what I did… I chopped up a bunch of stuff (red leaf lettuce, daikon shoots, perilla leaf, Asian pear)  and piled them on top of some picked moo radish.  Put a little dab of the special butter and topped the whole thing with a little brisket that had been sautéed with a little salt and pepper.  The meat was hot so it melted the bit of butter into a flavorful mess.  Not going to lie, it was mighty tasty… I may or may not be patting myself on the back at this very moment.

Here are some pictures mainly to make you jelly….
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Tomato, Tomato, Labor of Love – Naeng Myun

There are so many ways to make Naeng Myun, or Korean Cold noodles.  From the noodles, to the soup base, to the condiments, and acceptable toppings there is no shortage of variations.  Nothing says summer to me than Naeng Myun, but which recipe will we start with?

First off, let’s start with the basics, Naeng Myun was first created somewhere in the 1300’s in Korea in the Chosun Dynasty.  Originally, it was a whole family production.  Buckwheat flour was hand milled, then used to prepare a rudimentary dough.  That dough was pressed through something that reminds me of a play dough noodle maker.  The press was placed above a big caldron of boiling water. The noodles were rinsed well and placed in a bowl. Then the liquid from cold white kimchi (dong chi mi) was poured on top.  Sounds delicious? Well to me it sounds delicious but to the unaccustomed pallet, I guess chewy buckwheat noodles in pickle juice don’t really sound that appealing.

Anyway talk about regional differences, for such a small country we sure are particular!  Noodles made from potato, buckwheat, varying percentages of sweet potato and wheat flour.  Broths made from anchovies, dashi, and moo radish to beef broth based to tomato based.  Naeng Myun culture that thinks hot sauce is a must and other purists that believe it is almost vulgar to add any. With all these variants what is a girl to do?  Same thing I do every time I’m a little overwhelmed, make up my favorite iteration and call it winning!

One of my favorite family friends made this for me on a very hot summer’s day and it really hit the spot.  It’s a lot of work but at least you don’t have to turn on your stove for too long in the summer heat.

Warning this recipe requires and insane amount of tomatoes… and time

The base
 (for 3 people, 2.5 really if you like a lot of broth)
15 medium sized ripe tomatoes (should make ~ 3.5 cups tomato water)
2.5 cups water
1 tablespoon concentrated white vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
|1 tablespoon naturally brewed soy sauce

Wash all your tomatoes then core and slash an “X” on the top of each tomato.

Place the tomatoes in hot boiling water for ~ 10 seconds, if you don’t feel like boiling a big pot do it in sections.  Then place the tomatoes under cold running water.  The skin should just glide off.  Line a strainer with cheese cloth, if you don’t have cheese cloth line it with clean paper towels.

Now, here’s the fun part, squish the tomatoes.  If you’re incredibly civilized you could place the tomatoes into a kitchen aid with a paddle attachment and let the paddle have the fun.  For the rest of you cavemen, squish with your hands!  I found that squishing above my lined strainer helped move the process along.

Leave the whole set up in your fridge till the tomatoes are dry.  Save tomato solids for awesome tomato sauce.

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(yup, that’s a big tub, with a small bowl flipped upside down to suspend my big strainer filled with tomatoes, it works….)

You should now have around 3.5 cups tomato water, of course it depends on how much juice the tomatoes have and how patient you are.  Now add the remaining ingredients and make sure everything is dissolved and that is the broth!

I’ll post how you make the other toppings in the next episode.

Till then a recipe for the remaining tomato solids:
Like I mentioned before, I don’t like wasting food, so I took the tomato solids and cooked them down with a good portion of olive oil, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and salt.  Cooked tomatoes have higher lycopene content.  Lycopene is what makes a tomato red; it also is good for prostate health and skin (yay for carotenoids!).  I cooked the tomatoes down till there wasn’t much water left.  I let it cool and put it in a plastic bag in the freezer.  I’m going to save that for any time I feel like making spaghetti or maybe even my meatloaf!

Dancing with Miso

My sister is down for the count.  I suspect a mix of wintery weather, lack of sleep, and too much time in airports made her sick.  It stinks when people are sick, as a common person (aka non-medical professional) there is very little I can do to help.  The best thing I can think to do is make her feel comfortable, aka feed her.  I was out with a friend last night she told me to make my sister miso soup, she believes that it’s a cure all for everything.  I’ll take that advice and put a spin on it!  Dwenjang Jigae, is a riff on your standard miso soup.  Ok, I lie, if miso soup is like Miley in her Disney days, this stew is like a long night dancing with Molly and Miley today…

My grandma taught me how to make it in middle school.  The way we make it is a little unconventional from the Korean standard.  The standard recipe usually doesn’t have the gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste), uses dwenjang (Korean fermented soy bean paste) and usually has a thinner consistency than mine. I prefer using Japanese red miso to its Korean counterpart.  I tried switching to Korean Dwenjang a few years back, but there is so much variation within the brands of dwenjang and I couldn’t find one that I liked.  My absolute favorite is the stuff my grandma makes but she’s back in the mother land and I don’t think I’d be able to get that through customs.

Here’s the recipe

Kim Family Dwenjang Jigae

6” dashima
5 large dried anchovies
2 small onions ½” diced
3 medium potatoes ½” diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoon gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
¼ cup Japanese red miso
2 king oyster mushrooms (or about 1 cup shitake mushrooms sliced) shredded
1 zucchini ½” diced
1 pack (16 oz) tofu (soft) ½” diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 jalapeno sliced thin
3 green onions cut into 2” strips

First the Broth, this is pretty basic in Korean cooking you want to make an anchovy broth, they don’t add a huge amount of salt but they pack in a lot of flavor.  In a pinch, skip this step, but using it does add another flavor dimension. Basically, it’s anchovy and dashima (aka Kombu) infusion… (I’d say tea but my nerdy side wants to protest, teas only come from the camellia sinensis plant!).  Place your anchovies and dashima into about 64 oz of cold water and let it boil while you’re preparing the rest of your veggies.

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I get to washing, peeling, cutting the veggies while the broth is steeping. This whole blog thing is new for me so the pictures aren’t the best but stick with me, I’m a quick study and this thing will be looking good in no time!

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By now, the broth should be finished, set it aside and now we begin!  Saute the onions and potatoes in a heavy bottomed pot with the vegetable oil.  When they are sweaty and nervous add in the hot pepper paste and miso, it’ll look messy. Stay with your pot and keep stirring if you burn this part it will be bitter.  When the mixture looks homogenous, like everyone is playing nicely with each other, pour in the broth.

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Bring the soup to a full rolling boil and add in the remaining ingredients, continue cooking for about 10 minutes.
Serve with rice.

This recipe makes a lot of jigae, but this stuff just gets better with time. Today it will be good, tomorrow it will be even better.

Notes:
Shred the mushrooms – king oyster mushrooms are pretty common in the Korean Supermarket, I like adding them like this because it looks pretty and it is easier to bite into than when you just slice them.  Cut the “shitake” looking cap off of the mushroom.  You’ll have a long log of mushroom.  The mushroom shreds lengthwise so cut the log in half and just put pressure on it, it’ll give and you’ll see how it can be shredded.  Think pulled pork or Jang Jorim.
Meat? Where is the Meat? – My family doesn’t really eat that much meat, but it’s really easy to add in.  Add about 1/2 lb of 1″ diced cubes of beef stew meat (usually chuck or even heel meat) to the potato and onion mixture.  Don’t let the meat brown too much or it’ll be tough. sweaty and happy..