Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kalbi Me This, Kalbi Me That

Sang's Marinade and the Secret Ingredient.

Right before I jetted off on my whirlwind European Tour, Paella Party and Artscape, I took an afternoon to test out a potential new-ish approach for making Korean-style kalbi short ribs. For this test, I sourced some thick cut beef short ribs from Woolsey Farm in Churchville, Maryland. I've been sampling a bit of Woolsey's meats lately and have come to like their offerings.

For the marinade, I would rely on Sang Moon's old recipe of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, onions, green onions, ginger and a variation on the secret ingredient: Mexican Coca-Cola. Just mix it all in a bowl and soak those suckers.

Short Ribs marinated and vacuum bagged.

Actually, I left the ribs in the marinade for only about thirty minutes since I was sealing them in vacuum bags which would help the marinade penetrate the meat. A light coating will do and you can refrigerate the vac-sealed marinated meat overnight, if you wish.

But I wanted to get going, so once they were sealed and the water bath heated, I dropped them into a temperature controlled sous vide bath of 65C water and left the ribs to slow cook for three hours.

Sous Vide at 65.0 Celcius for five hours.

While I've been playing around a bit with sous vide, in many ways I'm still flying in the dark. A little experiment here, a little testing there, and voila! Maybe something good will come of this. Or I would have waited around for hours just to have a taste of disaster.

Of course, I've waited two years just to discover that my efforts in making red wine resulted in catastrophe and financial ruin. Perhaps a couple of hours and ten dollars in beef isn't that bad.

Pan Sear on all sides before serving.

After five hours, I decided to pull the ribs and see what there was to see. The nice thing about sous vide is that nothing escapes. The marinade and the juices are all trapped and the meat has to essentially braise in its' own juices, keeping the flavor close to home.

At five hours, the meat is pink all the way around. It's unnerving in a way since you're not used to seeing the outside of cooked meat so pink. Maybe it's alive. Maybe it's pissed. Whatever it is, it's time to kill it with a proper sear.

Beautifully pink inside but needs to be cooked longer.

It could go without saying that I love my cast iron pan. A properly seasoned cast iron pan is a glorious experience. Everything cooks so nicely. It sears beautifully. And clean up is lickety split. For the past year, I've been on a campaign to teach my extended families the virtues of cast iron. Some of my cousins have responded with serious enthusiasm by buying their own cast iron and cooking in them extensively.

Then there are the elders, like my aunt who complains that they're "too heavy" (they are) and that they can't get the right "look". Further investigation reveals that my aunt likes to scrub the pan with soap and water until it returns to it's "as new" color. I've gently encouraged them to let the natural patina develop by not scrubbing with soap and water. I think they're on the right path.

In the meantime, the pan has been heating on high until it starts to smoke lightly. Drizzle in some peanut oil (or whatever oil you desire), let the oil glimmer and then lay the ribs in. Allow each side to caramelize on the pan and then serve.

The results were okay. Not bad, but not exactly what I was hoping for. Even after five hours, the meat hadn't broken down enough and perhaps it needed more time in the marinade before cooking. Also, a little more salt would give the flavor the extra punch it needed.

For the next time, we're gonna have to go to twelve hours at 65C to really get the meat tender. The pink interior I think looks perfect and is the result I'm looking for without the gradient gray that results from direct heat cooking.

Good thing I had fresh steamed rice at the ready.