Part XXVI: Alone in the Dark and Reliant
Let’s say the world ends. Right now. Not that I’m a tremendous fan of doing these posts on current stuff, otherwise I’d be vomiting the number 12/12/12 all over you. But it fits.
So say the world ends. That means no phones, no fancy tablets to pull up your precious Epicurious on. You can’t retreat to the tattered (a word which apparently only applies to books and magazines, instead of, say, puppets, like I think it should) pages of a Food & Wine issue from 2009. But you have some flour, butter, sugar, maybe rice, water, spices (if you’re lucky), other assorted odds and ends that survived in your pantry.
What do you make? Can you make anything?
After being deprived of Internet for a week (this week’s excuse for posting insanely late, join us next week when I pull something much, much less legitimate out of my ass), the answer, for me at least, is a resounding: no. Not even close. A decent, knowledgeable chef would’ve acted on memory, taken a cabinet full of ingredients and made something tasty happen. I, on the other hand, darted to and from a stove full of boiling pots and pans to a fledgling 3G connection on an equally fledgling phone halfway across the room.
I suck. You probably suck too. And as impressive as it is that you, or I, can follow a complicated, five-course french-fusion-whatever recipe down to the letter, it’s way more impressive when you can make a loaf of bread from scratch using just your brain and your bare hands. I started this blog with a quote from Achewood’s (the best damn comic ever, in case you’re not familar) Ray Smuckles:
“A dude who can walk into any kitchen in the world and make bread is COMPLETELY RAW!”
And he’s right. Ain’t nothin’ impressive about reading a bunch of numbers and dumping them in a pot. Start closing your eyes while you’re cooking. Get uncomfortable. Then you can make some bread when the world ends.
And after that intro, I’m gonna give you an insanely long and complicated recipe for Beef Short Rib Bibimbap that you’ll have no chance of making correctly without following everything down to the letter. Hypocracy! Because I can.
Here’s what you need:
For the Short Ribs:
-2 lbs beef short ribs (going a little over on the weight won’t kill you)
-2 cups roughly chopped onions (about 1 1/2 onions)
-1 cup chicken broth
-3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
-1 tablespoon sesame oil
-2 tablespoons mirin
-1 packed cup pitted prunes (yes, it’s gross. But this is where 90% of the sweet flavor comes from, so quit complaining and add it in.)
For the Bibimbap:
-2 cups sushi rice (if you can’t find it it’s fine, but sushi rice is stickier/goes with the rest of it better)
-1 cup bean sprouts
-1 bunch swiss chard
-1 cup shittake mushrooms
-4 eggs (or one egg for however many people are eating this goodness)
-1 tablespoon sesame seeds
-2 tablespoons sesame oil
-2 or 3 green onions (it’s a garnish, doesn’t really matter how much you have)
Here’s how you do it:
First we’re gonna do the short ribs, because they’re gonna be simmering for a long-ass time. You can do ’em a day ahead if you want.
Get the biggest pot you have and heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high. Go ahead and throw some salt and pepper on the ribs while that’s heating.
Once the oil’s ready, put the ribs in and sear them on both sides, about 3-4 minutes a side. That way all the delicious juices stay in the beef, and you get tenderness instead of a dry, jerky-like mess.
Take the seared ribs out of the pot and put them aside on a plate with some paper towels, then pour out everything from the pot except a tablespoon of fat-liquid-stuff.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil, then throw in your onions and saute them until they’re not clear anymore.
Throw the ribs back in, followed by everything else in the ingredients list FOR THE RIBS. If I see you throwing uncooked rice in there we’re gonna have to have a little talk. It won’t be a pleasant one. There may be yelling. Possibly tears.
Stir everything around a bit, then bring the whole pot to a boil. Cover it and let it simmer for 2 1/2 hours. As you should do with anything you leave near fire for that long, check it once and a while. You’re gonna want to stir it and mash up the prunes a bit when you check the pot, that way the prunes will dissolve, and you’ll forget you’re eating prunes. Prunes are gross, and that’s why we have to use a crap-ton of fire and meat to make them worthwhile.
Once the ribs are done (and trust me, you’ll know when they’re done), turn off the heat and put the ribs in a bowl.
Take a couple of forks and shred those babies up (hooray for phrases that sound awful out of context!). You want the pieces to be a bit bigger than your standard pulled pork shred, so you’ll have nice big pieces in the bibimbap. Just don’t go too nuts with the forks and you’ll be fine.
After the ribs have been chunkified, add them back to the liquid and leave it on the lowest setting your burners have until the rest of the bibimbap’s ready. You can’t really slow-roast meat too long, but you definitely want the other parts to come out fresh, so do the ribs first. Nobody likes cold greens.
The actual “main” part of this recipe’s pretty damn simple.
First, get the rice cooking.
Julienne the carrot, or if you have my knife skills, make crappy, embarrassing little strips out of the carrot. Also slice up the mushrooms and green onions.
If you can manage it (I couldn’t, clearly), cook the bean sprouts, swiss chard and mushrooms together in a pan with the sesame oil at medium high. If you don’t have room for all of it, do it in two batches. You want this all to come out at roughly the same time so they’re all hot out of the pan. The bean sprouts and mushrooms should take about 5 or 6 minutes, all you need to do is keep them on the heat until they’re tender. The chard might take a bit longer, just keep cooking until it’s wilted.
The rice should just about be done now, so get those eggs frying so they’re ready when the rice is.
Now. It’s not often I say this (although I’ve said it before, if you’ve been paying attention): the presentation’s important here. Yes, you’re probably gonna end up mashing everything together the second you get your greasy, cheeto-stained hands on a bowl of this stuff, and that’s ok. But the beauty of bibimbap is the ingredients, so do it right, and do it in the right order. And wash your damn hands. Jesus, that’s disgusting.
1. Put some rice in the bowl.
2. Arrange some of the carrots, swiss chard, mushrooms, and bean sprouts so they each have their own, nice little corner. I should mention here that you can use other vegetables too if you want. Wanna saute some red peppers or broccoli? Go for it. I ain’t the food police. Not that I haven’t applied for a position enough times.
3. Add some of that tasty beef you’ve been simmering for so very, very long.
4. Sprinkle some of the green onions on top.
5. Put a sweet, glorious egg in that bowl.
6. Sesame seeds. Sprinkle.
See? See how nice that looks? Now go ahead and ruin it. You’ve earned it, or something.
Some of you may think I’m being a bit of a lunatic for choosing Que Sera Sera by Charles Kosei as this week’s song, so I want to give it a little more insight than I normally give.
There’s two parts to this dish that really make it sing:
First, the vegetables. They’re all separate, all unique, and they each bring a bright, fresh flavor to the bowl. Hear those nice little bells in the intro of the song? That’s the connection.
Second, Mr. Kosei has the perfect smoky, soulful voice to compliment the music. There’s your short ribs: savory and full of flavor. Almost makes sense, right?
As much attention as I try to give to the music on this little experiment of mine, it tends to get drowned out in the giant pictures of cake and muffins and stuff that’s bad for you. At least I feel like that sometimes. So if you’re just coming here to look at food and possibly make food and be fat, don’t forget about the play button that comes afterwards. If you’re jamming out to the music like you’re supposed to…keep being awesome. Either way, I’ll see you next time.