Korean BBQ


We made it--Yancey's done with his probationary firefighter year, and that means one thing--Korean BBQ (of course). We had a big party up at Yancey's mom's house and, predictably, I started bawling when I gathered everyone around for a toast. Bawling because I'm proud of Yancey, because I'm relieved our family has health insurance, and because I really, really love all the people who were sharing the room with us. (I think I might have been bawling because I saw a photo of oil-covered dolphins in the Gulf, too, but it had to come out sometime. Any chance for catharsis around here.)

I ordered 15 pounds of flanken-style short ribs from Bob's Quality Meats. When I went to pick  up the meat, the place was PACKED with Memorial Day revelers, but that didn't affect the cheery, speedy service I got. I've noticed there's a growing trend toward more neighborhood butchers. It's about time. But Bob's will always be the best in my book.

"Kalbi" refers to marinated short ribs which are usually cut across the bone into thin slices and grilled. The essential marinade has lots of surface area to penetrate, the meat cooks really quickly, and the hot meat is often eaten with a lettuce leaf wrapped around it and a sprinkling of sesame salt or Korean chile paste. Is your mouth watering yet? I've often thought of it as the ultimate party food, and that proved true again this weekend. Though I made lots of other things, several people at the party reported ONLY eating meat, standing over the platter or grabbing them hot off the grill. And everywhere I looked, people were licking their fingers.

kalbi marinade

I didn't spend all my time in the kitchen, though. Went down to the beach with Wyatt and Yancey, got to take a long walk by myself. All weekend long, I couldn't stop thinking about a photo I saw of the BP CEO walking along the beaches in Louisiana. I know lots of people hate him right now, but I feel strange compassion toward him. Ungodly executive bonuses and our own unstoppable consumption aside, this is the time for leadership. So much depends on it.

wyatt on beach

Korean Barbecued Short Ribs with Sesame Salt
Serves six (if you're lucky). This is the recipe from Food and Wine that I've been using forever. This marinade is totally amazing and, because the meat is sliced so thin, the meat really takes on the flavors. Don't let the links to the sesame salt and chili condiments intimidate you--both take just a second, but I'm lazy and didn't feel like listing the recipes. I think a lot of people at the party didn't bother at all with the lettuce and condiments, and you don't need to, either.

Marinated Meat
1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup Korean rice wine or mirin
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 small Asian pear, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons coarsely ground Korean red chile
(gocho karu)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds meaty flanken-style short ribs (see Note)

1 head red-leaf lettuce, separated into leaves
Sesame Salt
Korean Chili Sauce

MARINATE THE MEAT: Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a food processor and puree; transfer to a bowl. Add the ribs and let marinate at room temperature for at least 3 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Light a grill or preheat the broiler. Remove the ribs from the marinade and shake off any excess. Grill or broil the ribs until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Serve the short ribs with the accompaniments and let diners wrap their own meat.

Note: Kalbi is available pre-cut at Korean markets (or Bobs!), both on and off the bone. Flanken-style, or L.A. cut, short ribs are sliced 1/2 inch thick across 3 ribs (this is what I used).