I bought a crockpot at a garage sale a few weeks ago, and since it's fall, it seemed like the perfect time of year for a long, slow braise, like kalbi jjim. Kalbi jjim is one of my favorite Korean dishes, but I've never seen it on a restaurant menu. It's a sweet, savory dish of short ribs braised in sugar and soy sauce, sort of like a Koreanized beef stew. I first attempted it last year, but I hadn't made it in a while and I wanted to road-test the recipe in Cooking the Korean Way.
Because I'm constitutionally incapable of actually following a recipe, I made a few changes. I used the crockpot instead of cooking it on the stove, and I added some chestnuts. I also left out the green onions, just because I didn't have any, and I didn't feel like running to the store again.
Here's the recipe, with my adaptations:
2 1/2 lb. lean short ribs (Buy regular short ribs, not the kind that are thinly sliced for grilling.)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 onions, peeled and sliced into lengths
a handful of baby carrots
1 T. toasted sesame seeds
10 fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup of chestnuts (Peeling them is kind of a pain, so I recommend getting the already-peeled kind.)
Cut between ribs to separate them and remove visible fat. Put the ribs, garlic, and water in the crockpot, and cook for four hours on low. Add remaining ingredients, and cook for four more hours, or until ribs are fork-tender. Skim fat off the top before serving. (Cooking the Korean Way suggests refrigerating the ribs before adding the remaining ingredients, then removing the fat, which is probably easier than skimming it off at the end.)
The finished product was a rich stew of caramelized vegetables and falling-off-the-bone-tender ribs, balanced with subtle undertones of soy sauce and sesame. My husband pronounced it "exactly right", and the toddler gobbled it up, which is high praise from her.
Korean-style spinach salad is one of the easiest banchan to prepare, at least if you buy the already-washed spinach in a bag. (I know you're thinking, "She's going to get E. Coli!" but the spinach in this recipe is blanched, and according to the CDC website, boiling spinach kills the virus.) It's so easy that you probably don't need a recipe, but here it is anyway, again with a few adaptations.
1 lb spinach (I used bagged baby spinach.)
a pot of water
2 t soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 clove finely chopped garlic
1 t toasted sesame seeds
Bring the water to a boil, throw the spinach in, and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain in colander and rinse. When it's cool, squeeze excess water with your hands. (I'm always amazed by how little spinach is left after I blanch it and squeeze out all the water.) Place in a large bowl, add remaining ingredients, and mix with your hands.
The shigumch'i namul tasted like. . .shigumch'i namul. It's a hard dish to screw up.