Tuesday, May 19, 2009


With yours truly as the new head chef in the house, our family can expect some interesting twists to the normal culinary calendar. I've already had a few successes, as well as a couple crash-and-burns, but I chalk the negatives up to experience. Thus far, my biggest coups have been a quick-and-dirty spaghetti, a chicken-and-couscous dish, some improvised pork-and-beef hamburgers, and a decent cole slaw. Another minor success, eaten only by Mom and me (because Dad doesn't do spicy, and my brother Sean generally avoids carbs), was my ddeokbokgi, an example of Korean "street food" that I adore.

One spectacular failure was, of all things, a grilled cheese sandwich I'd made for Dad-- something you'd think would be hard to mess up. My problem, though, is that I like to keep the flame on high and get things done as quickly as possible; grilled cheese actually works best as something you cook on low to medium heat. Another failure was a carrot salad-- not so much a failure because of the ingredients, as because of timing and luck: I served my father the remains of the salad, which meant he received a portion that had been drenched in my homemade salad dressing. The taste was overpowering for him, and when I sampled his salad, I had to agree. I'm a "live and learn" type of guy, though, so instead of moping over my failures, I've soldiered on.

Some upcoming meals will be:

1. Ddeok-mandu-guk, a soup normally made with Korean dumplings and sliced rice cake. We have a large bag of store-bought mandu and plenty of ddeok, so the important thing is to get the broth and highlights right.

2. Curry chicken (and/or shrimp) over rice.

3. Fusion Thai/Korean ("Thai-rean" sounds kind of gross, like "diarrhea"... so how about "KorThai" or "ThaiKor"?) chicken and pasta with peanut sauce-- using Korean guksu (pasta), chicken, soy sprouts, nuts, green onions, homemade peanut sauce, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

4. Budae-jjigae, a fusion stew that essentially melds a form of kimchi-jjigae with American canned and processed meats (ground beef, hot dogs, spam, etc.). Sounds gross, but it's one of the most popular dishes in modern Korea, and I've enjoyed it since the 1990s. Mom had her first real taste of it only a few months ago, when I made it for her and the Korean renovation crew. She liked it, much to her own surprise.

5. Real spaghetti sauce. The one I made the other day was whipped up at the very last minute, and turned out to be pretty good. My own homemade sauce, modeled after Mom's, is better. I'd try making the pasta, too, but my pasta machine is in a box at a friend's place in Seoul-- one of many of my possessions on the other side of the Pacific.

6. Gyros! I'm good with tzatziki sauce and I love lamb.

7. Pizza! While I can't make homemade crust like my buddy Charles can, I'm good with everything else. Whatever pizza I make, I'll try to keep it nutritious, though I admit I'm tempted to make nothing but white pizzas.

We have so much rice and pasta in storage that it's not even funny. We also have a ton of frozen meat-- probably several cows' and pigs' worth, so I might try my hand at home-ground meat, and maybe even homemade sausage. Dad was a sport and shopped for a mess of vegetables today, so we've got a pretty decent stock for the moment. Thanks to the extra food we've received from various sources (cakes, sandwiches, soups, etc.), I can afford to skip certain aspects of meal prep and simply reheat (or plate directly) whatever's been given to us. This has proved to be quite a time-saver. My thanks to all those who have brought food by the house.

Dad claims he can't cook, but he's the one who grilled our burgers and dogs the other day. He has also prepared some nice desserts for us, especially his signature strawberry shortcake, using real shortcake instead of the stamped "golden hockey puck" variety. Dad is also an expert at making rum cake... ask him about it sometime. He's sold quite a few, and he might be persuaded to sell a fresh cake to you. (Don't tell Mom. She still thinks Dad can't cook.)

So, for the foreseeable future, I'll be cracking open recipe books as well as trying my hand at creative reinterpretations of dishes I know. This culinary adventure promises to be fun. Hell, I might even teach myself-- finally-- how to assemble and roll a decent kimbap. Wish me luck.


1 comment:

melancholy donut said...

if you need help on kimbap, i can def help you out. write if you get stuck!