You see, it's been a crazy few years for me. Growing kids with increasingly hectic schedules, family members dealing with life-threatening issues, job changes, and to top it all off, a move. Don't get me wrong, things aren't dire or anything. In fact, they're quite good, knock on wood. But it just makes for the type of situation where here it's coming around to the end of 2017 already and I still haven't sent out last year's Christmas cards with our change of address. THAT kind of crazy.
The other thing that I find complicating is my own sense of perfectionism. I have a difficult time doing things if I don't feel like I can do them the way I think they should be done. I like to show you pictures of all the steps of the recipes I make. I like to have a lighthearted banter in the way I write. I like the food to be easy to make and also delicious. Most of the times, those are not a problem, but right now, the first of those is giving me stress. In the house we moved to, the kitchen is really great, in terms of functionality and usability, and while it needs some renovation, that's probably about 5 years or so down the road at this point. But it's in the center of the house. And while our kitchen has always been the figurative center of our home, it wasn't the literal center before. Which may not seem like it's a big deal, or something that would affect my blogging, but...
...There's no natural light in my kitchen. Which suuuuuuuuuucks for taking pictures. Typical house lighting makes for weird shadows and altered coloring, and I'm not yet really great at photo editing. So I either have to skip all the pictures (Nooooooo! But maybe work with fewer...), take food I want to shoot to other rooms that have natural light (awkward, but yes), deal with shoddy pictures (ugh, hopefully not too often), learn how to preform miracles in photoshop (working on it), get a lightbox or other tools to enable better pictures (on my Christmas list), or just deal with that the pictures kind of are what they are and still forge ahead with the blogging while looking for ways to improve the photographic situation.
So, that's what I'm doing. Like I said, be gentle with me.
And now, back to the food!
This recipe is kind of a nice nod to the craziness in my life for a couple of reasons. This fall, my son and one of my daughters are playing football for the first time. We moved to a real "Friday Night Lights" type of area, and they take their football seriously around these parts. Practices are 3-4 nights a week and about 2 hours long. Which means that either I'm feeding them dinner at 5:00, they feel gross training on a full stomach, and they are still starved when they get home at 8:15, or we sit down to eat dinner at 8:15, 8:30 at night. To be honest, both happen, depending on what else we have going on, but it's usually the later dinner,which means that I need nourishing, tasty recipes that can get on the table quickly. This is one of those, for sure.
The other way that this relates to the craziness of life lately is that it actually was inspired by a recipe that my sister and I had when I was out west helping her as she went through treatment for cancer. She had subscribed to Blue Apron as a way to help make things a bit easier, and their recipe for Spicy Pork and Korean Rice Cakes with Baby Bok Choy was something she was looking forward to trying with me. Side note about Blue Apron and the like: I think it's a wonderful way to make it convenient for people to make and eat real food. I think it's a great way to get people comfortable with unusual ingredients and sound cooking methods. And while it's not a service that I feel like I need or would get much use for, I love that they give you all the recipes so that you can recreate the dishes whenever you'd like. Except that that's not always easy. The Korean Rice Cakes, for example...When I went to go make this dish for my own family at home, I went to 3 different Asian markets, one specifically Korean, and ended up ordering the rice cakes on Amazon for a ridiculous price and a 3 week backorder. I'm guessing they maybe actually were sent from Korea. Anyways, the dish is really delicious! It's got great flavors and a slight kick, and while the rice cakes (which were more like odd noodle disks) were interesting, they weren't essential to the success of the dish. So, over the last few months, I've worked out an adaptation of the recipe using things that I can actually find at most grocery stores here in the central Midwest.
Okay, so you will need a few ingredients that you probably don't keep on hand in the pantry, but I can tell you that you should be able to find them in the Asian section of your local supermarket. Gochujang is a traditional Korean chili paste, and it's what brings the heat to this recipe. Black bean paste adds savory depth and helps to thicken up the sauce. Unagi sushi sauce is a sweet and salty addition to the party, but if you can't find that, you can substitute soy glaze or even soy sauce mixed with a little honey. I also have found tubed ginger to be a lifesaver for many of my recipes, including this one.
Besides these, you'll need a pound and a half of ground meat (I like beef or pork), olive oil, green onions, garlic, 3 cups chopped baby bok choy or other Asian greens, cream, rice vinegar, salt and pepper, and rice.
First, get your rice going, according to the directions. I like to use a short grain rice, like CalRose. It ends up nice and sticky, which I love. Once you've got that simmering and covered, move on to the beef sauce.
In a large pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and then brown your meat, seasoning it lightly with salt and pepper. As it's browning, chop the white parts of your green onions, 2 cloves of garlic, and a thumb-sized piece of ginger, if you aren't using the bottled ginger. Add those aromatics to the pan and give it a stir. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes while you give a quick chop to the greens.
Lucky for me, our CSA gave us a fantastic mix of baby Asian greens this week, including tatsoi, bok choy, and pak choi. I threw all of them into this recipe together. Chop them into pieces that will be a good size for eating without looking ridiculous.
Add the greens to the pan, along with 1/4 cup each of the black bean sauce and the unagi sushi sauce. Squirt in as much of the gochujang as you'd like, depending on how much kick you'd like. My family does well with about a tablespoon, but you can always start small and add more in later or to top individual servings for the spice lovers in your life. Add 1/2 cup of water and then give it all a stir.
Simmer the sauce for a few minutes, until it thickens. While that's happening, mix a teaspoon of the rice vinegar with 1/4 cup of cream, so that it thickens. You could also use sour cream, but I like the tang of the rice wine vinegar in there. Stir the cream mixture into the sauce and finish it off by seasoning it one last time with salt and pepper.
Serve the sauce over the cooked rice and top it with the sliced tops of the green onions and some extra gochujang, if you'd like.
This could also be served over noodles, or if you wanted to get even more international, with some naan or other flatbread. It would probably also be pretty awesome in tortillas like a crazy Asian burrito type creation. But rice is a great canvas for the savory, spicy flavors, and it whips up quickly, so that's what I do on these crazy nights.
Korean-Style Quick Beef and Veg
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, sliced
3 cups chopped Asian greens
1/4 cup black bean sauce
1/4 cup unagi sushi sauce
Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
1/4 cup cream
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
salt and pepper
Prepare rice according to directions.
Heat olive oil in a large pan, brown meat in oil.
Add in garlic, ginger, and white parts of green onions. Cook 2-3 minutes.
Add in greens, black bean sauce, unagi sushi sauce, gochujang to taste, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes.
Mix vinegar into cream to thicken. Stir into beef mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve hot over rice, garnish with green onion tops and extra gochujang.
As usual, you can always find me on social media on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Enjoy!