Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Week 13 - Spicy Food

Our home is no stranger to spicy food, so we were excited to see that the Week 13 challenge theme was spicy food. We use a lot of spicy ingredients regularly (well, as regularly as we cook anything), such as Sichuan peppercorns, chili oil, chili bean paste, red pepper flakes, chili powder, jalapeƱo peppers, and more. I didn't want to use anything that was common in our kitchen so I knew from the start the ingredient I wanted to use for the challenge - gochujang, the Korean hot chili paste.

We've both had plenty of gochujang at Korean restaurants before, but have never cooked with it at home. I found this recipe for dak bokkeum (Korean stewed chicken) and decided that would be perfect for the challenge. I (of course) adapted it a little bit for what we had to work with, but mostly tried to keep the spirit of the dish intact.

The ingredients for the dak bokkeum we made were:

- 1/3 cup gochujang ($0.62)
- 1 small bunch of scallions ($0.50)
- 2.5 tbsp low sodium soy sauce ($0.30)
- 5 garlic cloves, minced ($0.08)
- minced ginger (amount equivalent to garlic) ($0.15)
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil ($0.46)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar ($0.20)
- 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper ($0.05)
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts ($3)
- 1/3 cup water ($0)
- chopped kale ($1)

The measurements above are approximate other than the gochujang, as I didn't feel like adding measuring spoons to the wash and just estimated by how much of the 1/3 cup they filled up. That was accurate enough for me. The total for the stewed chicken was approximately $6.36, which is quite affordable for dinner. Normally we'd add $1 or so for rice, but my parents gave us a giant bag of brown rice that they brought home from some fundraiser so that saved some money.

The steps for making the dak bokkeum were:

1. Mix the gochujang, chopped scallion whites, soy sauce, minced garlic, minced ginger, sesame oil, brown sugar, and crushed red pepper together for the marinade.

2. Slice chicken into small pieces and mix into the marinade. Marinate for about 20-30 minutes. (I would have marinated it longer but it was very, very, very late in the night, and we couldn't wait much longer.)

3. Add 1/3 cup of water to a Dutch oven and bring it to a boil. (It's very quick.) Add the chicken and marinade and bring to boil. Simmer covered for about 20 minutes and then add chopped up kale. (We had a Costco sized bag of kale and no baby spinach so I just finely chopped that up so it would cook faster. I don't know how much kale it was but it doesn't really matter. I think in the future I would just use however much greens I had or felt like using, since it just adds vegetables to the dish and sauce. Can you guess that I don't really cook by measurements that carefully?)

4. Mix the kale in and simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes or so.

5. Turn off heat and add in the scallion greens. (You're also supposed to sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, but I really did not have time to toast them and kind of forgot about them even though they were sitting on the counter.)

We really liked this stew and it's so easy to make. I don't know why it took me so long to put together the marinade (I guess I was just working really slowly that late night), but it took much longer than I planned. The actual cooking part was very easy since everything was pretty much mixed together already and just needed some time to cook. This would be a good weeknight dinner, if I could just get it together and make the marinade faster. The flavors were great.

The gochujang here added a nice amount of heat. The stew wasn't as red as we were expecting, but the spiciness was there. I think in the future, in addition to the kale or spinach, maybe we'll add some other vegetables, like some finely chopped mushrooms, just to give the stew some more vegetables. I have no idea if that's remotely traditional, but it'll work for us. We would definitely make this again, and now we've got a tub of gochujang in the fridge to make more fun Korean dishes!

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