Monday, May 30, 2011

What NOT to do on Memorial Day

Preparing grill for grilling, grill with flame...Image via Wikipedia
Barbecue, The only sport where fat bald man is a GOD...

Grillers. Start your charcoal. Yes, it’s Memorial Day[1] in the US. This means you can officially wear white and linen, you can wear flip-flops and for many men, the screech of grills everywhere.
            My family was no exception to the Memorial Day grilling. My dad would drag out the dusty grill out of winter storage, complain that nobody had bought propane for the grill, and crack open a Bud (yes, my dad was a Bud man, until he “upgraded” to Miller Genuine Draft). Normally, us kids would be excited about eating the first grilled galbi (Korean grilled short ribs) of the season, but there’s something that my dad never learned to do: grill. For years, my dad was convinced he was the only person in the house that was qualified to grill, but we all knew better. Let’s put it this way: If an Olympic medal in Char-rawing food (burnt on the outside, raw on the inside) existed, my dad would win it hands down.  My mother, after seeing E. coli on a plate, ended up grilling the galbi.
            Unfortunately for Memorial Day-kind, this situation is not uncommon. And yes, guys, you are not the über-grillers you think you are. Want proof? Talk to the folks at the Weber Grilling Hotline (yes, there is such a thing and the number is 1-800-GRILLOUT). Basically the Weber Grilling Hotline is the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line of Memorial Day. According to the New York Times, thousands of callers inundate the hotline looking for emergency (often surreptitious) advice to save their hamburgers, roasts, hot dogs, and rabbits from turning into new carbon-based matter.
            So guys, do yourselves a favor today. Beyond enjoying time with family and friends, ask for help if you need it. And to prevent food-borne illnesses, (especially from meat), cook your poultry to 165°F, ground beef to 160°F and any other meats to 145°F.  Also, if you have salads, make sure they are not mayonnaise based (unless eaten immediately from the fridge) because salmonella grows rather rapidly in warm conditions. And for the love of god, don’t let pride get in the way of good BBQ. Otherwise you will be hearing from some girl, “I told you so.”
            And whatever your political proclivities are, take a moment to remember those who have died in armed conflict. They didn’t create war – politicians do that.
Happy Memorial Day

Hamburgers and hot dogs are not the only way to go for Memorial Day. Lots of ethnic cuisines have some form of barbequed meat, from carne asada to kebab to tandoori. I’m pulling out my galbi, or barbequed short-rib, recipe. And like other Korean dishes, everyone has their own opinion regarding how galbi should be made (and of course, their recipe is always the “best and most authentic”). I’ve heard 7-Up, Sprite, kiwi, pineapple, honey, maple syrup (granted that was from Canadian cookbook that I got for free), and I’m forgetting a dozen others. Whatever your marinade secret is, there is one thing in common: the beef short-rib. Before short ribs became the “hot” meat item in restaurants, one could only find short ribs at a specialty butcher or an Asian grocery store. Now you can find them pretty much everywhere (you can even get them boneless at Costco). Korean American[2] galbi is traditionally horizontally split across the bone into strips about 5-6 inches long with a couple of pieces of bone still embedded in it. If you get the regular kind of short rib, just cut filet the layers of meat from the bone to create a uniform thin layer (you can ask your butcher to do it). With regards to the marinade, the longer the better, up to 24 hours. And when you grill, you may want to do it on a bi-level grill so you don’t get the Dr. Kim char-grill special: hot to sear and cool to finish cooking. (Galbi is prone to flare-ups and burning because of the sugars in the marinade.) Get some romaine lettuce (or perilla leaves if you can find them at the Korean grocer) and some Gochujang (red chili paste) or ssamjang (red chili paste mixed with miso) to go with it. And napkins. It gets messy. But isn’t that the best kind?
Serves: 4-6 normally, but somehow that never seems to happen at my house
3-4 pd. beef short ribs
1/2 c. soy sauce (Korean, if you can get it)
1/2 c. mirin (Japanese cooking wine), sake or water
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
1 Korean pear, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped (you can also use ripe 2 Bosc pears)
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbs. of grated ginger
3 stalks green onion, roughly chopped
2 tbs. toasted sesame oil
For serving:
1 head of romaine lettuce (or 1 bunch of perilla leaves) washed and dried
gochujang or ssamjang (available at Korean grocers-see above)
cooked short grain rice

1.     Rinse short ribs in cold water. In a large bowl, soak ribs in cold water to remove bone particles and blood.
2.     In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
3.     In a food processor, combine pear, garlic, onion, ginger and green onion. Process until pears are fully processed. It will look like loose oatmeal with a couple of green flecks.
4.     Add pear solution and sesame oil to the soy sauce base and combine well. Add meat and marinate for at least an hour, up to 24 hours (longer is better) in the refrigerator.
5.     Prepare charcoal or gas grill (I hate to say it, charcoal gives a better flavor, but if you only do it a couple times a year, you will OK). Grill ribs until done, about 5 minutes. If you see your ribs burning, place on a cooler section of the grill and continue to cook until done.
6.     To serve. Cut ribs into bite size pieces. Spread on lettuce leaf with gochujang or ssamjang. Place piece of beef on top of sauce, roll like a mini lettuce burrito and eat. Alternatively, you can place some rice on top of the sauce, then the beef, roll and eat.


[1] To the rest of the world, Memorial Day is a generic holiday to commemorate those who died in military service. Originally founded to commemorate Union soldiers who died in the Civil War, after World War I, it covered all those who died in any US-related war.
[2] Galbi in Korea is cut differently. It is cut along the bone and cut quite thickly. By contrast, Koreans in the US have used a thinner cut. I haven’t heard any good explanations as to why the shift in meat cuts, but my theory is that once Koreans came to America, they got as lazy as Americans and wanted an easier meat-eating experience instead of a tastier, but more difficult, meat-eating experience. (In Korea, you would have to filet your own ribs.) If you have a better explanation, let me know in the comment section.
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