My Olympic cooking challenge

Okay, how about a short break from all the sturm und drang out there and dive back into a recurring subject of mine: cooking. The topic is not necessarily in honor of, but nicely coincidental to the ending of the Winter Olympics. So, in my view, this represents my Olympic cooking challenge.

Just in case some of you have had no exposure to sports (or even politics) in the last month, the Winter Olympics were held in South Korea. During the same month I did my newest cooking challenge recipe: Korean ribs.

Yeah, yeah, it’s a strained connection, but I have to do that sometimes to make an interesting headline.

Anyway. Onwards!

Strangely enough, this month’s recipe sprang out of a lunch with my Dad and Stepmom. We went to Duffy’s. They had a “special” menu and on it was featured “Korean ribs”. The claim was they were spicy. Ribs and spicy? I’m in!

Spicy they were! Like, chili spicy. My lips were burning, but my taste buds were singing praises. Okay, then, let me give this a shot.

Looking Korean ribs up on the web led me to many recipes for “Kalbi” (Korean ribs). Surprisingly, I found these were beef short ribs. Hmm.

Still, knowing no fear (or sense, most of the time), I dove in. A visit to my beloved Penn Dutch found the flanken cut beef ribs I needed. Finding the Asian pear was a bit more problematical.

Ultimately, I had all the ingredients I needed and began the process. First, the ribs get rubbed down in brown sugar (nummy!). Then, the marinade needed making.

A digression here: If you like to make marinades and don’t have a food processor, you are sorely missing out on one of the true kitchen pleasures in life. Easy Peasy!

So, with my mixture of onion, pear, garlic, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, rice wine vinegar and pepper, I bagged up the ribs and let them sit for a day in the fridge.

And now here is where stuff went a little south.

My elder nieceling had joined Dad, Stepmom and me for lunch at Lucille’s (more ribs!) and, when she found out what I was making, volunteered herself to come by and eat them with me.

Love as I do my niecelings, I usually never offer up one of my cooking concoctions until I’ve “tested” it out myself. That way, I can repair it before someone else has to suffer.

Still, she was persistent and I relented. The plan was for her to show up on Tuesday evening. Since the ribs (according to the directions) would only take 3-4 minutes per side to grill, I could just grill them when she got here.

As kids do (and it’s notable that I regularly call 20-somethings “kids”, now), she changed the time abruptly, showing up at 1:30 pm. Still, I had already cooked the brussels sprouts, so all that was left were the ribs.

Following the directions, I did my deed on the grill and brought in the mass of meat. And now we had evidence of why I should never cook my first batch for anyone other than me.

First of all, she is like the anti-me. I like my beef (except for burgers) to be medium rare. She prefers it closer to well done. The batch of ribs I brought in were closer to my tastes.

Second, the cut of meat, flanken, is pretty chewy. It tasted more like skirt steak than ribs. But it also tasted clearly like steak and not ribs.

Other things came to my attention through the process:

– When I invite someone over to eat my initial recipe, I concentrate on hosting and not posting, which is why you don’t have a finished product picture (I was yapping with the nieceling and forgot).

– Both of us agreed it was a tasty marinade. Indeed, it was a sweetish taste that we both thought would be good on chicken, too.

– It’s my belief (though I can not find them on any Duffy’s site) that the ribs I had that day at Duffy’s were pork (probably spare ribs).

– I also uncovered, after wondering why my ribs were sweet and theirs were mouth-burning, that they added one extra ingredient to their marinade: Gochujang sauce. That’s where the kick came from at Duffy’s.

So, what I had tasted was not truly Kalbi (Korean ribs), but ribs with Korean spicy seasoning. A subtle but significant distinction.

In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed my ribs and the elder nieceling sort of enjoyed her ribs (after micro-zapping them to get them more cooked).

Since it was not exactly what I was shooting for, no gold medal for me this time, but I think my Olympic cooking challenge at least ended up with me on the podium.

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