Vicki James - Han Oak Galbijjim. Try saying that three times fast! I would if I knew how to pronounce it.
But fortunately, you don’t have to be able to pronounce it to make it. I found this recipe on the New York Times Cooking website and was instantly intrigued. I’m loving Korean recipes these days and am always looking for something new to try. I think this dish would be perfect for a lunar new year celebration. It turned out to be – maybe- one of the very best things I’ve ever made. Be forewarned: it is a bit of a project and will keep you occupied for three to four hours, off and on. Do not believe the lying recipe author who says it can be made in 2 hours. He obviously has some kind of insane culinary super- powers that allow him to get things done way faster than me. But while the recipe is somewhat time consuming, it is not difficult.
Are you curious about the name? Han Oak is a restaurant in Portland, Ore., run by chef Peter Cho and his wife, Sun Young Park. I had to make a few alterations because some of the more exotic ingredients were not readily available on the Sunday afternoon I suddenly decided I had to try this recipe.
The most controversial ingredient is one that is found absolutely everywhere. Hint? Precious Polar Bears drink it at Christmas time? “It’s the Real Thing”? It sports the most easily recognizable logo on the planet Earth? That’s right, its Coca Cola. Coke gives the sauce its wonderful depth of caramel flavor. Do not leave it out. You would be amazed at the number of reviewers of this recipe who had a conniption fit over the fact that the recipe calls for one 12 oz. can of Coke. You would think the recipe author was asking them to add a quart of Drano. If you get bent out of joint over the whole corn syrup thing, buy Mexican coke, sweetened with cane sugar. There. Problem solved. It won’t kill you. I found it ironic that while the reviewers were whirling like mad dervishes over the addition of Coke, they had no problem at all adding a vast amount of melted beef fat to the sauce. Cutting down the amount of added beef fat was one the alterations I made. I have much less of a problem with Coke than I do with saturated fat.
Bottom line, I don’t know what Galbijjim means in English, but I suspect it means, “unhealthy but delicious stew.” We all indulge in yummy things that aren’t great for us from time to time.
Everything in moderation. This is a truly splurge-worthy repast and it does have some vegetables, which I’m sure cancels out the bad stuff. Just make it, eat it and enjoy it!
3 pounds of mixed root vegetables, such as carrots, onions and sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into one inch pieces. I used rainbow carrots, parsnip and butternut squash.
5 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola or vegetable oil.
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
4 pounds of bone-in beef short ribs, cut by the butcher into 2 inch pieces 2 medium sized Asian pears, peeled cored and diced. Asian pears were not available at my market, so I used Butterscotch pears. Bosc would work fine, too.
1 large red onion peeled and diced
12 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped ginger
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1 12 oz. can of Coca Cola
¼ cup honey
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean chili flakes). This pepper was not available at my market, but I looked up substitutes before I went and learned that Aleppo pepper flakes are the closest match. Luckily, I found them at the store.
4 cups roughly chopped kale
1 pound Korean rice cakes, optional. I opted out since I couldn’t purchase them at my store. I served the stew over basmati rice, instead.
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3 scallions, trimmed and chopped
3 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
Toasted sesame seeds as garnish
Heat the oven to 425. Toss the root vegetables in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil and season with an “aggressive amount of salt and pepper”. I guess that means a lot.
Turn the vegetables on to a sheet pan. Put the short ribs in the same bowl and toss with one tablespoon of oil, salt and pepper. Place the ribs on another sheet pan, bone side down. Place both pans in the oven and roast, turning the pans once or twice, for approximately 40 minutes. Set the cooked ribs and veggies aside until ready to use.
While the vegetables and ribs cook, place a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, and swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. When it is hot, add the pears, onion, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally until everything is softened and browned, about 15 minutes.
Turn heat to high, add the stock, Coca-Cola, honey, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a lively simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the pears are tender. Note: at this point the recipe directs you to transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and puree the sauce until smooth. However, I think this is the perfect moment to haul out the immersion blender you received for Christmas three years ago (if you remember where you put it) and use it! Worked like a charm. No dirty blender to wash. No dangerous transfers of hot liquid.
Here the recipe instructs: “Add the short ribs and whatever fat has rendered from them to the pot” with the puree, cover it and cook over medium low for approximately 90 minutes. Here is where I drew the line. Did I really need to add all of that fat? Surely not. Besides, when I pulled the somewhat flimsy low sided pan I had used to roast the ribs out of the oven and transferred it to the top of the stove, a semi-epic beef fat spill occurred, so there was not a lot of fat on the pan, anyway. Super-fun clean-up job! Remind me to tell you about that part some other time. Hint: it’s much easier to clean up after it cools and congeals into greasy white goo. I added a bit of what was left, but if I had added all that was originally on the pan with the short ribs, it would have been close to a cup of liquid beef fat. So, use your own discretion and if you are as clumsy as I am the problem may be solved for you.
At the end of the 90 minutes, add the vegetables to the pot, along with the rice cakes if you are lucky enough to find them. Cook until the vegetables are hot, then add the greens, and stir until they are tender (just a few minutes).
Serve in a bowl, drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with radishes, scallions and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Taste and emit rapturous moans and beat fist on table while shrieking, “Oh my God that is just soooo GOOD!” Truly.
“Cooking is one of the strongest ceremonies for life. When recipes are put together, the kitchen is a chemical laboratory involving air, fire, water and the earth. This is what gives value to humans and elevates their spiritual qualities. If you take a frozen box and stick it in the microwave, you become connected to the factory.”
“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”
― Mark Twain