Wednesday, 21 March 2012

SmartCooks Says 'Heat Wave and BBQ'ed Korean 'Ginger-Marinated Bulgogi-style Chicken'

March 2012

SmartCooks here

Wow, like double Wow.  Ginger-Marinated Bulgogi-Style Chicken cooked on the barbecue on the back deck while taking in the gloriously golden sunset.  This is March in Ottawa, remember?    

First, a Salute to the Weather

We're having a heat wave, in Ottawa, in March!  Go figure.  A colleague and I escaped the office at noon and went for a walk, in short sleeves and sunglasses!  After checking out the heart-thumping circuit workout going out at Greco's Lean and Fit Program on Sparks Street, we continued on our way up Parliament Hill, passing roller-bladers, joggers, walkers, construction workers and sun seekers. 

We ducked under the temporary (and now useless) Snow Barriers blocking the marvellous views up and down the Ottawa River and basked in the Plus 25 degree temperature.  It's, like, March 21 here in Ottawa!  Normally, we're a blustery plus 4 degrees with snow, freezing rain, ice, etc... This is unheard of... We'll never convince politicians and public that climate change is an issue.  Everyone will say 'bring it on'.  

Intellectually, I know this won't last BUT while it does, I decided to dust off the barbecue and grill a classic Korean dish I have been eyeing for quite some time, cooked Bulgogi style.  

Korean Bulgogi

'Bulgogi' literally means 'fire meat' but does not refer to the spiciness of the meat but rather to the manner of cooking, either traditionally in a fire pit or, more common today, grilled (either indoor or outdoor). 

Bulgogi usually consists of thinly sliced beef (that's the specialty) but can also be made with  chicken or pork, marinated in ginger and soy sauce.  Recipes are numerous and depend on household or restaurant tradition.  In many Korean restaurants, it is cooked right at your table (this includes the Korean Palace Restaurant in Ottawa!) .  Apparently, bulgogi is listed as number 23 on the World's 50 most delicious foods!  

I went for a lower-fat option of Ginger-Marinated Bulgogi-style Chicken from the Food and Wine's 4-week, low-calorie, health-conscious menus currently being promoted on their website. The dish was refined for Food and Wine by Cooking with the Single Guy for The Tasting Table and America's Test Kitchen -- three great cooking resources to check out. 

Ginger-Marinated Bulgogi-Style Chicken

Three suggestions for this dish. 

First, marinade the chicken for a minimum of two, but no more than four, hours before grilling it.  The reason for this has to do with optimizing the effect of the soy sauce on the chicken.  Marinading longer than four hours will apparently make the meat too salty.  So this may make the dish more of a weekend venture depending on schedules.   

Second, try serving the bulgogi chicken with lettuce. It's a Korean tradition to take a lettuce leaf, add rice (if using), bulgogi meat, a chili paste sauce, and one or two condiments (called 'banchan'). Etiquette is to fold the bulgogi lettuce wrap and eat it in one bite! So don't overload the wrap. 'Banchan' can range from cucumbers, or pickled cucumbers, yummm) or kim chi.  (I haven't had the nerve or time to try Tigress in a Pickle version of kim chi yet.  See picture left).  Cellophane noodles, enoki mushroosms, bean shouts, and baby bok choy also make excellent additions to the meal. 

Third, this recipe uses honey instead of sugar.  IF you wish a sweeter marinade, use some sugar (e.g., caster sugar) instead. 

Final suggestion.... This is very easy.... Marinate.....  Grill.....   Enjoy.  Wish for more spring! 

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce (or light soy sauce called 'shoyu')
2 T toasted sesame oil
1 T honey (alternatively, use sugar)
1 T unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 scallions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T finely grated fresh ginger
2 T toasted sesame seeds
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts or cutlets, pounded 1/3 inch thick
Vegetable oil, for brushing
To serve:  lettuce and banchan such as cucumbers, kimchi


In a resealable plastic bag, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, vinegar, pepper, scallions, garlic, ginger and 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 4 hours.  

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Oil the grates. Remove the chicken from the marinade and brush lightly with oil. Grill over moderate heat, turning once (likely no more than 2-3 minutes), until lightly charred and cooked through, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 T of sesame seeds, thinly slice and serve with condiments ('banchan') of choice.  

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