June 15, 2011

Bibimbap


This recipe caught my eye last asparagus season when I saw it on Epicurious, but somehow I let the spring season pass and it has been languishing in my recipe box ever since. This is really a shame, now that we know how good it is (Michael declared it "one of the best meals we've ever made," and he does not utter those words lightly) - so many missed bibimbap opportunities! Fortunately, now that we know what we've been missing, we also know that this dish is a simple concept that can be applied to various vegetables and meats and need not be limited to asparagus season.

Bibimbap means "mixed meal" in Korean (so says Wikipedia); it involves rice, some kind of vegetable(s), chili paste, maybe some meat, and probably a fried egg. And there is something greatly appealing about a meal where everything (meat, veggies, grains) is served all together in a big bowl (or in a big wrap, as in the case of a burrito - which is, according to Michael, "the perfect food").


More traditional bibimbap features a wide variety of vegetables, arranged beautifully in the bowl to show off the different colors before everything is stirred together (hey look! Saveur has an article on Bibimbap today!) This version from Bon Appétit, though, takes advantage of the simple combination of a few great ingredients. You have grassy, crisp asparagus and thin-sliced marinated beef, topped with a rich, creamy fried egg and served over a bowl of rice. But the real star here is the sesame salt, made from toasted sesame seeds, fleur de sel, and chili powder, and sprinkled over the asparagus. The flavor is incredible and gives the whole dish a perfect balance of spice, savory, and salt.


We made just a few changes to the original recipe; we didn't have Korean hot pepper paste, and we thought Sriracha would get the job done (it did - though the hot pepper paste, or kochujang, apparently also has fermented soybeans and rice flour which must add a different flavor dimension, so if you can get your hands on it it seems worth trying - let us know how it goes). We also used flatiron steak instead of the recommended strip steak - it's much cheaper, has a wonderful flavor, and lends itself well to being sliced thinly. The recipe also suggests serving with kimchi; we didn't use it this time but would be interested in trying it next time (though it's honestly hard to see how this dish could be any better).

Bibimbap (serves 2)
Adapted from Ivy Manning, Bon Appétit

- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1/4 tsp fleur de sel
- 1/4 tsp New Mexico chili powder
- 1/2 pound flatiron steak
- 4 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil plus extra for cooking
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp sake or dry sherry (we used sherry)
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 pound slender asparagus
- 2 eggs
- Sriracha (or other hot sauce)
- 2 cup cooked rice, for serving (about 2/3 cup dry)

About 2 hours before you want to eat, put the steak in the freezer for about an hour. This will allow you to cut very thin slices of meat much more easily. Meanwhile, prepare the marinade by whisking together the soy sauce, 1 tbsp of sesame oil, sherry/sake, garlic, green onion, and sugar. Next, slice the slightly frozen steak into approximately 1/8" thick pieces, and toss with the marinade. Let the steak sit out at room temperature for about half hour, mixing the meat around every so often.


While the steak is marinating, prepare the salt rub for the asparagus by toasting the sesame seeds over a dry skillet at medium high heat. After a couple of minutes, the sesame seeds will begin to brown and become fragrant. Transfer toasted sesame seeds to mortar, along with the salt and chili powder. Grind them all together until you have a coarse seasoning. 


Now would be a good time get start cooking the rice. First rinse the rice thoroughly under cold water. White rice needs about 1.5 times as much water to cook, so add the rinsed rice and 1 cup of water to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat the low after the water reaches a boil.

Meanwhile, trim off the inedible bottom part of the asparagus and heat some additional sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the asparagus, and cook until it just starts to brown, but is still a little crisp (about 5 minutes). Transfer asparagus to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, coat the asparagus in the sesame salt rub, and then tent the foil to keep the asparagus warm.

Next, cook the steak in the same skillet as the asparagus, also at medium high heat. Cook until just cooked through, which should only take a minute or two. Transfer steak to the tented asparagus to keep warm while you cook the eggs, but make sure to reserve the juices that remain in the skillet after cooking the steak. These juices have tons of flavor from the marinade. Place the juices aside in a small bowl. 

Finally, melt a little butter in the skillet, and then cook the eggs. We like them nice and browned on the bottom, but with a still runny sunny side up yolk. At this point the rice should be done (should take 18-20 minutes). Distribute into bowls and squirt the rice with a few dabs of sriracha sauce. Place the asparagus and steak on top of the rice, then pour on the reserved steak juices. Top it all of with an egg, and you suddenly have an amazingly tasty bowl of bibimbap!


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