Slow-cooking meat in a nice enamelled cast iron Dutch oven is a pretty sublime experience. I've done my fair share of braising in metal pots, woks, Crock-Pots, and even sauté pans, but really, nothing compares to the ease of searing and stewing everything in the same pot, and one that needs minimal heat to stay bubbling hot. When most of your favorite dishes (boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, chicken adobo, red-cooked pork) are braises or stews, you start salivating over the Le Creusets and Staubs upon entering any kitchen supply store.
I've used Le Creusets a good number of times when teaching at cooking schools, but hadn't actually own a proper Dutch oven until now. This Christmas I received a lovely red Staub "cocotte" from my chief taste tester/bf and have been using it as much as possible. (A great present, by the way, for someone craves chicken adobo every other day and can make it in her sleep.)
One of the first thing I made in my gorgeous new cooking vessel was a Korean dish I've been craving since my trip to Seoul called kalbi jjim (also spelled kalbi jim, galbi jim, or galbi jjim). Kalbi jjim is a combination of short ribs, potatoes, carrots, and onions, slow-cooked in a intoxicating mixture of white wine, soy sauce, garlic, and sesame oil. It seemed like the perfect hearty meal for the days following the blizzard, when streets were still lined with waist-high snow banks and just getting to a restaurant two blocks away seemed like a slushy chore.
The sauce can't be easier, made with ingredients your pantry probably already has. Don't worry about the measurements; neither the saltiness from the 1/2 cup or soy sauce nor the sweetness from the 1/2 cup of sugar are overpowering. Such is the beauty of slow-cooking (and a little help from the sesame oil, wine, and garlic.)
You can, of course, use cuts of beef other than short ribs, such as chuck or brisket. But braising bone-in beef makes the meat much more tender, and the collagen in the bones lends a richness to the sauce. In Korea, the authentic way to make kalbi jjim is to first boil the beef in water for 10 to 15 minutes to remove impurities (some cooks add the step of soaking the beef in cold water overnight, then boil it the next day.) Then you slice grooves into the beef (each piece will look somewhat like a hand with 3 or 4 fingers), so the beef absorbs more flavor from the braising liquid and becomes fork-tender. If you're short on time, you can skip this step and still have very succulent beef, but it really does make a difference.
A pot of short ribs with this recipe will feed 6 hungry diners or 4 very hungry folks. I don't have 5 other people to feed, but I added sides of kimchi from and rice and was golden for 4 meals. The only thing missing, and still made me miss Korea, was a liquor store nearby that sold makkoli...
Korean Braised Short Ribs (Kalbi Jjim)
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 pounds short ribs, cut to 2- or 3-inch lengths
- 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut into large dice
- 5 or 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 carrots, cut into large dice
- 1 potato, cut into large dice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Trim some of the excess fat from the short ribs (but don't go crazy). Score the meat by slicing 1/2-inch deep groves in the meat, against the grain. This helps the meat to absorb more of the braising liquid and results in more tender short ribs.
- Place the ribs in large pot. Add enough water to cover the ribs. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow the beef to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to remove excess blood and fat. Transfer the ribs to another dish with a slotted spoon, shaking off excess water. Discard the water.
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Sauté the onions and garlic until aromatic and the onions are soft and beginning to brown. Pour in the water, soy sauce, white wine, and sesame oil. Add the sugar and stir until it is fully dissolved. Add the drained short ribs, carrots, and potatoes. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook with the lid off, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes, until the beef is tender but not yet falling off the bone. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Transfer the beef and vegetables to a serving dish and ladle the sauce on top. Serve with rice, maybe with a little kimchi on the side.