Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple "Kimchi", Soy-Simmered Burdock Root

The results of the burdock and apple experiments mentioned in the previous post: the burdock was good, the apple "kimchi" was fantastic.

The burdock I peeled, chopped, blanched, then simmered in a sweet soy mixture. It came out pretty much like the burdock (gobo) salad we get with our bento boxes at our favorite Japanese restaurant here,
Obento-Ya, which was good, that's what I was aiming for. It was nice alongside our soup noodles, or would be a tasty cold dish in a multi-dish Japanese or Chinese meal.

The apple "kimchi" didn't go as well with the soup noodles, but it had wonderfully complex flavors and textures that make me want to come up with other ways to use it. I keep putting "kimchi" in "quotation marks" here, because Korean kimchi is a thoroughly fermented product that generally keeps a long time, and this apple "kimchi" is lightly fermented if you let it sit a few days, not at all if you serve it the same day. Now I will drop the quotations, because you get my point.

As I mentioned last post, we took a brief trip to New York City a couple of weeks ago, and had lunch one day at chef David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar. It was great. There was a honeycrisp apple kimchi on the menu. We didn't order it. Instead we had the justly famous pork buns, a Sichuan beef tendon salad (authentically Sichuan flavors, NYC twist), and a "fucking dericious" (to steal one of Chang's signature phrases; sic) dish of deep-fried brussels sprouts with a fish sauce vinaigrette.

But the idea of apple kimchi intrigued me, obviously. Out at Bide-A-Wee that day, then, with nothing to guide me but the name, not wanting to try too hard, I tossed together this simple maceration of apples, piment, salt, maple syrup and apple syrup. The key elements, I think, are, well, all of them; as the ingredients are few, all are important. It's essential to use a firm, flavorful apple, and the piment d'espelette is distinctive, but the apple syrup was even more key in zapping up the tart appliness of the dish. To make it you just boil down fresh apple cider, proportions provided below.

I picked up the Momofuku cookbook the very day I made this, as it happens; turns out my apple kimchi is nothing like Chang's. His is a rather elaborate small plate that dresses fresh apple slices in puréed napa cabbage kimchi, and serves it with pork jowl bacon and a yogurt-maple sauce. Interesting that we both used maple syrup. Maybe I remembered it from the menu description--though I'd like to take credit for great minds thinking alike--but in reality I was just keeping it as local as possible, and I had maple syrup from our own trees, just over the hill from where I picked the apples. How fucking rocar-seasonar is that?

I found this NPR story that gives the recipe for the Momofuku dish at the bottom. Chang talks about how it came to be, noting that they tried to make straight-up fermented apple kimchi, but the results were not crisp enough. I didn't mind that some of the apple pieces broke down a bit in mine; most remained intact, and still had a nice crunch. Might not pass in the Big Apple. Good enough for Bide-A-Wee? You betcha.

I'm thinking my apple kimchi would go best with some kind of grilled pork, glazed with maple or hoisin. I'll get on it, and report back.

Bide-A-Wee Apple "Kimchi"

1 large firm apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 2" by 1/3" by 1/3" sticks, about 1 1/2 cups
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp piment d'espelette*
1 tsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp apple syrup**

Combine all. Let sit at room temp for several hours, or refrigerated up to three days before serving.

Piment d'espelette is a mildly hot, very aromatic ground red chili from the Basque region of southern France. It's available in gourmet shops or online. If you can't find it, use a couple of pinches ground red chili and a couple pinches sweet paprika.

** Apple syrup is reduced fresh apple cider. For enough apple syrup for this recipe, reduce a generous half-cup of cider to one tablespoon. If you do a larger quantity, refrigerate what's left. It will keep indefinitely. Use it in salad dressings or marinades.

Soy-Simmered Burdock Root

Burdock root, a large carrot's worth, peeled; about 1 1/2 cups chopped

Cut the burdock into roughly 1 1/2" by 1/3" by 1/3" batons. Place the burdock in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer 10 minutes. Drain.

1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 small fresh or dried red chili, seeded
1 scallion, chopped
1 cup water

Add all above to saucepan with burdock. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the burdock is tender but still a bit al dente. Remove the burdock with a slotted spoon into your serving dish. Reduce the remaining sauce until it starts to look a bit syrupy. Pour over burdock.

Before serving, add about one teaspoon of sesame oil, if you like.

Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw

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