Today we are honored to have a guest post from Amy of Word Kitchen, who writes about the culinary connections between American Thanksgiving traditions and her son’s South Korean heritage. Her Korean Barbeque-Stuffed Endive Leaves are a savory treat from her home to yours, ready to be enjoyed any time!
Writer Amy Rogers Nazarov (in black, at end of table) enjoys Thanksgiving dinner with her family at home in Washington, DC in November 2011. The Korean Barbeque-Stuffed Endive Leaves were long gone by this point. (photo courtesy Ari Nazarov)
My husband Ari and I brought our son home from South Korea when he was almost nine months old.
Adopting Jake has made our lives richer in so many ways, from the friends with whom we socialize – families built by adoption and biology – to the dreams we nurture about a journey back to South Korea so Jake can see where he was born – and, with luck, see his foster family and his birth relatives.
Jake is almost five years old, and talking openly about his adoption is just the way we do things around here. He knows he did not come out of my belly but out of his birth mom’s. There is a photo of his foster mother holding him on our living-room mantel. And I’ve told him he used to ride in his foster mom’s podaegi when she went out to buy food or run errands in the bustling city of Seoul. A podaegi is a Korean baby carrier, a great length of fabric the caregiver wraps around herself and the baby so the infant is cozily snuggled against her back. The moment I first laid eyes on my son, in the parking lot of his foster family’s apartment building, all I could see was his head sticking out of the podaegi.
Happily, Jake likes Korean food, which we eat in restaurants about once a month and which I am learning to make at home. Last Thanksgiving, I experimented with Korean barbeque, which is usually made with short ribs marinated in a salty-sweet sauce. I thought it might be the basis of an appetizer giving a nod to Jake’s birth culture, which we seek to honor and learn more about any chance we get.
My entire family – my parents, my brother and sister and their spouses and children – came from New England to Washington to celebrate and eat with Ari, Jake and me. By and large, it was a traditional American feast: there was a 20-pound turkey, my brother Paul’s green-bean casserole, my sister Alison’s squash, my mother Carol’s apple pie (true confession: we’d all take apple over pumpkin any darn day). But like I said, I wanted to put a Korean stamp on the meal.
This dish is based on the Korean barbeque recipe in Joohee Muromcew’s The Baby Bistro Cookbook
(Rodale, 2003). I used 80/20 ground beef, marinating it for an hour or so before I dropped it down in the hot skillet. The first time I prepared the dish, I made two mistakes: one, I used ground sirloin, which dried out because of the relative lack of fat. Also, I worked the marinade into the meat, which made the cooked beef tough. I advise you to purchase ground chuck for the recipe and then to just let the meat hang out in the marinade, turning it a couple of times; you’ll have a chance to work the flavors in later when you are browning it.
When it’s cooled a little, I spooned the cooked beef into endive leaves, which not only add crunch, color and contrast but are sturdy enough to hold the meat. My husband is a vegetarian, but everyone else gobbled up the meat-stuffed leaves with gusto.
My hope is to serve a Korean dish at every Thanksgiving. We’re a Korean-American family now, and preparing and eating the food of our son’s birth country can, I think, help tide us over until we get back to Korea one day to help him better understand where he came from on his journey to us.
Korean Barbeque-Stuffed Endive Leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions or chives, chopped
½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 T hoisin sauce (optional)
1 T white sugar
1 T brown sugar
2 T toasted sesame oil
1 pound ground beef (preferably ground chuck, which has a higher fat content)
Two heads of endive, washed, with leaves pulled off and ready to fill
Mix the scallions, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce (if you are using it), sugars and oil in large self-closing plastic bag (it has to be big because the meat’s going into it). Make sure you dissolve the sugars. Place the beef in the bag and let it marinate for a minimum of 15 minutes. You can also leave it there overnight.
Into a skillet preheated to medium, dump the entire contents of the bag. Break apart the marinated beef with a spoon for 10 minutes or more. Resist the urge to turn up the heat; the sugar in the marinade can burn if it’s too hot.
Once the meat is no longer pink inside (be sure to take out a knife and check!), pile a tablespoon or so of the beef into the waiting endive leaves (enlist some help from anyone standing around in the kitchen, as this is a bit time-consuming). The bigger leaves might be able to hold a bit more.
The meat-stuffed leaves look nice arranged on a round platter. These tasty bites cool off quickly, but they taste good warm or at room temperature.
About the blogger:
Amy Rogers Nazarov (photo courtesy Ari Nazarov)
Amy Rogers Nazarov writes about food, adoption and technology from her home in Washington, DC. Her byline has appeared in Cooking Light, Washingtonian, The Washington Post, The Writer, Cure, BizTech, The Baltimore Examiner, Media Bistro, and many other outlets. Amy blogs at www.wordkitchen.net, tweets @WordKitchenDC, and is represented by Fairbank Literary Representation (http://www.fairbankliterary.com/)