Dinner with the Dear Leader

Something happens to me when there are Korean short ribs around. I don’t like the man I become.

The Dear Leader, upset to find no short ribs

Our friend Pirco is from Berlin, his wife Jean is Korean. Every summer they have a party for Pirco’s birthday, and Jean makes short ribs — “kalbi”, in Korean. This year, Pirco was manning the grill. I bet he’s dynamite with a steamed bratwurst. But when it came to the short ribs, he looked in over his head. “Sean, do you think these coals look correct?” he asked. I was giving him tips, and next thing I knew it was I who was manning the grill. Which I could not have planned better — I was now in control of the short ribs.

I don’t know what it is about Korean short ribs that brings out my Mr. Hyde side. I can be in possession of the most tender, dry-aged steak, and I’ll only eat a few lovingly carved slices (6 lbs. of Harvey’s Guss porterhouse notwithstanding). But put in front of me a seemingly endless supply of Korean short ribs, and I can’t stop. Something about the sweet-and-salty ripples of fatty meat, barely hanging on to charred lozenges of bone by little toothsome bits of gristle makes me lose both my dignity and my moral compass.

At Pirco and Jean’s backyard grill, I was the master of my own destiny — in the guise of altruism, no less! For every two ribs I steered toward the platter where hungry guests were waiting, I steered the most choice, perfectly seared ones toward my own plate on the side. Once I’d been relieved of my service (“Oh, Sean… you’ve done enough. Go enjoy yourself!”), I tracked down my 5-year-old daughter’s plate of half-eaten ribs. “Willa, look… a kitty!” I said, and squirreled her ribs to a darkened corner. All this, mind you, before I’d even gotten myself a proper serving from the buffet table.

The Dear Leader inspecting the beef for kalbi

Later, standing in the kitchen gorged to immobility, I recounted for Jean the gripping tale of how I had made a large jar of kim chee recently, and how during the cover of night it had popped the lid of its own accord and colonized the entire kitchen countertop. “You made kim chee??” she said, “Why?” A reasonable question, I guess, for a Korean woman to ask a Caucasian man.

The party was just starting to swing, but our baby was getting fussy and we had miles to go before we slept. So I downed my glass of soju, said my goodbyes… and with only moments to spare, stumbled upon someone else’s unguarded plate of short ribs in the kitchen… I supposed I had room for a little more…

*   *   *

Kalbi Korean beef short ribs
serves 4-6

2 lbs. flanken-style short ribs (thinly sliced across the bone)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 scallion, minced
1 tbsp. sesame seeds
steamed rice & kim chee

Combine the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, scallion and sesame seeds, and stir vigorously until most of the sugar has dissolved. Add short ribs, and mix with your fingers (or tongs) to ensure the marinade has coated all the meat. Leave to marinate in the fridge for several hours to overnight, tossing occasionally.

Heat your grill to high. Cook the short ribs a few minutes on each side, basting with the extra marinade, until golden, caramelly and charred. Remove to a platter.

Serve with steamed rice and kim chee, and the Asian beer of your preference.

*   *   *

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mom
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 04:38:38

    Loved it, my son’s dark and greedy side as well as his wonderful father side and his genes showing up so candidly in his daughter’s impatient side.


  2. Monica
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 05:00:46

    Yum!! I am so making these!! Thanks! I too love short ribs 🙂


  3. Joseph A Ferris III
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 06:16:51

    Love the “The Dear Leader inspecting the beef for kalbi” pic


  4. Lisa Gaskin
    Nov 12, 2011 @ 06:32:30

    Sean…Mom’s comment actually was very complimentary… 😉 No screwy faces necessary 😉


  5. mom
    Nov 12, 2011 @ 16:21:43

    Actually Sean, you are the most patient parent I’ve ever come across in my life but you have this subtle little face you make when it all starts being a little too much. And because I was not always the most patient parent that expression amuses me.


  6. Trackback: Of Kim Jongs and Cauliflower | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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