A little bit about Korean holidays.  A lot of love related ones have popped up.  There’s Valentine’s Day (February 14th), where women give men gifts.  There’s White Day (March 14th), where men give women gifts.  There’s Black Day (April 14th), where single folks eat black bean noodles and wallow in their loneliness.  I’m sure June 14th has some weird ass holiday too.

Today was White Day.  Eun Jeong’s not the romantic type.  She hates silly gifts given on manufactured holidays.  But I’m an incurable romantic.  It’s also her birthday weekend.  So I pushed her to let me cook for her tonight.  I brought up that she had never had a home cooked steak dinner.


I had been keeping my eye on beef prices since American beef was allowed back in the market.  (BTW–hilarious how people were scarfing down free samples of American beef at E-Mart today, considering the attitude last summer.)

She wanted simple, and I promised simple.  She loves my salads, which are greens, shaved onions and tomatoes with a basic homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  She didn’t need anything else.

We went to E-Mart to pick up the steaks.  We also found that Ki Jogae 키조개 were on sale.  Therese already talked about them on her blog, and they’re wonderful.  They are these giant scallops that I’ve only seen in Korea.  In fact, they may be really rare because I remember Andrew Zimmern going nuts over them at the fish market when taping the upcoming Korea episode of Bizarre Foods.  In English, they translate as pen shell, but really, since they seem to be a type of indigenous Korean scallop, let’s just call them by the Korean name–Ki Jogae.

We also got some steaks, which were cut too thinly for my liking, but Korean consumers like meats that cook quickly and thoroughly, i.e., no room for medium rare steaks.  Meh.  No matter.  I’m happy that beef is starting to come down to a more reasonable level price wise.  We got four steaks for the price of one Korean steak.

Being her birthday, the wine choice was a semi-sweet wine from Spain.  There’s been an overstock of wine from poor Valentine’s Day sales, so a lot of them are really marked down right now.

I decided to make her a classic Surf ‘n’ Turf.  I also made her a little treat she had been pining for since she left Canada six years ago–rice pudding.  I used the baked recipe from Therese’s site.

The rest of the meal was very simple.  It was just a matter of coordination–making sure dishes were timed to come out properly.  I started by washing and prepping the salad, leaving the vinaigrette to the last minute.

I cleaned the Ki Jogae.  They come in strings of around eight or ten, complete with interesting innards.  Eun Jeong found the innards disgusting, so I trimmed them after I seasoned them.

The seasoning was this little jar of yuzu seasoning salt that I got from Japan a few years ago.  That’s great stuff.

A little goes a long way.

I personally couldn’t let gorgeous roe go to waste, so I cooked them with a good dose of mirim and pureed them into a sauce.  The good news was the sauce tasted heavenly–like foie gras of the sea.  The bad news was that it was gritty with sand residue.  I had to toss it out.

Didn’t matter.  I had already made a little light sauce using a third cup of mirim, a tablespoon of soy sauce, half a teaspoon of ground ginger, and a teaspoon of sesame oil.  This was crack sauce.  Way too freakin’ addictive.

I also sauteed some mushrooms we found on sale.  I told Eun Jeong I was cooking the first thing I learned how to cook as a child–mushrooms sauteed in butter.  She was playfully suspicious.

I had the mushrooms sauteeing on the stove as I simply seasoned the steaks with sea salt and pepper cracked in the mortar.  I threw the steaks under the broiler and cooked them to order (mine medium rare, hers well done).  I threw a pat of butter on each steak as they left the broiler and promptly tossed the Ki Jogae under the flame.

As the Ki Jogae cooked, I finished making the vinaigrette and tossed it with the salad.  I made sure to leave the Ki Jogae a little rare in the middle for tenderness.

I plated the Ki Jogae with the steak, gently sauced the Ki Jogae with the crack sauce, and placed the mushrooms on top of the steak.  I didn’t have anything colorful or striking for garnish, but so what.

Eun Jeong loved every little bit.  She said I had redeemed myself in the kitchen.  She actually started eating the crack sauce with a spoon.

I personally think the Ki Jogae still suffer from a bit of grittiness, but they are sweet and plump.  The steak, though thin, turned out fine.

Eun Jeong’s first home cooked steak dinner was a success.

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Joe McPherson founded ZenKimchi in 2004. He has been featured and sourced in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CNN, KBS, MBC, SBS, Le Figaro, Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, Harper’s Bazaar Korea, The Chosun Weekly, and other Korean and international media. He has consulted for "Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain," The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveler, the PBS documentary series “Kimchi Chronicles,” and other projects in the UK, Canada, and Australia featuring celebrity chefs such as Gizzi Erskine and Gary Mehigan.Mr. McPherson has written for multiple Korean and international publications, including SEOUL Magazine, JoongAng Daily, The Korea Herald, Newsweek Korea and wrote the feature article for U.S. National publication Plate magazine’s all-Korean food issue. He has acted as dining editor for 10 Magazine and was on the judging panel for Korea for the Miele Guide.He spoke at TEDx Seoul on Korean food globalization, at TED Worldwide Talent Search on the rise of Korean cuisine, and in New York City on Korean Buddhist temple cuisine. The company ZenKimchi International organizes food tours for tourists and corporations and acts as a media liaison for foreign and Korean media and local restaurants and producers.
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