Whatever else its challenges, the oncoming coldness makes hearty meals beautifully satisfying and even more delicious. These charms glow with additional radiance when novel ingredients take their appreciation to brand-new levels. Food which already was warmly comforting becomes bracing in its newfound delights.
Chicken stew is a great example. The Korean version is called Dak Dori Tang, and it’s the perfect meal for a cozy evening inside, snuggling beyond the icy wind’s reach. Such sublime warmth makes winter magical, and from these experiences fond memories arise. Milk Street agrees, which is why they featured the stew in the January-February 2021 issue.
Dak Dori Tang picks up its characteristic glow from a good dose of gochujang, Korea’s beloved peppery soy condiment. The paste is as popular in Korea as ketchup is elsewhere, and it contributes a satiny richness as well as a tingly, mild heat. Not too much, though, despite its bright red color. Just a couple tablespoons are enough to satisfy a stew for three or four, and to endow it with a reassuring tinge.
That’s the “comfort” side of the formula, and the “novel” half comes in two parts. First are potatoes which, despite their centrality to Korea’s cuisine, are a New World crop, unknown outside South America until the 16th century. Although the tubers are a relatively new addition to an ancient land, they’ve had five centuries to impress local tastes. That they’ve done, and after the first pillowy, deeply flavored bite, you’ll agree.
The second innovation is much more recent, though this development is native to Korea, black garlic. Which isn’t a different species, but rather, it’s conventional garlic which is aged with temperature and humidity governed carefully, until the Maillard process takes over. It’s the same chemical reaction which gives grilled steak its char marks. When this happens to garlic, the cloves soften and turn dark, and they take on a mild, vaguely caramelly and unambiguously savory profile:
The Milk Street recipe for Dak Dori Tang calls for standard garlic only. However, this is a great opportunity to give black garlic a try, particularly as Koreans are the people who came up with the idea in the first place. It turns out to have been a risk worth taking, as the black garlic adds a richness and a depth which the stew wouldn’t quite match on its own. Regular garlic still found its way into the stew, and it imparts the traditional flavor, but its enhanced counterpart amped the umami tenfold. No wonder black garlic is catching on worldwide.
So there you have it, familiar comforts and fresh ideas. Take two parts velvety warmth, and give them a buzz of excitement. Simmer, and you have Dak Dori Tang, providing contentment far beyond its original home on the peninsula. Anywhere a fleece blanket keeps the cold at bay.
Speaking of new features, here’s something innovative which will become common over the coming years. This week, and increasingly throughout 2022 (and beyond), fresh linens will premiere. They’ll match each entry’s theme and, it is hoped, will highlight the creation too.
Until today, the fabrics have been rather nondescript, mainly whatever was on the shelf at Kohl’s or at Target. As such, they have been anonymous works, the original artist lost to mass retail. That neglect begins to falter today, as this is the first of an increasing number of Spoonflower designs, courtesy of a site which celebrates its artists. Consequently, just as each recipe’s source gets attribution, so too does the fabric designer. For example, today’s artwork:
Design Name: Large Korean Alphabet
Dak Dori Tang
(Korean Chicken and Vegetable Stew)
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (*1)
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
- 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped (*2)
- 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
- 5 cups water
- 3 tablespoons gochujang (*3)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1-and-1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high, heat the oil until simmering. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and begins to brown, about five minutes. Add the garlic and the grated ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute.
Add the water and stir in the gochujang, soy sauce, honey, chicken and potatoes. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
Taste and season with additional soy sauce if needed. Serve sprinkled with scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
1 – Not at my table! Two large shallots will do Korea proud.
2 – If you can find them, a couple cloves of black garlic make a great addition. No need to substitute them for conventional garlic, as they have distinct taste profiles, and they actually complement each other.
Oh, and you won’t be able to mince the black garlic either, as it’s soft and nearly paste-like. Instead, throw it into the pot along with the other ingredients, and it will dissolve in the hot stew.
3 – Gochujang might not be so hard to find in general supermarkets, as Korean cooking is becoming more popular. If it remains elusive, though, substitute two-and-a-half tablespoons of tomato paste and half a tablespoon of sriracha.