Tried and New


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

Designer: jjdesignwithlove

*****

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.

NOTES:

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.

26 thoughts on “Tried and New

    1. Aren’t the textiles cool? Thanks for noticing and for commenting, Crystal. There’s another one coming up in a few weeks, then that likely will be it until July. At that point, though, Spoonflower will take its rightful place. Can’t hardly wait!

      It’d be interesting to learn how black garlic came to be. Did the Koreans take specific steps to develop it, or did someone forget a garlic bulb on a shelf, and then he/she decided to try it on a whim?

      Whatever its provenance, the flavor isn’t anything the soft texture and the sweet aroma would suggest. “Umami-bomb” certainly isn’t where expectations lead. Apparently, though, the same Maillard reaction which gives steaks their grill marks and flavor, is at work here. Way to go all Alton Brown on things, garlic!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Originally I was turned off by the black garlic but then it sunk in that it was fermented garlic. Hmm, interesting. It’s just gotta be good.

    I had been meaning to comment on your set design after trying out the Crunchy is Better recipe. Whatever is in the background there is quite fantastic. I used to love to frequent thrift stores and find cool set designs. Supporting designers is a great touch, though.

    Potatoes again! Who can have enough potatoes? Certainly not me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting, JoAnn! Nearly everything so far has been from some store’s shelves. Although Spoonflower announces itself this week and will appear again later in the month, I’ll run through the rest of the nondescript stock first before giving Spoonflower a much more active role this coming summer. Also, where appropriate, I also plan to start incorporating items from my own “collections.”

      It must’ve been curiosity which motivated me to try black garlic, as the color and the soft texture are so unlike what I’ve come to expect. It’s funny, though, despite the almost caramel-like aroma and feel, black garlic’s main function is in ramping up the umami, the food’s savory profile.

      And yes, even more potatoes await their turn! Peru’s International Potato Center (indeed, such a place really exists) has identified 5,000 different varieties. This blog has featured, what, seven or eight? And that’s only if you count sweet potatoes. Seems I’m going to be peeling lots of spuds in the years ahead. Decade-long KP duty, private!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 5,000… wow! I really had no idea. Who did? The Peruvians obviously. Let’s go ahead and say that you’ve featured a solid 8… you still have 4,992 to choose from. Now that’s variety.

        Looking forward to more creative set designs. Will have to look into doing more of that myself as well. I used to have so much fun with it!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, JoAnn. Isn’t it thrilling? It’s probably the same for you, but I always have had as much fun planning and contemplating a “set,” as I have in making it happen. Plus, that leads to ideas for the next one.

        What happened here? Did I just describe addiction?

        Just one more hit, then I’ll go clean. I promise.

        Just have to try those other 4,992 varieties, then I’ll kick this thing to the curb. Yeah, I….probably will. Yeah….

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ha ha, I did used to have a lot of fun planning set designs. I think it’s a healthy addiction. I mean, we’re not smoking crack or doing something really crazy, (although of course I can only speak for myself there!) 😉 No judgment!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. There better be no judgment, as I’m no addict!

        Sure, thoughts of this blog happen at all life’s events: in meetings, among friends, at weddings, and in dreams, but there are no physical effects. Well…not aside from aching feet from standing too long, aching arms from carrying extra groceries, blurred vision from staring too long at a phone or a screen…

        Crap…I am a crackhead. Happiest addict on the planet, though!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahh, a little premiere of your overhaul project, eh? Nice! I was wondering what those symbols were — apparently I’m not very familiar with Korean.

    Now, this is kind of random, but… honey. The default’s clover, right? You ever experiment with using different kinds?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you like it, Rachel! Your feedback will encourage the “for real” rollout come July. The new designs have my mind buzzing with ideas, that’s for sure!

      Speaking of buzzing, yes, clover honey is a favorite, in large part due to its ubiquity. However, many other honey varieties have made it into the kitchen, including tupelo and buckwheat. The most tried and true “alternative,” though, is orange blossom honey. Its essence particularly favors Near Eastern cuisine, I’ve found. A favorite application is to Persian Baklava, published before even you started reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the compliment, Rachel!

        The baklava certainly took a lot of work to construct, but it also produced an unusually rich contentment. A pretty modest investment, wouldn’t you agree?

        Especially as the Persian version boasts all sorts of enhancements, such as pistachios, cardamom, and orange blossom water (in addition to the orange blossom honey!). Dreams within dreams.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Greatly appreciated, Angela!

      Ah yes, the sesame seeds. They provide an intriguing crunch, as well as miniature bursts of umami – that ultra-savory goodness. It’s one of a host of flavors, each one identifiable, which don’t cancel each other so much as they balance their counterparts. Each one amplifies flavor profiles in the others which might have been missed otherwise.

      Kind of like people, huh?

      Not fair, eh? Try being hungry for weeks and thinking about that dish every ravenous moment. Oh, the privations this blog demands….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Angela!

        What’s there to say? These ingredients resonate with the soul. It’s probably why the dishes have woven themselves into civilization’s progress. Into our story, too, which is part of that tapestry.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Why Angela, you’re wonderfully kind!

        This really is fun, cooking the food, staging it, sharing it and, most of all, in discussing it afterwards with you. This has kept the blog going since 2016, and it will keep things jumping until 2025, at least. Please stick around. Not only do I enjoy our conversations, but I can’t wait for you to see the even better entries ahead.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, Angela, I appreciate your support and your generosity. Your faithfulness is inspiring.

        Sincerely, though, I worry that doing this full-time would take the fun out of cooking. Right now, at least, the hobby is just too much fun!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Actually Angela, this year I’ll be the guest (among others), as the holiday will be at my parents’ house. It hasn’t been settled yet who will come, and when, but there’s sure to be a houseful.

        How about you? I’m sure there will be a joyous phone call at the very least, right? Maybe even a video call, if you and your mother have the equipment. Perhaps one year, if not this one, a plane trip home.

        Each year, we recall holidays past, and it always is a bittersweet moment. Plenty of sweetness to enjoy, though, including hopes and plans for those seasons yet to be.

        Like

    1. Well Jenn, you and your husband definitely would like gochujang! As it’s soy-based, the paste definitely has savory going for it, in addition to the expected kick. Being relatively close to Koreatown (insofar as anything at all in L.A. is “close”) you may be able to try varieties I only can imagine.

      One thing’s certain, I’m a fan. In fact, someone in the know told me we might see more gochujang here in the future. That’s the rumor, at least.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This ‘chicken and vegetable stew’ is calling out my name in the most melodic tone and I almost cannot resist answering it’s mouthwatering invitation to satisfy my tastebuds. Where’s an airplane when I need one?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Most kind, Tamara! Question is, where would you head, to the Northeast US, or to South Korea?

      As far as tastebuds go, it’s difficult to find anything more satisfying than gochujang. Sure, it’s peppery. Would anything of such a bright hue be anything but? However, being soy-based, it also is savory. Dramatically flavorful, this paste.

      Liked by 1 person

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