Sunday Dinner: Bulgogi Sandwiches (or Korean Cheesesteaks)

What I know about Korean cooking fits in your standard No. 10 business envelope. I know that Koreans, not unlike many other Asian cultures, use a lot of soy sauce. I know that kimchi is a big deal (thank you M*A*S*H reruns). I know that Korean barbecue is a way for a restaurant to charge you money only to have you do the cooking at your table (though I might be simplifying things here). When I mentioned to The Wife that I was doing something Korean for dinner, I got a raised eyebrow, a ruffled forehead and a lot of silence.

As a social media follower of McCann’s Local Meats in Rochester, I often see photos of the café’s bulgogi sandwiches. Having known Kevin since his days in Syracuse, this is not a surprise. Korean short ribs, bulgogi, and other items often show up in his meat cases and prepared food bars. I’m going to guess that his wife, who is Korean, has something to do with it. But even if it doesn’t, Korean food looks good and is certainly worth trying. I mean, think about how you hated sushi without ever trying it. “Eww. Raw fish?” Right?

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Digressing, since I know nothing about Korean food, I decided to start slow with bulgogi, which is loosely translated to “really delicious marinated steak that has been shaved razor thin.” Actually, Wikipedia tells me that the literal meaning is “fire meat” but I like my explanation better. With a bunch of shaved ribeye, a really good marinade and some day-old Pastabilities stretch Italian bread, I decided to do what any good American would do: add cheese. Nothing too crazy here, but a mild fontina or mozzarella goes a long way with a subtle salty and gooey addition to the roll.

WHAT WORKED: Gochujang. It’s sriracha for the more enlightened. More specifically, it’s a paste made of red chilies, fermented soybean and salt. It’s spicy upfront with a heat on the back end that makes you stand up and grab a beer from the fridge. Sriracha = Good. Gochujang = Gooder.

WHAT DIDN’T: Wegmans. One might think that the staff at one of the chain’s flagship stores — Dewitt — might have a grip on what it stocks. After looking for shaved steak and not finding it, I asked one of the meat department guys where it was shelved. The dead-behind-the-eyes gent loading chicken into a cooler pointed me to the Steak-Umms in the freezer. Everyday you get their best…except when you don’t. I ended up buying it at Trader Joe’s.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy to medium. You need to keep your eyes on your grill so that the meat doesn’t burn.

BEST FOR: A quick and easy midweek dinner, or something laid back for the weekend.

SERVE WITH: Some steamed edamame, spring rolls and a light-bodied lager.

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Sunday Dinner: Bulgogi Sandwiches (or Korean Cheesesteaks)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • quarter-sized piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp. gochujang
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • two-finger pinch of kosher salt
  • 16 oz. shaved steak (ribeye, round or other steak with good marbling)
  • 2 hoagie rolls or 2 halves of a long, narrow bread loaf
  • mayonnaise (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded mild cheese (cheddar, gruyere, mozzarella or fontina)
  • 1-2 cups shredded cabbage

Add the first 10 ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisk together until blended. Gently add the steak to the bowl and mix by hand to coat the meat in the marinade. Wash your hands (food safety, kids!), then cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.

Preheat your grill to a raging inferno (500 to 600 degrees on the surface). Reduce heat on one half of the grill and, using a tongs or slotted spoon, transfer the beef to the grill grates or a grill pan. Cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes, then turn. Cook, continuously turning, until the meat is cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove from the grill to a clean bowl.

Slice your rolls into half lengthwise. Spread a light coating of mayonnaise on one side. Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese on the other side and add half of the meat. Add half of the cabbage and fold over. Slice in half and repeat to make a second sandwich. Serve with extra gochujang.

By Jared Paventi

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2 Comments

  • Dave S says:

    This is at least the second negative reference to Wegmans I’ve seen on this blog.
    Watch your back! The Weggie Mafia will wack you 🙂

    • jaredpaventi says:

      Calls ’em as I sees ’em. Having shopped at such palaces as Stop N Shop, Giant, Safeway, and Food Lion, I am very grateful for Wegmans. They do a lot of things very well, but sometimes they strikeout terribly. No one is perfect and, contrary to popular belief, neither is Wegmans.

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