On the second Saturday of the month, I host a Moms’ Dinner. The event fulfills so many of my passions– entertaining my friends, planning meals and of course, cooking. (I’m not joking about my passion for entertaining; Kurt went along– or maybe I dragged him– with an entire first floor renovation where we switched around rooms so I could bring in my parents’ dining room table which seats 12, comfortably). Also, most of my female friends work full-time and I never get to see them– particularly the moms because, well, being a working mom is EXHAUSTING. I figured they’d like the idea of a night out, kiddie-free, with pretty good food and new friends.
I started with a list of 16 or so ladies, knowing from past events that I never get 100% attendance. The single common denominator among us all is the fact that we raise children– adopted, natural born, steps. My group includes a core of women from high school, neighbors and past work colleagues who had become friends. Our kids range from toddlers to grown-up and married. All the moms work, full or part-time, except me. We’ve had food and wine pairings (the crowd is a bit on the lightweight side of alcohol consumption, so that didn’t last too long), cuisine of the month, and whatever any one suggests to me. We’ve got the routine down to drinks and appetizers, wine with dinner and possibly an after dinner drink (Trentadue Chocolate Port– thanks to a Napa-Sonoma wine trip many moons ago with our pals Andy and Jeff– is the current fave).
This month I decided I wanted to make a Korean meal. There is a huge Korean population in my town and consequently we are well-supplied with several Asian markets. My menu and recipes would be driven by, who else but, my BFF Grace. She recommended:
- Mandu (pan-fried dumplings stuffed with meat and vegetables)
- Chap chae (sweet potato noodle dish with vegetables– very pretty dish because the noodles are translucent and glass-like when cooked)
- Kalbi – grilled marinated short ribs (Grace makes this and the noodle dish for our glamping trip)
- Yaksik – steamed sweet sticky rice with dates, chestnuts and pine nuts (Grace said it was very labor-intensive and that even her mom buys it from the market, but I wanted to try)
I also wanted to serve kimchi (fermented napa cabbage) pork belly stew, but she was disinclined, because “it’s an acquired taste.” I made it any way. I also made a recipe for toffee cupcakes that I found on Pinterest (and of course, adjusted), just in case the yaksik failed.
I told her I was NOT going to serve the traditional Korean barley water because I don’t like it, and asked if I should serve sake. “Absolutely not. Serve wine or beer.” So I bought a half-dozen bottles of a reserve California Riesling, thinking that would be good with the spicy kimchi stew and the hot pepper paste you eat with the kalbi.
I’m only posting the recipe and pics for the Kalbi because it was the clear favorite among the ladies. When I brought out the platter of ribs, everyone noted that it was “a lot of meat.” I tend to buy too much, but this is the stuff they WANT TO TAKE HOME. Ha! There were maybe 4 thin strips left…the first two ladies I asked got them!
Kalbi (Korean marinated grilled short ribs)
- 5 lbs LA cut short ribs (must buy at an Asian market that sells Korean food)
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup sesame seed oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 5 minced garlic cloves
- 1 TB minced ginger
- 4 scallions, sliced thin
Here’s my starting point:
Here’s what the LA cut short ribs look like (note they are cut completely differently from say, short ribs you braise in red wine):
Mix together the marinade ingredients in a 2 gallon ziplock bag. I shoved mine into a mixing bowl so it would stand up and not spill all over the place:
In go the skinny ribs:
Squeeze out as much air as possible, seal the bag and lay it on a tray in case of leaks. Marinate overnight, turning at least once during that time:
I cooked the ribs on one of those giant non-stick, two burner grill pans (I think I bought mine on sale at Williams-Sonoma). I am afraid of propane grills (never will be a Bobby Flay). No more than a minute or two on each side. It smokes a lot (my smoke detector went off because I forgot to turn on my fan), so you may want to open a window. Thankfully they do cook fast! You can let them rest in a warming oven until ready to serve.
I was also instructed by Grace to explain to the moms exactly how to put together the lettuce wrap because she watched her husband do it wrong and it drove her crazy (did I mention she is a process/efficiency expert at her company):
- Take lettuce leaf
- Add a bit of rice
- Add a piece of meat (take it off the bone)
- Add hot pepper paste and scallions
I bailed on the yaksik (it was very labor intensive so I made it on Sunday). The wine worked quite well with the food and we finished the last bottle of Trentadue with the cupcakes. I didn’t take any pics of the food, but my friend Jacki did. Don’t drool too much!
Mandu— evidently pronounced MAWNDOO vs. MANDOO as in Fu Manchu, which I think put Grace into another fit when she heard me pronounce it that way. Good thing she wasn’t with me in the Korean store trying to pronounce the ingredient list she gave me!
Kimchi stew with pork belly
No yaksik, but the moms weren’t disappointed with these toffee cupcakes, which I made especially for my long-time pal Linda:
Next month I’m planning to test out this year’s Christmas menu on the group. I already warned them that it’s going to be one of those “don’t eat too much during the day” spreads…