Monday, October 29, 2012

Slow Cooker Korean Beef Stew with Napa Cabbage and Pickles

Alex and I have a rather glorious All-Clad slow cooker in the closet that we almost never use.  I am determined to change that this winter.  I want to make at least one batch of slow cooker chili and at least one stew (or other braised dish).  I guess this recipe would take care of the stew, but let's get a little crazy and make another stew because why not?  But seriously, a slow cooker is brilliant for a lazy Sunday wintertime meal.  You throw it together in the morning (or the afternoon) and wander off for a few hours.  And later that evening you end up with something warm and hearty.  Today we started putting dinner together around 3:30 pm.  After we seared up the beef and threw it in the slow cooker, we took the dog for a long walk and hung out on the couch for awhile.  And then around 7:30 pm dinner was ready!  This recipe was fairly labor-intensive for a slow cooker recipe - there were several stages and several pots used, but it simmered away unattended for 3 plus hours, which was nice.  The dish that finally emerged from the slow cooker was warm, rich and comforting - perfect for a slightly chilly lazy Sunday.  It had a rich meaty flavor from the beef and the beef stock, plus a nice sweetness to the broth overlayed with the aroma of toasted sesame oil.  With each bite you got shreds of sweet cabbage, hunks of tender beef, steamed rice, and the slight crunch of bean sprouts.  My favorite element might have been the pickles.  I really loved the how the pickles provided lovely little bursts of acidity and a little heat.  And they held up a lot better once we added them in the slow cooker than I thought they would.  I took a few bites and told Alex to break out the kimchi because I thought the kimchi would be a nice spicy side and would provide some complimentary (but absent) flavors and a nice textural contrast.  When I asked Alex what he thought about the stew he said (and I quote) "I think it was very good - I think serving it with kimchi made it better." 

Recipe after the jump!

Slow Cooker Korean Beef Stew with Napa Cabbage and Pickles
Available at Food & Wine

more than 1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 lbs trimmed beef chuck, cut into 3-inch pieces (we had just over 2.5 lbs and it was more than enough)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 quart beef stock or low-sodium broth
2 medium red onions, quartered through the core
6 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 large jalapeños—halved, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 cups coarsely chopped Napa cabbage
1/2 cup Korean Sweet and Sour Pickled Cucumbers (see below)
steamed white rice
toasted sesame oil
3 thinly sliced scallions, for garnish

In a large skillet, heat the oil.  Season the meat with s&p and sear the pieces over moderately high heat until richly browned all over.  Transfer the meat to a large slow cooker, turn it to high and cover.

Add the soy sauce, sugar, wine and stock and bring to a boil in the skillet where you cooked the beef.  Pour the mixture into the slow cooker.  Add the onions, cover and cook for 2 hours.  Add the garlic and jalapeños to the stew, cover and cook for 1 hour longer, until the meat is very tender.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the bean sprouts and blanch for 30 seconds.  Put the cornstarch in a bowl and whisk in 1/2 cup of the liquid from the cooker.

With a slotted spoon, pick out and discard the onions.  Transfer the meat to a large bowl.  Whisk the cornstarch mixture, then whisk it into the stew, cover and let simmer for 2 minutes.  With 2 forks, very coarsely shred the meat. Return the meat to the cooker.  Add the napa cabbage and pickles to the cooker, cover and cook until the cabbage is just wilted, about 5 minutes.  Turn the cooker off.

Spoon steamed rice into bowls. Ladle the stew over and around the rice.  Top with the beans sprouts, a drizzle of sesame oil and the sliced scallions and serve.  I recommend serving with kimchi.

Korean Sweet and Sour Pickled Cucumbers

4 Persian cucumbers, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 – 3 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp Korean red chili flakes

Place sliced cucumbers in a large colander and sprinkle with salt.   Mix until salt is well distributed.  Let it sit for 15-30 minutes.  Lightly rinse the cucumbers to remove excess salt.  Drain the cucumbers.  Meanwhile, stir together minced garlic, rice vinegar, cider vinegar, honey and chili flakes in a large non-reactive bowl.  Add cucumbers. 

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the flavors to come together.

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