Friday, June 1, 2018

Flank Steak Bulgogi

I know,  I know.  Bulgogi is not supposed to be made with flank steak. It should be thin slices of ribeye.  Using flank steak in bulgogi is like the foodie thing to do ... take something traditional and try to do something different with it.  But, in my defense, my beautiful Angel bought me five pounds of flank steak and I had to do something with it.  Something different.  Something bulgogi.

I am not going to get into the history of bulgogi, because that is for another post (like one in which I actually use thin slices of ribeye).  What I will say is that I was looking to make a creative dish, because I intended to use some (and eventually used all) of the flank steak for a dinner for my parents.  I wanted a dish that they would remember.

But, I have to admit, it was not just about making a great meal for my parents.  I really wanted to try bulgogi.  I never have had it (and, despite my effort, I will say I still have never had it).  A nice bulgogi dinner at a Korean BBQ joint is definitely on my to-do list.  And it has been on that list for a very, very, very long time.

So, with five to six pounds of flank steak (which, if you didn't know, is about 1/3 of the flank steak from your average cow), I decided to do a hackneyed idiom and kill two birds with one stone: satisfy my desire to try bulgogi and make a memorable meal for my parents. I scoured the internet for a bulgogi recipe that utilizes flank steak and, surprise, there were a few.  I picked the one that I liked the most, which was from the blog or website of Korean Bapsang, "a Korean Mom's Home Cooking."   The interesting twist to this recipe is the use of pineapple juice.  That is an ingredient that I would not have expected with South Korean cuisine.  Pineapples, not sea pineapples (that is a completely different post for probably a different blog - cue, Andrew Zimmern).   But, I digress ...

The rationale behind using the pineapple juice is to tenderize the flank steak.  As it turns out, pineapple contains an enzyme bromelain, which is used to tenderize meat.  That enzyme is found in fresh pineapple, but not canned pineapple because the canning process damages and destroys the enzyme.  Don't bottle with powdered pineapple (does that actually exist?) or bottled pineapple juice. The recipe calls for a can of pineapple, which runs counter to what I just wrote.  But, if you can get an actual pineapple, and you can juice the hell out of it, use that juice to marinate the beef.

In the end, this is a great recipe if you want a quick way to make bulgogi without adhering to the traditional expectations of the dish and you want to cut a few corners in order to feed your family now rather than in several hours.  It is definitely worth it.

Recipe from Korean Babsang
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the steak):
1 flank steak (about 1.5 to 2 pounds)
2 scallions

Ingredients (for the marinade):
5 to 6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine (or mirin)
4 tablespoons juice from a can of pineapple
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 to 1.5 teaspoons finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. Prepare the meat.  Slice the meat (about 1/3 to 1/4 inch thick) against the grain at a steep angle.  Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Add the meat and mix well until evenly coated.   Marinate for at least 1 hour. 

2.  Cook the meat.  Heat a grill pan over high heat and add a few slices.  Lower the heat as necessary.  The marinade may burn if the heat is too high.  Cook until the meat is is cooked through and slightly caramelized, one or two minutes per side. 

3.  Finish the dish.  Serve the meat with any of the accompaniments associated with bulgogi.  In this case, I served it with thinly sliced red onions, scallions and carrots, with lettuce to serve as a wrap.


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