Last weekend, the Frenchman and I journeyed to Charleston, South Carolina, and it was delightful. It felt like a proper break, a real disengagement from the ho-hum of everyday, and there is nothing I adore more than traveling avec mon amour. The monsieur travels to Atlanta for work on the regular, but I had never been to the south before.
I loved the narrow houses of Charleston, the skinny side porches, some adorned with hanging plants or wind chimes, some old and listing like a tipsy uncle. I loved the real gas lamps burning, picturesque but inexplicable, in the light and heat of a May day. I loved the properties overlaid with vines, such bombastic vegetation and the smell of honeysuckle everywhere.
I loved the drive to Sullivan’s Island, across the long, modern bridge; rising with airs over the flat brown water and the skeletons of industrial machinery. I loved the walk across the packed, wavy, clay sand, to the receding line of the water where we found razor clam shells as long as a witch’s fingernail.
I loved the heat, thick enough to jar and only May, and the soundtrack of bug callings, and the line of oaks as old as this county: Imagine! they will outlive us all. I loved the weeping tree by the lagoon, the branches so thick and so low they meant to scoop us up and carry us off to who knows where. And then the lick of poppies, in front of the old house and beside the pecan tree, so loud and red and unembarrassed.
It should go without saying that I also loved the food. (To read a full account of where and what we ate, scroll near the bottom of this page.) One sandwich in particular, from a lunch shop called Butcher & Bee, caught my fancy for recreation. The description was “Korean Short Rib Sandwich with Fried Egg, Spicy Slaw, and Soy Drizzle”. I asked (and was told) the ingredients for the soy drizzle, and from there, I got to experimenting.
A note on the (missing) gochujang: Gochujang is a Korean hot bean paste. According to Soon Young Chung’s book, Korean Cooking Made Easy, it is a “thick, red paste made from rice powder, fermented soybeans, red chili powder and salt, with small amounts of sugar or sometimes honey added.” Apparently, there isn’t really a substitue for this ingredient, but since I couldn’t find any in my (fairly well stocked) grocery store, and I was too lazy to find a Korean grocery store, I followed Ms. Chung’s advice and used a combination of red chili powder, sugar, and Japanese miso paste, to approximate the flavor. If you do happen to have gochujang, use 1.5 tablespoons in the marinade, instead of 1 teaspoon chili powder + 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar + 1 tablespoons miso paste.
A note about time: In the quickest scenario, you would marinate the short ribs for 4 hours, braise them, and then immediately shred them for sandwiches. However, the more patient you are, the more flavor you can develop. If patience in the kitchen is not usually your thing, try this: make a big batch (quadruple this recipe, for example). You can wrap the finished short ribs in individual portions, freeze them, and then defrost for easy future dinners: tacos, soups and stews, with eggs, etc. You can also make and freeze batches of the marinade alone, which I bet would be tasty on chicken or pork, too.
A note about making ahead: The short ribs and the sauce can (and should) be made ahead of time. The cabbage can be shredded 1 day in advance, and kept in the fridge in a sealed container. The slaw sauce can be made 1-2 days ahead, and also kept, sealed, in the fridge–just give it a quick stir if it starts to separate. The only thing that needs to be prepared à la minute is the egg frying and the actual sandwich assembly, making this sandwich fairly guest friendly/stress free.
Makes 4 sandwiches
Marinade + Braising Ingredients:
- 1 nub of ginger
- 1 medium white onion
- 1 Asian pear
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1.5 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon miso paste
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 scallions
- 2 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
- 1/2 cup beef stock
Make the Marinade:
1. Peel the ginger. Remove the skin from the onion, and cut it into quarters. Peel and core the Asian pear, and cut that into quarters, too. Peel the skins from the garlic. Move the ginger, the onion, the pear, the garlic, and the sesame seeds into the bowl of a food processor, and blend until you achieve a smooth-ish paste–you don’t need to puree, but you don’t want whole pieces of any one ingredient either.
2. In the base of a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the chili powder, the brown sugar, and the miso paste, until it forms a paste. Add the soy sauce, the mirin, and the sesame oil; whisk. Slice up the scallions, and add them to the bowl too. Finally, add the contents of the food processor. Fold everything together.
3. Move the short ribs into a large bowl. Massage the marinade into the meat. Move the meat, and any extra marinade, to a large and sealable plastic bag, and then into the fridge. Marinate the meat for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Braising the Short Ribs:
1. Heat the oven to 250F.
2. Move the meat and the marinade to a Dutch oven, or another heavy pot with a lid. (If your pot isn’t large enough, you can cut the short ribs into pieces with kitchen shears; just feel around the bones. I cut mine into thirds.) Add the beef stock, and stir around the meat, so that the stock incorporates into the marinade. Turn the range to medium-high, and let the stock and marinade come to a simmer. After that, turn off the range, put the lid onto the pot, and move it into the oven. Braise the meat for 2-3 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone. Check every hour or so. You always want the meat to be half-submerged in liquid during cooking.
3. When the meat has finished cooking, move the Dutch oven into the fridge, and let it chill for 4 hours, or overnight.
Short Rib Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 shallot
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1.5 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 scallions
Making the Short Rib Sauce:
1. Mince the shallot. Move it to a small saucepan, along with the brown sugar, the grated ginger (I use a microplane grater; it helps catch the fibers), the sesame seeds, the sriracha, the soy sauce, and the red wine vinegar. Whisk to blend. Turn the heat to medium high, and let the liquid come to a gentle bubble. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced by 1/3, about 10 minutes. Let the sauce cool.
2. Whisk in the scallions, sliced, as well as the canola oil. Refrigerate until needed.
Finishing the Short Ribs:
1. When the short ribs have been properly chilled, skim away any solidified fat. Shred the meat from the bones using your fingers; discarding any fat, bone, or gristle.
2. Empty the short rib sauce into the pot with the shredded short ribs. Heat gently, until the meat is warm and quite moist from soaking up the sauce. Keep the short ribs warm, over very low heat, until you are ready to build the sandwiches.
Slaw and Dressing Ingredients:
- 1 small head white cabbage
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- a pinch of white sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
Make the Slaw and Dressing:
1. Shred the cabbage. Move it to a mixing bowl, and set it aside.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, the lemon juice, the white sugar, the mustard, the cayenne, and the sesame oil, until emulsified.
3. Toss the cabbage with the dressing, until evenly coated. Set the bowl aside.
Ingredients to Finish Each Sandwich:
- 4 brioche buns
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 4 eggs
Building the Sandwiches:
1. When you are ready to serve, cut open each brioche bun. (You can toast them if you like.) Fry the eggs in the canola oil, just until the whites are set and starting to frizzle, but the yolk is still runny. Spoon the warm short rib onto the base of each sandwich, then add a freshly fried egg. Finish with a generous scoop of the slaw.
This is a messy sandwich; embrace it! Slice each sandwich in half, so that the egg runs into the meat and the slaw. Serve immediately.