pork, sauces + dressings

momofuku bo ssam

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Being the total food geek that I am, I was nearly swooning when I saw David Chang's recipe in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend.  For as much as I love and cook Asian food, I'm not very well-versed in Korean dishes.  As it was, that meant I had to go to the market and look for some new (to me) chili pastes such as ssamjang which turned out to be not so easy to find in the Rocky Mountains.  I did, in the end, but at a Vietnamese-centric shop via a very kind Spanish-only speaking employee.  Funny, that...but not as funny as the look on the butcher's face when I asked for a 10lb butt, please.

If you've read the article, you'll know there was much talk of a miracle.  And, not to ruin the end of the story, yes, there is one.  There are so many flavors, texture, temperatures going on in your mouth...I highly recommend giving it a try.  I know it looks pretty intensely laborious, but it's really no big deal.  You are mostly hands-off and your house smells like heaven for 6 hours and beyond.

For those of you who didn't see the recipe, it's at an elemental level, a brined, slow-roasted pork with a few interesting sauces and kimchi (Korean-style pickled cabbage). Served at Momofuku Ssam Bar in NYC, the meal feeds 6-10 at a cost of $200.  My kids were impressed with that tidbit alone.

Not that I claim to be able to improve on David Chang, but I do have a couple of comments/suggestions:

1.  I followed the recipe verbatim and I didn't really get the Ssam sauce.  While delicious and multi-layered, I thought there to be too much oil, especially since the meat is so buttery in your mouth.

2. I didn't get to let the meat rest for an hour after it cooked for 6.  I pulled it out and turned up the heat to 500 and put it back in because my husband demanded food NOW.  I don't think it made a huge difference.

3.  LUCKY for me, I realized how much fat would be rendered from the pork cooking that long and lined my roasting pan with foil.  I wish I had been just that much smarter and DOUBLE lined it.  Mr. Chang makes no mention of the mess that is the pan because, as he should, he has a dishwasher.

momofucko bo ssam

for the pork:

8-10 lb pork butt

1 c white sugar

1 cup kosher salt

for the finishing glaze:

7 T brown sugar

1 T kosher salt

ginger-scallion sauce

2 1/2 c scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 c ginger, peeled and minced

1/4 c grapeseed oil

1 1/2 t light soy sauce

1 t sherry vinegar 

1/2 t kosher salt

ssam sauce

2 T ssamjang (fermented bean and chili paste)

1 T chili paste (kuchujang) 

1/2 c sherry vinegar

1/2 c grape seed oil (or less....)

to serve:

2 c plain white rice

2 heads butter lettuce, leaved separated, washed and dried

kimchi (pretty easy to find at most Asian grocers)

The day before you want to serve the pork, combine the sugar and salt and rub all of the meat.  Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.  Do it overnight...it only gets better.

Preheat the oven to 300º

Take pork out, remove the wrap and drain any juices.  DOUBLE line your roasting pan with foil.  Cook the pork for 6 hours, basting hourly, until the meat is fork tender. At this point, remove the pork from the over and let it rest for an hour.

Make your sauces and get all of your accompaniments ready. All can be done very ahead of time or while the pork is resting.  To make the sauces, just combine the ingredients I've listed for each.  I served them at room temp.  A little tip...the best way to peel ginger is with a spoon so you can easily maneuver around the curves.

Turn your oven up to 500º.  Combine the remaining salt and sugar and rub all over the pork and cook again for about 10-15 minutes until a dark crust develops.  Serve now, please, with all of your delicious stuff.   I wanted a little more heat, so I also served a straight-up chili paste.

Clearly, my man could not wait.