Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bulgogi Skewers

Sometimes I'm creative and come up with something cool.  But other times I just get lucky and stumble onto something when messing around.  This was a "stumble onto" because I was trying to solve a problem that I wasn't sure even existed.  But it is a technique that rocks and will work with many flavor profiles.

This is a "Far East meets Middle East meets my backyard" kind of thing.   Korean bulgogi grilled on a skewer - reminiscent of shawarma, gyro, or even tacos al pastor done on a vertical bbq spit.   The result is sweet and spicy grilled beef that has crispy edges, juicy insides, and is pull apart tender.

Bulgogi Skewers, different ribeye idea

It looks like whole pieces of meat on a stick but as you pull pieces off, they tear into thin, delectable ribbons of "oh my snap that tastes so good".   The flavor is a pop in the mouth but it's more about the range of textures.

Here's how I stumbled into this.  
  • I've been wanting to make Korean bulgogi ever since seeing Josh at The Meatwave post about his almost two years ago.  [If you don't follow The Meatwave you should.  Great photography, solid bbq/grilling techniques, sauce reviews, and more.  I think he has one of the most underrated BBQ sites on the Internet.]  
  • I looked at Josh's recipe, Mark Bittman's, then sort of combined them for the marinade.  I just wasn't crazy about grilling thin slices of steak over hot fire with a sugary marinade.  I was worried that trying to flip them all fast enough as they quickly cooked through (and the sugar started burning) would be a pain.  
  • That's when skewers entered my mind.  I wasn't thinking about the great variety of textures I would get.  I was just being lazy smart and efficient.
Bulgogi Skewers
Inspired by Josh Bousel and Mark Bittman

  • 2 ribeye steaks, 1" thick*
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and coarse chopped
  • 1 green onion, coarse chopped
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, coarse chopped
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flake
  1. Freeze the steaks for 30 minutes and then slice as thin as you can across the grain.  Place in a bowl.
  2. Place the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until the solid ingredients are pulverized, smashed, and decimated...about 20-30 seconds.  Pour over the sliced beef and toss to coat thoroughly.  Marinate for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat a charcoal fire to 450f (medium high heat).  
  4. Fold and thread the ribbons of steak onto skewers.  You want to push them up against each other so only the edges get crispy (see pictures).  
  5. Place on the grill and cook for 2 minutes.  Cook another 3 minutes, rotating a quarter turn every minute.  I don't have an internal temp target for you, you are just looking for the exterior to get lightly crispy and browned.
  • Equipment needed:  6-8 bbq skewers.  If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water while the meat is marinating.
  • Steak - You can substitute strip steak, flat iron, or flank steak.  
Partially frozen beef will be easier to slice thinly.  

The ribeye can have a sinewy piece of silver skin that is NOT good eats.  I cut around it like this, before continuing to slice.

Bulgogi Skewers
Before cooking, they still look like individual ribbons of heavenly beef.

Bulgogi Skewers
As they grill over the hot coals, they start to form together. 

Pull apart tender.
We've had these twice this week, they were so good.  The same technique would be fantastic using a Greek marinade for gyros (pull the meat off and serve in pitas with tzatziki sauce) or using thin shaved pork with a Mexican marinade for tacos al pastor (pull meat off and serve in tortillas).  

Gimme Shelter
Two weeks ago, I bought a new awning for our deck grilling area.  They only last about a year but at least they count as "temporary" so the homeowners association can't complain about it being "an unapproved permanent structure" requiring the architectural committee's approval.  My neighbor, grilling co-conspirator, and fellow Big Green Egger, John, helped me put it together that afternoon.  

The new cover has side pieces that FINALLY let me hang the sign that my parents had made for me last year.

Nibble me this big green egg

It's taken so long that they probably thought I had used the sign for smoking wood in the Egg ;)