Saturday, January 03, 2015

Winter Warmer: Kimchi Stew

I've said it before, I'll say it again. My neighbors rock. The folks next door are both scientists, love dogs, make great cocktails—the husband gave Dave his recipe for Manhattans, which we've been happily slurping up ever since—and invite us to their yard parties. A couple of doors down are two tremendous cooks who've fed us lovely dinners and even let us make bread in their oven when ours was on the fritz.

The house behind us was formerly occupied by a grumpy gus who never cottoned to the young hippies (us) who moved in, started cutting down the laurel bushes that nearly engulfed the house and taking down the cyclone fencing. A few years ago he sold his house to a young couple who, within a week of moving in, planted a 100-foot-long garden along the south-facing street side and announced we could help ourselves to the bounty.

This was promising enough, but when we found out that the husband was into beer and the wife was a culinary instructor, the future was sealed and we've been passing bacon, pizza and cocktails back and forth over the back fence ever since. (Which never fails to impress friends who come over.)

Susana eventually opened her own cooking school with her best friend and fellow instructor Melinda, who felicitously happens to be a master butcher (yes, this is a fairy-tale relationship). Ever the good neighbor, Susana called the other afternoon asking if I'd be interested in a batch of stew left over from a Korean cooking class that her students couldn't finish because they were too full from the other dishes they'd made.

I've had enough of her cooking to know a terrific dinner had just fallen into my lap, and ran over immediately to pick it up. The base of the stew was a delicious fresh kimchi they'd made in class, augmented by a combination of tofu and some pork belly from a pig Melinda had butchered for a class the day before. I extracted a promise that she'd share the recipe before dashing back home to warm it up for dinner.

Exquisitely flavored and needing nothing more than some fluffy rice to make a company-worthy feast, this dish is destined become a regular addition to our dinner repertoire. I can't wait to start trying it with some of the terrific locally made kimchis available in town (Choi's, I'm thinking of you!), and it's giving me a very good reason to attempt making some of my own in the near future.

Susana's Kimchi Stew

1 lb. pork belly, in 1/4" dice
1/2 onion, diced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 qt. cabbage kimchi
2 qts. chicken stock
1 block firm tofu, medium dice
Salt, pepper, fish sauce to taste

Brown the pork belly and then add the onions to brown, then add garlic. When garlic is slightly browned, add in kimchi and stock and let simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Add in tofu and let simmer for a final 5-7 minutes to warm tofu through and season to taste with salt, pepper and fish sauce.

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