Hello from South Korea

As I have mentioned before, in theory we are cooking countries in order of population. Technically, tonight I should be cooking Japan. However, it’s been a surprisingly busy week and I didn’t have much time to research a menu. I also want to cook Japan properly – not make an Americanized chicken teriyaki. Following Japan is Mexico, and likewise. I can cook enchiladas any old day of the week, but I’d like to try something more involved, like a mole, or my favorite, tortilla soup. All this to say, tonight we are cooking South Korea.

Why South Korea? Simple. When I flipped through the “chicken” section of Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World, I happily discovered I had literally every ingredient for Grilled Chicken with Sesame Seeds. Per Bittman, “Koreans are big on sesame seeds, and they’re big on marinating.” Being of fairly diluted German extraction, I will take his word for it. Anyway, he suggests serving with kimchi, but I hate kimchi. (Trust me, I know I hate it. In high school, one of my close friends was a Korean emigre. I had authentic kimchi on more than one occasion and it never grew on me). Korean food in general isn’t a favorite, so I feel okay with making what might be less than a wholly authentic meal.

Today I had a little helper in the kitchen:

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This recipe is incredibly simple. Everything was already in my cupboard and can be found at your local grocery store.

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp minced garlic (I used about a tablespoon – 4 decent sized cloves – which was plenty)
1 tbsp minced ginger (I use the stuff in the tube – lifesaver)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
2 tbsp mirin (or sugar)
2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken parts (I used about 2 lbs worth of chicken breasts)
Scallion for garnish

Grind half of the seeds to powder (I use a coffee grinder for this, although not the same one I grind my coffee in. A quick spin with some dry white rice cleans it out nicely.) Then put everything except the unground seeds and the scallions into a bowl to make a marinade. Add the chicken. I left mine in the mix for about an hour, but the recipe indicates that you can leave it for up to 24 hours. Then, grill, broil, or roast. Because we live in the city and have zero space for a grill, I went with roasting: 30 minutes at 450 degrees, although I seared each side briefly in oil on the stove in the hopes of getting some kind of crust (I was moderately successful). Bingo. I served with white rice.

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This was good, but really nothing special. Obviously, I’ve cooked with all these ingredients before, so the flavors weren’t new. It was easy and quick, however, and even Quinn had a couple of bites of the chicken. Again, I’m not sure if this something I would find in Korea (I feel this way about a lot of the recipes in this cookbook, to be honest, which is why I haven’t used it much), but I didn’t mind finding it in my American kitchen.

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