Friday, May 15, 2015

The perfect good news dinner party dish

Let's backtrack. Again. (One day I'll write this blog in real time again, promise.)

In January we invited our dear friends over for dinner. They didn't know it, but it was a total setup. Not only were we planning to surprise them with the news that we were pregnant again, but we planned to really surprise them by asking if they'd be Hazel's godparents. Clearly, a damn good dinner was necessary.

Even though I've owned the Momofuku cookbook for years, I've always flipped right past David Chang's bo ssam recipe. This NYT Cooking piece, though, got my attention, which links back to this longer piece. A "recipe to win the dinner party sweepstakes?" Okay then!

The magic of this meal is that it's not at all difficult to put together. It's timely, yes - you'll need to plan in advance so the pork can sit overnight. But compared with lots of the "oh, this is simple!" recipes that I try to throw together when company is over, forgetting that I actually want to be able to converse with company instead of cook up until we're seated, this recipe is tailor-made for being able to enjoy your guests. And honestly? One of the best meals we've cooked all year.

We toasted Baby Dos. LG and B said yes to our big question. We all squealed and hugged and cried. And then we almost died at the deliciousness of the food. Make this dish for your next good news dinner, and then you'll have even more to toast.

Momofuku's Bo Ssam
Serves 6-8


1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons brown sugar

2 ½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
1 ½ teaspoons light soy sauce
1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

(DC peeps - you can find your ssamjang, kochujang and kimchi at the Korean stand inside Eastern Market! The owner makes it herself.)
2 tablespoons fermented bean-and-chili paste (ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
1 tablespoon chili paste (kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
½ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

2 cups plain white rice, cooked
3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
1 dozen or more fresh oysters(optional)
Kimchi (available in many Asian markets, and online)

Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

When you're ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices. Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork. (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices.) At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.
Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.

Make the ssam sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the chili pastes with the vinegar and oil, and mix well.

Prepare rice, wash lettuce and, if using, shuck the oysters. Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.

When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork. Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.
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