Math + KFC (Yangnyeom Dak)

November 15, 2012

You know, you really can’t beat a household commodity — the ketchup bottle on the kitchen table.
~Adlai E. Stevenson

Now that the electorate has spoken, it seemed timely to remind some readers that the days of Ike, Adlai and the Cleavers were from a time long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Times of yore which best be forgotten, but still remembered some. For example, extensive tax cuts coupled with “just” wars and an expanded military complex were commonly known then to drastically reduce needed revenues, create deficits, and were proven inimical to the greater good of society. Surely some old white men recall those self evident truths (I do).

Gochujang (고추장) is a savory, subtly pungent, deep crimson Korean paste in which the essence of red chiles is balanced with the sweetness of glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. It is believed to have been first served in Korea in the late 18th century, after chiles were earlier introduced there by European traders. In my humble, this mother condiment prevails hands down over commercial ketchup and should be embraced as a home staple. Salty and sweet, with an earthy finish and umami hints, beloved gochujang is sublime on the front end, in the middle or as a finish for many dishes. Perhaps the demographics on the table need to be reshuffled some to reflect the changing landscape.

This versatile, now nearly indispensable, paste can be stored for several months in the refrigerator. Simply bring to room temperature before using. Often, it is diluted with a touch of wine vinegar or some other coddler.

KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN (YANGNYEOM DAK)

8 chicken thighs
Sea salt

Canola oil, for frying

6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 ginger, 1 1/2″ slice, peeled and minced
1 T light brown sugar
3 T soy sauce
3 T gojujang
1 1/2 T rice wine vinegar
1 T sesame oil
1 T honey

2 C all purpose flour
1/4 C cornstarch
1 C cold water

8-10 chicken thighs

Sesame seeds, toasted
Scallions, sliced thinly, lengthwise

Lightly sprinkle salt over the chicken in a large glass casserole, cover with plastic wrap, (or place in a sealable plastic bag) and leave them in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight. Remove the chicken from the fridge and use paper towels to remove as much moisture from the surface of the chicken as possible. Allow chicken to reach room temperature before frying.

Lightly toast sesame seeds in the broiler.

Pour oil into large, heavy Dutch oven to a 2″ depth, and heat over medium high heat until a thermometer reads 350 F. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, whisk together garlic, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, gojujang, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and honey. Set aside.


Whisk flour, cornstarch, and water together in another bowl until smooth and fairly thick. Add chicken and gently toss well. (Consider a dry batter as well.) Working in batches, and first holding each piece for a few seconds with tongs in the oil, fry chicken until lightly golden, about 6–8 minutes. Remove with a spider and drain on paper towels. Then return oil to 350 F and fry until crisp, about 2-3 minutes more. Remove and drain again.

Toss chicken in sauce to coat, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve with sliced scallions, sauces, kimchi and pickled radishes.

Pourboire: of course, being the mistress or master of your domain, you can use other chicken parts, such as wings or leg-thigh quarters — which does affect frying times some.

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