When you can’t make up your mind whether your taste buds crave Asian or Italian, try this fabulous fusion. It has a split personality and when you can’t decide what you want, this schizophrenic delight will show you just how wonderful crazy can be. Kudos to Kay Chun who published this terrific recipe on the New York Times Cooking website. If you have not already subscribed, you should.
When I first saw this recipe, I was so intrigued I just had to try it right away. It was so yummy I’ve made it twice. You don’t need any fancy equipment other than a sharp knife, but having a food processor to chop the vegetables speeds things right along. You’ll be feasting before you know it. All of the ingredients are readily available at your neighborhood market, so you won’t need to chase all over town searching for an elusive component. Yet the fusion of flavors is wildly exotic. It has already become a favorite at our house. Its sure to be a regular at your house as well.
2 tablespoons of safflower or canola oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped celery
7 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled an minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste, or one tablespoon tomato paste and one tablespoon gochujang sauce (I highly recommend doing the mix)
1 pound of ground beef (I used ground sirloin)
4 ounces white button mushrooms finely chopped (about 2 cups)
¾ cup finely chopped scallions
¾ cup low sodium soy sauce (Be sure to use low sodium or it will be too salty)
¼ cup turbinado sugar
Kosher salt and black pepper
12 ounces egg pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
1. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until softened about 3 minutes. Add carrot and celery and cook five minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger and tomato paste. Here, I strongly urge you to use one tablespoon of tomato paste and one tablespoon of gochujang instead of two tablespoons of tomato paste. It adds some heat and amps up the Korean vibe. Stir together until caramelized, 2 to 3 minutes, lowering the heat as necessary to avoid burning. Return heat to medium.
2. Add beef, mushrooms, and ½ cup of the scallions and cook, stirring to break up the beef, until the beef is browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add soy sauce, sugar and ¼ cup water and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in remaining ¼ cup scallions and season with pepper.
3. As the sauce cooks, make the pasta. In my case it was classic egg noodles because I could not find any other egg pasta at the store. Cook whatever pasta or noodles you choose according to the directions on the packaging. You can also serve the sauce over rice, put in in tacos, or use lettuce wraps. I have not yet tried any of these intriguing alternatives, but give one of them a whirl if it tickles your fancy. Go big or go home! Oh wait, you already are home, aren’t you?
4. Serve over your desired base (I bet riced cauliflower would be good, too) and sprinkle with some good Parmesan cheese. Take a bite and feel your taste buds go berserk!
A few pointers I’ve picked up courtesy of those cooks who have tried the recipe and made suggestions:
1. The best pointer was to combine the tomato paste with gochujang sauce.
2. Don’t cover the sauce the whole time you cook it. It can get a little watery. I recommend either partially covering, or cooking it uncovered for the last ten minutes.
3. Some reviewers were tempted to reduce the amount of soy sauce and sugar. Please don’t. Some admitted it was a bad idea that made the dish too bland. Some preferred it with less. I would suggest you make it according to the recipe, with my variations, and see what you think. Cut back the soy sauce or sugar next time if you find it too salty or too sweet.
Personally, I loved the balance of salt and sweet and the umami goodness from the tomato paste, soy sauce and mushrooms.
4. This is a great recipe to play with and make it your own.
Serve this crazy mixed-up mystery meal to your guests and you will definitely get a reaction. What the heck is in this? Make everyone take a guess. It will make great dinner table conversation for the rest of the night!