It’s Friday night, and while the oven flashes “6:31” in digital text, I’m in a panic.
I’m panicked because I didn’t think ahead. “Bo ssam seems like a great idea,” I thought to myself about a week ago, when I decided to start this crazy experiment. Inspired by a shared love of great food and frugality between my girlfriend and myself, I thought “why not start with a few ethnic slow roasted meat selections? We’ll do the first one Friday, with a sweet Korean pork shoulder recipe.”
I made the plans for 7:00 that night – we’d have people over, and Emily (the girlfriend, for those of you not paying attention) would provide a functional kitchen at her place, away from my small college apartment kitchenette. Throw in a beer tasting, perhaps a few traditional sauces and some fresh veggies, and we’d call it good.
The only issue remaining was the fact that I pulled a shift at Starbucks until 5:00 PM, which left two hours to drive to Emily’s, prepare my fresh sauces, lacquer the pork, let it rest, and serve our guests. These accumulated stressors caused my panic, because when that damn oven clock flashed “6:31” I was still in my work shirt reeking of coffee, my pork shoulder hadn’t been lacquered with brown sugar, and my ginger scallion sauce consisted of an unpeeled ginger root and some unchopped green onion staring back at me from the counter, mocking my lack of preparation.
Emily thinks it’s beautiful. Look at that ginger, mocking me.
Of course, I exaggerate. Dinner was served closer to 7:30, and I was the only one who noticed the delay.
Let me give you a bit of background on bo ssam:
Bo ssam is a traditional roast meat dish introduced to me by a friend and culinary arts student I used to work with during college at the coffee shop, where I still work part time. You find it in fancy restaurants in servings for 4-6 people, but the setting will set you back around $200, plus tax and tip. So I figure, why not make it at home?
The meat is slow roasted and served in a butter lettuce wrap with your choice of veggies and sauces. In this case, I used a whole pork shoulder, which I dry rubbed with 1/2 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of sugar, and let sit for 6 hours before roasting at the lowest possible setting for 18 hours. You pull the roast out and let it sit for a few minutes, then throw some brown sugar on top and kick the heat up for about 20-30 minutes, at which point it’s lacquered with a sweet and delicious crust. After you let it sit for a while, this happens:
See that silver handle? That’s a spoon. It cut through the pork like butter.
After showering, changing, and finishing the pork, I must admit my confidence was renewed, and with a sudden burst of inspiration, I toasted some cashews on the stovetop with a touch of sesame oil, feeling the crunchiness would complement the tender pork and the crisp veggies, resulting in a burst of flavorful wonder.
That knife? “Ginger? No problem,” it said.
For sauces, I went with a traditional Thai peanut sauce, made with red curry to give it a little burst of flavor, and the aforementioned ginger/scallion sauce. Served with brown rice, the lettuce wraps ended up wonderfully addictive with any number of veggies and or sauces.
Because it’s me, we also had to throw in a quick beer tasting. When it comes to beers, Belgians always do it best. Since this was a somewhat spicy dish with the sauces I chose, we started out with a few Belgian Golden Ales, including a somewhat rare “Mischief” from The Bruery which I picked up last time I was in Denver, and a lovely spiced Noel from Delirium to even out the night. Of course, in between, we couldn’t go wrong with a good Dubbel.
This meal ended up taking a lot of time, costing quite a bit of money, and causing a bit of stress in my life. Would I do it again?
Neither can Zooey.