"I had a very big lunch. You people in Texas eat a lot."
That lunch, by the way, came from Underbelly, where the three-time James Beard Award finalist, Top Chef: Texas contestant and Iron Chef America winner ate a meal that included the restaurant's signature braised Korean goat and dumplings. Which is fitting, since mashing up Korean and Southern food is one thing that unites the cooking Lee does at his Louisville restaurant 610 Magnolia with Underbelly and chef/owner Chris Shepherd.
"The popularity of kimchi has allowed me not to have to travel with (my own)."
That blending of two deep culinary traditions forms the heart of Lee's book Smoke & Pickles and served as the basis for the class he taught in Houston. Based around a meal that a family might prepare to celebrate the Lunar New Year, Lee emphasized that all of the dishes could be prepared individually and served at a variety of occasions.
One of the other themes of his presentation was the extent to wish Korean ingredients have gone mainstream. Lee noted that gochujang, a spicy, fermented paste, used to be his "secret weapon" when preparing dishes that impressed other cooks; now, it can be found in a wide range of grocery stores. That's not the only ingredient that's become easier to source; "the popularity of kimchi has allowed me not to have to travel with (my own)."
Of the dishes Lee prepared, my favorite was his miso-smothered braised chicken thighs. The chef cited it as one example from the book of a restaurant dish that he converted into a one pot meal to ease clean up and make cooking it easier. Although no one asked about substituting white meat in place of dark, Lee offered his opinion on the subject anyway.
"You guys know what to do with chicken breast? Throw it away . . . I don't even grind it up for sausages."
The dish itself is fantastic. Slow braised until its falling apart with an almost peanut butter flavor from the miso. Everyone in the class seemed to be scraping up all the best bits.
As the class wound down, Lee also shared his favorite bourbons. Although his collaboration with Jefferson's has sold out most places, the chef recommends W.L. Weller 12 year, Elijah Craig 18 year, and Jefferson's Reserve 10 year rye as some of his favorites.
Want to take a shot at one of the dishes before buying the book? The chicken recipe is below:
Feeds 4 as a main course
This recipe incorporates miso and chicken again (see page 74) but in a totally different way. The braising technique allows the dark meat of the chicken thighs to absorb the miso, which cooks down to an almost peanut-butter-like flavor. It is meltingly tender, and every time I make it, I always find someone back in the kitchen scraping the last bits from the pot. I suggest making more than you need and storing the extra in an airtight container in your fridge. It will keep for at least 5 days.
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 bone-in chicken thighs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
⅓ cup bourbon
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark miso
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, thinly sliced
Cooked rice for serving
Pineapple-Pickled Jicama (see below)
1. In a shallow dish, mix together the flour, salt, cayenne, and garlic powder. Coat the chicken thighs evenly with the mixture.
2. Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken pieces skin side down and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a paper-towel-lined plate.
3. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pot. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the bourbon and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes.
4. Stir in the chicken stock, orange juice, soy sauce, and miso and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pot, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and tender, about 30 minutes.
5. Add the mushrooms and simmer, uncovered, until the mushrooms are tender and the sauce is thickened, to the consistency of a gravy, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Serve with rice and the pickled jicama.
Excerpted from Smoke & Pickles by Edward Lee (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013.