Earlier this month my friend Stephanie and I hit up Chef Edward Lee’s new restaurant, Succotash, at the National Harbor to check out a dinner hosted by Chung Jung One, the makers of Gochujang Korean chili sauce. If you’re a rabid fan of Top Chef (ahem, that would be me too), you might remember Chef Lee from Season 9 (Seattle). His quips and dry wit had the hubby and I guffawing and nodding along in agreement. You can probably guess, then, that my excitement level at getting to meet Chef Lee, eat his food, and smother it in delicious Korean chili paste was pretty much at epic fangirl levels. What’s even better is that since the dinner, I’ve used Gochujang sauce in lots of dishes at home. My favorite way to use it is in these roasted Brussels sprouts and Gochujang glaze and sprinkled with sliced toasted almonds.
For DC’ers, I was
pleasantly surprised mildly shocked to see how far the National Harbor has come along. National Harbor always seemed to me to be a place where people coming to conventions in DC would frequent, but with tons of new, interesting restaurants and shops, I wondered why I hadn’t been before now. Succotash, which just opened in September, is just one of a handful of fine dining establishments to call the National Harbor home, and I made a mental note to drag the family down here the next time we have a chance.
Servers greeted us with Gochujang micheladas, a Mexican beer cocktail with tomato juice, lime and the featured Gochujang sauce. I had a michelada or two during my law school days in Austin, and the tangy sweetness of Gochujang really shone through the spicy beer cocktail.
We also had Gochujang flavored pimento cheese on toasts. I’m always looking for ways to change up pimento cheese (one of my all-time favorite appetizers), and Gochujang blended in perfectly with the creaminess of Chef Lee’s pimento cheese. It was kind of mind-blowing, because I would have otherwise never thought to use a spicy Asian chili sauce in a very classic Southern dish. Solid move, Chef Lee.
The other dishes all featured Gochujang with Chef Lee’s signature fusion Southern food in really interesting, novel ways. Other starters were a bibimbap “arancini” (similar to an Italian fried risotto ball) which contained all of the flavors of a traditional Korean fried rice bowl in one hefty bite. The Gochujang tuna poke, a mixed salad that harkened to its Hawaiian origins, was a smooth bite of raw tuna with healthy chunks of avocado, cucumber and yellow bell pepper which gave the salad a good crunch. I also enjoyed the Gochuchang glazed pork ribs, which were fall-apart and sexy, with a rich satiny glaze. The most successful dish, though, was the Gochujang honey on top of some pretty perfect fried chicken. The chicken wasn’t particularly pretty in its presentation and arrived at the table on family-sized platters mounded with half-melted blue cheese, ripped nori (seaweed) and pickles. I didn’t have high hopes for this mess of competing flavors, but somehow it all worked beautifully. The salt of the nori played well with the crunchy granules in the blue cheese, and I loved the vinegary contrast of the pickles with the crunchy fried chicken. The most important piece of the puzzle was, of course, the chicken, which consisted only of juicy thigh meat. I’m so glad to see an Asian chef educating the world about how delicious dark chicken meat can be — and especially cooked Southern-style. Chef Lee, where have you been all my life? (Also, the chicken is a regular menu item, so you need to get to Succotash to try this for yourself.)
Back at home, I’ve been using Gochujang in a variety of ways. My favorite easy way so far is just on top of a heap of scrambled eggs. My Southern upbringing insists that I have some sort of add-in for my scrambled eggs, and I like to think of Gochujang as a classy, Asian-style way to enjoy what otherwise would be just plain ol’ ketchup and eggs (try it before you mock it — unless you’re from South Carolina, in which case you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about). I’m also really hankering to try mixing up some Gochujang honey myself and making Gochujang honey butter to smear on biscuits.
For now, though, I made one of our standby meals of miso-marinated flank steak with butternut squash puree and Brussels sprouts (here’s one variation I wrote about back when I was on a diet). My Brussels sprouts and Gochujang glaze involves roasting the Brussels sprouts with just the basics (salt, pepper and olive oil), then mixing them with a Gochujang sauce made with honey, Gochujang and balsamic vinegar. For good measure (and a little extra crunch), I then topped the whole thing off with slightly toasted sliced almonds. The honey caramelized nicely, leaving little bits of char on the Brussels sprouts, and the spiciness from the Gochujang was a pleasing, even heat. I couldn’t get the kids to try them. In their world, spiciness + leafy green vegetables + blackened bits = Gandalf yelling “YOU SHALL NOT PASS.” I can’t win them all, you know? But the hubby and I loved the Brussels sprouts.
Plus, there will always be this:
I’m still squealing.
- 1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon Gochujang chili paste
- 1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup sliced roasted almonds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse Brussels sprouts and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut Brussels sprouts in half, removing any browning outer leaves. Place Brussels sprouts in a medium bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Turn out Brussels sprouts onto a foil-lined baking sheet, arranging Brussels sprouts in a single layer. Roast the Brussels sprouts for about 20 minutes until the sprouts are browned on the outside and the edges look crisp.
- While the sprouts are roasting, toast the sliced almonds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring continuously (watch them carefully because they'll quickly scorch if left unattended). In a small bowl, mix together the chili paste, honey, and balsamic vinegar. Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a serving dish and toss with the chili mixture. Add the almonds and serve immediately.