Gochujang is one of those condiments that will forever have a place in my fridge. I first experienced that earthy spice in 2005 as part of a traditional South Korean dish called "Dalkgalbi" - Chicken and cabbage cooked on a hot plate with rice cake and a fiery mix containing mostly garlic and gochujang. Since it was during my first year in South Korea, my untrained palate rejected the meal and that in turn offended my hosts. Ever wish you could go back in time and redo a certain event? Ever write a blog post at two in the morning and suddenly recall all the cultural mishaps you've had during the last 10 years? No? Moving on.
Dalkgalbi grew on me and later became my absolute favorite thing to eat during that stint in South Korea. It was the ultimate dinner to enjoy with friends after a night out, soju in hand (a Korean spirit made from rice or sweet potatoes). The combination of chicken, gochujang and garlic with cabbage stuck with me and inspired this healthy recipe. Earthy gochujang, honey and what seems like a ridiculous amount of garlic come together to form a beautifully sweet spicy sauce. In my opnion, white meat cuts like chicken breast pairs very well with punchy sauces to amp up the flavor levels. I usually purchase whole chickens and then prep them myself, using dark meat for things like stew or roasting, and white meat (breasts) for quicker preparations. The trick with white meat is to season it very well and allow it to sit in the fridge uncovered overnight. This method will ensure that the meat is seasoned all the way through, keep it juicy and dry out the skin so that you can achieve that perfect crispy sear.
2 chicken breasts, skin on
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
6 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 tablespoon gochujang
4 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
Place chicken on a plate and season on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Place on the lowest shelf in your fridge, uncovered for at least 6 hours. Remove from fridge and bring a skillet up to medium-high heat. Add grapeseed oil and place chicken in pan skin side down first. Do not move the chicken at all for at least 3-5 minutes so that you get a crispy golden skin, after which you will flip it over and cook for an additional 3 minutes, then transfer to an oven-proof dish and into the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
While the chicken is in the oven, prepare your sauce by adding the minced garlic to the pan in which the chicken cooked. You should still have some of the pan juices and oil in there, which will provide delicious flavor. Sauté garlic for 1-2 minutes only - You don't want it to soften too much. Add gochujang paste and honey, stirring until combined. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove chicken from oven. Place chicken and any juices right back into the pan with the gochujang sauce, flip to coat and serve with cabbage (Recipe follows)
Basic Sauteéd Cabbage
I am super into cabbage, old-fashioned as it may be. Though cabbage really benefits from cooking for longer periods of time, my preferred way to enjoy it is simply sautéed to preserve it's integrity. Use any kind of cabbage or cruciferous vegetable of your choice.
1 tablespoon neutral oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (cabbage loves black pepper!)
8 cups roughly chopped cabbage
Optional: 1 pinch nutmeg powder (brings out the flavor)
Heat a large pan to medium then add oil, butter, salt and pepper. Swirl to combine and add chopped cabbage. Use tongs to move cabbage around in the pan, coating it with the butter mixture then leave it be. Allow the cabbage at the bottom of the pan to toast a little (golden edges, not dark brown) - This will make all the difference in flavor. Stir, add a splash (2 tablespoons) water, then place a lid on the pan and cook until the toughest parts are less chewy (5 minutes).