Eric Kim and Mark Bond Over Zombie Vegetables
Plus: Mark's take on Noma's closing, food as medicine, and recent movie viewings
Hello, and and happy Wednesday. We’re moving tomorrow’s bread discussion to next week — keep an eye on your inbox for details. On today’s episode of Food with Mark Bittman, we have the fantastic Eric Kim — more on that below.
But first, my hopefully useful, occasionally amusing, links for today — aka…
CHECK IT OUT
Daphne Miller, an MD with whom I became friends while living in Berkeley (she cooked me a memorable chicken tagine!), is also author of the path-breaking book Farmacology, which is basically about “food as medicine.” Since she wrote that book the phrase has become commonplace, and insurance is now starting to pay for what it calls Medically Sourced Food and Medically Tailored Meals (a la the wonderful God’s Love We Deliver). That’s a good thing. But, as Daphne wrote to me when we were discussing this article, “We are at a crossroads. This new benefit could boost local food systems, farms, and communities, or it could simply offer another way for corporations to make a buck.”
I was watching water boil in a glass kettle (really nice, actually: this one) and wondering, probably not for the first time in my life, why water makes more noise as it heats up and then quiets down when the real bubbles begin. There’s an answer here (don’t ask me to explain it to you).
Noma is closing. OK, that’s news (although it’s 18 months away, or more, so who knows?) but the most interesting thing said in the course of this announcement was this comment (thank you, Michael Lu, for pointing this out): “If Noma, where diners pay $500 per person, can’t keep its doors open for regular service while paying its workers a wage, then the industry at large has some major restructuring to do." It certainly does, though we knew that already…
WATCH IT / DON’T WATCH IT?
Speaking of the one-time best restaurant in the world (and a place that, for a time at least, was really worth eating at), it obviously provided a great deal of inspiration for The Menu, which is not a great movie but is a fun one. And along those lines, if you haven’t yet watched Glass Onion, don’t bother: It’s not great, it’s not fun, and it’s a waste of Daniel Craig, who, like me, clearly nearly slept through most of it. If you have watched it, and you want to tell me why I’m wrong (or right), feel free. I’m totally in favor of frivolous, non-depressing movies about people killing each other, but this was just lame. Bullet Train was way more engaging and at least Brad Pitt was into it.
And now, on to the podcast…
“I view it as the scarcity mindset. I understand where they come from. Imagine growing up your whole life and not seeing yourself on the page, or on the screen, and then finally something does come across the page and it's not what you think represents you, and your cuisine and your family, and your mom doesn't do it like that. So there's a feeling of protection, safeguarding, and gatekeeping.”
— Eric Kim, on readers who criticize him for not being “authentic” enough
When I started out in the food world, let’s say 1980, it was much more homogenous — well, not the world of cooking, of course. But the world of cookbook writing, the world of “known” chefs, and so on, was dominated by white people, mostly French, doing this weird, sort of continental kind of cooking. If you were to do a Japanese or Iranian or a Chilean recipe, you were out there. You were doing something different.
Much has changed since then, although many things have not, but that’s another conversation — which we actually had with Jacques Pépin a few months back — and we’ll continue to have that conversation.
One thing I can say with certainty, though, is that today’s food world is much more heterogeneous and much more interesting than it was forty years ago, and the new generation of food boasts some of the brightest, most thoughtful and interested recipe developers and writers that we’ve seen in a long time.
Today’s guest on Food with Mark Bittman is one of those people: Eric Kim is a writer for New York Times Cooking, and the recent author of the cookbook Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home. The book was an instant Times bestseller, and a big part of what makes it stand out is Eric’s special relationship with his mom, Jean, which we talk about in our conversation.
Eric grew up in Atlanta, the son of Jean and of Ki, both Korean immigrants. He wrote his book with Jean, actually, and in one interview, Eric said, “If people think about what Korean American means, I see a graphic where Korean is the Jean part, and American is the Eric part.”
This is an interesting story about “becoming” American, living in America, the kind of thing many of our families have gone through, but in a newer, 21st century way.
Korean American is full of family stories that are funny, and poignant, and the recipes are really fun, developed with a lot of care, creative and interesting. Kate fell in love with the book first, I followed, and so we reached out to Eric to come on the show. The interview is terrific; I hope Eric had as much fun as we did.
Please listen and subscribe, and please review on Apple if you’re so inclined. Today’s recipe is Sheet Pan Bibimbap with Roasted Fall Vegetables from Korean American. Enjoy, and thank you for listening.
Sheet-Pan Bibimbap with Roasted Fall Vegetables
I call this sheet-pan bibimbap because all of the cooking, from start to finish, happens on two 18 × 13-inch rimmed baking sheets. One main reason we never ate bibimbap growing up was because it always took too long and my mother didn’t want to do all that work (understandably).
Where ordinarily you would pan-fry each individual vegetable separately to maintain those satisfying color blocks, then make an omelet and slice it, and even marinate some bulgogi for the meat component should you be going that route, roasting everything on a sheet pan means you can just set it and forget it. It’s bibimbap for the patient but lazy.
The other bibimbap recipes in this book prove that bibimbap is, at its core, a fridge-raid meal. It’s what happens when you have remnants of leftover banchan lingering in the fridge and just throw them all in a bowl with some leftover white rice, sesame oil, and gochujang. It’s supposed to be chill. In my version here, roasting all your vegetables on a sheet pan means you can arrive at bibimbap without standing over a stove, sautéing each ingredient individually. It’s also a really satisfying way to get as many different vegetables into one dish as possible (or to clean out your crisper drawer before the next grocery run). Even more, the vegetables will be caramelized and even charred at the edges, making this recipe a hearty fall meal. Then it’s just a matter of calling the family down for dinner to assemble their own bowls straight from the sheet pans.
This is my homage to fall, but you can use whatever vegetables you like. The butternut squash is key, though, in my opinion, especially once roasted until crispy-edged like honeyed chips. Their sweetness is doubly wonderful against the tart, crunchy apple and the mushrooms. The kale chips add a little salty something, though sautéed spinach is more traditional. Even Jean loves this sheet-pan method, saying it’s the reason she now makes bibimbap for herself whenever she’s craving vegetables. — Korean American
1 pound butternut squash (don’t bother peeling it), seeded and cut into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 ounces wild mushrooms, especially shiitake (stems removed) and oyster, torn into bite-size pieces (about 3 cups)
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red apple, halved, cored, and cut into bite-size pieces
4 ounces Tuscan (lacinato) kale, chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
4 cups freshly cooked white rice
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
4 teaspoons gochujang
4 large raw egg yolks (ones you feel confident about)
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. On a sheet pan, toss the butternut squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Slide to one half of the pan. Add the mushrooms and onions to the other half of the pan. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the butternut squash and mushroom-onion mixture are crispy and burnished, about 45 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, on another sheet pan, arrange the apples and kale separately, one on each half of the pan. Toss each with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper and set aside.
4. Once the squash and mushrooms have had their 45 minutes, take them out of the oven and toss them with a silicone spatula. Return the pan to the oven along with the second pan with the apples and kale. Bake until the kale has wilted slightly and become crispy, the apple slices are slightly softened, and the squash, onion, and mushrooms are even more caramelized, about 15 minutes.
5. Divide the rice evenly among four large bowls. To each bowl, add 1 teaspoon gochujang and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil. Divide the roasted vegetables and apple evenly among the four bowls, keeping them in colorblocked sections. Finish each bowl with a single egg yolk.
6. To eat, just mix everything together and dig in.
— Reprinted from Korean American. Copyright © 2022 Eric Kim. Photographs copyright © 2022 Jenny Huang. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.