The Gamjatang Incident
Choosing top-quality natural pastured protein for your family does not have to be a budget-breaking decision. Leave the steaks for the hedge fund managers – all the best flavor and the tasty, silky, healthy fat is in the neck, shoulder & chuck at half the cost or less. We all would do well to take a page out of Thomas Jefferson’s book and treat meat as a “flavor principle” enhancing dishes composed primarily of plants. Braising tough pieces low and slow will break down the connective tissue and win you hearts and minds with big impact winter comfort food. We decided to challenge ourselves to make a big pot of Spicy Korean Pork Bone Soup (gam-ja-tang) for our Farmers Market tasting for under $20. We will assume you have a pantry reasonably well stocked with staples. We omitted the potatoes, shiitake mushrooms and perilla (aka shiso – a wild herb) and substituted gluten-free bean thread noodles (Saifun) for bean sprouts.
Steep 7 dried New Mexico chilies ($2.00 – taken off a big dried ristra rope of them) and 6 dried Chile de Arbol ($0.88) in 4-5 C of steaming water for an hour. Remove chilies to cool, deseed and remove skins from New Mexicos saving all the flesh – scraping the skins with a spoon if necessary. Save liquid. Sear 2.5 lbs. meaty pork bones from neck and Boston butt ($10.00) well seasoned with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper in 1/4 cup vegetable oil for 10-15 minutes in thick-bottom cast iron pot till browned all over. (Recipe said to soak bones first but I didn’t). Add 8 cloves garlic ($0.60) smashed and chopped fine, stirring occasionally until fragrant but not brown and hard. Add 1 T ground ginger, chilies, 2-3 T soy sauce (recipe called for soy bean paste) and half the chile liquid. Simmer to combine, turning bones occasionally for 10 minutes. Add 1 large Yellow onion ($1.59) chopped fine and juice and pulp of 1 Lime ($0.67). Add water to cover and simmer on stove top for 2-3 hours until meat can be shredded off bone. Place pot on the porch to cool overnight.
Next day, skim half the fat off the top (not necessary) and reheat to simmer. Taste for salt and heat, adding more chile liquid if desired (some of the heat may be removed with the fat). Add 1 T ground ginger, 2-3 T fish sauce, water to cover bones and simmer for another hour. Shred 1 head of cabbage ($1.59) fine and soften in a separate pot for an hour with 1 C water, S&P & 1/2 C apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar better). After the hour, remove pork bones to cool, add cabbage to pot with 1 package Saifun cellophane noodles ($2.60) – each bundle broken in half and 1 bunch scallions ($1.29) chopped fine. Pick bones clean including between all vertebrae, returning all meat and juice to the thickening pot as the noodles drink in the liquid. Cost $21.22 – would have served 4 people 2 meals with big bowls and seconds all around each time.