Tuesday, November 24, 2015

a fantastic Saturday (2 of 2)

After my cousin's wedding, it was a little past 2 o'clock, so I headed home, texting Ligament that I was out of the church and in the subway. "Already??" she texted back. Yeah; it had been a short ceremony.

I got back to my place and, with an hour to kill, I finished my French-dip sandwich prep, cooking up the shabu beef two ways to see which way might be better. Method 1: drop some oil in a pan and fry the beef up with salt and pepper. Simple and easy, and the method would leave the beef as a sort of blank canvas to which the flavor of the au jus would be added during dipping. Method 2: ladle some au jus into the frying pan and cook up the beef that way, with no extra salt and pepper, given the seasoning I had already added to the stock. Result: I came out slightly in favor of Method 1, but to be honest, both methods proved to be almost equally tasty. I credit the wonderful flavor of the shabu beef for that fact.

With prep done, I headed out to Gyeongbok Palace Station to meet Ligament. It had been years since I'd been at that station; in one large passageway, there was a gorgeous stone-and-metal representation of an old Korean sundial; I couldn't remember whether the sundial had always been there or not. I found Ligament right at our meeting point, just outside of Exit 3, street level. We walked over to Daelim Art Museum, which I had never been to before. When we got there, there was an enormous line of people waiting to get in and pay their entry fee. Ligament and I got in line, but a roving employee swept by and asked us whether we'd be willing to pay a little extra for an art-gallery membership that would make future admissions cheaper (and we'd get free coffee, etc.). I said no to this, fatalistically resolving to wait in line, but Ligament picked up on the fact that becoming a member meant skipping past everyone in line. So away we went to the front of the line. We were shown a computer terminal where Ligament could register herself (she covered the screen so I couldn't see when she typed in her date of birth—cute); when the process was done, we moved five meters over to the ticket counter, got our tickets, and began our art-ogling experience.

It wasn't quite what I'd expected. First, Daelim Art Museum is more of a cramped exhibition hall than a typically spacious museum, and this seemed apropos given that the work of only one artist was on display that day: that of a Dutchman named Henrik Vibskov, a fashion designer. I was a bit disappointed: I had expected to see funky paintings and sculptures, and instead I was getting clothed mannequins and large photos.

But some of the work was interesting. Come follow me, now, as I give you a brief tour.

Establishing shot #1: just in case you get lost, there's a helpful wall that points you toward the Daelim Art Museum. We peeked inside the D Lounge as well, but saw nothing special there.

Establishing shot #2: a blurb on Vibskov himself. The bottom line of the blurb notes that this is Vibskov's FIRST EVER! exhibit in Asia.

For the photo below: Ligament and I are inside the building now. I have no idea what a "blowhole observatory" is or does, but it sounds vaguely dirty.

The museum was a tall, narrow building: see a small exhibit, then walk upstairs to experience the next phase. While I was on the stairs, I took a shot of the poor, suffering hoi polloi outside, still waiting in line and yearning to breathe free:

Here's a picture that tickled my fancy. Now, I guess, it's a picture of a picture. Art museums force you to go meta. I liked this image for its inherent goofiness. Definitely right up my alley, and vaguely reminiscent of the animated Laffy Taffy from "Wreck-It Ralph."

At last! We get to the good stuff. How can you not love the title below?

And here is Popeye himself, apparently having been... killed by penises. Those protuberances looked more like cigarettes to me; maybe the artist was in a hurry when he designed them. Note, too, that if the red tips of the penises represent the glans, then it looks as though Popeye was killed from the inside, "Alien"-style. (Unless the penises all swarmed at Popeye bottom-first, like a nasty Humboldt squid.)

Before I told Ligament what the title of the piece was, she had been delicately caressing one of the penises. Once she knew the title of the piece, though, she stayed chastely away from Popeye, despite my salacious exhortations to keep right on fondling. Her eyes now open, Ligament pointed me to the following picture of Popeye's recumbent corpse, sprawled in awful parody of those "reclining Buddha" statues that depict the moment of the Buddha's demise (God, now I'm imagining the poor Buddha, riddled with phalluses):

There was also a "mint room" that was filled with mint-colored balloons (penis-shaped, if we agree that a simple cylinder signifies a penis) and mint-scented smoke; I had taken a photo of this, but I don't know where it went. I'll have to reload it from my phone or from email.

Ligament and I then went to Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) to try—once again—to hunt down the crêpe guy. And this time, finally, the gods were with us. Crêpe guy was there, and even though I could tell that he didn't remember me from when I'd visited him in February, his skill at crêpe-making was undiminished. Ligament was ecstatic to receive a real crêpe this time, and she ate hers with obvious relish as the sun went down.

From the DDP, we trained back to my place, and I served up my long-anticipated French-dip sandwiches—our way of banishing the horrible memory of our Quizno's experience. The next two photos below are ones that had been taken by Ligament, who texted the pics over to me:

You're thinking about the weird sides, I can tell. One side is my homemade corn salad, with Ligament liked, but which I found a bit off-putting. Not my best work. Apparently, I had expended all my psychic energy on making decent French dips. The other side is Costco "Boom Chicka Pop" popcorn, which I'd bought in lieu of chips just to shake things up. The popcorn was a big loser: Ligament thought it was too sweet, so I've been eating it at night while I watch episodes of "Breaking Bad." (Yes, I've finally started watching that series, now that it's over. And yes, I know how it ends. Still, it's more about the journey than it is about the destination, ja?)

Below, a food-porn-style shot of my sandwich:

Next, another porny shot of the sandwich being lovingly dipped in something hot and wet. I punctuated the dipping with sexual moaning sounds. Ligament giggled, basically because she's not an uptight, panty-wadded bitch. If I tried that in America, I'd be arrested for sexual harassment. (Of course, I probably run afoul of the law in Korea, too, if the female across the table from me were a current student!)

The following day, I took the next two shots to show you which meats I had bought in order to make the au jus. Normally, a decent stock will be made largely from scraps, and those scraps will generally be some combination of meat and bone. I couldn't find any bones that were being sold without meat; there was a large package of ox-tail bones, but that was selling for an ungodly sum. Below, the next picture shows a package of hanu-himjool. I like to think of this as "lips and assholes," which isn't too far off. Hanu means, roughly, "Korean beef," and himjool means something like "tendon." I take that to be metonymy for "scrap meat that includes tendons and other connective tissue." Whatever the label said, I could see with my bulging frog eyes that this was scrap meat, fit for the slow cooker. Just to be clear: I took the following pics on Sunday, after my day with Ligament, but I had bought the packages of meat on Friday, before my day with Ligament.

So! Tendons and stuff:

The next package, below, says su-ip chadolbagi. Su-ip means "imported"; chadolbagi apparently translates as "brisket," if the Naver dictionary is to be trusted. And I don't trust it, because this extremely fatty meat doesn't look anything like the brisket I know and love. Whatever. My eyes could tell me more than any label could, and I grabbed this package up, too, trusting that the fattiness would make up for the lack of bones.

Some recipes call for cooking the au jus for twenty-four hours. I cooked mine from Friday night to Saturday afternoon. I added Worcestershire sauce, herbs, a bit of Korean beef dashida, black pepper, and little else. I sure as hell didn't add any tomatoes, the way Quizno's had. The sandwich spread was a combination of yogurt, cream cheese, and mayonnaise, along with powdered garlic, powdered onion, and some dried parsley. In the end, it tasted like a typical chip dip, but it went surprisingly well with the sandwich. I can no longer remember which French-dip recipe had suggested making such a spread, but it was good advice. (I've seen that places like Philippe's will use cheese instead of spreads; other restaurants serve their French dips with nothing but the au jus.)

Ligament loved her French dip. I loved mine, too—perhaps more than I should have. The upshot is that Ligament left my place happy, and I felt redeemed because, two weeks ago, our weekend had crashed and burned with the failure to find the crêpe guy. Awesomeness is the only way to make up for lameness.

Below are some pics I took on Sunday, the day after my awesome Saturday. If the food was good once, it'd be good again, right? First up: a lunch spread showing some fried-up beef, two croissants, my white spread, and a nice, hot bowl of au jus.

The spread goes on:

The meat gets dipped:

The 'wiches are prepped for eating:

And now... the money shot:

Finishing off with a second picture of dipping feels a bit anticlimactic, but if you stare long enough at this image, you might just smell and/or taste the au jus:

Not a bad weekend at all, I'm happy to say.

ADDENDUM: A note on calling it "the au jus" and not "the jus": I've seen plenty of Food Network types saying "the au jus" to the camera, so I assume this is a common American way to refer to it. In a French conversational context, I'd just call the liquid le jus ("the juice") and nothing more. But this is America, so I must bow to convention here.



John (I'm not a robot) said...

Damn, I guess my mission needs to be to find me a french dip while I'm here in the states. It seems they used to be more popular. As your pictures attest, there's a lot of labor involved in putting one together. Which may be why they are not that popular with restaurateurs.

Yours look delicious!

Charles said...

Looks good, but the croissants kind of threw me off. I think they would do a good job of sucking up the jus, but I'm wondering: Did they taste a little too buttery?

차돌박이 and what we think of as brisket are adjacent cuts, but they are different as night and day. Brisket as we know it is either 양지머리 or 사태 (specifically 앞사태); the UK cut includes both of these, while the US cut is mostly the latter. But 양지머리 and 사태 are very similar in that they are heavily-worked muscle tissue with very little fat. They are mostly used in Korea for broth. 차돌박이 on the other hand, is very fatty and not as tough. In the UK it is considered part of the brisket, while in the US it is part of the plate cut. (Forgive me if I get carried away... I've just always been fascinated by how different cuts of meat translate.)

When we cook brisket (generally over a long period of time with lots of liquid), we usually use 양지머리. In fact, we head guests over this past weekend and had some really good slow-cooked brisket. Had some of the leftovers last night and they were yummy.

Kevin Kim said...

"Looks good, but the croissants kind of threw me off. I think they would do a good job of sucking up the jus, but I'm wondering: Did they taste a little too buttery?"

Aigu—picky, picky, picky. Your mileage may vary, but I didn't think the croissants were too buttery at all. In truth, I'd rather have the proper hoagie roll, but Yangjae Costco doesn't sell such bread in the proper size and shape. The closest bread that Costco sells is that huge, W4,000 bag of dinner rolls. I could have made slider-sized French dips, but then I'd have been switching out one kind of strange for another kind of strange. Croissant-strange was perfectly good for my purposes. My other choice would have been a French baguette (which some folks actually use when making their French dips... probably because they're going for a "French" theme), but I decided that the super-crunchy crust would have been too hard to chew even after dipping. Baguette crusts, especially the thicker crusts, aren't known for softening instantly when dunked.

Charles said...

I'm not trying to be picky, I'm just trying to imagine French-dip croissants. You know what my relationship with lipids is like. Not really the best of friends.

But considering your options, I will say that the croissant was probably the best choice.

Maven said...

I'm not uptight, but usually I get a bit put off when a man shows off his meat to me. But for you? I'll make an exception!

Speaking of meat, which makes me think of meatus, which inexplicably makes me think of DONGS, which brings us to Popeye. I envision Popeye's death by cock to be a la guinea worms, burrowing their way into the light of day.

Maven said...

Also? Nice croissant!