Two Years Ago: Artisan Meatloaf
A new and unfamiliar ingredient can divide people into two camps just as fast as religion or politics. There's the "I don't want to buy a new ingredient for just one recipe that I don't even know what it is or what it tastes like or where to find it" camp. I call them the Uber-Practicals. Then there's the "What's that ingredient? I've never heard of it before! I feel an adventure coming on!" camp. I call them the Insatiably Curious with Possibly Not Enough To Do. Guess which camp I fall in?
So, I've been on a Korean food kick lately and decided I wanted to make Korean sliders because I thought the bold flavors would work particularly well in slider form as opposed to a big burger. Midway through my recipe research, I stumbled across Gochujang. Hmmmmm. Gochujang? An opportunity to head to my local Asian market! Turns out Gochujang is a hot pepper paste that's quite common to Korean cooking - at least it comes in a tub that's big enough that I assume they use it a lot. This was the small sized tub - the large size was at least twice as large. At least it wasn't expensive.
The description "hot pepper paste" gave me pause, but The Lawyer and I tasted it by itself before adjusting amounts in the recipe and our tongues didn't fall off. The top of the tub characterized it as medium on the hotness scale, and I would agree. I suggest starting with a smaller amount of Gochujang in the cabbage relish and sauce, then adjusting by tasting and adding more until you reach the heat level you like. As written, I consider the sliders to be medium on the heat scale but everyone's tastes are different.
For you Uber Practicals, you can substitute Chili Garlic Sauce (easily found in the ethnic aisle of most grocery stores) or Sriracha sauce or any hot pepper sauce you have on hand - just be sure to start with a small amount before adding more to your taste.
I decided to go with a cabbage relish on the top of the sliders that's vaguely reminiscent of kimchi, the Korean fermented cabbage dish that's spicy and sour. This version is fresher, not as hot and not as sour plus it doesn't involve the addition of dried shrimp (bleh). If you're a Kimchi fan by all means feel free to substitute.
A bit of the Gochujang goes in the cabbage relish, so it's slightly spicy and also has a vinegary bite. Garlic, green onions and ginger go in the sliders (made with turkey so they're healthy) which are pan-browned and coated in a wonderful sauce made from Gochujang, sesame oil and soy sauce. You can adjust the amount of heat you like by adding more or less Gochujang in both the cabbage and sauce.
Cucumber and radish add freshness and crunch, and a light coating of mayo adds creaminess and tones down the heat a bit.
I was really pleased with the way these came out. If you like Korean food I hope you give them a try. And by the way, they're perfect pub food with a cold beer. Now what to do with the rest of the Gochujang?
Makes 8 sliders
Note: Gochujang is a Korean hot pepper paste, commonly sold in a tub. You’ll find it in the grocery aisles of your local Asian market. If you can’t find it, chili garlic sauce may be substituted, which is readily available in the ethnic aisle of most grocery stores.
3 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
½ cup thinly sliced green onions, divided
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, divided
2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, divided
4 teaspoons Gochujang, divided*
1 carrot, shredded
1 lb ground turkey
2 teaspoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup mayonnaise
4 radishes, sliced
8 thin cucumber slices
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
8 white or whole wheat slider buns
To make the cabbage relish, combine cabbage, ¼ cup green onions, rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon each garlic and ginger, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon Gochujang. Set aside, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour or so to soften slightly and meld flavors.
To make the sliders, combine ground turkey, remaining ¼ cup green onions, remaining 1 tablespoon of garlic, remaining 1 tablespoon of ginger, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Shape into 8 small patties; flatten like mini-burgers.
In a large non-stick pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey patties and brown on both sides.
While the patties are browning, in a small bowl mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon Gochujang, soy sauce, honey, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. When the patties are browned, drain off the fat (if necessary) and add sauce ingredients. Turn the patties to coat with sauce and simmer on low, turning regularly, until the patties are nicely coated with sticky sauce and fully cooked through.
To assemble, lightly spread slider buns with mayonnaise and place cucumber and radish slices on the bottom of each. Top with a turkey patty, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. With a slotted spoon, drain cabbage relish mixture slightly before placing some on top of each patty. Serve the remaining cabbage relish on the side.
*If you’re unfamiliar with Gochujang, start with a smaller amount and add more after tasting until you reach the heat level you prefer.