In case you don’t know already, Roy Choi -- author of L.A. Son, the book I’m cooking from for the next few posts -- is the founder of the Kogi Korean BBQ taco trucks in Los Angeles. He’s all about profanity, pork belly and big, loud flavors, be they Korean, American, Mexican, Salvadoran (e.g. kimchi and pork belly pupusas), whatever. I’m about 50 pages into his cookbook/memoir and the narrative has all the pungent vitality that Cowgirl Creamery Cooks lacks. The Cowgirls sanitized their personal stories. When Choi’s narrative slumps for even one second he throws in a “mothafucka” or some Korean ladies sitting around stuffing dumplings and uttering lines like: "That ho been tricking for a long time and now she finally got a sugar daddy and thinks she's all that."
But things don’t often slow down. Here’s what’s happened so far: Choi was born in 1970 in Seoul with a cleft palate (successfully repaired) and two years later his parents moved with him to Los Angeles where they opened a liquor store, closed a liquor store, sold jewelry, worked in a wig shop, drank, smoked, smacked him around, opened a restaurant, watched the restaurant fail, and restarted their jewelry business. Choi’s hero is Fonzie and where I let off he’s maybe ten.
Rip-roaring story. Fifty-fifty on the recipes so far.
On Sunday, I made Choi’s chili spaghetti. According to his headnote, the dish was inspired by the meals he used to eat at Bob’s Big Boy with his parents on nights when they all went to to the movies. Choi: “My parents took me to some raw-ass movies: The Deer Hunter, The Exorcist, Dog Day Afternoon. Man, I was only five years old, homie!”
You get the flavor of Choi’s prose.
The flavor of the chili -- ground beef spiked with cumin, crushed pineapple, two cans of tomato paste, and four iterations of hot pepper -- was superspicy. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, I wouldn’t make it again.
But Choi’s broccoli rabe was so simple and amazing that I’ve made it twice in two days. Don’t stop reading if you think broccoli rabe is bitter! So do I, and this broccoli rabe wasn’t bitter. Maybe it was the particular bunch of broccoli rabe or maybe it was something magical about the recipe. Hopefully the latter. I didn’t serve it to my family (duh), but made it for myself for breakfast one morning and today again for lunch and it’s my ideal solitary meal: healthy, delicious, easy. Listed in order of how important those qualities are in my head, in reverse order of how important they are in my life.
I haven’t just adapted the recipe, but memorized it. Choi squeezes lemon all over his broccoli rabe but I forgot both times and it’s still fabulous. Try this.
1 pound broccoli rabe
1 tablespoon (or more to taste) olive oil
red pepper flakes
1 cup ricotta
- Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. While you're waiting for it to boil, fill a bowl with ice water and place in the sink. Cut off any particularly gnarly stems from the broccoli rabe. When the salted water is boiling, drop in your broccoli rabe and set a timer for 3 minutes.
- After 3 minutes, remove the broccoli rabe from the boiling water and put it into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain. Pat dry. You can now proceed with the dish, or put the boiled greens in the fridge and save them for later. Or, like me, you can cook some of them now and some of them later.
- Pour the oil in a skillet and heat. When it’s really hot, add the broccoli rabe and pepper flakes. Cook the greens until they start to get dark in spots. With the back of a spatula, press them into the pan. You want them as hot and oily as you can manage. Salt to taste.
- Put on a plate and scoop some ricotta on top or on the side.