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Dinner Rush! Spicy Korean Beef Lettuce Cups

Those of you that read my blog know that I love a grocery store. Some people have shoes or gadgets or lotions and potions. Not me. I’ve got the dairy case, cheese counter and friendly deli staff. Since this is my drug, and guilty indulgence is imminent with every visit, I’ve amassed a pantry full of random odds and ends, all of which I clearly need to have. The spoils of this most recent visit? Fresh-packed kimchi.

Kimchi is a spicy condiment made of fermented cabbage with other vegetables. It is an essential staple of the Korean diet and also boasts a ton of health benefits as a result of being a probiotic. The off-putting-to-some smell shouldn’t deter you from experiencing its hot, sour, salty and sweet balance that is surprisingly versatile across several different types of cuisine.

Taking some inspiration from classic Korean flavors, this dish is a bit of a riff on beef bulgogi. A classic in Korean barbecue houses, bulgogi is a simple presentation in which slices of beef are marinated in a sweet blend of soy sauce, sugar, garlic and sesame oil and then seared or grilled. The service is often an elaborate DIY spread with my different condiments, rice and leafy greens available to package all of the flavors together.

The point of this whole story?  Next time you’re out shopping try and pick up just one new thing. You might just end up surprising yourself.

Spicy Korean Beef Lettuce Cups

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

For the sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Half of a bartlet or Asian pear, seeded and grated (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, grated
1-inch knob ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon sriracha

1 pound lean beef sirloin steak, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon sesame oil

For serving:
1 1/2 cups kimchi
3 scallions, quartered lengthwise and sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
8 to 12 leaves butter lettuce
8 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved or quartered
Sriracha, optional

In a small bowl stir together all of the ingredients for the sauce.  Pour half of the sauce into a shallow baking dish or zipper lock bag and reserve the other half in a serving dish.  Add the beef to the baking dish or zipper lock bag and toss to coat.  Marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.

While the beef is marinating, prepare the vegetables and condiments for serving.

Place a large sauté pan over high heat with the sesame oil.  Sear the strips of marinated beef in the pan until deep golden brown and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.

Serve the beef with the prepared vegetables, condiments and reserved sauce.  Prepare lettuce cups by filling a piece of butter lettuce with a few slices of beef and a bit of each of the vegetables, condiments and sauce.

COOK’S NOTE:  If the idea of a lettuce cup doesn’t leave you feeling 100% satisfied, add 2 cups of steamed white rice to the mix.  Place a scoop in the bottom of each lettuce cup before piling on the fillings.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Marc Forgione and Bobby Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following him on Instagram at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.

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