A Go For Gochujang Gravy
Italian Americans may have the tradition of Sunday gravy, that behemoth pot of long-cooked red sauce full of sausages and various cuts of meat that gets ladled over heaps of toothsome pasta.
For the rest of us who don’t have that many hours to devote nor such a sizeable army to feed, there is instead “Gochujang Gravy.”
It’s a meaty, saucy mixture that tastes long-simmered even if it’s not. And it gets an Asian bent with gochujang, the fermented Korean pepper paste.
This satisfying recipe is from “I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To)” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.
It’s the first cookbook by Brooklyn recipe developer Ali Slagle, whose weeknight recipes are a fixture in the New York Times and Washington Post.
She’s an old-hand at what she calls low-effort, high-reward recipes, which make up this book. They’re just the ticket for getting out of that dinner-time rut. Spice up your repertoire with her “Oven Quesadillas,” “Green Rice with Singed Feta,” One-Pot Coconut Rice & Shrimp,” and “Cheesy Bread Potpie.”
Her “Gochujang Gravy” recipe calls for ground beef. I actually went with ground pork instead because I had some in the freezer. But I think this versatile recipe could easily be made with ground chicken, turkey, lamb or plant-based meat, too, so I added that suggestion to the recipe.
Just saute the ground meat with a little brown sugar, tomato sauce, soy sauce, water, onion, garlic, ginger, and gochujang. It’s the latter whose fermented taste gives this dish a deeper, long-cooked quality even if it takes less than an hour to make.
Slagle gives the option of adding some greens to the gravy. I took her up on that, stirring in chopped Japanese mustard greens with the meat, which not only added a gentle peppery taste, but also upped the nutritiousness.
Once the gravy is ready, you can serve it any which way — over toasted bread, crowning a baked potato, spooned over rice, or tossed with noodles.
Thick, chewy udon noodles stood up well to this meaty sauce imbued with sweetness, moderate heat, and deep savoriness. If you like it especially hot, just add a little more gochujang when making the sauce or at the table.
Then, dig a fork into Sunday gravy and noodles — Asian-style.
1 large yellow onion
6 garlic cloves
2 inches fresh ginger
1 bunch mustard greens or Swiss chard (stalks diced, leaves chopped), optional
2 tablespoons neutral oil
1 pound ground beef (or pork, lamb, turkey, or chicken)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons gochujang or to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
Udon, ramyun (Korean instant noodles), rigatoni, rice, farro, toasted bread, baked sweet or russet potato, or diced tofu (your choice)
Coarsely chop the onion, garlic cloves, and ginger (no need to peel the ginger).
Heat neutral oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add ground beef in an even layer, season with salt and pepper, and cook, without touching, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add dark brown sugar, gochujang, tomato paste, and the onion, garlic, and ginger. Stir in chopped greens, if using. Cook, breaking up the meat, until the meat is cooked through and the onions are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thickened and flavorful, 20 to 25 minutes. (Keeps for 4 days in the fridge and also freezes well.)
Now pick a starch and cook it simply. Boil udon, ramyun, rigatoni, rice, or farro. Toast a slice of bread or potato buns. Bake a sweet potato or russet potato. (Also good with tofu, like mapo tofu.) When the gravy’s good, season to taste with salt and pepper and ladle it into or onto you starch.
Note: Hearty greens such as mustard greens or Swiss chard counter the richness of the sauce. If your sauce has a lot of fat on top, skim it off with a spoon before serving.
Adapted from “I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To)” by Ali Slagle
Another Ali Slagle Recipe to Enjoy: Chicken (or Turkey)-Zucchini Meatballs
More Recipes with Gochujang: Striped Bass (Or Cod) and Kimchi Stew