The much-maligned weeknight dinner. It causes so much angst in so many lives. And for good reason, a good weeknight meal is hard to find. To be a keeper, it must have a narrow number of healthful ingredients, it must take minimal prep time, and it must be eaten by all. If it takes too long to prepare or if it draws garners too many complaints, forget it. Life is too short to be in that kind of relationship.
The agony of the weeknight dinner is also never-ending — even when you make a fantastic meal one evening, everyone will be hungry again the next. No wonder it causes so much angst.
But as we all know, the right recipes can alleviate weeknight stress. Our version of bulgogi, also known as Korean beef, is one of our anxiety-free regulars. It is delicious wrapped in lettuce leaves. It takes just a few minutes to toss together and stick in the fridge in the morning, and then just a few minutes to cook at night. The kids never protest, and neither do their friends who often spontaneously stay for dinner.
Because my backyard garden is producing more lettuce than we can eat, we are wrapping up our bulgogi. Kids love wraps. My guess is they enjoy the excuse to eat with their hands. I enjoy not having to remind them to use a fork.
I like to add a little fermented kimchi for its health benefits and make an accompaniment of rice, in coconut milk for extra flavor, although the kids keep it pretty simple: a little beef, a quick wrap, and dinner is done. That sounds like a weekday routine I can commit to.
Recipe: Bulgogi Wraps, 8 servings
You'll have flavorful marinade left over; it can be used instead of plain water for cooking a rice side dish.
Thinly sliced beef is available at most Asian markets and larger grocery stores, such as Harris Teeter. If you'd rather prep your own, first freeze it for 10 to 15 minutes; that will make it easier to slice.
MAKE AHEAD: The meat needs to marinate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Adapted from a recipe by Sage Dining Services.
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, preferably toasted, plus more for optional garnish (see NOTE)
1 large yellow onion, cut in half, then thinly sliced
6 to 8 scallions, trimmed and cut crosswise into thin slices, plus more cut scallions for optional garnish
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 cup rice wine (mirin)
2 pounds lean sirloin or top round, trimmed of excess fat, then thinly sliced (see headnote)
About 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 heads lettuce, separated into leaves, rinsed and dried
Combine the sesame seeds, onion, scallions, garlic, soy sauce or tamari and rice wine in a gallon-size zip-top bag (or airtight container). Add the beef and seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage to coat evenly. Marinate for 2 hours (at room temperature) or up to overnight (in the refrigerator).
Heat the wok over medium-high heat until it is quite hot. Swirl in the oil to coat evenly. Use tongs to transfer half of the beef, onion and scallions to the wok, along with 2 tablespoons of the marinade. Stir-fry just until the meat is cooked through; transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef, onion and scallions. (No need to add more marinade; discard the remaining marinade or reserve it for another use. See headnote.)
Return all of the bulgogi to the wok just to heat through.
Lay lettuce leaves on a platter. Spoon equal amounts of the bulgogi into them. If desired, garnish with toasted sesame seeds and scallions. Serve right away.
NOTE: Toast the sesame seeds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the pan as needed to avoid scorching.
NUTRITION Per serving: 190 calories, 27 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar