November 9, 2008

Comfort Food

I can't imagine life without my family, which is why I have always tried to create a "home" at Fork for our chef Thien Ngo, who was orphaned during the Vietnam War. Although Thien would share stories about his adopted mom, he maintained an aloofness that he only recently explained to me as a self-defense mechanism.

When the First Person Arts Festival approached me about hosting Kim Sunée, author of Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home, I was intrigued as I wanted to hear her life's story and how she got into cooking. Kim was born in South Korea and adopted by American family in New Orleans. Thien was also adopted, though by director of the adoption agency in his home country Vietnam. Although Kim and Thien's stories are much different, there are significant parallels. Chief among them is that both found comfort through cooking. When Thien learned that he would be meeting Kim, he became very nervous, fearing that he might lose control of his emotions hearing Kim's story. Kim's friendly, warm, and caring nature helped to smooth out the meeting. Thien's wine consumption probably helped a bit too. The meeting went well, and I think that we all gained something positive from the experience.

Interestingly, we only featured one item from her Korean heritage for brunch, the Kim Chi Soup.

Kim Chi Soup from Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love and the Search for Home (Grand Central Publishing, 2008)

1 teaspoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
2 teapoons fresh-grated ginger
6 cups chicken or pork stock
2 to 3 cups cabbage kimchi
4 green onions, sliced
garnishes: fried ginger, fresh green peas, sliced rice cakes, korean red chili paste or sambal oelek, sliced nori, a drizzle of sesame oil

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and add to pot. Let pork brown about 8 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and stir. Add stock, stir, bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low. Skim fat as it starts to simmer and froth. Add 1 to 2 cups of kimchi, stir, and let simmer about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until pork is fork tender. Stir in green onions and remaining kimchi (if desired). Taste and add more salt, as needed. Server with garnishes, if desired.