Kimchi Bulgogi Panini
I hate to generalize. But I will do it anyway. When Koreans cook, size matters. This is especially true when it comes to marinating meats – always 10+ lbs. If a Korean cook doesn’t follow this general rule of thumb, he/she is relentlessly ridiculed by fellow Korean cooks. They’ll say you have a “small hand.” Nope, it doesn’t mean that. It just suggests that you are not generous; you think too small. Pretty tough, huh? Ok. It may be a slight exaggeration, but not by much. It may just be my family, but I don’t think so.
Having grown up in this environment, I marinate waaaaay more meat than I really should for my humble family of two. But when your family’s philosophy on everything food is “go big or go home,” there is no other way to do it. And besides, leftovers mean easy meals for a good part of the week.
With the leftover bulgogi (and sautéed kimchi) from my last batch, I made one of my husband’s favorite dishes: Kimchi Bulgogi Panini. As with almost all recipes here, it’s easy to make. It’s also a very quick preparation, because I usually make this with leftovers.
You can add cheese if you’d like. You can use a milder cheddar or provolone, but I made my husband’s with some goat’s milk gouda. Because of the abundance of flavor that comes from kimchi and bulgogi, I prefer a milder cheese for this sandwich. If you don’t have any cheese, just skip it. I make mine dairy-free, and I don’t miss a thing. Additionally, I use fluffy Kaiser rolls for this recipe. They are so good when pressed with a panini press (or a makeshift one that I used). The outside of the roll creates a flaky crunchy shell, while the inside remains soft. It’s unbelievably delicious.
1 lb tenderloin or rib eye
1/4 cup tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
1 TB sesame oil
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 large onion, sliced thinly
1/4 Asian pear, grated (totally optional)
2-3 TB agave nectar or honey
1 TB mirin
1/4 tsp black pepper
For Sautéed Kimchi
1 cup napa kimchi, sliced thinly
1 tsp gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste)*
1-2 tsp brown sugar or agave nectar
canola oil for cooking
3-4 Kaiser Rolls
3-4 slices of mild cheese
baby spinach or arugula
- Stir together tamari, sesame oil, minced garlic, agave nectar (or honey), mirin, and pepper.
- Place thinly-sliced beef, sliced onions, and grated pear (if using) into a large mixing bowl or a large Ziploc bag for easy cleanup. Add prepared marinade from step 1 to the beef. Mix well. You can use your hands to massage the meat to ensure that the marinade is absorbed by the meat. Cover tightly. Marinate for at least 30 minutes. It can be marinated overnight.
- Heat a pan or a skillet on medium-high heat. Add canola oil to coat the pan/skillet. Remove the beef from the marinade and sauté until nicely browned. Don’t overcrowd the pan/skillet. Overcrowding will result in lowering of the temperature of the cooking surface; this will result in boiling or steaming of the meat. On moderately-high heat, the meat should cook very quickly – within minutes. Remove from pan. Tent with aluminum foil to keep warm.
- Add a drizzle of oil to the same pan with the bulgogi bits still stuck to the pan. Lower the heat to medium. Add the sliced kimchi. Sauté until the kimchi starts to look translucent. Add brown sugar or agave nectar and gochujang. Stir well until the gochujang is well mixed into the kimchi. Remove from heat.
- Heat a cast iron skillet (or other heavy-bottomed skillet) AND a smaller heavy pan on medium heat.* While the pans are heating, cut the kaiser rolls in half. Spread mayo on each side of the roll. Divide the bulgogi and sautéed kimchi among the rolls, placing kimchi on top of bulgogi. If using cheese, place a slice on top of the kimchi. On top of the cheese (or kimchi), place a small handful of spinach or arugula. Close up the sandwich. Brush the top of the sandwich with a little bit of oil or butter.
- Transfer the sandwiches to the heated iron skillet. Place the smaller pan on top of the sandwich. BE REALLY CAREFUL AS THE PAN ON TOP WILL BE HOT. I know. Common sense. But you can’t be too careful. Weigh the smaller pan if necessary. Let the sandwich brown for about 3-5 minutes, until the bread creates a golden brown crust.
- Carefully remove the pan on top. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
If you have a panini press, obviously, you should use the panini press. I’m using a makeshift one, because I don’t own one. If you will be using a makeshift “panini press,” make sure the bottom of the smaller pan is clean. You will be using the bottom of the pan to press the sandwich.
Make sure to brush on some oil (or butter) on the outside of the bread and/or the pan to prevent sticking, especially if you are using stainless steel pans.
If you are using cooked leftovers, you can heat the bulgogi and the kimchi together. Just add some oil to the pan and stir until heated through.
If you don’t have gochujang, just skip it. It will be good regardless.
I have this recipe categorized under both “Cheese & Dairy” and “Dairy-Free.” Don’t write me about it please. It’s because you can make it either dairy-free or with cheese.