Eric Kim got his first cooking lessons as a latchkey kid growing up in Atlanta. Emeril Lagasse, Rachael Ray, and other Food Network stars were his after-school tutors. He credits them with sparking his curiosity for deglazing pans with wine and tossing creative salads with bagged supermarket lettuce — techniques he’d never seen his mother perform as she whipped up dinner after work to serve on a table set with rice, chopsticks and her homemade kimchi.
These celebrity chefs helped lay the foundation for a career that has included stints writing and editing for the Food Network, Food52 and various magazines. Today he’s a staff writer and regular video host for The New York Times.
Kim’s parents moved from Korea to the Atlanta suburbs in 1983, before Asian pantry basics such as sesame oil and rice vinegar became mainstream ingredients. Like other immigrants, they re-created the flavors of home as best they could.
Although his tastes have broadened and global products have became more readily available, Kim’s affinity for those retro dishes from his youth continue to show up in his inventive creations. In “Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home” (Potter, $32.50) those influences appear in Maple-Candied Spam, Cornish Game Hen Soup, Fried-Shallot Oil, Gochugaru Shrimp and Roasted Seaweed Grits, and other boundary-bending comforts.
Gochugaru, a sweet and fragrant red pepper powder, along with a roasted seaweed snack called gim, are pantry staples that may require a trip to an Asian market or an order online. But he’ll convince you to incorporate them into your own everyday cooking in wide-ranging applications that include seared pork chops, pasta, sour cream dip for crudites, and even chocolate cake.
While most of Kim’s recipes are designed for busy modern lifestyles, he advises setting aside four hours to make “the most important recipe in the book:” his mother Jean’s Perfect Jar of Kimchi. He shares that prized heirloom, along with an assurance your efforts will be rewarded. “Use it wisely,” he writes, “and share it with the people you love most.”
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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