A big bowl of collard greens is just that. But tell me who made the bowl, how they were cooked, which family member cooked them in which pot, where they were picked, who owned the land during the War Between the States, and you have yourself a big bowl of Southern collards.
So what is a Korean boy from New York City doing running a Southern restaurant in Kentucky? That is a story. The story begins like most cooking stories do, in a kitchen with a mother or grandmother. Then there was tossing out Korean barbecue to make some extra money, but when a noted chef walked in and the food was sub par, Lee had to rethink the whole thing. Then there was a fluke call from a friend who said come on down for the Derby. They always need cooks and you can watch the race. He went and stayed.
For a boy who grew up in a Brooklyn tenement, he sure can tell a good story. His love of the land is positively palpable and his respect for the things that grow and roam that land are evident. He has managed to keep all the things his grandmother taught him while expanding the culinary framework of old southern tradition. He does it beautifully. And the boy knows his bourbon!
Jalapeño-Spiked Bourbon Julep
4 to 6 fresh mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
1 ounce Jalapeño Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
2½ ounces bourbon
Splash of club soda
A jalapeño slice for garnish
Place the mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup, add the simple syrup, and gently bruise the leaves with a wooden muddler or a wooden spoon. Add enough crushed ice to fill the cup almost two-thirds of the way. Add the bourbon and stir gently, then fill the cup almost full with more crushed ice. Top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with the mint sprig and slice of jalapeño and serve immediately.
Jalapeño Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped (seeds and all)
1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and peppers and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the heat and let steep for 20 minutes.
2. Strain the syrup and allow to cool. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Next time you throw a party, break out this recipe and nice jar of kimchi!