Like everyone else I know, I've been cooking at home much more than usual these past several months. I have enjoyed it and have been eating well, but after a while I found myself getting bored with my own culinary repertoire.
To get out of my rut, I turned to a new cookbook for inspiration, "My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes" by Hooni Kim (W.W. Norton & Co., 2020). I have made several wonderful recipes from it, and each, though not difficult, involved techniques and flavors quite different from those I typically lean on at home.
It was just what I needed to get my mojo back. Part of the thrill came from the discovery of a new-to-me spice, gochugaru, coarsely ground Korean red chile flakes, which is used in kimchi as well as many other Korean dishes. The chile has a moderate heat, with a deep, savory flavor and a hint of sweet smokiness. It captivated me so much I started sprinkling it on everything: eggs, avocado toast, turkey burgers, fish for my fish tacos, potatoes, pizza -- you name it.
Here, gochugaru puts an exciting spin on one of my go-to summer skillet suppers. Mixed with granulated garlic, salt and cayenne pepper it makes a deeply flavorful rub for boneless chicken breast. Cooked in a skillet, the chicken takes on a brick-red hue and has a moderately spicy kick (add or eliminate the cayenne to adjust the heat to your liking). Building on the meaty flavor and dissolving the flavor-packed brown bits in the pan, I added mushrooms to the skillet to yield their liquid, then garlic and ginger, before stirring in fresh late-summer sweet corn and zucchini.
The end result is a boldly flavorful, healthful one-pan meal with just the spark I needed. You can find gochugaru in Asian markets, online and in well-stocked supermarkets, but you can also substitute ancho chile powder or regular chile powder for it in this dish for a still delicious, but different taste profile.
Gochugaru Chicken With Corn, Mushrooms and Zucchini
1 ½ teaspoons gochugaru (Korean chile flakes; may substitute ancho chile powder or regular chile powder)
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided use
½ teaspoon granulated garlic (garlic powder)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 ¼ pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, pounded to ½-inch thick
2 tablespoons canola oil or another neutral oil, divided use
8 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms or a mix of mushrooms such as shiitake, oyster and/or crimini, sliced
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions, white and light green parts, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon minced or finely grated fresh ginger
1 medium zucchini, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and sliced ½-inch thick
1 ½ cups corn kernels (from 2 to 3 ears of corn or, if frozen, thawed)
In a small bowl, combine the gochugaru, ¼ teaspoon salt, the granulated garlic and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle the spice mixture onto both sides of the chicken, rubbing it in a little with your fingers.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the chicken to the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cook until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan, followed by the mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon salt. Add a couple tablespoons of water if the pan seems dry, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the green onions and ginger and cook until they soften, about 1 minute. Add the zucchini, corn and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until the vegetables are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. If the pan seems dry, add more water as needed, a couple of tablespoons at a time. Pour any accumulated juices from the chicken into the pan with the vegetables, and then slice the chicken into strips.
Serve the vegetables with the sliced chicken on top or on the side.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information: Each serving contains approximately 311 calories, 35 g protein, 12 g fat, 18 g carbohydrate (5 g sugar), 91 mg cholesterol, 405 mg sodium and 4 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 1.5