My mom grew up in Seoul, South Korea, with a mom who was an amazing cook. I can personally vouch for this because in the 1980s my grandmother and uncle moved in with us in our home in Wichita, Kansas, where I grew up. What I remember most about that time is my grandmother cooking amazing food nonstop. When my grandmother passed away I know my mom regretted never having really learned from her how to cook proper Korean dishes. She ended up adopting a much more American style of cooking and by the time my sisters and I were on the scene, she had long since perfected a few dishes for my steak-and-potato-loving dad. But around that same time she had a lot of Korean friends living nearby, and she learned enough from them that by the time my kids were born, she was often preparing traditional Korean dishes for them, like seaweed soup. It’s funny to me that they’re growing up eating much more authentic Korean food than I ever did. Mom’s bulgogi, though, is more of an American-Korean hybrid, much sweeter than traditional bulgogi, and she serves it on a bed of white rice. Mom has us over once a month and this is what she always makes. It’s my kids’ very favorite food in the world, so I knew I had to include it in this book. Getting the recipe on paper was a bit of a challenge. My mom had no idea what the measurements were or how to describe what she does, because, as she said, she just does it. (Writing this book made me realize just how alike we are in this way.) But eventually, we figured it out, and I’m so glad we did because now I’ve captured the blueprint to what will always be a beloved meal for my kids. We’ve never had Mom’s bulgogi with anything other than her cucumber kimchi salad, which has a clean, fresh flavor that perfectly complements the sweet barbecued beef.
Mild, buttery Fontina cheese is delightful paired with earthy asparagus, but if you can’t find it, you can replace it with provolone, or use all Gruyère here. Sometimes I shave the asparagus into thin strips, though simply chopping it works great when I’m more pressed for time. This quiche is beautiful either way.