Personally, I find meeting new people and making new friends exhausting. Ever since I’ve been home with the kids, my social circles have been determined through my kids’ schools and various activities. You’d think motherhood itself was enough to become BFFs with a fellow mom, but it turns out that just having progeny is not enough. Sometimes we chat after we drop off the kids at school, or carry on a light banter during those weekly 30 minutes while our kids are rolling around in a gymnasium. Then sometime after 7 or 12 weeks, the person I loosely bonded with at the gymnasium or soccer camp is never to be seen again. But every now and then I click with someone and major bonus points if the kids become close buddies. Playdates and dinner dates ensue, and – BAM – friends for life! The spouses are surprisingly game and play along. It’s a strange ritual, but this is how it’s been ever since the kids came along.
Kinda, sorta, maybe like this dish…spicy, meaty ddukboki and ooey, gooey cheese. They were meant to be together. Friends for life.
I have been craving something casserole-y and cheesy and spicy ever since the cooler weather has decided to stay. This cheesy ddukboki was a homerun on my first try, or to follow through with the baseball analogy, at my first at bat. Think of this as a very distant cousin of the baked ziti. Very. distant. It is meaty, spicy, chewy, tangy, and cheesy. Words you would describe a dish of comfort.
- 1 pound package of Korean rice cakes (the stick version, not the flat ovals)
- 6×6 sheet of fish cake, cut into 2-inch long strips
- 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
- ½ pound ground beef
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- ¼ cup kochujang (feremented red pepper paste)
- 5 stalks green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1 Tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 6 ounces Colby cheese, shredded
- If rice cakes are frozen, soak them in water for about 20 minutes in a medium-sized bowl. This should thaw them out a bit.
- Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add beef. With the back of a wooden spoon, break up the beef as it cooks. Once the beef starts to brown, add onions, garlic, ginger, salt, and green onions. Cook until the beef is brown and the onions start getting soft.
- Add kochujang and stir until the beef and onion mixture is coated. Take the skillet off the heat and set aside.
- Drain the rice cakes. In a medium-sized saucepan, add the rice cakes and add enough water to just cover the rice cakes. Bring to a boil and let cook for about 1 minute.
- With a large slotted spoon, scoop the rice cakes into the skillet with the beef mixture. Add the fish cakes. Toss gently until everything is coated.
- Pour the beef and rice cake mixture into a medium-sized casserole dish (2 quart size). Stir in ½ cup of mozzarella.
- Top the dish with the remaining mozzarella and Colby cheese.
- With the oven broiler on high, place the dish on the middle rack of the oven. Broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly or about 6-8 minutes.