Wow. Just Wow.

Love is not convenient, love has its own agenda. So marry me, Korean short rib tacos!

Had a beer the other night, and it helped me sleep, though it could’ve been the Korean short rib tacos I’d had for dinner, another Trader Joe’s production. I once thought TJ’s to be overrated. Now that I know what to get, I see TJ’s as a form of very tasty penicillin. It cures what ails you.

So, in short, it could’ve been the beer, could’ve been the tacos. As with all studies, I will keep testing till we settle on a solution.

Leave it said, that Korean short rib tacos might cure vertigo, depression, chicken pox, mononucleosis, lupus, losing streaks, bad breath, boredom, gout, disenchantment, poverty and a general lack of initiative. And now, perhaps, insomnia.

Dogpark Gary was telling a story the other day about how, when he was a kid, he climbed the scaffolding of the church steeple they were building near his house. Halfway up, God knocked him off.

When he staggered home, bloody and dazed, Gary’s mother tried to choke him to death, stressed as she was over being a young single mom, and now having to clean up all that blood…the clothes. The poor woman just sort of snapped, the way stressed-out crazy people do.

Dogpark Gary, then 10 or so, thought to himself, “Well, this isn’t going to be a good day, is it?” Two institutions were ganging up on him, Motherhood and the Protestant Church, and in that instant, when she’s trying to choke him, it might’ve been easy for Gary to lose faith in just about everything.

Yet, what it did was toughen him up for the future challenges he would face later. Military service, to name one. Marriage to name another.

So I said, “Listen Dogpark Gary, in my experience moms are all a little crazy.”

“They are?”

I explained that it’s the kids that make them nuts, and their husbands too when they get playful and silly, which is how husbands blow off stress (many women have yet to figure this out).

So Dogpark Gary shouldn’t blame his mother at all. She was just having a day.

Besides, everyone’s a little nuts.

At a Zoom fund-raiser the other night, I was explaining to 100 people how White Fang likes to sit in the bathroom and watch me shower. Obviously, dogs are kind of nuts too.

In short: It’s normal to be nuts. There should be no stigma.

Anyway, I’ve been battling insomnia. It’s such an easy thing. You just lie there. It comes to you like room service. Knock. Knock. Hello?

Insomnia is a swift kick in the butt, a reminder of your mental tilt. I mean, you’re flying along on all the usual anxieties – on your own personal airline of anxieties and worry, addressing the things you can, ignoring those you can’t, thinking you’ve got life pretty figured out, and suddenly you can’t sleep so well.

Drats. Tilt-tilt-tilt…

I try to undermine the insomnia. “Oh good, you’re back,” I tell it, like it’s no big thing.

Then I do what I’ve always done when I toss and turn, I think of sledding as a kid. When that doesn’t work, I think of women. Then I think of sledding with women.

When that doesn’t work, I think of Korean short rib tacos, my latest passion and quite possibly the love of my life.

We’ve only dated once, these short ribs, but I already can see a future together. Under California’s COVID protocols, you can now date food the way you once dated people, and in extreme cases, marry it.

Down on one knee, I’ll soon ask: “Korean short rib tacos, you look delicious tonight. I know we’ve only known each other a short time. But love is not convenient, love has its own agenda. And when it comes along, you just have to grab for it, the way you do a bag of ballpark peanuts. Capeesh?”

I hope she says yes. Who can resist a guy who still says capeesh? I’ve always lived life like some sort of “Goodfellas” sequel.

Here’s what happened: My daughter Rapunzel stopped by the other morning, when she was still a little hungover, and took her brother along to shop at Trader Joe’s.

I slipped Smartacus 80 bucks and whispered: “Listen, she’s a genius at this Trader Joe’s stuff. Whatever she buys, you buy. Just follow her around and copy whatever she buys.”

“What about beer?” Smartacus asked.

“Especially that,” I said.

They returned home with these Korean short ribs, some Marsala chicken and a shrimp dish that I’m making tonight.

The Marsala chicken was outstanding (sauté 6 chicken thighs, add Marsala sauce. Boom!).

But what really took over my life were these short-rib tacos. Rapunzel’s recipe called for a lot of cutting and chopping and exotic ingredients – I’ve been cooking seriously for only about 6 days.

But I was done in 20 minutes.

Wow. Just wow.

Here’s the recipe. Please don’t blame me if you become obsessive about them.

In defense of obsession, it sometimes helps you sleep, even as it derails other aspects of your life.

Like mothers, obsessions can mold us into the sleepless people we are today.

Let me ask you something: Where else do you get whacky wisdom like this? Fortune cookies? Winos? Your mother-in-law?

You’re welcome very much.


(courtesy of Rapunzel Erskine)

Approximate cooking time: 20 minutes. Serves 2-3 people.


  • Taco Meat
    • 1 package Bool Koji, Korean sesame marinated boneless beef ribs from TJs
  • Cabbage slaw
    • 2½ cups shredded red cabbage (also available at TJs)
    • 1½ teaspoons rice wine vinegar
    • ½ teaspoon sea salt
    • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Pickled cucumbers
    • 1 large English cucumber – thinly sliced
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • For serving
    • Tortillas
    • Cilantro (optional)
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • Bok choy to have on the side (optional)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Bok choy rinsed, dried and halved lengthwise
    • 1 teaspoon fish sauce

The Recipe

  1. Cook the meat: Set the meat out to let it get closer to room temp – cook to packaged instructions however you prefer, I normally do stove stop or in the oven depending on how much time I have!
  2. Make the pickled cucumbers –
    1. Add the thinly sliced cucumbers and sea salt in a medium bowl and toss it around. Let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the salt draws out some of the liquid from the cucumbers.
    2. If it’s too salty, rinse it under water and gently squeeze out the water. Add the sesame oil and gently toss it together. Set it aside.
  3. Make the red cabbage slaw
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the shredded red cabbage, rice wine vinegar, sea salt, and sugar.
  2. Let it sit until the cabbage starts to wilt and absorbs the dressing.
  3. Sear the bok choy to serve on the side (optional but very good)
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil
  2. Sear the bok choy until golden brown, 3-4 min per side
  3. Add the fish sauce and season with pepper to taste (fish sauce is salty so no salt needed)  
  4. Assemble the tacos
  1. Spoon the Korean beef on top of the tortillas and add the red cabbage slaw and pickled cucumbers.
  2. Top with any of the following – kimchi, sesame seeds, scallions, and cilantro leaves. Serve with lime wedges.

27 thoughts on “Wow. Just Wow.

  1. Try the cacio y pepe at TJ’s. Delicious and so easy to fix. If you have been watching Stanley Tucci on CNN Sunday nights, you would be familiar with this wonderful Roman delicacy.

  2. I live for this twice weekly wacky wisdom. There is no place else like the Erskine Chronicles. Heading out to Trader Joe’s today.

    1. A favorite around here, for sure, whether cooked in the oven or stovetop. I add a can of drained mandarin oranges and a handful of cashew nuts, and serve it over TJ’s microwave jasmine rice. Everybody loves it.

  3. On my way to TJ’s! I usually bbq those ribs until they’re crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Serve over steamed rice and green onions. Try this TJ ‘Paella’. 1 bag of Chimichuri Peruvian rice, 1 bag of seafood medley and andouille sausage. Fast and amazing

  4. AHHhh… TJ’s! Good! Now – next time you go, make SURE you try their “Giant Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce!” That’s an Americanized label put on what are the traditional “Greek-Style Beans” that are particularly hard to find in L.A. – but SO good! That Greek sauce is totally unique & the best thing you’ll ever have on beans!

  5. Apparently all of your readers shop at the same TJ-Orland Park, IL. There isn’t a package to be had, in fact they told DH that they no longer carry this. Looks like I’ll just have to drool over your photo!

  6. Thanks for sharing such a sumptuous recipe…just one tiny suggestion: Make the kimchi a mandatory — not optional — topping. Kimchi is the essence of Korean food (says this Army Reserve vet who learned to love kimchi cuisine during his 14 trans-Pacific deployments to Seoul and environs).

  7. Hallelujah Brother!
    You’ve finally seen the Light!
    TJ’s is essential to easy delicious meals!
    Welcome to our passion

  8. If this writing gig doesn’t work out, you’d make a great TJ’s spokesman. Many of the world’s best journalists have pivoted to PR. (Don’t ask me to name any right now though.)

  9. I have suffered,railed,cursed and tried every insomnia remedy there is, but I’m always willing to try something new! I will Instacart Trader’s tomorrow. What a great column,blog,chat you have here. Sleep therapy and recipes! As a Mom , from the moment your child is born, you never really get a good night’s sleep. Maybe that’s why we’re all a little off kilter sometimes. Hope the ribs help!

    1. I think that’s a good point about being a mom and not getting a good night’s sleep. If the ribs don’t help you sleep, they certainly help improve the time you’re awake.

  10. About insomnia: my personal cure is to run the California Highway System through my head. I don’t have all of it memorized (yet), but 1, 2, 5, 19 (Lakewood/Rosemead Blvd), Highway 39… you get the idea. It works for me, anyway. Venice Blvd is 187.

    As you say, we’re all a little nuts, especially when we’re short on sleep.

  11. One measure of a fine writer is range: you write and write to explore its possibilities, then cook your prose on it, hoping for a tasty meal. Updike could write In the argot of the proverbial phone book (remember those things ?) and be delicious, savory, and ultimately absorbing; and so it seems to be with our head mixologist and appetitive ranconteur, Chris. Among his many projects I sense the waft of prosedy that is a cookbook, perhaps even a series, with titles like : From The Erskitchen; Chris Can Cook; Cookamania; Erskine Eats; Chef Chris; LA Cookidential; Chris Cuisine; The Culinary Canary; Chriscookin’; Metromeals; Erskine Eats LA; Wolfin’ Down LA; and, as dessert, a seminal culinary bible of the times : Pan Demic. What food for thought…

    The series will be a sort of Spartacun Sensory Gladiator’s appetitive tour of our fair citie’s urban eateries, for LA foodies, with each verbal feast a volume centered on the cultural delicacies, restaurants, cafes, dive bars, taco shacks, street vendors, etc., etc., that provide the gustatory adventures and savory sagas of a particular part of LA. My appetitive anticipation is poised to dig in, I can hardly wait. The charcoal is ashy, the hickory smoke pungent, and the mind salivates at the prospect. Ooooooof!

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