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Friendsgiving Recipes from Chef Josh Habiger

Chef Josh Habiger pulls together an effortless Korean barbecue for his musician and restaurant friends.

Written By:  Erin Byers Murray

Photographers:  Danielle Atkins

When Josh Habiger originally conceptualized The Catbird Seat, which opened in 2011, he imagined a place where the chefs were both culinary creators and hosts, serving folks from behind a counter; where the kitchen acted as a stage. His vision played out beautifully and Catbird immediately drew accolades from around the country, including a Best New Restaurant semifinalist nod from the James Beard Awards in 2012.

Habiger moved on from his spot at The Catbird Seat in 2013 in order to join Strategic Hospitality as the culinary director—he helped get Pinewood Social off the ground and has been working on upcoming projects including Le Sel, which opened inside the Adelicia building this fall.

On a rare day off, Habiger still manages to find his way to the kitchen, usually tinkering in his own apartment, set in a former Marathon Motor Works warehouse near Marathon Village. The space is industrial but warm with brick walls and a bedroom loft; train tracks run a few feet from his front door, but otherwise, it feels miles away from the bustle of downtown.

Inside this space, Habiger often gathers groups of friends—a blend of musicians, chefs, servers, wine lovers, and bartenders. On this particular occasion, guitarists Kenneth Pattengale, who plays for Milk Carton Kids, and Ben Lewis, a regular player with artist Lera Lynn, mix and mingle with a collection of folks from the restaurant world including Tom Bayless (formerly at The Catbird Seat), Matt Tocco (Strategic Hospitality’s beverage director), and Avon Lyons (a server at Le Sel). Dinner is to be a Korean-style feast, Habiger explains.

“I have never been to Korea and can’t vouch for any authenticity—I guess it’s my interpretation of Korean,” he says.

The spread is perfect for the family-style set up he envisioned, with a long farm table taking up the center of his living room and his guests perched on benches around the table. After Tocco serves a gin-spiked punch to the group, Habiger’s girlfriend Lauren Kessinger, an art director for a local publishing group, helped Habiger put the finishing touches on the meal; Habiger, meanwhile, plays DJ, throwing records on the turntable throughout the night.

“Whenever there are musicians coming through town that he knows or just appreciates as a fan, Josh will cook for them,” Kessinger says. He also recently roasted a whole hog for her birthday. “It’s how he shows his appreciation.”

The menu:

Korean-Style Short Ribs
Seafood Pancake
Grilled Greens with Garlic and Ginger
Kimchi Cucumbers
“Korean” Carrot Salad

The beverages:

Punch: Gin infused with oolong tea (sourced from High Garden), combined with strawberry syrup, Carpano Bianco, and lemon
White Wine: 2014 Pascal Janvier “Jasnieres,” Chenin Blanc, Loire
Red Wine: 2013 Daumen “Vaucluse Principaute D'Orange” 
Beer: 2nd Shift “Katy,” a sour beer out of Missouri'

The Recipes:

Korean-Style Short Ribs

Most people generally think of short ribs as rich, hearty, braising pieces of meat, but with the Korean-cut, you let them marinate overnight, give them a quick grill the next day, and you get a super flavorful piece of meat. In this recipe, I use Shio-koji, which is a fermented rice product with meat-tenderizing properties. If you can’t get your hands on any, just double up on the soy sauce. Gochujang is a fermented chile paste from Korea, which has a great balance of sweetness and spice.  Serves 8


½  c. Shio-koji
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. mirin (rice wine)
1/4 c. gochujang
¼  c. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger (or galangal), roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
5 lbs. Korean-cut short ribs
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
1-2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds


Place the Shio-koji, sauce sauce, mirin, gochujang, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and shallots in a blender and pulse several times to incorporate ingredients while also breaking up the garlic, ginger, and shallots. Pour the marinade into a large container and add the short ribs one at a time until they are fully immersed in the mixture. Refrigerate and let marinate for anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. To cook the short ribs, heat a grill to a medium-high heat. Drain the ribs and discard the marinade. Grill ribs in batches, about 3 minutes per side for medium rare. Serve on a platter and garnish with sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

"Korean" carrot salad

I’m a big fan of non-lettuce salads—I think the world could use more of them. This one is actually not in any way “Korean,” but rather inspired by a popular salad found in Russia that somehow got the name “Korean” carrot salad. I suppose it’s similar to us referring to “French fries” or “Canadian bacon.” Since there’s really nothing authentic about, I decided to take some liberties. Carrots are the stars here. I would suggest using a mandolin or a box-grater to shred them. Also, if you have cilantro growing in your garden, this is an incredible way to utilize those little green seeds, along with the chopped leaves and flowers for garnish. If you don't have those, dried coriander works just as well. Serves 8


1/4 c. white vinegar
1/3  c. vegetable or peanut oil
1 heaping tbsp. gochujang
Pinch of cayenne pepper
8-10 medium-sized carrots, washed, peeled, and shredded
4-6 garlic cloves, minced into a paste
3-4 shallots, cut to a very small dice
2-3 tbsp. cracked coriander seeds (or fresh green seeds if you have them)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
Cilantro flowers (optional)


In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, gochujang, and cayenne; set aside. In a large salad bowl, combine the carrots, garlic, shallots, and coriander seeds. Add about two-thirds of the dressing to the salad and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more dressing as desired. Garnish with chopped cilantro and flowers, if using.

The sources:

Food Styling by Hannah Messinger.
Flowers and foliage provided by Green Door Gourmet.
Event Styling including flower arrangements, copper pipe candlesticks, handstamped chopsticks by Brittney Forrister.
Furniture including farm table, benches (locally made), vintage navy upholstered chairs, and white wire chairs provided by Oak Nashville.
Vintage Turkish kilim rugs provided by Kendall Simmons Interiors.
Dinnerware by Handmade Studio TN.
Linens and serving utensils from Anthropologie.
Earthenware pottery from Goodwill.
Serving bowls: Tenure by John Donovan.

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