My blogging life has been put on hold because my normal life has intensified and gotten very busy. With Children, Husband, Work, Church and the many demands on my time, blogging has fallen down by the wayside. Way, way, way down.
I haven't really experimented that much either, because I've been relying on the dishes that I'm used to making, ones that don't require my photographs, my recording of measurements, or any sort of thought, but rather ones that I can throw together without much thought.
However, I was inspired a few weeks back by some sour kimchi in my fridge, and wondered, "What would that taste like in mac and cheese?" In fact, one of my favorite ways to enjoy mac and cheese is with a side of sour kimchi, because it helps cut through the richness and creaminess and add a little bite. It rounds out the experience and brings out cheesy yumminess. As I'm a huge fan of throwing kimchi onto unusual dishes (pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs, burritos, quesadillas, grilled cheese) I figured, why not throw kimchi into my mac and cheese?
The first time I made it, I enjoyed it and assumed that it might just be my favorite thing since I like kimchi and mac and cheese so much. I casually mentioned it to Husband, who said, "That sounds REALLY good. Let me try it." I apprehensively gave it to him (Husband is simultaneously my biggest fan and sharpest critic) and when he bit into it, the look on his face was one of pure enlightenment. "This is the best mac and cheese ever," he declared, "but you need to up the kimchi factor."
I made it again, this time for a larger audience of friends gathered for Husband's birthday. I made a huge dish of the kimchi mac and a smaller one of just regular mac. I did, however, have an overflow of kimchi mac so I put it into the corneer of the regular mac and cheese, and before serving, warned the guests, "This corner of this regular mac is kimchi mac."
One of my very funny friends quipped, "No one puts kimchi into a corner," and proceeded to scoop out that corner of the dish. By the way, if you don't get the reference, I'm feeling really old. (Dirty Dancing.)
At the end of the evening, Kimchi mac and cheese was demolished, and I still didn't have any photos to put on the blog. Therefore, I made a concerted effort this week, to make it again and document the process.
This dish is not for the kimchi faint hearted. This is for those who love kimchi, love the robust, fermenty spicy flavor and can't get enough of it. Although the cheese and pasta mellow the overall flavor, kimchi is the star. It's 6 cups of chopped kimchi (less if you're scared) so that the kimchi really sings. You can't put kimchi in a dish and stick her in the corner, that's for sure.
Kimchi Mac and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 cup panko bread crumbs (or you can just use regular.)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter (this will be split - 2 tablespoons for your bread crumbs, 6 tablespoons for the cheese sauce - I made the mistake of dumping a whole stick of butter into my sauce)
6 cups of chopped kimchi (less if you’re worried), drained in a colander over the sink.
5 ½ cups milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 lb (16 oz) grated cheddar (used my food processor to grate the cheese)
½ lb (8 oz) grated jack cheese
Cook macaroni according to package directions in well-salted water. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside until needed.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 4 quart casserole dish. Place panko breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter or melt butter in a microwave. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the bread crumbs aside.
Take handfuls of drained kimchi and squeeze out excess moisture. Kimchi doesn’t have to be completely squeezed of liquid, so good hard squeezes of bunches of kimchi will be sufficient. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
Remove the pan from the heat. Add all grated cheese all at once. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce. Add drained and squeezed chopped kimchi to the mixture.
Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 20 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.