Whenever Mama Kim rolls into town, I can guarantee that there will be at least one large Ziploc bag of kimchi with her luggage. So, what do I do with all the kimchi? Kimchi stew, spicy tofu, cold noodles, and pancakes are usually what I turn to when I need to use my super fermented kimchi. Recently, I had a glorious idea for a dish that calls for kimchi. Take a basic mac and cheese, add kimchi and bacon, and you've got yourself a new Korean-American classic. Seriously, how is this not already a trend? Although it sounds strange, cheese complements Korean flavors really well. I've seen it in ramen and kimbap, so a kimchi mac and cheese seemed like a natural combination.
This kimchi bacon mac and cheese is dangerously delicious. The combination of rich cheese, salty bacon, and sour kimchi is unlike anything that I've ever tasted, and I'm finding it hard to exercise portion control. You have been warned.
Kimchi Bacon Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese Base Adapted from Martha Stewart (via Smitten Kitchen)
1 1/2 cups kimchi
6 slices bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Squeeze kimchi to remove excess juice. Dice into small, 1/2 inch pieces.
2. Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and pat with paper towels. Cook kimchi in remaining bacon fat over medium heat until slightly tender, about 4-5 minutes.
3. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
4. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
5. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, and 3/4 cup Gruyère. Add the bacon and set the cheese sauce aside.
6. Cover a large pot of water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni and kimchi into the reserved cheese sauce. If desired, salt to taste.
7. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in a skillet and toast breadcrumbs until golden.
8. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cups cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup Gruyère, and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.