We’ve never claimed to be on the cutting edge of any particular food trends. In fact, the trendier something is, the more we tend to side-eye it, like a goth kid at a unicorn-themed prom. But you know what? Sometimes dishes we love just happen to also be eminently hashtaggable, as is the case with this bowl of charred broccoli and spicy baked tofu – topped with a vegan miso-kimchi dressing so luscious, we want to drizzle it on just about everything we make from this day forward. So go ahead and call this a Buddha Bowl, a Grain Bowl or a Rice Bowl; it doesn’t matter when dinner is this delicious.
Even though I grew up in New York, I’d never had a patty melt until just a few years ago. The classic version (a thin ground beef patty topped with either Swiss or cheddar cheese and grilled onions on rye bread, pan fried in butter) was said to have originated in Southern California in the restaurant chain of William “Tiny” Naylor in the 1940s or 1950s. It’s become a staple of diners, bars and dives all over the U.S.
Basically a happy, messy mashup of a grilled onion-topped burger and a grilled cheese sandwich, as soon as we made our first batch of Kimchi Pimento Cheese, we knew what we wanted to do with it.
Pimento cheese doesn’t have to be eaten in a sandwich – and neither does it need to contain pimento. Say what?! Before you flay us alive for our heresy, let us hurriedly explain that we replaced the pickled pepper with fermented home-made kimchi. And we, frankly, think it’s even better.
Pimento cheese, the iconic spread of the American south, turns out not to be very southern at all – at least in terms of its origins. It’s so associated with the south that it’s hard to imagine the spread (a mix of cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise and diced red pimentos) as coming from anywhere else, but our friends at Serious Eats did a little digging and discovered that pimento cheese actually got its start up north, in New York, as a way to market the burgeoning production of cream cheese.
In the 1870s, New York farmers started making a soft, unripened cheese, similar to Neufchâtel, that eventually evolved into cream cheese. Around the same time, Spain started exporting canned red peppers — or “pimiento” — to the United States. Eventually a combination of the cheese, peppers and mayonnaise became the spread we know today and like any good origin story, the lore soon outgrew its humble beginnings and pimento cheese became a staple of church picnics and neighborhood potlucks and fancy restaurants all over the southern U.S.
While most loved between two slices of bread, the cheese spread is versatile enough to lend itself to a variety of uses – as a dip, as a topping (think cheeseburgers, or our favorite, patty melts), and even as a stuffing for meats like chicken breasts, or pork chops.
Matt here. Emily’s going to come in with the important tasting notes and all that later in the article, but I just wanted to share an anecdote from our very early cohabitation. When we first moved in together, I remember I was clearing room in the fridge – and at the time, Emily had a really beautiful spacious fridge (I think it was even bigger than the one we have now) and there was plenty of room to hide stuff at the back of the shelves. I was clearing out room to fit in whatever we’d bought together at the store, and I spotted a jar whose contents were unfamiliar to me. I opened the lid and, I don’t remember now, but I probably cursed. I think I might have warned Emily that there was something really bad in there that needed to be thrown away right that second, and preferably triple-bagged. I warned her that we might have to replace the fridge. I warned her that we might have to move.
When we want the flavors of bulgogi and the convenient outdoor grilling method of a burger, there’s an easy solution: combine them. By sticking with the tried-and-tested burger, glazing it with a spicy soy-ginger-garlic-gochujung sauce, and stacking it with kimchi mayo and pickled daikon radish, you can keep the best of both worlds without offending culinary purists.
This recipe was originally written for Serious Eats.
We’ve all experienced what I like to call “fusion fails”. Two culinary concepts which, taken individually, are perfectly respectable, but in combination create a whole that is … let’s just say less than the sum of its parts. For example, I love fruit, I love cheese, but bits of fruit IN cheese? No thank you. I love bacon, and I’m a fan of vodka, but bacon-flavored vodka (yes, this exists)? I’ll pass. The most successful fusions take two examples which aren’t so far separated on the food spectrum that you have to take a leap of faith that the result is even edible, let alone worth the trouble of combining them. Croissants and doughnuts can at least both be found on the bakery shelf, and thus we have the cronut. And bulgogi, the Korean staple, uses thin strips of beef that are marinated and seared, so why not apply those flavors to a perfectly grilled burger? To be honest, making up names like “cronut” and “flagel” isn’t our forte, so we’re simply calling this the “bulgogi burger”. If you’re as nerdy as we are, you might like to call this a “crossover episode” – where stars from two different shows team up to make a delicious dinner! (This is why we don’t write TV shows.)
Kimchi Pancakes are the kind of fast food we can really get behind. Packed with spicy kimchi and fresh shrimp, these crispy treats make a fantastic appetizer, snack or light dinner.
We are almost never without a large jar of kimchi in our refrigerator. Even our resident Brit (who was initially, shall we say… resistant) has become addicted to the stuff. It’s not just a great condiment for traditional Korean dishes like Bulgogi, it also makes a fantastic cooked ingredient in all sorts of dishes. Its distinct tart-spicy flavor is a great addition to fried rice and stir fries, as well as in less traditional dishes, like grilled cheese sandwiches and compound butter.
You may notice that as kimchi ages, it continues to ferment. The cabbage will soften and become spicier and more tart. At some point you’ll find quite a bit of liquid from the vegetables mixed with the brine in the bottom of the jar. Don’t throw it way! In fact, do a little happy dance because you can use it to make kimchi pancakes.
Note: This recipe is part of our collaboration with Serious Eats.