|Grilled Kimcheese Sandwich.|
(Recipe at the end of this post.)
Case in point: chili. I've been vocal about this before, but to reiterate, I'm a Texan, and in Texas, chili doesn't have beans, it doesn't even have tomatoes. It has chile peppers, beef, and seasonings. Its full name is chile con carne for a reason, people.
I've always felt the same way about chicken-fried steak, honestly.
Then I took part in the fantastic UNH Gourmet Dinner recently, along with guest chef Ben Hasty of When Pigs Fly Pizzeria. While he was busy teaching the students how to make their own charcuterie and the like, I was mostly tasting and advising. The theme was regional American food, and so I suggested that CFS be part of the dinner. Ben suggested that they do a twist on it, chicken-fried short rib. The short rib was cured beforehand, so it stayed super moist, something that worked really well when it came to 200-person banquet service. And I had suggested incorporating miso into the gravy.
On night two of the dinner (they repeat the event on Friday and Saturday, to give the students a chance to improve from one to the next), more than one guest at my table confessed to never having had CFS before. I had just read an essay from my cookbook on the subject, and I couldn't help but say, "I love this dish and everything, absolutely, but dare I say that, sir, you still have not really had chicken-fried steak."
But there are paper-thin limits to my purist streak, especially when it comes to cuisines I didn't grow up eating. Last year, when I was testing pizza recipes for “Serve Yourself,” an Israeli friend who grew up in Norway took great offense at one pie I concocted that included smoked trout, potato and fennel among the toppings, declaring it “wrong, just wrong” – before even tasting it. I couldn’t understand the umbrage, because I’m neither Norwegian nor Italian, so the world is my oyster. Or pizza is. Or my oyster is pizza. Or something. Why did I start talking about oysters all of a sudden? You know what I’m getting at.
Anyway, like lots of members of the "foodoisie," as Peter Kaminsky refers to us in his new book, "Culinary Intelligence," I've been on a kimchi kick for several years now, and it’s something I can't stop fusing to other cuisines. When our Let's Lunch group -- we coordinate posts on the same topic monthly -- decided to focus on fusion cooking, it was the first thing that came to mind. It's two LLs in a row that feature kimchi for me, because I can't get enough of it, and once I opened the door with kimchi tacos, I couldn't close it. That gateway food led to kimchi, ham and eggs on pizza and then to kimchi deviled eggs. When NancieMcDermott commented on last month's post that it was the perfect way to combine her loves for Asian and Southern cooking, I jokingly said that pimento kimcheese was next, and then soon enough, I was on it, pulsing together kimchi and cheese to make a Korean version of what is jokingly referred to as the pate of the South, and then realizing that perhaps the purest, if not the purist's, take on this combination would be a grilled kimcheese sandwich. It's not suitable for my "vague-an" sister and brother-in-law, but whaddayagonnado?
It didn't take too long to perfect, because, well, these ingredients love one another so much they were just looking for an excuse to get together. You know what I'm going to do next, don't you? Mac and kimcheese, here we come. In fact, I think I might be discovering the limitations of purism. I'm not quite ready to put kimchi in my chili, but it doesn't sound half bad. And that's something I never thought I would see myself write.
Grilled Kimcheese Sandwich
My recipe for Cabbage and Asian Pear Kimchi in "Serve Yourself" prompted me to add the sweetness of that fruit to this sandwich whenever I use a store-bought kimchi, but but if you're using that recipe here, you can obviously leave it out. Similarly, the sandwich takes nicely to the addition of ham, but it's simply gorgeous without it.
2 slices multigrain sandwich bread
2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup spicy kimchi, drained
1/2 small Asian pear, cored and thinly sliced
1 ounce smoked ham slices (optional)
2 tablespoons canola oil
Layer one slice of the bread with cheese, kimchi, pear slices and ham, if using. Top with the other bread slice and press with your hand to flatten.
Pour the oil into a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When it start to shimmer, lay the sandwich in the pan and cook, pressing with a spatula from time to time, until the underside is golden brown, 2 minutes. Repeat on the other side, transfer to a plate, and eat.
This post is part of Let's Lunch, a virtual lunchdate with food bloggers around the globe. Want to join us in the kitchen? Comment on this post or tweet using the hashtag #LetsLunch.
Check back here later in the day to find links to more posts on the theme from the Let's Lunch crew.