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Author Notes: Though my mac and cheese was always a favorite amongst many in my life, my Kimchi Mac is a dish emptied faster than I could ever fill it up. Whenever I bring to family, friend, and client events, the reactions across the board are always excited ones. It’s a real way of emphasizing a relationship between celebrated fermented food, and it is a fantastic dish you will truly crave.
The trick is in sautéing the kimchi. Since it is acidic from the pickling and the watery Napa cabbage, sautéing it will help reduce the water content, concentrate the natural flavors and oils, and help create a mornay sauce that won’t separate itself from the milk solids. Also, feel free to use whatever pasta you’d like, I just use the long, curly pasta because there’s just too much great Kimchi sauce to be had! Trust me, good food may take time (as both the kimchi and cheese can attest), but it’s always worth it.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 ounces Spicy Napa Cabbage Kimchi, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/2 pound gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 pound spiral pasta (I favor using cavatappi / cellentani)
- 3 tablespoons pasta water (reserved from cooking)
- crumbled bacon & chopped scallions (optional)
- Boil a pot full of salted water, and cook cellentani pasta according to the package instructions, until al dente’. Before draining your pasta, carefully measure and reserve 5- tablespoons of the pasta water in a cup. Then, drain the pasta completely, and set aside.
- In a 5-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt butter and coat the bottom of the pot. Let it heat for about 1-2 minutes.
- When the butter is heated, add in the kimchi and saute’ in butter for approximately 5-7 minutes, or whenever the cabbage has softened and the liquid reduced by about half.
- Add in 2-tablespoons of flour, and whisk in with sautéed Kimchi until completely combined for your roux. (thickener)
- Gradually add in your whole milk, continuing to whisk together until all milk is poured in. Put the heat to low, and continue whisking, remembering to gently scrape up the flavors at bottom of the pot leftover from sautéing. Add in Kosher salt, mustard powder and white pepper, and continue whisking until the sauce thickens. (the kimchi is already thoroughly salted, but a lot of the spiciness and saltiness will be diluted from the milk.)
- Once the Kimchi sauce has thickened, gradually add in your grated cheddar and gruyere cheeses and stir with a wooden spoon until all have been melted into the sauce, and the sauce texture smooth.
- Gradually add in your cooked pasta into the sauce, folding in the pasta well with the sauce until all has been combined. Add in your pasta water to ensure the pasta bonds with the Kimchi mornay sauce, and assists in thinning out the sauce’s consistency. Turn off the heat under the Dutch oven.
- Stir in bacon or garnish with chopped scallions if preferred.
- Serve it up hot, and enjoy! (tastes even better the next day)