Did you just gasp with horror? I realize that this is a highly polarizing statement, but I love kimchi and cheese. I can’t imagine budae jjigae without cheese. I made kimchi chicken quesadillas once and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. And this kimchi grilled cheese might be my very favorite grilled cheese sandwich, ever.
To me, kimchi adds a welcome liveliness to the heavy grease of the cheese, while the cheese also helps to cut the piercing acidity of the kimchi. But, much to my disappointment, Bowl #2 and his mother were both horrified by the thought of kimchi grilled cheese. (His reaction was “Kimchi WHAT?” while his mom just looked at me in amazement when I suggested it.) It looks like some people, like the folks at Serious Eats, are partially on board — they did articles on kimchi quesadillas here and kimchi grilled cheese here. But these have met with some resistance too, particularly to the kimchi quesadilla. Bowl #2’s objection is that the cheese drowns out the pungent taste of the kimchi, which I can understand. Others just seem to abhor the thought of the combination. From my perspective, kimchi and cheese are just meant to be together, like a particularly awesome, sassy PB&J. To quote the articles by Serious Eats, it would never occur to me that it might “blow up with pure evil,” and it’s not even that it “doesn’t sound appealing” to me but turns out to be. It just sounds super duper appealing! But I guess I’m just weird like that.
Anyway, here’s the seriously simple recipe for kimchi grilled cheese, just in case you’re crazy like me. And if you’re not, just take out the kimchi and make a regular ol’ grilled cheese. Because that’s something worth having in any arsenal.
- 4 slices of your favorite bread (I used wheat)
- 2 tbsp butter, softened (or enough to thinly butter one side of each slice)
- 4 slices American cheese (or your favorite meltable cheese -- I think pepperjack, cheddar, Colby, provolone, etc. would all work well. Also, of course you can add more cheese! I support the right to limitless cheese.)
- 3/4 to 1 cup kimchi, drained, patted dry, and chopped
- Butter one side of each slice of bread, taking care to spread the butter to the very edges. (The very first time I tried to make a grilled cheese, sometime way back in high school, I didn't do this and left a very clean black outline of a piece of toast in our frying pan. I'm not sure my mom ever got it off.) Note: You can also melt the butter directly into the skillet and then fry the bread in it, which is handy especially if you're like me and tend to forget to soften the butter beforehand.
- Heat a skillet over medium-low heat, then place two slices of bread butter-side down. (If you'd like to go the melted-butter route, add about 1 tbsp of the butter, swirl it until melted, then add the bread.) Next, add one slice of cheese to each slice of bread. Layer kimchi over the cheese, then add a second slice to each.
- Let the bread fry on the skillet until golden-brown and the cheese begins to melt on top. Depending on your skillet, you may want to lower the heat to low to prevent burning (is there anything as sad as a burned grilled cheese?) Add the uncooked slices of bread, buttered-side up, to complete the sandwiches, then gently flip the sandwiches to their uncooked sides. (If they're not buttered, add the uncooked slices, remove from the pan, add the remaining 1 tbsp of butter to the pan to melt, then add the sandwiches back to the pan, uncooked side down.)
- Continue to let cook in the pan for a minute or so longer, until the uncooked sides are golden-brown. I like to press down gently on the sandwich to get the cheese to really squish together. Remove and let cool, then slice and serve!
Some people recommend panfrying the kimchi on its own to get it warmed up and add some crispy bits, as well as avoiding sogginess -- I love this if I have a little extra time. If you're feeling really decadent you can pan-fry in butter and then your mind will be really blown.
Thank you for reading and sorry if I disgusted you! 😉
PS Anyone notice a pattern here lately? Blueberries, then kimchi. Then blueberries. Then kimchi. Maybe I should rename this blog “Blueberries & Kimchi.” (That sounds definitely more disgusting than kimchi and cheese. But I kinda like the sound of it.)
So that was a little weird. Instead, you might like these more traditional kimchi recipes: