As I did in the spring, I am participating in The Little Plantation’s Eat Capture Share Challenge for fall. This is a food photography challenge with different weekly themes. I like the challenges she creates because I find someone else feeding me ideas help me think of new ways to approach both my photography and my cooking.
Americanos – Blue Jeans and Chinos Coke Pepsi and Oreos
This week, the challenges are all based on well-known TV shows around food. To be honest the last time I watched a Guy Fieri show was probably a decade ago. I didn’t even sit down to watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives until after I’d taken these photos. But once I did I was reminded of why I love the show and American food in general.
I’ve always had a fondness of America. I don’t know why, but it’s probably got something to do with being a pop culture floozy and the fact that most of the music, literature, films and TV shows that got me through some really tough years are American. The sense of escapism that the American Dream never really delivers on will probably never entirely leave me. False hope is hope to, you know?
I’m always disappointed when Europeans shit on America. If we didn’t speak all these different languages and were broadcasting our absolute worst to the world no one’d like us either. Hell is other people, they don’t need to be American for that.
I am even more disappointed when I meet people who claim the food in American is terrible. Like a co-worker who spent a good 4 weeks cruising California and claimed she hadn’t been able to find one single fresh vegetable. In California.
If you can’t find good food in America, let alone fucking California, that is entirely on you.
Dorothy Porker Eats on Google Maps
If you often find yourself to be one of these people, please go find yourself some Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to watch, or some Bourdain, or use my nifty Dorothy Porker Eats Google map to get you to places that are good.
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
What Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives reminded me of, beyond it being the reason me and Marloes Coenen ended up at Beer Belly experiencing Death By Duck, is how America absolutely rules when it comes to comfort food. When it’s good it’s greasy, comforting, lovingly prepared and fresh as fuck.
What’s the beef?
There is a lot to be said about Fieri’s style, which vaguely reminds me of a guy I dated in the mid-90’s who never really grew up, and maybe opening a restaurant in Times Square and having something called donkey sauce on the menu wasn’t the best idea, but any guy who has spent a large part of his time platforming hundreds if not thousands of small independent restaurants is fine in my book. And that’s leaving out all the charity work he does without boasting or the plethora of current and former staff who will come out of the woodworks in his defence for going above and beyond what a lot of employers consider necessary for their employees.
Finally, I get to the point: kimchi mac and cheese!
All of the above is only tangentially related to the recipe below, which is kimchi mac and cheese. I always wanted to make kimchi mac and cheese, so when me and Nombelina set up a playdate where she’d take care of the ribs (and burgers, and cheese, and cookies) and I’d take care of mac, it was the perfect opportunity to finally get it done.
I used an old recipe for a 70’s style mac and cheese as a base. Somehow I doubled the cheese (as one does) and used cream instead of milk because that’s what was in the fridge.
I think the next time I’ll leave out the bacon and have it with some nice nice thick cuts of pork belly Squirrel’s of a Feather style on the side.
Some things to keep in mind
If you want to make this using your own kimchi, you’ll also need this (store-bought is fine too):
You can use the below as a blueprint for any mac&cheese combo that tickles your fancy. The foundations are the pasta, milk and eggs. The type of cheese(s!), veggies, spices and protein turn it into whatever the hell you need it to be.
Because kimchi already has onion and a lot of other flavors going on, I didn’t add any onions or garlic. The classic has 150 grams of grated onion and a couple cloves of garlic, because everything kinda should.
Oven-Baked Kimchi Mac and Cheese
- 225 gr macaroni or other pasta of choice
- 250 ml milk or cream non-dairy is also fine
- 400 gr cheap cheddar slices the kind your mother warned you about, you can use less and better cheese if you’re more sensible than me
- 150 gr kimchi more to taste
- 150 gr thick smoked bacon cut into cubes
- 1 tsp gochujang
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
- Cook your pasta al dente according to packet instructions. Mine was ready in about 5 minutes.
- While the pasta is cooking, mix together the eggs with the milk or cream.
- Use a small blender to grind your kimchi down to a pulp. You can keep it in larger pieces or grind down half and keep half in bigger pieces, etc, but I prefer to grind it down completely, because kimchi is cabbage so it’d just be hot pieces of boiling water floating around in your mac and cheese, which doesn’t appeal to me. If you want to add a more bulky vegetable I’d go for stalks of bimi, mixed in at the end.
- If you’re using bacon, marinate it briefly in the honey, soy and gochujang before you fry it off in a pan until crisp.
- Drain the pasta and chuck it into a big bowl with the kimchi, bacon (if using) and slowly mix it together with the cheese until all the cheese has melted from the heat of the pasta. If you want to create a fancy line of cheese like I did, leave 6 or so slices or a handful behind in the process.
- Now mix in the egg and (fake) dairy mixture. Add any additional veggies if using. You may want to blanche or saute those briefly before adding them.
- Once everything is well blended together, pour it out into an oven dish. If you want to create a cheese line, pour out half, add a layer of cheese and then pour out the remainder of the pasta mixture.
- If you like a crunchy topping add a layer of either cheese and/ or breadcrumbs with a few well-placed tufts of butter before placing it into the oven.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes until solid and golden on top.