I wanted to make a kimchi sandwich. The idea had come into my head after thinking about the Canter’s Reuben and how important the sauerkraut is. (I will stop talking about the Reuben soon, I promise.) A sauerkraut sandwich didn’t sound very appealing, though, and in ruminating on things I settled on kimchi. Cousin to sauerkraut, it seemed like it might have the verve necessary to be the starring ingredient in a sandwich. Associates cautioned me against it, but I wanted the challenge. And a challenge it was! Pairing some manner of pork with the kimchi seemed natural but would clearly overshadow the cabbage. I thought about the quinoa and parmesan mix from the squash sandwich I had last winter, thinking that something nutty and smooth would be a nice contrast. Various combinations of rice and egg were suggested, but they seemed logistically risky and unlikely to be rewarding. It was my esteemed colleague Bill who finally came up with the right idea. Kimchi, he said, would go well in a grilled cheese.
From there my own mind was off like a shot. Grilled cheese can be good, but all too often any substantial amount of cheese in the middle becomes soupy. What if instead of just cheese I used macaroni and cheese, providing both a mild cheddar flavor and a contrasting texture? Cheddar wasn’t going to be the only cheese flavor involved, of course. Provolone and smoked gouda were quickly recruited, a sourdough round was obtained and the whole thing was ready to come together beautifully. It wasn’t perfect—it could have used more gouda, I went easy on it thinking the smoke might overpower things—but for a first attempt I was pretty pleased. The textures worked together as well as I’d hoped they would, the spicy kimchi and the cheese played off each other and altogether the whole thing was delicious. I’m not of the opinion that anything can be the base of a sandwich, but there are certainly a lot of options to explore. I was quite pleased to see that kimchi was splendid in a starring role.