So, Instagram is one of my “go-to” sources for inspiration. [You should totally follow me on IG btw in case you aren’t!!] You know–when you have one of those days where you’re at work and you’re like, “wait what should I cook tonight??” and you spend literally 4 hours debating the pros and cons of the litany of recipes you have in your head and just feel totally insipidly uninspired?? Yeah. That happens to me like every other day. So, I head over to Instagram and scroll through my feed until I see something that gongs the proverbial “light bulb.”
Last week, it was Mac & Cheese.
Wait, what? Mac & Cheese? How is that possible for the dairy free contingency?
It’s more than impossible. I think it’s BETTER. You get all the ooey gooey cheesiness of the traditional M&C, but none of the guilt. No butter, no milk.
Now…how to give it that extra “somethin’ somethin'”….?
You see, the key to a good vegan cheese sauce is that umami flavor. What the fuck is “umami”?
People taste umami through receptors specific to glutamate. Glutamate is widely present in savory foods, such as meat broths and fermented products, and commonly added to some foods in the form of monosodium glutamate (MSG). Since umami has its own receptors rather than arising out of a combination of the traditionally recognized taste receptors, scientists now consider umami to be a distinct taste.
Umami is incorporated through things like nutritional yeast, onions, garlic, garlic powder, but the real seal for a vegan cheese sauce is a pickling solution.
Did someone say “pickle”?
Koreans pickle better than anyone.
So, that is how the Kimchi cheese sauce was derived (riffing off of Master Kenji’s cheese sauce). And what better way to celebrate its creation than to mix it with a shit ton of pasta?
And then add more kimchi on top?
With more cheese on top???
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Recipe Difficulty: Easy
Servings Amount: 2
Recipe Lead: Keep your pants on and pour yourself a tall glass of water.
Kimchi Cheese Sauce
- 5 tbsp vegetable shortening (or oil)
- 1 small onion (chopped)
- 1/2 russet potato (thinly sliced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 jalapeno (sliced)
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp Korean chili powder (or paprika)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup cashews (soaked in water for 4 hours to overnight)
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 tsp pickled jalapeno juice
- 2 tsp kimchi juice
- 1 box brown rice pasta
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/2 tbsp + 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp agave
- 1/2 tbsp gochujang
- 1/2 cup kimchi (ripened)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- In a small pot, melt vegetable shortening and add onions and garlic. Cook until softened. Then add potatoes, jalapeño, chipotle, gochujang and seasoning. Stir until potatoes start to soften and all vegetables are evenly coated.
- Deglaze the bottom of the pot with water and bring to boil. Cook until potatoes are tender.
- Empty contents of pot into high powered blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend on high for a few minutes, until creamy and smooth.
- Cook pasta until al dente. Reserve ~1/4 cup of pasta water before draining. In the same pot that you cooked the pasta with, add pasta and cheese sauce, as well as a little pasta water in case sauce gets too dry. Scoop pasta into oven safe container (I used two cast iron pans).
- For breadcrumb topping, mix breadcrumbs, salt, and 1/2 tbsp sesame oil until breadcrumbs are nicely coated. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta.
- Place in 450° oven until breadcrumbs are golden brown (15-20 minutes).
- In the meantime, heat up 1 tbsp of sesame oil in a small skillet. Add kimchi, gochujang, and agave and saute until kimchi is caramelized.
- Add caramelized kimchi to baked pasta. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.