I really like Lucky Peach Magazine. It makes me laugh. I usually like the recipes, the writing is great (especially the puns) and there is a little bit of that celeb excitement when favorite chefs and food artisans share personal stories. Also, there’s a TON of fermentation. It’s pretty hard to page too far through an issue without ending up in bubbly, funky, aromatic territory.
In the most recent issue, I was drawn to the recipe for kimchi butter from North Bakery. They specifically called it out as a cream cheese-alternative for bagels, which is what originally drew me. I’ve made cream kimcheese a few times, and I thought it was really tasty, but they’re method was a little different from mine (see also: better than), so I thought I’d give the butter a shot.
A favorite part of my obsessive fermentation habit is coming up with new and exciting ways to eat my ferments. A personal passion of mine is seeking out ways to make sure that leftover bits chillin’ in jar bottoms and super-beat ferments don’t end up in the compost pile (to that end: Pickled Eggs, Using Up Excess Brine and Whey, etc.).
So when I see recipes that use ferments, I’m always looking for ways to sub in the not-so-perfect specimens. So I was psyched when I came across this Lucky Peach recipe just as I discovered a way-past-its-prime quart of mushy cucumber kimchi taking up space in the fridge for a while now, so I decided to sub that for the unspecified kimchi called for in the recipe. It worked just as well as the freshly fermented napa cabbage version.
This actually got better in the fridge over the course of a few days. One difference of opinion with the good folks as North Bakery: skip it as a bagel topper (go kimchi cream cheese for that!). Instead, use it where you would normally use butter. Sautee veggies, scramble eggs (especially this), spread it on raw radish slices. It’s a secret garden of flavors with a micro pinch of heat that is utterly surprising in a wide variety of dishes.
KIMCHI BUTTER RECIPE
Feel free to do this exact same thing with cream cheese rather than butter. It’s really, really good. I even convinced a couple of non-kimchi lovers into loving it on top of a tasty, local bagel. I definitely prefer a version made with a kimchi that went a bit too long in the fridge. This is a great way to avoid food waste!
Closely adapted from North Bakery’s recipe in Lucky Peach Magazine, Winter 2015
- 1 cup kimchi (preferably the past-its-prime stuff you find in the back of the fridge)
- 1/2 lb of butter, room temp
- splash of sherry vinegar (I’ve substituted other types of vinegar and omitted vinegar altogether with good results)
- salt, for seasoning (optional)
- Blend the kimchi in a food processor until it’s pretty smooth, as pictured. If your butter isn’t already at room temp, take it out the fridge and set it on the counter.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the kimchi mixture into the strainer. Use a spatula to get as much kimchi as possible into the strainer. Lightly press down on the mixture to force some liquid through, then give the whole thing a stir, and let it sit and strain for at least an hour, until the mixture is dry enough to pull away from the strainer in a dough-like clump.
- Don’t toss the liquid! It makes a great sauce or braising liquid!
- When the kimchi is looking close to done, break out the hand mixer or the stand mixer and beat the butter until fluffy and whipped, 3-5 minutes. Add the kimchi solids from the strainer and mix on high until the kimchi and butter form a uniform paste. If using vinegar, add it while mixing. Taste and add salt if necessary.
- Cover tightly and store in the fridge. It’s much more spreadable at room temp, but if you’re using it to fry eggs or onions, straight from the fridge is fine.