I wanted to be able to capture the essence of kimchee's complex flavor in dishes without having to chop leaves or pick cooked cabbage out of dishes. I was searching for a seamless integration of flavor. Previously we have made a kimchee consomme which was delicious although I felt it lacked the oomph, the character, the brash attention getting characteristics of kimchee.
Clearly I have been on a kimchee kick with our Dr. Pepper and kimchee roasted pork shoulder acting as the catalyst. A stop by Momofuku a few weeks back triggered an even stronger yearning to cook with kimchee as each table is adorned with bottles of kimchee puree rather than the usual ketchup. (Speaking of ketchup, our version is coming soon and what makes it exciting is the unlimited number of uses for ketchup, one of which is spiking it with kimchee.)
My mind works through associations. As I saw bottles of Korean ketchup (kimchee puree) on the tables and knowing that I often reach for ketchup as a cooking medium, I made a simple extrapolation. What would happen if we used a kimchee puree as a cooking medium? Only one way to find out. I pureed kimchee in the blender until it was smooth and fluid. I strained the puree to remove any fibers and large particles. I tasted the puree. It was a bit too intense for my purposes. I needed to thin it a bit without taking away from its inherent flavors. I wanted to use the spicy liquid to cook barley. I knew that if the puree was too intense the barley would be inedible. A cup of water seemed to bring the aggressive flavors into balance.
I added hulled barley and the kimchee broth to the pressure cooker. Twenty minutes on high pressure yielded toothsome barley with a nice snap, reminiscent of farro, and flavored throughout with kimchee. I am still smiling a day later. The marriage of the kimchee and barley is wonderful. The success of this first use of kimchee broth now opens up many new possibilities. I foresee shrimp poached in kimchee broth and buttery grits enriched with these deep, spicy flavors. A kimchee brine is certainly around the corner for roasted chicken or pork loin, as is a more intense kimchee paste to marinate steak.
This barley cooked with kimchee proved to be a great foil for our braised lamb neck. The tarragon and screwpine puree spiked the dish with herbal notes and a condiment of radish and preserved lemon zest refreshed the palate. While this application was certainly delicious, I may try a bowl full of the barley topped with a hot spring egg and some Chinese sausage for breakfast tomorrow. It's one of the benefits of having leftovers.