April is National Grilled Cheese Month and Land O’Lakes is celebrating with a month-long tribute. The celebration, “30 Days of Grilled Cheese” is already in full swing at Kitchen PLAY!
First of all, I’m a big fan of Land O’Lakes® cheese and last year I had the opportunity to create a recipe for simple sliders using Land O’Lakes® 4 Cheese Italian Blend. This time around, I opted for their American cheese. The cheese is creamy and balanced with the right amount of sharpness. It is perfect on its own, but also the obvious choice for a grilled cheese sandwich.
My sandwich draws inspiration from a couple of sources. Ever since I saw Sarah Gim’s creation, Kimchi Ramen Grilled Cheese, last year, I knew I had to try it with a few personal touches…of course.
This sandwich also takes a lot of notes from the Korean dish, budae jigae. In Korean, budae means military base, and jigae is a soup-like stew. This spicy dish can include kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), ramen noodles, hot dogs, SPAM, and/or canned ham. This dish came about as a result of the Korean War, during a time when food was scarce in South Korea. People used the U.S. Army food surplus that included hot dogs, SPAM, and canned ham and adapted it to the Korean cuisine; hence, the name budae jigae. This dish is not your traditional Korean dish, but is popular in more casual eateries. Where am I going with this? Well, this dish, as well as a few others, has evolved slightly and most recently, American cheese has made an appearance.
The addition of American cheese to jigaes is fairly new to me, but I know scores of people who grew up adding a slice to their bowls of ramen, kimchi jigaes and even kimbap. Who knew? Actually, the first I ever heard about this culinary curiosity was when I was reviewing a recipe for kimchi jigae in Marja Vongerichten’s Kimchi Chronicles Cookbook. The last ingredient listed in her recipe was a half slice of American cheese. “Cheese?!” I thought incredulously. Then I thought, “Okay, it could work.”
So there you have it. Even with all the spiciness and mélange of flavors, the creaminess of the Land O Lakes® Deli American Cheese fits right in and even helps keep everything together!
Notes: Regarding ramen, I prefer the Nongshim shin ramen for its spiciness. Also, you’ll note that I toast both sides of the bread. I do this for two reasons: 1) I feel like the cheese melts a bit faster. 2) For structural reasons. I think toasting both sides of the bread gives a little more rigidity to the bread especially given the fillings for this particular sandwich.
Ramen Grilled Cheese
Makes 1 loaded sandwich
About 2 ounces dried ramen noodles, about half a block of the packaged noodles
1 teaspoon of spicy ramen seasoning (not the packet of freeze-dried vegetables)
3 ounces of diced spiced ham (SPAM) OR 1 diced hot dog
1/2 cup of your favorite baechu (cabbage) kimchi, chopped
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 slices of sandwich bread
2 slices of Land O Lakes® Deli American Cheese
To prepare the ramen:
1 – In a small saucepan, add 2 cups of water and the dried ramen noodles. Bring to a boil and cook until done, about another 3-4 minutes. Drain in a small strainer.
2 – In a small bowl, toss the noodles with 1 teaspoon of the ramen seasoning. Set aside.
To prepare the kimchi and SPAM filling:
3 – Heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add a teaspoon of cooking oil. Cook the SPAM or hot dog until warmed through. Add the chopped kimchi and cook until the liquid is evaporated. Set aside.
To make the sandwich:
4 – Heat the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, heat one side of the bread slices for about 1 minute until a light golden brown. Flip and immediately place one cheese slice on each slice of bread (a).
5 – Place half the prepared noodles on one slice of bread (b). Place the kimchi and SPAM mixture on the bed of noodles (c), and top the remaining half of ramen noodles on top of the kimchi mixture (d). Finally, top the stack with the other slice of bread. Give it a gentle press and transfer to a plate.
6 – Serve and devour immediately.
Giveaway: Each week during National Grilled Cheese month, Kitchen PLAY is giving away two panini makers, each with one full-value coupon for Land O Lakes® Deli Cheese. Simply leave a comment with your favorite grilled cheese combination on Kitchen PLAY’s website here, and you’re entered to win!
Disclosure: this post was sponsored by Land O’Lakes as part of the Kitchen PLAY Sidecar series. All opinions given are my own.