The lifecycle of a Plated recipe—from our Test Kitchen to your home kitchen—tends to follow pretty much the same path, always with a few delicious surprises along the way. As you might imagine, it’s an incredibly creative and collaborative process. Our recipes are often inspired by local takeout spots and trendy restaurants, including the gooey Cauliflower Carbonara we sampled at an Italian restaurant here in New York City. Other times, as was the case for our Curried Salmon Burgers, we wanted to revamp our own personal favorites. Sometimes, though, a particularly intriguing or downright tasty ingredient is all that’s needed to get our chefs’ culinary gears turning.
Here, get to know the fiery Korean condiment behind our recipe for Gochujang Grilled Cheese, hitting boxes September 17.
As much as we adore you, dear Sriracha, we’ve got so many other complex chile sauces on standby. There’s sambal oelek, the thicker, chunkier, seed-studded sauce popular in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking. Or nam prik pao, the fish sauce, palm sugar–laced paste found throughout Thailand. We’re even finding new ways to use Tunisian harissa, whose smoky, warm spices are an ideal match for roasted vegetables and grilled meats alike.
But one of our favorite bottles in the condiment lineup, and a veritable Plated fan favorite, is gochujang, the fermented soybean and chile paste from Korea that exhibits much more garlic, a tad less sweetness, and plenty of umami. Part of that extra oomph comes from the fermentation of the chiles, which adds a meatiness we can always rely on.
We have to admit: With its smooth texture and deep brick-red color, it looks very similar tomato paste. But you wouldn’t want to throw this flavor bomb into your marinara sauce, that’s for sure.
We often cast gochujang in a supporting spice role, working with Thai red curry paste to up the heat of a peanut chicken curry made with coconut milk, fish sauce, ginger, and lime.
We throw in gochujang to boost the earthy notes of umami-rich shiitake mushrooms and roasted sweet potatoes, all piled into crunchy Boston lettuce cups with coconut rice, cashews, and tangy scallion vinaigrette.
We even blend the sauce into mayonnaise for a simple creamy-spicy condiment that boosts the natural tang of kimchi in Korean steak tacos, beef burritos, or turkey burgers. Aioli might be one of our favorite, if not unabashedly basic, uses of gochujang, which is why it was so easy for Chef Laura to write this grilled cheese recipe that we’ve all added to our boxes…
GRILLED CHEESE, PLEASE
Every year, our chefs attend a specialty event called the Fancy Food Show—a massive convention of sorts that highlights thousands of products and makers, inspires the next big food trends, and doles out awards based on tastings conducted by the industry’s top tastemakers and professionals. This year, as soon as she walked in the door, Chef Laura was confronted by a gooey, toasty, spicy grilled cheese packed with gochujang mayo. Given all the customer feedback we receive about our inventive uses of gochujang, Laura knew she had to recreate the dish for Plated.
So, she started with a classic grilled cheese—nothing too out-there or intense, because gochujang has its own unique and punchy flavor. Shredded white Cheddar and melty Fontina were no-brainers, paired with sourdough for its slight tang, large surface area (to fit lots of cheese!), and porous texture that absorbs plenty of mayo on the outside, turning a beautiful golden brown in the pan.
Next, Laura pulled in the same gochujang aioli that we’ve used in burritos, on burgers, and even just straight-up dipped french fries in. But because the spread was destined to be the entire center saucy element of the sandwich, Laura scaled down the spiciness just a tad, and added sautéed scallion for texture and acidity.
Laura originally thought she’d serve this creamy, tangy, spicy masterpiece with a cool and crunchy slaw on the side. Instead, she called on another Plated customer favorite to make this a double-whammy of flavor faves: a simple but delicious salad incorporating sweet-tart Granny Smith apple, tender kale, and a soy sauce, peanut butter, and rice wine vinaigrette that ties in perfectly with the gochujang in the sandwich. Swoon.
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