Todd Kelly's Secret Weapon

Put the Cincinnati chef's spicy scallion kimchi on everything

For chef Todd Kelly of Cincinnati's Orchids at Palm Court, "everything starts with preservation." When he has an abundance of seasonal produce like strawberries from his rooftop garden or the by-products of leafy greens, he immediately starts jamming, pickling and making pesto. But for preservation lending to versatility, he looks to kimchi (see the recipe).

He focuses on ramps or green onions when they're abundant, because they lend to a particularly peppery and garlicky base. Daikon radishes or turnip greens are sometimes added for bulk, and Red Delicious apples for sweetness. Soy sauce, fish sauce and a combination of ginger and gochujang provide umami. The result is a rich, deeply flavored kimchi loaded with salty umami and a crisp texture.

Kelly then uses it all over his kitchen—both at work and at home. Here are a few of his favorite ways you can bring it into yours.

Purée for Pot Stickers: Kelly makes rich pork pot stickers that call for a bright, spicy accompaniment, and the kimchi makes this job easy. Purée the kimchi until smooth. Then fold a small amount into your ground pork filling, dress your serving plate with the purée before plating your dumplings or serve alongside them as a dipping sauce. The bite of the onions and any other greens you've added will contrast the fatty meat, and the garlicky umami will lend punch.

Chicken Soup: Boil cut-up chicken in water with garlic, peppers, onions and any other vegetables you like. Take the chicken out and shred it. Purée a cup or more of kimchi into the vegetable broth and strain out any large chunks. Add the shredded chicken back in, and you get a thick-broth soup that Kelly claims is one of the best things he's had in his entire life. "It's a spicy and slightly unfamiliar addition to a comfort food that's just incredible. It takes only five ingredients. You could add noodles or garnishes, but adding more almost takes away from the purity of the dish itself."

Fried Rice: "I always come home hungry and need a meal made from whatever's lying around, which is often rice," Kelly says. "So kimchi fried rice is what I eat late at night." Make a traditional fried rice by sweating out diced onions and adding cooked rice. Add a drop of soy sauce and a scrambled egg, and then warm some of the kimchi into it. "It's perfect: Your nose is dripping a bit, and you've got the sweats. It's a filling, fast 1 a.m. meal."

Kimchi Tacos: To make another late-night staple, Kelly uses the kimchi to add flavor to simple tacos. Sear corn tortillas in a little olive oil, then top them with shredded cheese, a little mayonnaise and the kimchi. The mayo adds fat and richness ("almost like a po'boy"), and the kimchi adds funky, salty, tangy flavor.