It’s raining all weekend, right? This is the plan? Which means we’re diving back into warm and cheesy comfort food? Good, because I’ve been dying to tell you about this sloppy little number.
It was by total serendipity that this came to be. I was making cheese rarebit for Alice, and had just finished taking photos of it. Rarebit is one of those dishes that has gone the way of escargot and beef Wellington; for those unfamiliar, it’s a Welsh dish of cheese, loosened with ale or milk or made into a thick cheese sauce and poured over toast, then broiled. Toasted cheese, I want to call it. My mom used to make cheese sauce, but she’d pour it over steamed broccoli. Remember when that was a thing? Broccoli with cheese sauce? A total 80s side dish. Does anyone do it anymore? Broccoli-cheese segregated the granolas from the junk food eaters; my mom used to make a roux of butter, flour and milk, then add handfuls of grated cheese, but I envied my friends whose moms would simply screw the lid off the jar of Cheez Whiz and pop it in the microwave.
Anyway. I’d much rather pour mine over crusty toast; I happened to have a few slices smothered in cheese sauce at the same time I was doing sloppy Joes for somethingorother, and on a whim I ladled a scoop of sloppy Joe onto sloppy cheese, and – well. Think of a chili baked potato topped with cheese, or a tomatoey pasta and cheese, or really anything with bread, meat and tomatoes – the combo begs to be topped with cheese. Or to be scooped over cheese, as it were; starting with a base of cheese sauce just adds to the sloppiness.
2 Tbsp. butter, plus extra for buttering
2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk or beer
2 cups grated aged cheddar or Gouda cheese
1 large egg yolk (optional)
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) grainy mustard (optional)
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (optional)
salt and pepper
4 thick slices good-quality crusty bread
Preheat the oven to 400F.
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and flour over medium-high heat until the butter melts; whisk until smooth, then whisk in the milk and bring to a boil. Once the mixture bubbles, cook it for a full minute, stirring until it thickens, then turn the heat down to low and quickly whisk in the cheese, egg yolk, mustard and Worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper and whisk until melted and smooth.
Toast your bread in a single layer on a baking sheet in the oven until golden. If you like, butter your toast. Pour the cheese sauce over top and turn the oven up to broil; run the rarebit under the broiler for a few minutes, until golden and blistered on top. Serve immediately, or use as a base for sloppy Joes. Serves 4.
canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 lb. lean ground beef or bison
1 19 oz. (540 mL) can plum tomatoes (I like the San Marzano-style ones packed in tomato puree)
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, heat a drizzle of oil and sauté the onion for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink.
Add the tomatoes, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer; cook for 20-30 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Adjust the seasonings and serve hot over soft buns or cheesy Rarebit. Serves 4.
May 22 2013 | beef and one dish and sandwiches | 4 Comments »
We spent the long weekend at home, puttering. Staring at gaping holes in the ceiling and barely (if at all) functioning kitchen appliances and broken windows and walls that are easier at this point to paint than to clean and making a ginormous to-do list for it all. Considering the domino effect that starting to change this and that has on a house, it seems kitchen renos are not only unavoidable, but imminent. Which of course means no kitchen for awhile. TRY NOT TO PANIC.
We got used to the idea of eating out by doing it this weekend. Since we were mostly trying to find homes for things, cleaning/organizing/yard work-ing, I didn’t cook a whole lot, but did use up a big bunch of spinach by making gnudi – sort of like larger, lighter, lumpier gnocchi – and sauteing the little dumplings in browned butter. Spring, hello.
I love gnocchi, and it’s even fun to make, without the need to own and manipulate a a pasta machine. But more often than not – even when we do eat out – I feel afterwards as if I’ve eaten a bowl of dough lumps. They can be too dense, too heavy, too chewy. Not always, but it happens.
Gnudi are far lighter – so much so that it can seem as if they won’t hold themselves together.
(The first time I made them, they didn’t.)
You shape them by scooping up a spoonful, then passing them back and forth from one spoon to another to shape in kind of pointy-ended egg shapes – yes, making quenelles – which is impossible to do without feeling all Top Cheffy about it. If you have no idea what I’m talking about and need a little video on how-to quenelle, there are many online. Like this one.)
You then dust them with flour, and gently, gingerly boil them. And then, like most gnocchi, they’re perfectly OK to eat as-is, with a dribble of browned butter.
But if you want to go one step further – and why wouldn’t you? – you can brown them in a hot pan with browned butter, making them all toasty and caramelized on the outside. Oh yes.
And if you have a teeny cast iron skillet you picked up for a few dollars at a garage sale (’tis the season!), all the better.
Is there anything better than crispy bits with browned butter and cheese? I think not.
Spinach Gnudi with Browned Butter
1 bunch (about 1 lb.) fresh spinach or chard
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup butter
extra Parmesan, for serving
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Roughly chop the spinach, discarding any big stems, and put it into the boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes, then drain in a colander and set aside to cool. Press out as much extra moisture as possible, and finely chop the pile of cooked greens on a chopping board.
In a large bowl, gently stir together the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, egg and butter. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Gently stir in the flour, being careful not to overwork it, and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the 1/4 cup butter in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Continue cooking after it melts; it will foam, then turn golden and nutty. Remove from the heat and set aside. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a simmer.
Use two medium spoons to shape the dough into quenelles (small tapered ovals) by scraping about half a spoonful back and forth between the spoons. Place on a floured surface and shake a little extra flour overtop. Gently drop a few gnudi at a time into the simmering water, ensuring that it doesn’t reach a rolling boil, which could break apart the delicate dumplings. Cook for a few minutes, or until they float to the top; at this point you can remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.
Serve the gnudi immediately, drizzled with browned butter, with extra Parmesan cheese passed at the table. Serves 4.
May 20 2013 | appetizers and pasta | 9 Comments »