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.