On my drive south from the mountains to my favorite little creek in Lower Alabama a couple of days ago, I entertained myself listening to podcasts via my Stitcher app. Two of the podcasts, including this Bon Appetit piece on retro comfort foods, talked about our nostalgia for the foods we grew up eating. Our favorites. Dishes served for special occasions. Mom’s or Dad’s specialty. The podcast offered updated versions of meatloaf (I will be adding the bacon braid to mine), grilled cheese sandwiches (I tried the mayo and grated cheese tricks today and loved the outcome), and tuna casserole (I’ll probably still pass), among others. At my house it was fried chicken and mashed potatoes. I suspect that each of my three sisters would answer the same. That, and the oatmeal cake topped with coconut, brown sugar and pecans which I still beg my mom to make for my birthdays.
I’m not sure what my boys will ultimately pick as their nostalgia foods… probably my slaw. Maybe Chicken Parmesan, maybe pan-fried catfish, maybe these Sloppy Joe Sliders…
Sloppy Joe Sliders
- 1 1/3 pounds ground beef (or turkey)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2/3 cup diced celery
- 1/2 cup diced carrot
- 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed to remove excess moisture
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 cup ketchup (and yeah, it needs to be Heinz)
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 table spoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme plus extra for garnish
- 8 slider buns
- Brown the ground meat or turkey in a large skillet over medium high heat, using a spatula to break it up. When you are sure the meat is thoroughly browned, dump it in a colander to drain the extra fat.
- Wipe out the skillet, and heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the onions, celery and carrots until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
- Add the zucchini to the pan and saute until any moisture has cooked off, then add the garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the meat back to the pan, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Then, stir in the ketchup, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce and thyme.
- Stir in 1/2 cup water and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes.
- Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Toast the slider buns, top each bottom bun with the meat and garnish each plate with a sprig of thyme.
Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
I must have a fresh bag of crispy potato chips with my sloppy joe — a little extra salt, a bit of crunch for a contrasting texture. If you are looking for something healthier, a little lightly dressed broccoli slaw works well too.
Winter in the mountains is long and cold and requires copious amounts of comfort food. We are having spring-like weather this week, a lovely treat, but I know better than to think we won’t have another blizzard or two before it really warms up. This time of year though, I do start thinking about favorite winter comfort foods that I have not yet made this season. This recipe for Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese is one of those. Not to say that the dish wouldn’t make a great side for 4th of July BBQ or a Thanksgiving potluck.
This recipe is inspired by the smoked gouda mac and cheese served at Crave, a now defunct tapas place here in Boone that was once our spot for family celebrations. My version is based on one that I found in a Special Collector’s Edition of All-Time Best Recipes, published by Cook’s Illustrated. Their suggestion that you cook the mac and cheese on the stove, then just put it under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs is right on if you want crunchy topping, tender pasta and creamy sauce.
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound Cavatappi pasta
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 5 cups low-fat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 teaspoon Cholula hot sauce
- 8 ounces Smoked Gouda cheese, grated
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- olive oil cooking spray
- 2/3 cup Panko
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Bring a large pot of water to boil in a dutch oven over high heat. Stir in the pasta and tablespoon of salt. Cook according to package directions (about 8 minutes) until just past al dente so that it is a bit tender.
- Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Return the dutch oven to medium heat. Melt the butter, then whisk in the flour. Cook the flour for about 1 minute, making a blond roux.
- Slowly whisk in one cup of milk, stirring constantly until all the lumps are dissolved.
- Whisk in the remaining milk, dry mustard, cayenne, and hot sauce.
- Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly and bringing to a gentle boil so it will thicken properly.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and reduces to a heavy cream.
- Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cheeses, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper.
- Add the pasta back to the pot, stirring gently to combine.
- Return the pot to medium low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until hot.
- Adjust the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the broiler.
- Spray a 9 X 13 glass or ceramic baking dish (or 10 ramekins) with olive oil cooking spray.
- Mix together the Panko and olive oil.
- Pour the macaroni and cheese into the pan and sprinkle evenly with the bread crumbs.
- Broil until the topping is deep golden brown, 3-5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary so that the bread crumbs brown evenly.
Yield: 10-12 side servings
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
The Smoked Gouda adds big flavor to the mac and cheese while the Monterey Jack adds a creaminess you can’t get from using the Smoked Gouda alone. I used Cavatappi pasta rather than ordinary macaroni because I wanted to make it a little fancier. I’ve given up trying to make the dish with the Barilla-plus pasta I usually use. It may have more protein, fiber and Omega-3s, but the texture just doesn’t work for mac and cheese.