Sambal Mac and Cheese
- Prep Time 0:25
- Cook Time 0:07
- 12 Comments
So, what happened was I got drunk.
My plan had been to meet some friends for happy hour, where I would enjoy nothing more than a quick glass of wine before scampering on home to properly nourish myself with a balanced dinner, do some light reading and tuck myself into bed no later than 10:30. How I ended up taking shots of whiskey at midnight while singing along to A-ha’s Take On Me remains a mystery. Fortunately, by the third round of the chorus, I realized my irresponsibility, pried the shot glass from my hand, said my goodbyes and jumped in a cab.
I went straight for the kitchen, suddenly aware of how much I needed to eat something before getting into bed. Miraculously I had some very simple cheddar mac and cheese, left over from the day before. I popped it into the microwave, poured a huge glass of water and awaited the beep. Finally, I pulled it out, hot and melty, and dove in. It needed something, I decided—something to perk it up. So I opened the fridge and grabbed the first thing I saw—Sambal Oelek (also known as “Asian chili sauce”). A few dollops later, I was eating what I declared (err, slurred) “the best freaking thing ever.”
I woke up the next morning with a wicked hangover, but also the determination to recreate my happy little dinner accident from the night before, mostly to see if it would be as fabulous if eaten sober. So I did, and—oh man—it was.
- 8 oz. macaroni elbows $2
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter $1 for a stick
- 1/2 small onion, finely chopped $0.50 for a whole onion
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour Pantry
- 1 cup plus 4 tbsp shredded sharp cheddar cheese 3.50 for 10 oz.
- 1 cup whole milk or half-and-half $1.50 for a pint
- salt and pepper to taste Pantry
- 2 tbsp bread crumbs (as fresh as possible) $2 for 12 oz.
- 2 tsp-1 tbsp (depending on how much you like spiciness) Sambal Oelek or other Asian chili sauce $2 for 8 oz.
Total Cost of Ingredients $12.50
Preheat broiler to high. Lightly butter a large rectangular casserole pan or 4-4 individual oven-proof dishes (ramekins).
Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to directions. Drain, return to pot and set aside.
In a medium pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Sprinkle in flour until a sticky dough forms. Cook dough and onions together, whisking constantly, for 1-2 minutes.
Slowly pour in milk or half-and-half until a thick white sauce forms, continuing to whisk. Gradually 1 cup of the cheese, and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, continuing to whisk.
Use a spatula to scrape all of the sauce into the cooked pasta and stir gently until all pasta is coated. Transfer pasta-cheese mixture into the prepared pan(s) and top with bread crumbs and reserved cheese.
Dot the top of the mac and cheese with the sambal (or other chili sauce) and place under the broiler for 5-7 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and browned in spots.