Sitting at my computer, I glance half-heartedly over a line of text that I will delete, rewrite, edit and then elaborate upon, before finally scrapping entirely. The minutes of my afternoon tick away, and as I finally get this very sentence on the proverbial page, I realize that my incessant tapping of the delete key has transitioned from merely annoying to appropriately symbolic.
This is silly, my dear reader. All I’m trying to do is write a brief anecdote.
Perhaps, therein lies the problem. Perhaps a meal such a as this can not be contextualized by some ridiculous little story: one cannot merely putter away at the keyboard in the misguided hope of capturing the essence of ridiculous excess inherent herein. Such an endeavor would be a waste of time.
No. I must let this dish speak for itself. I must allow you – dear reader – to make a choice. Like the Spartan youth left shivering in the wilderness with nought but a spear, I must allow you to find your own way. For, like the Spartan youth, you are being presented with a choice: either endeavor to take upon yourself the challenge with which you have been confronted, and live out your life reveling in the glory of your success, or die (eventually) taking to the grave the knowledge that you could have made a delicious, excessive meal for yourself, but simply chose not to.
I strayed from the metaphor a bit at the end, but I think I made my point.
Take up the challenge: Make this for dinner.
- 1/2 lb uncooked pasta (something good for mac and cheese, like shells)
- 4 gourmet hot dogs – grilled to your preferred level of char
- 2 tbs butter
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 3 tbs flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup pepper jack cheese – grated and divided
- 3/4 cup cheddar cheese – grated
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo – finely chopped
- 1 jar (16 oz) pepperoncini peppers – thoroughly drained and chopped
- 2 hot dog rolls
- Relish (I have a love affair with Wickles Relish)
- Mustard (I really like Beaver Brand mustard, especially the Coney Island Hot Dog flavor)
- Any other damn thing you want to slather on there
- Pot for cooking pasta
- Large, high-rimmed frying pan or pot
- 9×9 baking dish
- Food processor or blender
I’ll admit, this looks complicated, but I assure you it’s pretty easy. Just stick with it, do your preparation work ahead of time, and take it step by step, like this:
Begin by cooking the pasta according to the package directions. Cook it, drain it, run it under cold water, and set it aside.
At the same time, grill your hot dogs to the desired level of doneness/char, or otherwise cook them according to the package directions. Chop the hot dogs into bite sized pieces and set them aside.
In the mean time, prepare the rest of your ingredients. Chop the onion. Dice the chipotle peppers. Drain the pepperoncini, chop them up, and press them with a paper towel to remove a little more moisture. Grate the cheese, and reserve 1/4 cup of the pepper jack to make the topping.
Fuck it, let’s make the topping first. Tear up the two hot dog rolls, and drop them in the food processor with the reserved 1/4 cup of cheese. Pulse the bread and cheese until large bread crumbs form. Done. Moving on.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat the butter in the large frying pan over medium heat. Saute the onion in the heated butter until it’s softened, about 4 minutes.
Using a whisk, stir the flour into the butter and softened onion until its incorporated, which is a fancy term for looking weird and lumpy.
Slowly stir in the milk by pouring it into the pan in a steady stream, whisking constantly.
Cook this mixture down, whisking often (every 30 seconds or so) for 7-8 minutes, or until the mixture is viscous, and coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Fold in the cheese and chipotle, and remove the pan from the heat.
Fold in the pasta, the hot dog pieces and the diced pepperoncini, and transfer the entire mixture into the 9×9 baking dish.
Spread the bread crumb mixture evenly across the top.
Bake it in your preheated oven for 30 minutes, until the sides are bubbly, the top is a beautiful golden brown, and opening the oven makes you want to dig immediately into your creation.
Finish your helping off with your desired toppings, and enjoy the combination of nostalgic bliss and the general awareness of your adulthood.
Congratulations, young Spartan. Bask in cheesy glory.