by Bon Appétit
Just like your best-fitting blazer or little black dress, comfort foods are classics because you know in advance how well they will be received. But if you ask us, tweaking the tried-and-true has even more appeal. And while finding another go-to garment could take weeks of shopping, upping your comfort food game is easy. Why? Because we've done the work for you.
We've turned to some of our favorite restaurant trends to give standbys like meatloaf and mac and cheese a cool new dose of flavor.
See also: 10 Healthy French Fry Alternatives
Romulo YanesThe Classic: Meatloaf
The Twist: Hoisin-Glazed Meatloaf Sandwiches
Delicious on its own, this thoroughly modern meatloaf takes on a terrine-like texture when chilled overnight, just right for deluxe open-face sandwiches with a banh mi-like flavor profile.
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes day-old crustless white bread (from 2 slices)
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
4 slices bacon, minced
1 1/3 cups thinly sliced scallions (dark green parts separated)
3 celery stalks, minced (about 1 cup)
1 4-inch piece ginger, peeled, minced
7 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
3 whole star anise, finely ground in a spice mill (about 2 teaspoons ground), or 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Hoisin sauce is available at many supermarkets and at Asian markets.
An 8 1/2x4 1/2x3-inch loaf pan
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, until sauce thickens to a glaze, 8-10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°. Coat the bottom and sides of loaf pan with nonstick spray and set aside. In a large bowl, soak bread cubes in chicken broth, stirring frequently, until liquid is absorbed and bread is beginning to fall apart, 4-5 minutes. Cook bacon in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is starting to crisp. Add scallions (white and pale-green parts only), celery, ginger, and garlic; cook, stirring often, until vegetables begin to soften, 3-4 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes.
Combine scallion and bread mixtures in a large bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. hoisin glaze, remaining scallions (dark-green parts), beef, pork, and remaining 4 ingredients. Using your hands, work all ingredients together until very well incorporated and mixture is beginning to get sticky. Pack mixture into prepared pan, pressing to eliminate any air pockets and mounding in center. Cover with foil. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil; place loaf pan on top.
Bake meatloaf for 30 minutes. Uncover and spread 2 Tbsp. hoisin glaze over top. Bake until an instant-read thermometer registers 165° when inserted into center of meatloaf, about 1 hour longer.
Let meatloaf rest for 20 minutes. Using flexible spatulas, transfer meatloaf to a platter or cutting board. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool, cover, and chill.
Romulo YanesThe Classic: Nachos
The Twist: Chilaquiles with Fried Eggs
This Mexican dish of tortilla chips smothered in chile sauce is just as good for dinner as it is for breakfast. If you don't want to make your own chips, substitute your favorite brand, but don't skimp on the garnishes; they add color and freshness.
Red Chile Sauce
7 dried guajillo or New Mexico chiles
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
1 medium white onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeño, with seeds, chopped
1/8 teaspoon smoked or Hungarian sweet paprika
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons honey
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil (for frying)
9 6-inch corn tortillas, quartered, or 36 large tortilla chips
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco or mild feta
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
4 large eggs
Finely chopped white onion
Thinly sliced radishes
Chopped fresh cilantro
Guajillo and New Mexico chiles are sold at some supermarkets and at Latin markets. Smoked paprika is available at most supermarkets.
A deep-fry thermometer
Red Chile Sauce
Place chiles in a medium bowl; cover with 2 cups boiling water. Let chiles soak until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid. Discard stems and seeds; place chiles in a blender. Add tomatoes, next 4 ingredients, and 1 cup reserved soaking liquid; purée until smooth.
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add purée (it will splatter) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes (add more reserved soaking liquid if too thick). Stir in honey and season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before using.
Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour oil into a large skillet to a depth of 1 1/2 inches. Prop deep-fry thermometer in skillet with bulb submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches, fry tortillas, occasionally turning with tongs, until crisp, 2-3 minutes. Transfer chips to prepared sheet and season with salt.
Preheat broiler. Toss chips and 1 cup sauce in a large bowl. Transfer half of chips to a large ovenproof platter or skillet. Scatter half of cheeses over chips. Top with remaining chips and cheeses, along with 1/2 cup more sauce. Broil until cheese is golden and melted, 4-5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour oil into a nonstick skillet to lightly coat. Heat over medium heat. Add eggs and fry until whites are set but yolks are still runny, about 4 minutes.
Top chilaquiles with chopped onion, radishes, cilantro, and lime wedges. Top with fried eggs and serve with remaining sauce alongside.
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Romulo YanesThe Classic: Mac and Cheese
The Twist: Paccheri and Cheese with Peas and Mint
Sweet meets salty Featuring paccheri rigati, a ribbed, tube-shaped pasta, this over-the-top casserole cooks in a 9-inch-diameter springform pan. But feel free to use rigatoni and a 9x9x2-inch baking dish instead.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter plus more for pan
1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, divided (about 3 1/2 ounces total)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound paccheri rigati or rigatoni
1 cup shelled fresh or frozen peas
2 cups coarsely chopped arugula
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint
1 cup ricotta (about 9 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Butter pan. Dust pan all over with 1/3 cup Parmesan. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; whisk for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a simmer, whisking often. Reduce heat to medium. Cook, whisking frequently, until sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in Fontina and 1 cup Parmesan. Add egg; whisk to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Cover sauce and keep warm.
Arrange a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 375°. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until almost al dente (pasta will continue to cook while baking). Using a large slotted spoon, transfer pasta to a large bowl. Add peas to pasta water; cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Drain peas; add to bowl with pasta. Stir in cheese sauce. Add arugula, 1 cup parsley, and 1/2 cup mint to pasta mixture; mix to evenly incorporate.
Transfer half of pasta mixture to prepared pan. Mix ricotta and lemon zest in a small bowl; dot half of ricotta mixture over pasta. Spoon remaining pasta mixture into pan and dot with remaining ricotta mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan.
Bake pasta for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan. Bake pasta until top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. Let rest for 30 minutes; remove pan sides. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. parsley and 2 Tbsp. mint and cut into wedges.
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Romulo YanesThe Classic: Chicken Wings
The Twist: Sweet and Spicy Chicken Drumsticks
Chicken wings also work well here. Use 3 pounds, and skip the rice flour and cornstarch coating.
1/2 cup Sriracha
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
1/4 cup red currant or strawberry jelly
12 large chicken drumsticks
1 cup rice flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Sriracha, mirin, and rice flour can be found at many supermarkets and at Asian markets.
Bring Sriracha, rice vinegar, mirin, and jelly to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, adjusting heat if necessary, until mixture is thick and reduced to 3/4 cup, about 10 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; chill. Rewarm before using.
Place drumsticks in a large bowl and season generously with salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450°. Whisk rice flour and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Using a paper towel, pat drumsticks dry. Dredge in rice flour mixture, shaking off excess. Arrange on prepared rack.
Roast drumsticks, turning frequently, until skin is browned and crisp, 50-60 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool, cover, and chill. Rewarm in a 450° oven for 10-15 minutes before continuing.
Combine hot drumsticks and 1/4 cup sauce in a large bowl; toss to coat. Return drumsticks to rack and roast, turning once, until skin is crisp and sauce is beginning to brown, 8-9 minutes. Brush with additional sauce and serve remaining sauce alongside.
More Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ideas
Ditte IsagerThe Classic: Grilled Cheese
The Twist: Grilled Ham, Cheese, and Pickle Sandwiches
8 slices sourdough or white bread
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère
1/2 cup grated aged goat cheese
3/4 cup Bread-and-Butter Pickles
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
Smear both sides of bread slices with mayonnaise. Combine cheeses in a bowl. Sprinkle 4 slices bread with half of cheese mixture, dividing equally. Top each with 3-4 pickles. Divide prosciutto among sandwiches; top with remaining cheese. Cover with remaining bread.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in each of 2 large heavy skillets over medium-low heat. Add 2 sandwiches to each skillet and cook until bread is golden, 9-10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter to each skillet, flip sandwiches, and cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, 9-10 minutes longer.
More from Bon Appétit:
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25 One-Bite Appetizers
10 Quick and Easy School-Night Dinners
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