Theme song by Nancy Sinatra “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” from How Does That Grab You?
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It’s easy to dismiss Nancy Sinatra’s career as nothing more than nepotism. She wasn’t exactly a strong vocalist and sort of lacked stage presence, but her father was Ol’ Blue Eyes so he got her a recording deal on Reprise. Those first few years went pretty much nowhere; hitless to the point she was about to be dropped. That might have been the end of it had it not been for the mad genius of Lee Hazelwood. Her work with Hazelwood’s songwriting and production is some of the most iconic from the ’60s. The perfect feminist pop of “These Boots Were Made For Walkin’.” The cowboy psychedelia of “Some Velvet Morning.” And the heartbreaking minimalism of the theme song for this recipe. It’s a break-up song played out as an Old West movie: cinematic in production with only a single tremolo guitar and Sinatra’s talk-sing vocals. It never fails to give me shivers.
Which really has nothing to do with comfort food or Asian style broccoli.
Mac & Cheese is my favorite comfort food dish. “Bang Bang” is my favorite Nancy Sinatra song. I was looking for a way to change up the usual plain Mac & Cheese recipe using some broccoli when I came across a recipe for Bang Bang Broccoli. This Sinatra Inspired menu item seemed logical.
The half & half here adds an amazing richness to the cheese sauce. This all comes together much faster than a traditional bechamel as the roux is not cooked as long. Nonetheless, the resulting cheese sauce is as creamy as any you’d have to slave over longer.
Traditional Bang Bang sauce uses sweet chili sauce and Sriracha. I feel Sriracha is a bit played out and never have sweet chili sauce in the house. So I substituted sambal oelek for the Sriracha and Sweet Lightnin’ BBQ Sauce (from the Cha Cha Hut BBQ Cookbook) for the sweet chili sauce. The broccoli came out with the same lovely spicy-sweet roastiness typical for a Bang Bang dish.
BANG BANG MAC & CHEESE
Shell pasta, cheddar, muenster, mozzarella, broccoli, and Bang Bang Sauce
Makes 2 servings plus leftover mac & cheese
1 pound medium shell pasta
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk, does not need to be whole milk – 2% will work
1 pint half & half
1 8-ounce block of extra sharp cheddar, shredded
1 4-ounce block of muenster, shredded
1 2-ounce block of mozzarella, shredded
Cook pasta according to box directions.
While pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour stirring to combine. Then add salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Continue whisking until thoroughly blended. Cook for a couple of minutes – continuing to whisk – until a light roux forms. Slowly add the milk and half & half constantly stirring. Keep whisking and cook the sauce over medium heat until it thickens and starts bubbling. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cheese. Keep stirring until cheese has completely melted and there are no lumps.
Drain pasta and return to pasta pan. Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir to combine.
BANG BANG BROCCOLI
Makes about 2 servings
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Sweet Lightnin’ sauce (or sweet chili sauce)
1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek
Juice of 1 lime
2 large broccoli heads, cut into florets
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 425º.
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, Sweet Lightnin’ or sweet chili sauce, Sambal Oelek, salt, pepper, and lime juice. Toss broccoli in the sauce until fully coated then spread broccoli on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until slightly charred and tender, about 20 minutes.
Make two bowls of mac & cheese – the amount is up to you. Top each with half of the broccoli.