When we wrote about the Bodega Challenge last week, our imaginations went wild with thoughts of the kind of monstrosity that would win. The idea was to create a dish from ingredients strictly available at a bodega, costing no more than $20, with extra credit given for being especially "bodegic." The winner entry, announced recently on the Brooklyn Kitchen blog, came from one aptly named Sarah Gentile. Her “Pumpkin Gobble Gobble.” was composed of apples, canned pumpkin, marshmallows, and pistachios — and though surely delish, the whole "fresh apples and other foods found in nature" seems kind of antithetical to the spirit of the bodega. But we’d still eat it.
The honorable mention dish, on the other hand, seems to have been everything you could hope for from a bodega dish, and more: Cathy Erdway’s Pringles and Spam casserole, bound by a béchamel of bottle Alfredo sauce and beer. Now that’s bodega cookery! Here, courtesy of her excellent blog, Not Eating Out in New York, is the recipe.
Potato Chips au Gratin
(makes about 6 servings)
1 bag thick-cut potato chips (preferably low-sodium)
1 jar alfredo sauce
1 can Spam
1 1/2 cups lager beer
4–5 tablespoons grated processed parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop Spam into a very small dice. Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high. Add the Spam and let brown on one side for about a minute. Stir, scraping up any bits from the bottom and let cook another 3–5 minutes, stirring, until evenly browned. Pour in the beer. Turn heat to high to bring beer to a boil. Let cook, boiling, for 1–2 minutes. Stir in the alfredo sauce and let cook until it’s completely warmed through and just begins to bubble. Turn off heat.
Spread a ladleful of the sauce along the bottom of a 9x11 pan. Arrange the potato chips in even, vertical formation on top. Arrange another layer of potato chips on top of this but in horizontal formation (so they don’t stack together). Top with about a third of the remaining sauce. Make another formation of two layers – or three if you’re tired of this already, and top with more of the sauce. Create another layer of potato chips, top with the rest of the sauce, and call it a day. Almost. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes, until stuff is bubbling and the top is lightly browned. Let sit a few minutes before serving.