May 30, 2013: I'm standing in my kitchen sweating like Mario Battalli (that fat, ugly, sweaty guy who drips his drippings into whatever pan he's preparing on the Food Network ... It's remarkable how often you'll see these chefs drip sweat into the food, if you watch them closely. I guess that's the trade-off of going to someplace like McDonald's, where they spit in your food -- or so the legends tell. Instead, when your food is prepared by the most renowned, their expression of love comes directly off their foreheads and into your pasta sauce ...)
Such an ugly tangent, and I haven't even started. In fact, I thought I'd make this Blah-ugh! entry just a trifle different (starting with using the word “trifle”) and include one of my unique recipes. (I pretty much only have the one, which is mainly why it's so unique. I do a lot of cooking, actually, but it's hard for me to take credit for any great innovations. I'm not a phony, like Rachel Ray, who's something of a pan dripping in her own right. I mean, my pancake recipe came from Alton Brown, whom I respect greatly. My fiddlehead recipes come from the fiddleheads. I don't claim to be any innovator, like these other Food Network phonies claim to be -- the phony ones, I mean, like that southern lard cooker, who looks like a composition of her own processed dough, and seems to believe her grease-laden Pillsbury recipes are the stuff Food Network magic is made from. I always forget her name – as I do everyone’s -- but her airbrushed photos are always gracing magazine covers near the checkout lines if you look. You know who I mean. That ghastly southern woman with the grey hair ... Give me Guy Fieri every time, if we're going to talk Food Network. There's a great innovator, and I'm not even talking about his hair ...)
Anyway, I was just preparing one of my fabulous dishes -- or at least this one dish -- for my daughter and her friend (and no, I didn't sweat in it -- I was incredibly careful not to!) and marveling at how innovative and clever I was with my use of water and salt and other ingredients … Suddenly, I realized, this is something I should be sharing with my Blah-ugh! readers (who are phonies in their own right) – a family recipe that highlights the gentle side of both me and my column … (Is that what this is? A column? … More of a spectacle, I’d say!)
Still, redemption is always possible these days, what with television and Internet reprogramming. I mean, how often do you find yourself quoting Quentin Crisp on how to become a virgin?! (If you’re like me, constantly, and I’m not even gay, although I happen to own two pink shirts.)
I’m not sure how this recipe came about, except I started making its first incarnation around 1986. (God, that’s a long time ago now, and I’ve gotten no richer … Doesn’t that suck?!) Originally this recipe involved a can of chicken broth, as well as strictly yellow cheddar. But you have to understand that that was in the days when white cheddar was still something of an anomaly. (Young people today don’t realize how different things were back then, before cell phones and fresh herbs, when all red meat contained pink putrification, and if you were overheard asking about any foreign mushrooms in a grocery store, the police would likely be called.)
It’s safe to say I’ve made this dish over 300 times, and maybe close to 400. I’ve made it with the addition of fresh and somewhat unfresh greens, such as kale and spinach. I’ve made it with different cheeses, and not usually with good results. I’ve made it for one, and for as many as five, which was a terrible mistake, because it’s a small-batch specialty item, like the essence of saffron, or Swedish meatballs. I’ve also renamed it on several occasions, but the final moniker—the one that’s stuck for all these years—is Glop.
And while it was once published in a small fund-raising cookbook for my daughter’s Santa Monica nursery school, here for the first time on an international level (although there were a couple of Iranians in the school) is the original recipe for my own invented food creation—an original, if ever there was one—Glop!
1 box of Pastinas, preferably Barillo … (those of you who aren’t familiar with these, they are the teeny-weeny star-shaped flat little dots, which are recommended for babies and toothless adults.)
A thing (I guess a box) of chicken broth, preferably low-salt and squeezed from free range-roving chickens.
One half fresh lemon.
Cheddar cheese – yellow may be better, but definitely a hard kind, and extra sharp, or sharp … whatever … I use white. I use what's there. Let's not complicate it.
At the end of the day, you just get what you can get and make the best and don’t get upset!
Boil your broth in a pot (and have a lid ready). Salt it up pretty good, to taste, I guess, but use nice sea salt like I do, and it’ll be better, although I’m not entirely sure why. Just do it. Stop arguing with me!
When the broth boils, pour in about half a thing of Pastinas. This is where it gets arbitrary, because I’m not sure what the measurements are, because I always do it visually. The thing is, you’ll probably use about 3 or so cups of broth to a half box of pasta. The goal is to cook the pasta – and I recommend turning the heat low immediately and covering for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally … and you can even turn it off after 5 minutes!
You want it soft, but you want the liquid mostly evaporated into the pasta. Get it to the point where you could pour it and it’s still smooth like liquid, but not much wetter … Or just do what you want. I don’t care anymore. I’m getting tired of writing all this!
(At this point I should mention this is a comfort food, despite my attitude.)
When the pasta is cooking, you can squeeze in half the lemon … Just make sure it’s the right half! (I won’t tell you again.) Mix this in and cover. You can’t really over-cook the pasta, in my book, so don’t be paranoid. I think this whole business of al dente is a lot of bulls**t. Pasta is always best when you boil the hell out of it. (That’s what makes it a comfort food! Duh!!)
Okay, so now you’ll want to grate about a third of a cup, or a half-cup of cheddar cheese atop the pot. (Make sure it’s off the stove and you turned off the burner; don’t make the same mistake I did in the early 90’s.) Now mix the cheese in until it’s all melted … Go on! Mix, mix, mix …
At this point, you could incorporate your greens, but I don’t recommend it the first few times around. Learn to produce your basic Glop first, then expand when I feel you’re ready …
And that’s it … Serve it hot. It doesn’t really reheat well. Sometimes it doesn’t even serve well, but if you hit the mark, you’ll find it an extraordinary happy, wonderful and filling dish -- somewhere between a souffle and cement! Personally, I find it’s better with a shade less cheese, otherwise it congeals on your teeth, and you miss the sweet, subtle flavor of the chicken broth …
If you’ve made it right, it’ll still have the proper liquidity in that you’ll be able to pour it into a serving bowl and it’ll not lump, but be relatively flat. That’s amore … or a lesse …
This is a dish that goes well with orange juice if you’re sick, or if you’re very hungry. (Note that you may find some of the little stars long after you’ve finished eating sticking to your shirt.)