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#66. I make a mean tuna casserole.

And pretty much nothing else. I'm really not a very good cook, for a couple of reasons.

First, I'm not into all this measuring bullshit. If I wanted to worry about what a cup looks like, versus a tablespoon, as opposed to a 'splash', I'd have paid attention in Home Economics class, okay? I like to 'wing it' when I'm cooking. And if you know anything about the culinary arts, you know that 'winging it' when you have no idea what the hell you're doing works just about as well as it does when you're cutting someone's hair. Or defusing a bomb, or transplanting organs. Not pretty.

Secondly, I have a policy about food. I'm a busy, on-the-go, important sort of dude. (Okay, fine, so I just have a teensy short attention span. Eight of one, half dozen of the other, okay?) So a long time ago, I made the following rule concerning my meals:

If I'm going to fix something myself, it cannot take longer to prepare than it does to eat. And if it does, it had better be goddamned good.

I should mention at this point that I'm also a very fast eater. Blink, and that potato is gone. Look away, and the veggies are history. Bend over to get your napkin, and my whole damned steak is just a beefy memory. I'm just that fast. (With the eating, folks, the eating. Get your minds out of the gutter.)

So, given my propensity to cook inedible crap, and the giddying number of restaurants close by that are more than happy to deliver yummy food to my door, I very rarely cook for myself. The tuna casserole is an exception, of course, because it's so damned good. And easy. It does take a while to make, I'll admit, but it's worth it. Here, I'm in a giving mood. I'll let you in on the secret of my success.

Charlie's Mean Tuna Casserole (aka Death By Cheese)

First, throw a bunch -- I don't know how much, dammit, just a bunch -- of water in a pot, and fire that bitch up on the stovetop. On high, of course. We don't have time to fuck around, here.

Next, open a box of Deluxe Kraft macaroni and cheese. Take the sauce packet out and pour the macaroni into the water. Don't wait for that shit to boil, or heat, or whatever. The mac's gonna sit in the box, or in the pan, until things get going. You stick it in the pan, and you just might shave a few seconds off your cooking time. Do it.

While that's heating, prepare whatever microwave veggies that you're going to have with your casserole. Nuke-baked potatoes, canned corn, asparagus, whatever. Just get it in a bowl or whatever, and frazzle that shit while the noodles are going. Don't let the time go to waste.

Once the noodle water starts boiling, stir the pot occasionally. Turn the heat down, just a bit, if it starts foaming over the top. (After years of practice, you'll instinctively find just the right amount of water to cook the macaroni without bubbling over, even with the heat cranked up to '11' the whole time. It's an art form, really.) Between stirs, knead the cheese packet that came in the mac 'n' cheese box to soften it up. Oh, and open a can of tuna, and squish the lid into the fish so you can drain it over the sink. Throw the lid, the Kraft box, and the veggie can (if applicable) into the trash, and put away the can opener. That's less damned time you'll have to spend cleaning up later.

Grab a noodle from the pot of boiling water. (With a spoon, dildo. Geez!) Let it cool, and taste it. If it doesn't crunch between your teeth, you're good. Otherwise, repeat this step until al dente becomes el softe. Get out a casserole dish and a strainer.

Dump the macaroni into the strainer, preferably over the sink. (Or over the cat, if you're into that sick sadistic shit.) Wiggle the noodles around vigorously. (The noodles in the pan, ya perv. Focus!) Don't lose any noodles into the sink. It takes a very steady hand! Dump them back into the now-dry pan. Scoop the tuna on top, and squeeze every ever-lovin' last drop of cheddary goodness out of the softened packet of cheese-like substance. Mix noodles, fish, and cheese goo thoroughly.

You'll now have a yellow, sticky mess. (Well, what did you expect, after wiggling your noodles around so vigorously?) Transfer every bit of it -- don't miss a single macaroni! -- to the casserole dish. Spread it smooth, and apply generous (read: heaping) amounts of grated cheese to the top. (Personally, I use the pre-grated shit in refrigerated packets, 'cause I don't have time to go through that nonsense myself.) Replace the veggies with the casserole in the microwave, and nuke on high for... hell, I don't know. I always punch in an hour or two, and stop the thing when I'm done spooning the veggies onto the plates. How the hell should I know how long that takes?

Anyway, that's about it. Grab the pan from the microwave, and you're ready to enjoy! The key is to make sure you're always doing something throughout the entire process, so it doesn't feel like you're cooking. And, of course, to use enough cheese to choke a camel, so the end result is worth the effort. In any case, I hope you've enjoyed this episode of Cooking With Charlie. Tune in next time, when I show you how the leftover refrigerated casserole can make a tasty cold snack the next day. Or an industrial adhesive! Fun with food, with your host, Salmonella Charlie! Do join us, won't you?

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