One of the many ways I have evolved into a perfect husband over the years is by my willingness to help cook dinner. No one at Pizza Hut would deny that I am a conscientious provider, taking care that my family eats well the nights it is my turn to prepare the evening meal. I can also find my way around the kitchen quite well, thank you -- though what my wife keeps in all those drawers and cupboards is frankly a mystery to me. My children love it when I cook, usually because it means that doing the dishes will be a simple matter of clearing the boxes off the table. Some nights, however, I treat them to what they lovingly call, "Bruce Stroganoff." For those of you who want to eat a real meal, here's the recipe. RECIPE FOR BRUCE STROGANOFF This simple, yet elegant meal can serve a family of five, mainly because at least four of them will refuse to eat it. The leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for a long time, though no one I know has ever actually eaten them except the dog, so I can't speak to how well they keep. The ingredients are as follows: One frozen loaf of bread dough. One bag of the noodles that are thick and curly. One onion. One six pack of beer. One and a half pounds of frozen ground meat. A tub of sour cream. Two cans of Cream of Mushroom soup. (A low fat version can be made by substituting water for any of the above) Though the instructions on the frozen bread suggest four to six hours of gentle thawing, I recommend you show it who is boss around here and don't pull it out of the freezer until about an hour before you're going to eat. Grease the thing with butter until it feels like a slippery brick and stick it in a bread pan. Put a towel over the top because you have seen other people do this. Pre-heat the oven -- the more frozen the loaf, the hotter you're going to want the oven to be. I usually shoot for between four and six hundred degrees. Chop up the onion until you are sobbing and dump it into a pan. Heat the pan on medium until you get impatient, then flip it to high. Open your first beer. Gradually, a sizzling sound will attract your attention. This is the noise onions make as they adhere themselves to the bottom of the pan. Don't overreact: Scraping the onions and flipping them over just means they will wind up being burned on BOTH sides. When the smoke alarm begins blaring, it is time to add the frozen block of ground beef. There is no reason why, at this point, you shouldn't have another beer. You know the meat is done when it is black on all sides and still hard in the middle. Break it into chunks with a spatula or a screwdriver. Stir it around a few times, if it makes you feel better. Most people recommend draining the grease from the pan, but I have discovered this is completely impossible without dumping the meat into the sink (although the onions will remain in place on the bottom of the pan no matter what you do.) Once the meat is in the sink it mixes with the debris in the drain trap and becomes "Something Other Than Bruce Stroganoff." Perhaps the resulting mixture is best labeled "The Recipe formally known as Bruce." Open the cream of mushroom soup and the sour cream and pour them on top of the meat. You don't want to look too closely at the result. Set a large kettle of water on top of the stove, stick the bread in the oven, and open a beer. And you thought this was going to be tough! Eventually the meat mixture will begin burping like a Yellowstone geyser. Large clumps of steaming Bruce Stroganoff will eject into the air and land with a satisfying plop on the stove top, which will make you very popular with your wife later. Pour the noodles into the kettle and let 'em boil. Check the bread, which should be forming a tough, callous-like skin on the surface. When the kettle overflows, remain calm -- the cascading water will cool the burner and cause the boiling to subside, maintaining a safe and harmonious balance. Occasionally, pick a noodle out with a fork and throw it against the wall. 1. Throw the noodle, not the fork. 2. If the noodle sticks to the wall, it is because (a) your dinner is ready, or (b) the wall is so tacky from cooking noodles in the past that an oil slick would stick to it. 3. If the noodle ricochets off the wall and breaks some dishes, you might want to let them boil a little longer. By now the delicious smell of the bread is filling your house, and your children are calling their friends in a desperate attempt to be invited somewhere else for dinner. Pull the bread out and extinguish the flames by pouring water on it. Dump the noodles in the sink where, interestingly enough, they will all be stuck together in one large, starchy mass. Chop this up with the screw driver, toss on a hunk of bread, and pour the sauce liberally over the top. Enjoy.
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