The Art of Gnarl

When I lived in San Francisco years ago, I would often cook dinner with a good friend of mine who was also my roommate’s girlfriend. On one occasion (or perhaps even several) we made some sort of stoner-like concoction of potato, beans, tomato and cheese that we dubbed “potato gnarl.” While tasty, filling, cheap and easy, it was not nice on the eyes and certainly nothing you’d prepare on purpose with any intent on serving anyone other than yourself, your child who didn’t know better or a pile of teenagers. And thus “gnarl” became any shapeless wad of ingredients, often bound by cheese or some sauce, that can be eaten in one bowl, made quickly and easily and using anything on hand.

Since then I have improved and elevated the art of Gnarl in forms such as lentils and greens and bacon with an egg and grated cheese, or bean/sausage/kale/tomato glop with toast, but every once in a while I toss care aside and make some old fashioned Gnarl only I could love. Tonight was such a night.

I had a quickly aging zucchini, half a can of tomatoes, a can of white beans, a hard nub of parmesan cheese, eggs and leftover sauteed greens. I cubed the zucchini and browned it with some onion. Then in went the tomato, beans and kale and I stirred until it was heated through and poured it in a bowl. I fried an egg in the pan, put it on top, grated cheese on top and added a healthy dose of pepper and voila. Veggies a la Gnarl Avec Oeuf.

    Decadent Cheese Sauce Take 3

    This morning I decided to stir some of the cheesy sauce (from this meal and this one) into some eggs for my daughter’s breakfast. Because our two nonstick pans were in the sink, I decided to grab the appelskiver pan. If you don’t know what that is, you probably have seen it on tv– happy families making round balls of stuffed pancake love in a pan with seven indentations. I had made jam-stuffed pancakes before and they were as fabulous as you’d think and make breakfast a truly festive occasion.

    I added some butter to four of the cup thingies and when it was melty and bubbly I divided the egg mixture to which I had added some of the cheesy sauce.

    When the bottom was set, I used chopsticks to start to rotate them about 1/4 turn. The raw egg in the middle pours a bit to fill the void while the top comes up a bit. Once the egg set a bit more I added some chopped ham and rotated them a bit more.

    I made a couple final turns, then let the outside which was riddled with cheesy sauce love brown a bit on all sides.

    Finally, I put them on a piece of toast (why? I have no idea) in a totally unglamorous fashion and sprinkled the rest of the chopped ham on top. The insides were creamy and fluffy and studded with the ham and the outside was slightly crisp and had a wonderfully toasty nutty cheese flavor. We still have a cup or so of the sauce so I suppose another incarnation might happen or I might just stir it into some pasta for my daughter since she can take the whole milk and cheese on her tiny frame a lot more forgivingly than I can.