Shameless Chef

The Shameless Chef: Tex Mex Ramen Explosion

Ah, the hazy, crazy days of dorm life. I stayed in the dorms at the University of Houston for two-and-a-half years, had some great times, and gained about 50 pounds. Oh, don't get me wrong; U of H went to great lengths to make sure healthy options were available to all students with a meal plan. It's just that I went to even greater lengths to avoid those options altogether.

I know most of you college kids in the Houston area are in the midst of the scholastic hellstorm known as "final exams," so I figured whipping up a dish featuring everyone's favorite readily-available dorm foods would be the third-best thing I could do for you. The second and first best things I could do for you, respectively, would be to set a cap on the price of textbooks at $30 apiece, and to make the act of giving students a comprehensive final exam a crime punishable by death. Believe me, I'm trying, but the Texas legislature never returns my calls.

You will need:

  • 1 lb. of ground beef, the cheaper the better. I got some good ground sirloin for $2.06.
  • 1 or 2 packs of ramen, any flavor. This will cost less than 35 cents.
  • 1 pack of taco seasoning. Roughly 75 cents.
  • 1 bag of Doritos. A 99-cent bag will do. I'm using a much bigger bag simply because...I love Doritos.
  • some shredded cheese. Cost will vary, but you can find some for pretty cheap. Even cheaper if you buy a block and shred it yourself, but who has that kind of time with this damn trig final coming up that you waited until the last minute to study for?
  • Even if you have less than five bucks left on your meal card, you should be able to buy everything you need. If not, this recipe makes a lot of pasta, so offer to share with anyone on your floor who will provide missing ingredients. And the great thing about ramen-based dishes is: You can keep adding stuff to it, if you want. Peppers, onions, salsa, whatever, no one's going to judge you. You just need something to eat in between studying jags.

    First, boil 4 cups of water and heat up your skillet using medium heat. (If you're living at the University of Houston, I know for a fact there's a stove in the basement of Bates Hall. If not... hot plate?) When the skillet is hot and the water is boiling, dump both packets of ramen into the water, and put the ground beef on the skillet. I like to go ahead and put half of the pack of taco seasoning on the hamburger, and the other half into the pot with the ramen noodles.

    Ignore whatever seasoning packets came with the ramen and save them for an emergency. And don't sit there scoffing as if you've never had a seasoning emergency.

    If you want to make less (around 1 or 2 servings), half all of the ingredients mentioned previously (2 cups of water, 1/2 lb. ground beef, 1 pack ramen, 1/2 pack taco seasoning). But really, the idea is to have a big store of this stuff, that way you can just take it straight out of the mini-fridge and shovel it directly into your face when hunger strikes. Yes, it's good cold. All the best dorm food is good cold.

    After about 3 minutes, take the ramen noodles off of the heat and let them sit for a while, soaking up that juicy taco seasoning goodness. Once the beef is sufficiently browned, take it off the heat as well. Drain the noodles. I know it seems like a waste to lose all that delicious taco-flavored juice. I was going to suggest a light-hearted college prank, wherein if you happen to have an athletic roommate, you could spike his Gatorade with the stuff... but then I read the warning on one of the packs of ramen that each packet contains enough sodium to "instantly kill approximately 3.3 Clydesdales and 1.5 mules." Best to just dump it down the sink.

    Combine the beef and ramen into a big-ass bowl, or whatever container you happen to have lying around your room. Uh... I guess the lid off that old CD spool will work, but seriously, get some off-brand plasticware soon, it's really cheap. Stir in however much cheese you want until it's melted. Now scoop out a serving, crumble some Doritos on top, and enjoy. You don't want to add the Doritos until right before you eat, otherwise they'll get soggy.

    Good luck on your finals! And don't forget my three Laws of Studying: 1. Try to relax and don't stress out too much; 2. Always get plenty of sleep, and, perhaps most importantly of all, 3. Cheat your ass off. But only if you can get away with it. The Shameless Chef clearly cannot afford to be sued. I'm eating ramen, for Pete's sake.

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    John Seaborn Gray