Monday, February 8, 2010

Iron Chef Recap Monday!

Iron Chef America
Season Four Episode One
Iron Chef: Mario Batali
Challenger: Chris Cosentino
Battle Garlic

In his introduction, AB says that Chris Cosentino is head chef at Incanto (making his specialty Italian food) in San Francisco, and participates in endurance bike racing in his spare time. Sounds…fun?

Heh, awesome. When asked which Iron Chef Chef Cosentino wanted to use to “test his skills”, Chef Cosentino responded, “The dude in the shorts and orange clogs.” Love it!

Now, there’s one thing that I hate about the secret ingredients, and that’s that they always seem fairly stacked toward one chef or the other. And they just do that – like giving Bobby Flay blue corn, or giving Morimoto, who is a specialist in a cuisine that doesn’t use chilies, chilies. They just stack the secret ingredients. And I actually don’t think they did that here. Batali claims his specialty as “Italian” and Cosentino claims his as “Rustic Italian”, and there’s probably not anyplace Garlic would go better then with two guys who cook Italian food, right? Fairly matched ingredient, Food Network Food Buyers. Nicely done.

That was kind of a rad trick. Both of Chef Batali’s sous Chefs, Anne Burrell and Mark Laudner broke up the garlic heads by shaking the daylights out of them. There’s no really nice way to describe how to do this, but roughly break the head, then put it in a bowl with a lid (they both used another bowl as a lid), and shake the bowl. The peels will come off the garlic, and you’ll be left with just the cloves. Nice trick!

I’m a little perplexed by Chef Cosentino – he just put massive amounts of garlic into the deep fryer. Skins and all. AB says that he did it likely to infuse the oil with the garlic, which is nice, but how much flavor is there in garlic skin? I’m sure it was a time saving measure and I’m making too much of it, but just the same, right?

Chef Cosentino is hanging with those garlic skins – they just went into a pot. Garlic, garlic skins and everything. Are we all missing out, not cooking with garlic skins? I’m starting to wonder!

Time for the introduction of the judges! First judge up, Ted Allen. Ted is introduced as the author of “The Food You Want to Eat”, which as a completely unbiased observer, if you don’t own his book yet, get it. No cookbook collection is complete without it!

Next up is Donatella Arpaia, who used to be an attorney and now owns many successful restaurants. She also never hesitates to come running when Food Network calls, which is something they don’t point out. But really –s he’s on this show A LOT.

Lastly, you know him; you may or may not love him. Jeffrey Steingarten. The author of “The man who ate everything”, and evidentially no one has appeared more times in Kitchen Stadium then Jeffrey. So evidentially, he never hesitates to come running when Food Network calls either. Something that’s always perplexed me about Jeffrey is how he’s always in the last chair during the introductions and the first chair during judging. Think about it. It’s true!

Smooooth, AB. We just went back to the talking head judges segment, and AB says he’s going to give everyone a quote. For whatever reason. The one he unleashes on Jeffrey Steingarten is “There is no such thing as a little garlic”, and then he asks Jeffrey’s opinion. Jeffrey responds that that’s silly, and he wishes AB hadn’t said that. Nice!

Ted and Donatella don’t come right out and say it, but I get the feeling that they wanted to respond the same as Jeffrey. Ted’s quote was “Garlic is the ketchup of intellectuals”. To which his response was “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. Garlic is a really unique flavor, and it’ll be interesting to see what the chefs do with it today.” That’s about as “I’m avoiding your question!” as it goes, isn’t it?

Chef Batali is making a green garlic emulsion. For those keeping score at home, an emulsion is a combination of two liquids that wouldn’t normally go together. In the case of the green garlic, it’s olive oil and egg yolk. Thanks AB!

For those keeping score at home, Chef Cosentino is currently working with a caramel pine nut sauce, and squab liver. No guesses on whether they will go together, but we’ll see. There’s also some hullabaloo over the squab heads. And I’m amused that the spell checker has alerted me to every use of “Cosentino” or “Batali”, but says hullabaloo is OK.

Chef Cosentino is making snail flakes. They blanched snails, froze them, and they are now using the deli slicer to slice them. Really. It looks like a bowl of corn flakes, but their black and snail-y. Delicious?

Chef Cosentino has opened the pressure cooker, and produced pork belly and honeycomb tripe. File this in your “I didn’t need to know that!” file – honeycomb tripe is from the second of the four cow stomachs. So keep that in mind. If you ever see tripe on the menu, and you’re not a particular adventurous eater, pass it by. It’s stomach.

No worries, the snails and the caramel pine nut sauce didn’t go together. Actually, I don’t recall the caramel pine nut sauce going into anything, but he does have a garlic brittle, so maybe that’s where the sauce went.

Ok, now we’re up to the judging, so this part of the recap will take some time. I want to make sure I get this all right, in terms of the dishes presented and all that.

First dish up for Chef Cosentino is a Cheese Crostini with ricotta and baby rapini. The bread is rubbed with raw garlic and garlic infused olive oil is drizzled over the top. Ted Allen makes the comment that the judges will not be making out after the battle. Donatella looks a little nervous.

Second up is a sea scallop crudo with sizzled garlic. The “sizzled garlic” appears to come at the hand of some fresh out of the frying pan olive oil. I can’t help but wonder if he plated it this way because it looks a hot mess. Don’t get me wrong, the dish is nicely done. But when you place some nicely done, impeccably seasoned scallops on a plate, and glop some olive oil over the top of each one, it takes away from the effect. So I can’t help but wonder if the table side oiling of the scallops wasn’t to preserve some plating points – because his beauty shot of the dish had the oil already on.

In the judging of the second dish, Donatella puts her hand on Jeffrey Steingartens arm, and he retorts “Don’t touch me.” To which she calmly responded “You know, I don’t really hear that from men.” Oh, you two!

Third up, we have our appearance with the shaved snails. Chef Cosentino made a garlic egg yolk pasta and sautéed the snails in butter and garlic and tossed them over the top. He calls it a “play” on esc argot.

Fourth dish is a garlic roasted squab with garlic flan. This dish has become something of a legend in the world of Iron Chef since the original airing of this episode. And jeeze a lou, Chef Cosentino looks petrified to be presenting this dish. It’s squab sautéed in butter. He’s got the squab talon holding a clove of garlic, and the squab heads, cut so the brains can be eaten. He also made Sauce Royalle, which he makes a point to break down the contents. Since he did, I will too – garlic, cream, squab liver, bread, onion and squab stock. This dish prompts Ted Allen to go “You Chef people ain’t right!”

The tripe is back! Chef Cosentinos fifth dish is the “Eighty Garlic Clove Braised Pork Belly and Tripe”. It looks pretty delicious for being…you know, stomach. Although in foodie circles, Chef Cosentino is pretty legendary for his love of the organ meats, so it shouldn’t be nearly as surprising as it is, I think.

Everybody loves the tripe! He managed to pull one over on Jeffrey Steingarten even, who says he’s never had tripe done in the style of a potato chip. Maybe that’s a clue in to what it tastes like? Aah, forget it. I’ll just eat potato chips!

The sixth dish – yes, sixth – is a garlic infused honey mousse with garlic pine nut brittle, which means this is where the caramel pine nut sauce turned up. I won’t like – I’m so curious of the taste of pine nut brittle, that I almost want to try it.

The garlic mousse apparently has honey vinegar in it, which has to be something Chef Cosentino made himself, because I’ve been to lots of grocery stores, and never seen anything like that. But everybody is generally enjoying the brittle, except Jeffrey who says he thinks that the combination is a little too savory and that you lose the garlic a little bit, which doesn’t make any sense, honestly.

At any rate, Chef Cosentino has presented, and looks generally pleased with his work.

Mario Batali is so weird. I know that part of the schtick of Iron Chef is that you have to play along, with the bowing, and the “Chairman”, and the whole bit, but even still, he takes it one step beyond. The “Chairman” just said it was an honor to watch him cook, and he responded “It’s a luxury to be here.” What on earth does that mean? A “Thank you” would have sufficed!

First up from Camp Batali is a Garlic Bruschetta with Lomo. Ooh, I stand corrected – this is a trio. Garlic Bruschetta with Lomo, Tortilla Espanola (which looks like a teeny omlette), and a Brandade Stuffed Piquillo Pepper. The Brandade is made with potato, and the Tortilla Espanola, which normally requires potato, is made with a 50/50 mixture of potato and garlic, just to infuse extra garlic. Ted Allen comments that he’s fascinated with the tortilla, because adding the garlic seems to have made it sweeter, which he wouldn’t have expected.

Next up is a garlic stuffed shrimp with spicy potatoes. And their taking “shrimp” generously, because during the battle, they were calling them langostines, and freaking out on how langostines and shrimp aren’t the same thing. So go figure.

Third (or fifth, if you count the trio as three individual dishes) is Cod with Green Garlic Emulsion. The judges don’t seem that enthused with this one. Like, they seem like they like it all OK, but they aren’t estatic. Donatella points out that the peppers enhance the flavor of the dish. You don’t say that about a dish that your estatic over, do you?

Fourth up to the plate is a Hot And Cold Garlic Soup dish. This actually seems interesting, but I don’t know that I’d want two bowls of soup. He introduces the cold “gazpacho style” soup as being made with garlic, almond, water and orange melon. Does that mean it was water melon AND orange melon? Or does that mean he blended garlic, almond, orange melon and water? I’m not really sure.

The hot soup is a Sopa De Ajo, which is garlic, pimentone (which I’m certain I butchered the spelling of, but it’s evidentally a chili flake of some sort), water and bread. Topped with a quail egg ravoli. That soup actually sounds really good, doesn’t it?

The judges agree that the hot soup is twice as successful because of the pairing of the cold soup, but Jeffrey points out that he’d be just as happy with the cold soup as a stand alone item.

Fifth dish out of the gate is a Lamb Chop with Escalavida and Garlic Mosto. The lamb was served something like a lamb lollypop – a clean bone, with a small portion of lamb at the end. They cut to Jeffrey, who is holding it sort of like you would a lollypop – this length of bone, and nibbling carefully on the lamb. I don’t know why that makes me laugh, but it does. The judges seem to enjoy the zucchini blossom almost more then the rest of the dish.

Well that seems to be a pretty even match. Interesting. Verdict, party of one!

The winner is, perhaps little surprise to anyone, the Iron Chef. Aww, Chef Cosentino looks kind of disappointed. At the end of the episode, if you watch for it, you see the breakdown of possible points. Each judge has 10 points available for taste, 5 points for plating, and 5 for originality. Meaning a 30 is a perfect score for taste, a 15 is perfect for plating, and a 15 is perfect for originality. A 60 overall is a perfect score.

Chef Batali had a total score of 25 for taste, 13 for plating, and 8 for originality. Which to be read, means that his dishes tasted good, were plated great, but weren’t terribly original.

Chef Cosentino had a total score of 24 for taste, 7 for plating, and 13 for originality. So his dishes tasted good, were extremely original, but the plates didn’t look that great. Which furthers my theory that the sizzling oil was a bad idea. But really? For serving squab brains, he should have gotten originality bonus points!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Worst Cooks In America Makes Me Want To Be A Bad Cook!

So I'm not an Iron Chef, and I'm probably not good enough to try out for Next Food Network Star or anything, but I do alright. I have a few recipes up my sleeve people would probably pay for. :D Certainly alot of recipes that people are glad to see when I make them.

Worst Cooks In America makes me wish I sucked!

Worst Cooks In America, for those that haven't been throttled by the commercials on Food Network, is sort of like Top Chef, except the cooks suck. Yes, really. They took 12 of the worst cooks that they could find, and they bring them to "kitchen boot camp" with Chef Anne Burrell and Chef Beau MacMillan.

"Kitchen Boot Camp" appears to consist of "I'll explain the recipe, I'll write it down, and then you do it.", which is risk, especially for a guy that considers condensed tomato soup to be a fine statement of his culinary skills. Serious. Could not make that up.

So Chef Beau and Chef Anne start out with a group of 24 contestants, and the contestants have to make a meal that is a genuine statement to their culinary abilities. Which Chef Beau and Chef Anne then have to eat.

They montaged it so we didn't have to watch it all, but we saw a boiled whole chicken, chocolate pancakes that probably would have broken a window if they'd thrown them, a lady who made soup by combining lots of other cans of soup, and a guy who didn't actually cook anything because he believed that food wasn't meant to be "good", it was meant to be "functional". Ooh, and a girl that made a "three cheese maccaroni and cheese" with one of the cheeses being COTTAGE cheese. Man I wish that was a joke, and Chef Anne did too. After the girl said that cottage cheese was one of the cheeses, Chef Anne let out a dismayed "Cottage!", which was plain to anyone was her attempt at covering up what she really wanted to say, which was "Are you kidding me right now?!"

So then Chef Beau and Chef Anne had to each pick out who they believed to be the six worst cooks in the group - but the trick to that part was - the cooks they picked didn't stay with them. Chef Anne took the cooks Chef Beau picked, and the reverse.

In the end, when they've whittled it down to two, the final two must cook a meal for a panel of judges, including the notoriously hard to please Jeffery Steingarten. The judges though, are of the impression that Chef Beau and Chef Anne are the ones cooking the dinner. So it's important that they whip them into shape successfully, otherwise "their reputations are on the line". I don't know if it's THAT big of a deal, but they seem to think it's a big gig, so who knows?

I, like I said, am not a bad cook. I even fancy myself to be pretty good at it. Truthfully, Worst Cooks In America (which is getting modest reviews) makes me wish I was worst, because what I wouldn't give for a 10 day boot camp with Chef Beau and Chef Anne!

And I've already learned one valuable lesson about dealing with Chef Beau - do not unnecessarily garnish a dish. One of the guys tried that last night (he claimed to not understand that they were to copy the dish, but what did he think they were doing?!), and Chef Beau just got unnecessarily angry about it. Do not unecessarily garnish your dishes with Chef Beau!

Culinary Good Deeds

I baked like a woman possessed over Christmas break. Homemade noodles, no bake cookies, scones, chocolate chip cookies, fantasy fudge, and the list goes on. My oven shut off when I was asleep, and that was about it.

So, when Christmas ended, I found myself scared to put on pants with a real waist for fear of finding out they wouldn't fit anymore, and with a freezer full of the leftovers from all my pre-christmas baking.

I knew for sure I didn't want to eat them, and I knew for sure I didn't want to waste them, but what on earth was I going to do with them?

As odd as it sounds, I placed an ad on Craigs List. Yes, really.

I was amazed and in awe of the responses that I got. A woman that was layed off and her husband was laid off and her brother in law just moved in with them because he was diagnosed with some health problems. A retired Marine that lived alone (believe you me, I'd fill a freezer for him if he'd let me), a college girl that wanted to be a better baker but couldn't afford it, and the list went on. There was a guy that I'm not quite sure was above board, and a woman that was too busy to bake for her ladies group at church, and more.

The woman that was laid off was the first response I got, and so the goods went to her. I was so amazed by the responses, that I ended up making extra stuff for her. :) It was really kind of awesome to give them to her too - because I could tell that she was a person who really needed her day brightened up by a cookie.

I had such a great time doing it, that as soon as I replenish my supply of gladware, I intend to do it again!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup! Or, Theresa Actually Cooks Real Stuff!

I decided that today, I was in the mood to cook something really fancy. So I went to one of my fanciest cookbooks, and picked out a recipe. Oddly, the Mission Of Hope Cancer Fund cookbook? Really fancy. It's even got a recipe in it from one of the Iron Chefs. And we're not talking Cat Cora or Michael Symon here kids. We're talking Chen Kinichi. Oh, yeah. Apparently he cooks at (or cooked at at the time of the book being published) a restaurant in New Orleans. Of all the places in the world, right?

At any rate, I selected Chicken Noodle Soup. Except I did it the semi-homemade kind of way.

The recipe called for an onion, a full bunch of celery and 2 cups of carrots. And peas. And a full fryer chicken!

I had a couple of things working against me here, that lead to my embracing the "semi-homemade" version of this recipe:

1)I only had $20, and had to purchase EVERY ingredient on the list

2)I cook for a picky eater who was likely to pick out only the chicken and the noodles and waste all this celery

3)It was 4 pm, and I didn't want to have to mess with cooking a whole chicken.

So the good people at Kroger kind of saved me here. They have frozen mirepoix, which covered me for onions and celery (and carrots), and then I got a frozen bag of peas to cover me there. Throw in a $5 chicken, and a bag of egg noodles, and your pretty well out the door!

It doesn't call for any herbs or anything. Brown the vegetables, put in the chicken (of course, if your not doing it the semi-homemade way, you have to cook the chicken and all of that), stock, noodles. Set.

I did make a blunder at the end, and I dumped in the entire bag of noodles, which made it really chunky (it made it pretty much entirely noodles and chicken, I won't kid you), but if you are like my boyfriend and like the stuff out of soup but not the broth, then even the blunder isn't so bad. :)

I don't have permission to republish the recipe, although I wish I could. It's very simple soup, but very delicious. Although admittedly, it didn't satisfy my urge to cook fancy food. So that was a bummer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vile Swill!

So if I'm starting a review that way, it can't be positive, right? Well...yeah. That's pretty much the long and short of it right there.

Today I stopped at the gas station to get gas on my way to school, and I notice that they have a new drink called ALO Drink. Why not, I figure, and I pick two - ALO Exposed and ALO Enliven. Pick up a juice for my three year old, prepay for my gas, and I'm out the door.

I get back to the car, and pick out which one of the ALO drinks I want to try. I chose ALO Enliven, which promises all the health benefits of ALO, with the vitamins of 12 fruits and vegetables.

The website says ALO Enliven is 25% aloe vera and aloe vera pulp, which therein lies a bit of my problem. The ALO drinks were housed with the water and juice. If I have a grape juice, I know what I'm getting, every time across the board. If I open a Smart Water I know what I'm getting all the time, every time.

I open an ALO drink, I get a drink that I have to chew. Yes, CHEW. Good for my orange juice. Not good for my bottled water or juice.

The texture was slightly strange and the mouth feel was horrible. Kind of slimy. And the "pulp" was awful. I found that it actually got somewhat better if I didn't try to chew the pulp and just swallowed it whole, but by that point, the texture and mouth feel was just too much to make me interested in trying it again.

It says on the website that they sweeten the product with a natural sugar, but you could have fooled me - I didn't taste any sweetness at all.

I read on their website that they've done quite well in customer polls and been mentioned in several magazines and what not. I can't imagine - if they were the best, what on earth was the worst?!

This is horrible, horrible stuff. And now I have $5 worth of stuff that seriously, I have a little anxiety attack when I think about having to drink it again. It's that level of horrible. Skip this purchase, big time.

Just so you don't think I'm making it up and that there's no way a product this horrible could really exist:


ALODrink: It's horrible. It's overpriced. We're not really sure how we're still legally allowed to sell it. Pass it by on a grocery store shelf near you!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Live, And I'm Super Excited!

So poor Chef has kind of gotten lost over the last few weeks, and I do apologize for that.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've actually been doing alot of footwork for the blog though. According to my Comp 2 professor, I can't legally republish recipes without permission from their authors, so I've been digging out cookbooks of mine, and contacting the authors to seek out permission to republish in the blog.

I'm very close to getting permission to republish one!

When I start republishing recipes, I do intend to test the recipes as often as time and being reasonable will allow. One of the books I've almost got permission for, the first recipe in the book is holiday punch, that starts with a base of two bottles of wine. Yeah...I live alone with my fiance and a three year old. We don't have any chance of drinking two bottles of wine before they go bad. :O So that one will go untested at least. Unless I can find someone to drink wine. I told my fiancee that he was taking the punch into work, he didn't look that excited at the prospect. :D

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Christmas Cookie Club And How You Can Really Eat The Cookies

Local author Ann Pearlman is gearing up for the release of her latest book, The Christmas Cookie Club. It's the story of a group of friends that gather together every year to do a Christmas cookie exchange, and their stories that they have to share from over the previous year. One is facing the end of her marriage, one is facing a high risk pregnancy, and their individual stories wind together throughout the book.

Learn More About It.

Proving that perhaps, it is who you know, Pearlmans youngest daughter works at Zingermans Roadhouse in Ann Arbor (who, incidentally is a regular James Beard nominee).

Enter the partnership with Zingermans to offer the cookies for sale!

Learn more about that!

All the recipes from the book, and a Zingermans original, sold in a hollowed out book, with original artwork on the front. I've not tried them, but they do look delicious!

A suitable gift for the reader or cookie addict in your family!