Friday, April 13, 2007

Sticky Icky Sandra Lee

Sem-Eye Homemade with Sandra Lee

Simply Awful... I mean, Simply Greek

Spinach Souffle-Phyllo Cups
Pork Kebobs with Red Grape Sauce
Hot and Sticky Wings
Warm Greek Garden Olives

To get the recipes:
Click here

Why did I do this to myself? I guess I just needed some lightheartedness after all the Imus ugliness. I thought a visit to the Greek Isles through Sandra's rose-colored Sem-Eye Homemade glasses would do the trick.

Boy, was I wrong.

We begin with Sandra grabbing a few things from the pantry, i.e. the den of horrors. She wanted to remember the wonderful time she had in Greece with her sister Cindy. She decided she would make a Greek menu, which would have been fine...if she had. But to call this dreck "Greek" is an insult to a fine and ancient people.

She's starting with "Hot and Sticky Wings with Fruity Apricot, Pineapple and Jalapeno Sauce". Is all of that really necessary in the description of the dish? Aren't apricots and pineapples FRUIT? Then why say "Fruity"? The supposed heat for the dish comes from chili "seasoning". What is that anyway? It's not chili powder. It's not cayenne. I guess it's just a mix of a bunch of stuff. Oh my, I just checked the recipe and it's worse than I thought....she says to use chipotle TACO SEASONING!!! Taco seasoning is something you use when you have a load of kids that have to be fed quickly and happily and under no other circumstances. It must never be used as a generic seasoning or for adult-only cooking. That's my view and I'm sticking to it.

Sandra's laying out the wings on a baking sheet lined with foil. I have no problem with that..I do it all the time. She's washing her hands when handling raw meat. Ditto...I do that. See, I'm not critical of EVERY S.L. thing.

She places the wings under the broiler and prepares the sauce. It consists of the aforementioned taco seasoning, apricot and pineapple preserves (apparently that comes together in one jar), ketchup and fresh jalapeno. Now why she uses fresh, I don't know. Not that I'm saying she shouldn't - she should, but it seems to be against her religion. That collection of grocery shelf misfits get slathered on the crusty chicken and put in the crockpot.

I'm not even going to begin to guess what the point is of having the skin all nice and crispy when you're cooking the chicken ANOTHER THREE AND A HALF HOURS in the crockpot. Why bother broiling? You could have just boiled them, for all I care.

By the way, the quintessential wings recipe - and really the only one you ever need to bother with - is on the back of the Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce bottle. (See, I'm not a snob, I just know what good food is...and what it isn't).

Cook your wings at 425 degrees F for 45 minutes. Roll them around in 1/3 cup melted butter, which has been mixed with 1/2 cup Frank's RedHot Sauce. Finito, end of story...and they're actually good.

We move on to Spinach Souffle Phyllo Cups. I was thinking, ok, maybe she has some ingenious way to make a souffle in advance and then scoop it into cups. WRONG. She uses a little plastic dish of frozen microwavable spinach souffle that makes airline food look 3 star. She gets that "cooking" in the microwave and then actually adds salt to it. Yeah, I've found that most pre-packaged ready-made food really lacks salt...NOT!!! Also, fresh lemon juice, (what? no squeezy little plastic one) and a minuscule amount of cayenne go in. This gets placed into the phyllo cups that she made, using real phyllo dough. I guess I have to give her some credit here. She could have used Kleenex. Then she puts way too much feta on top and "pops" them back in the oven.

We're on to the Olives. One cup of olive oil goes into a pan followed by 4 cloves of garlic FROM A JAR, then lemon rind slices and finally the olives. Ewww, jarred. Every supermarket on the planet now has an olive bar. Oh, I guess the 7-Eleven or the Kwik-E-Mart, where she probably does her shopping, doesn't. She heats up the olives and runs to get the over-feta-d cups out. The warm olives will perfect on her tablescape. Oh gosh, I forgot about that... but, first, the pork.

For the Pork Kebabs, she shows us how to cut the pork tenderloin. Places the pieces on soaked bamboo skewers. She washes her hands (which is almost the ONLY thing I've approved of so far.) Then she opens a package of "garlic basil seasoning". I don't even know what that is. I consult the recipe. She says use McCormicks. Oh, I guess only the best will do. She sprinkles this powdery substance on the pork. It looks like what comes out of my vacuum cleaner filter bag.

Now the sauce. 1/2 cup of sherry gets cooked with 2 cups of red grapes. That's no sauce. It's the base for a Spanish punch. And since when do they drink Sherry in GREECE? Maybe they DRINK it there, but it's certainly not a Greek ingredient. The dusty kebabs come out and are served with the "sauce". Sandy tells us it's all very gourmet...well, if gourmet means sludge, then I would have to agree.

Onto the drinks. At least, with all this awful food I can get liquored up. Well, no, not really. As awful as the food is, one of the drinks, at least, is EVEN WORSE. For the Mykonos Martini, Sandra takes some of that dreadful olive juice (from the jar) and adds it to dry Vermouth and gin and adds a bunch of kalamata olives to the bottom of the glass. The other drink is vanilla-flavored vodka, pear brandy (I couldn't find a Greek pear brandy ANYWHERE), some pear nectar and Champagne. Greek cooking does feature vanilla and they do grow pears in Greece, so maybe I'll give her a pass on this one, but just barely.

I really can't bear anymore, but we just have to look at the tablescape. It's not attractive. She has artichokes piled up in long thin vases. Was there even one artichoke to be found in the menu? She has a weird-sized (too big) bowl on each plate with a bunch of froufrou wrapped around 2 blue tapered candles, which are a gift for the guests. I guess she has to bribe people to get them to come over. And plus, there's going to be wax all over the bowls. And what did she make, anyway, that goes in a bowl??? Huh? I really don't get it. She also places a sprig of rosemary somewhere in there so her sister remembers the great time they had in Greece. (Rosemary is for remembrance). Would it have killed her to put some rosemary SOMEWHERE in the food?

This entire experience was about as Greek as tempura, and nowhere near as good. The next time, Sandra thinks about doing an international menu, maybe she should just stop at IHOP and we should turn off the television.


CommonDialog said...

I think you miss the mark on Sandra Lee. No one is going to mistake her for a gourmet, nor if I remember her Food Network biography correctly, does she begin to have the training for us to consider her so.

However, what she is good at is teaching people with little culinary expertise how to make things that look impressive and probably taste pretty well, too.

Having to come home and cook for a screaming 2 year old has made me appreciate her style of cooking, even if I might not always want to say call apricot, pineapple, jalapeno wings Greek. Then again, I've never been to Greece. This may be a Grecian dish I was unaware of.

Anonymous said...

Wow... apologist, or just an S.L. toady?