Sunday, May 13, 2007

Roasted Garlic, Cake Mixes And Cute Cousins On Giada

Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis
Friends and Family Feast
Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese
Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
Caraway and Parmesan Grissini
Hazelnut Crunch Cake with Mascarpone and Chocolate

To get the recipes:
Click here

Giada is cooking a "feast for family and friends", including a really cute guy, who I think is her younger brother. Whoever he is, he has beautiful curls. She's making a pasta dish, which she says is an easy way to cook for a crowd.

She describes the Vegetable Bolognese as being "rustic, hardy home cooking." She begins by "putting together the aromatics." She chops the onion, carrots and garlic, and adds some red pepper into the mix. Giada mentions that carrots are the secret ingredient in many Italian sauces, because they add a sweetness without sugar.

She processes all the vegetables into oblivion. The recipe confusingly instructs us to process until "finely chopped but still chunky." Huh? Hers were definitely finely chopped and not chunky. She adds a bit of salt, which is just the ticket for drawing out the moisture when you want to sweat the vegetables, rather than brown them.

She adds fresh thyme and oregano. GDL is going for a rich sauce, but instead of meat she's going to use different kinds of mushrooms. I bet no one will even notice. She chops crimini and shitaki mushrooms and adds them to the sweated veggies. Then she adds tomato paste instead of canned tomatoes. Interesting. She's been soaking porcini mushrooms in hot water. They go in WITH their soaking liquid with 1/2 cup red wine. She's on a good track here. I've been critical of some of her recipes lately, but now she's showing good technique and a wonderful combination of flavors for a successful dish.

She cooks the whole thing together for ten minutes. Now she's adding 1/2 cup marscapone. Really? That's different. She scoops cooked rigatoni into the sauce and gives it a "quick little toss." The ridges allow the sauce to stick to it. A bit of pasta water gets added. A final grating of Parmesan completes the dish.

We move on to the main course. "Pork is the most popular meat in Italy." I'm not sure I knew that. She has a 3 1/2 lb. pork loin and she seasons it really well all over. It goes into a 475 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Giada's making a roasted garlic vinaigrette to accompany the meat. She cuts an entire garlic head in half and sprinkles it with salt and pepper. She wraps each one in foil and cooks it at the same 475 deg F. as the pork for 1 hour.

Don't tell Giada, but there is a way to do the garlic in the microwave (a la Barbara Kafka's 1987 Microwave Gourmet) if you don't want to turn on the oven. She's going to have it on for the pork anyway, but if you make this dressing another time, this is a useful recipe.

(from Microwave Gourmet by Barbara Kafka)

Combine two heads of garlic with 1/4 cup stock (vegetable or chicken) and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 4 cup glass measure. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Cook for 5 minutes. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes, before uncovering. Watch out for steam as you take off the plastic.
NOTE: Kafka's book was written in the time of much less powerful microwave ovens. You'll have to do a bit of trial and error with your own oven.

Back to Giada, she's placing 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar into the blender. Oh goodie, my favorite way to make vinaigrette...She roughly chops parsley and adds that with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Then 2 tablespoons water get added which will thin out the mixture a bit, which is necessary because the garlic makes it so thick. Then she squeezes out the soft and gorgeous garlic cloves from their skin and blends that with the other ingredients plus salt and pepper. Inevitably, she's adding 3/4 cup of olive oil slowly, which we know is not necessary. Just bung it all in together. She tells us that a classic vinaigrette is 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Well, that's not what she's using today and, really, there are as many opinions about the correct ratio of oil to vinegar as there are chefs. I always learned it was 3 to 1. But never mind...her dressing looks amazing (so does the vinaigrette.) Sorry, I couldn't resist, but she IS looking particularly fetching today.

She tells us that dessert will be decadent with a surprise inside. She's making it from a store-bought chocolate cake mix. Oh drat, and she was doing so well today! Her food was beautiful. She was showing a bit of the classics with a contemporary flair and now...THIS!!! Am I wrong to find cake mixes completely unacceptable by people who are superior cooks, not to mention classically trained as Giada was?

I have to tell you I have NEVER used a CAKE mix. (During college we DID occasionally buy a brownie mix when we were desperate. We also had limited cooking equipment - which I know is a poor excuse - but also I wasn't cooking for a television audience. And when my kids were really small and I made a million cupcakes for school, I admit I used canned icing sometimes, but NEVER a cake mix. And again, I wasn't cooking for millions of foodies.) Well, let's just settle this by saying that whatever she's doing with this chocolate cake could be accomplished far more deliciously by using a homemade cake...and I haven't even seen the recipe yet and I'm sure of that.

She mixes 2/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water on top of the stove. She cooks it until it's golden brown. She's rather casual about this and I would have liked a bit more hand-holding on this step. She has hazelnuts on parchment. (Y'all know I say nuts to parchment, use foil instead.) She pours the caramel sugar syrup on top of the nuts and puts the whole baking sheet in the fridge for 30 minutes.

For the filling, she puts 2(!) 8 oz containers of room temperature marscapone cheese into a bowl. Wow, that's our fat allotment FOR THE YEAR!!! She adds 1 cup of heavy cream. Wait a minute, I check the I watching the Contessa already? No, it's still Giada, whipping up a dessert of Barefoot proportions. Giada beats the cream with marscapone. She beats until soft peaks form. I'm trying to think if I've ever done that before with marscapone and cream. I don't think I have. WOW, something COMPLETELY NEW! It better be worth the coronary that this is going to cause. She adds powdered sugar to keep it smooth. WHY is she using a dinky hand mixer? Hand mixers are for using on top of the stove or for when you just can't face one more big bowl in the sink. Neither situation applies today.

She's making a topping of 1/4 cup chocolate chips, 1 tablespoon sugar and orange zest. Ok, she lost me. I have to confess (gosh this is becoming True Confessions today) that I do not like orange and chocolate together. I don't hold it against people who do, because I know it's a classic pairing. It just leaves me cold. She processes all this stuff together until fine. That gets set aside, but I can tell that I'm not going to like whatever she's going to do with it.

Giada gets the roast out of the oven. The ends look positively uncooked, but it's her crew that will have the problem, not mine.

The family gets fed. Gosh, they're all attractive. Cousin Luca is helping her in the kitchen. I love it when the TV hosts ask someone to "help" in the kitchen. Remember when Ina invited a friend's daughter, an avid cook, to help? I think Ina let her pipe something or other into a pastry shell, which Ina covered with something else entirely anyway. Once Giada's mother was assisting. She was supposed to be painting chocolate on paper cups to make little molds. Giada didn't hide the fact that she used the ones from the freezer, not the ones Mom had made. Michael (my beautiful Michael, who's being cheated out of TV time) seems to be the only one who really involves his guests, and not just chefs.

Back to Luca. He is cute as a button. She has him break up the "Crunch" or brittle. He's funny as he jokes that he's doing a better job at it than she is. I'm disappointed, though, because when she confesses that she's used a store-bought cake mix, he didn't flinch.

She turns over one layer of the not-homemade chocolate cake and spreads it with some of the cream filling. The other layer goes on. She and Luca cover the entire cake with the cream frosting. She tells us that at first she wanted to be a pastry chef when she studied in France. (WELL, I guess you got over that pretty quickly and now it's ok to use cake mixes...)

She sprinkles the chocolate stuff all over the top of the cake. I'm not sure exactly what the point of that was. And why would you put orange zest ONLY in the chocolate topping? Why not add cointreau instead of vanilla to the cream and why not orange-up the cake a bit? One little bit of orange seems a bit random. Shavings from a bar of dark chocolate would have done just as well, and you wouldn't have to wash the entire food processor just for that.

Of course, the family loves everything. Giada gives kudos to Luca. He admits he had a hard time breaking up the brittle. "I just had a manicure." Metro and funny all in one.

Today's show: Interesting treatment of some ingredients, a really bad idea, and the rest was great. Wait, what was the surprise in the cake? Oh, I guess that she would have the nerve to use a cake mix. But her family said nothing and I guess Everyday Italian allows for a few shortcuts, just not the ones I would have chosen.

Note: The recipes on the website included grissini. There were no grissini on the show, unless I missed it while I was staring at Luca and railing against the chocolate cake.


Danielle said...

I don't understand how you can have a problem with using a cake mix...I love them. Cake mixes have come a looooooooooong way. They are moist and sweet and easy. I don't think many people can tell the difference. What kills me is that you have no problem "roasting" garlic in the microwave. It is called "roasted." I have never "roasted" anything in the microwave.

Sue said...

Hi Danielle,

Wow, thanks for reading so far back. I appreciate it.

You're right. I guess the garlic really shouldn't be called "roasted" when it's done in the microwave, except that the wondrous Barbara Kafka calls her recipe "Roasted Garlic". And, as I said in the post, it's a good substitute when you don't want to turn on the oven. So I'll give you that one.

Cake mixes ARE easy, but that's it. I'm sure EVERY SINGLE homemade cake is not better than EVERY SINGLE cake mix, but it's a good bet that you'll have a better result with homemade.

I also think that, because a cake isn't something you make everyday, it should still be somewhat special. And nothing says special like something baked from scratch.