Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis
Great Weekend Hors d' Oeuvres
Polenta and Chicken Tartlets
To get the recipes:
The show begins with Giada signing books for her public. She does seem quite lovely to people.
Back to the kitchen, she's doing elegant hors d'oeuvres today. Why is my husband lurking in front of the television? Oh, cleavage check. I should have known.
She goes on, “You don’t need fancy ingredients to make elegant hors d'oeuvres." (Is that a see-through top?) I kinda think it is.
She begins by cooking sausages in olive oil. BTW, the sausage is out of its casing. Meanwhile, she mixes 4 oz of cream cheese with Parmesan and a little salt and pepper. She pushes at it rather ineffectually with a spatula. Maybe room temperature cream cheese would have helped.
She ANNOUNCES that she's making an egg wash. Well, that IS good news, but I'm not sure it warranted a special mention. She beats one egg and sets it aside. She does say you may add water, but she's not. I say you SHOULD add water or milk or cream, but you and I have had this discussion before.
Guess what she's adding to the sausage now? Arugula. How could we go an entire half hour without any arugula from our Food Network hosts? She pours the contents of the sausage pan into the cream cheese. NOW it's easier to mix.
She rolls out the pizza dough. (The recipe recommends Pillsbury, but that don't look like no Pillsbury dough. It looks like real pizza parlor dough. Use whatever, but just don't tell me if it's Pillsbury.) She rolls it into a long rectangle and cuts it in half lengthwise then in half again to make 4 pieces. The RECIPE says she gets 16 rectangles out of the dough. She must be working with a smaller piece of dough.
She places 1 teaspoon of filling on one side of each rectangle. She brushes the egg wash along the edges and brings the other half of the dough over. She presses the edges well to close the pockets and then "forks" all around the edges, cutting off the excess dough. Giada brushes them with the egg wash. They get sprinkled with Parmesan and into a 400 degree Farenheit oven they go for 15 to 20 minutes.
She heats up a jarred marinara sauce and again makes an announcement: "I'm going to put them (the baked pizza pockets) on my platter." Well, I didn't expect her to serve them on the baking sheet. They do look good. She dips them into the sauce. Yum, and yes, that shirt is definitely see-through.
She's wearing a black bra under a super-thin knit black shell, worn under a print wrap-shirt. Her husband works for Anthropologie, doesn't he?
She's on to the polenta. She adds 1 pound of instant polenta to 8 cups of boiling water with a little salt. Go ahead and do it that way, but I prefer to add my water TO the polenta. I find it lumps less. She whisks it and it does look a little lumpy, but she doesn't seem to notice. She adds heavy cream and stirs it in with a wooden spoon. A whisk is just too heavy going at this point. She spreads it onto an oiled baking sheet and lets it cool for 30 minutes.
For the topping, she uses a rotisserie chicken…Scratch that, she's using the skinned breasts from a rotisserie chicken. She shreds the chicken with 2 forks and stirs in store-bought pesto with some salt and pepper. Giada makes "polenta "tartlets" with 2 inch fluted cookie cutters. They go on a platter (No announcement this time.) Note that the recipe makes A LOT - 24 tartlets. She spoons a bit of the chicken over and places a few dried cranberries on top. She tastes it. Perfect. Now THAT is a wonderful dish. It's really tasty and so pretty to look at. What more could one want?
For the next dish, Tuscan Mushrooms, Giada cuts the stems off mushrooms to ready the caps for filling. She chops 2 scallions very finely, reminding us that everything must be cut to fit into the small mushroom cap. She pits green olives by cutting down alongside the pit and chopping the resulting pieces small. She chops up roasted red peppers and adds them along with sheep’s milk Pecorino Romano, salt, pepper and a little olive oil.
She fills the mushroom caps and bakes them at 400 deg F. for 20 minutes. I would probably toss them in a bit of olive oil and seasoning before filling. Some recipes suggest baking them in advance. They come out of the oven, looking a bit shriveled, but the shredded basil that Giada adds on top improves their appearance. As she tastes, she tells us that “the salty bite from the olive and cheese kicks in.”
She moves on to the bruschetta. She oils 1/2 inch slices of bread on both sides and grills it for 3 minutes per side. HOLD ON just a minute! I want it decided here and now what the proper procedure is for preparing the bread for bruschetta. Do you OIL IT BEFORE OR AFTER?
Giada usually does it before, Michael says not to, usually. I checked the recipes of no less an authority than Mario Batali. His answer is clear. Do NOT oil the bread before toasting or grilling it. That does make sense. You don’t want to risk sodden-ness before you add the topping. And often a drizzle of olive oil goes on after. So I’ll be following his lead from now on.
Back to Giada, after the bread is done, she drizzles it with lemon juice and sprinkles over oregano. (Now I would think THAT would lead to sogginess.) She beats whole milk ricotta cheese and adds salt and pepper and chopped tomatoes, saving a bit for garnish. (She squeezed out the seeds first.) She tells us to make it ahead of time, if we wish, but to use it at room temperature. She stirs in fresh chopped mint, telling us, “You’ve got the colors of Italy right here.” She serves it in a bowl next to the grilled bread. She spoons some on the bread, tastes it crunchily and pronounces it yummy.
These recipes are her secret weapon to stress free weekday entertaining, but it’s no secret that Giada is an excellent cook, with mostly great recipes with great eye-appeal. (I'm talking about the RECIPES.)