Friday, August 24, 2007

The Talented Men Of The Food Network - Part One: Michael Chiarello

Plus A Note On Dave Lieberman's Razzin'

Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello

Drive-in Movie Night
Brown Butter Fruit Tart
Shrimp Po'Boys with Angry Mayonnaise
Warm Basil Gnocchi Salad with Carpaccio of Tomatoes

To get the recipes:
Click here

It IS rather ridiculous that we have to search around for new shows of Michael Chiarello's and that we find them at 8:00 AM on Sunday's!!! I'm not saying we should feel sorry for MC. He's plenty busy. He's got his Napastyle retail food, furniture and cool stuff enterprise. He's got his family winery. He's got his Fine Living Network show (IF you can find that on your channel line-up. And many of those shows are unwatchable, because he has that thing on his face.) But it's not him, it's OURSELVES that I feel sorry for.

I taped his show and I caught the last few minutes of Dave Lieberman. He's in an even worse time spot than Mike - SEVEN THIRTY AM on Sunday!!! I did not enjoy his show at all, even the little I saw of it. To be fair, perhaps it puts the host at a tremendous disadvantage when you watch only the last few minutes of his or her cooking show. (Having said that, I never feel that way about Ina or Giada or Mike.)

Anyway, I caught Dave just as he was stirring a yogurty type dip. The mixture made, frankly, a very unfortunate sounding noise. Think whoopee cushion meets Blazing Saddles. Okay, not quite that bad, but bad enough for me to notice. That really should have been picked up on.

I know a lot of you out there really like Dave Lieberman. I think he's nice and knowledgeable. I'm sure he would be a great friend to add to one's group, plus he's heads above some recent additions to the FN, but, for me, he has no pop. I also didn't like the way he said "flavel" for "falafel". He WAS lunching with 2 babes, though...

At last, on to Mike. It's Movie Night with MC providing a Drive-In Dinner. Ooooh, I'd like to nibble in the front seat of a convertible with the chef...on the the chef.

We're in the kitchen with His Chefliness. One hand egg cracking. So casual, so perfect...right into the mixer bowl. He beats it until triple in volume with "nice air in the mix." He shows us how pale yellow and fluffy it is. Sometimes I'm confused about which beater to use with the KitchenAid. He's using the whisk, not the flat beater. I guess it's because he wants to add in so much air.

He adds 3 tablespoons of butter to a hot pan. After it melts, he raises the heat to brown it.

He adds flour and vanilla to the eggs. My gosh, even his asides are valuable. He tells us to make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all the flour, because there's only 1/3 of a cup in there. If you lose the flour on the sides, you'll change the ratio of the recipe. My goodness, that's profound.

I feel as if he's just told us something far more important than a trick for a tart filling. "Don't forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl," feels like a life lesson. Don't forget the little things, don't neglect the details that make stuff turn out better. His wisdom goes far beyond his cooking skills.

Mike finishes browning the butter. He pours it into a glass to cool and then he slowly drizzles it into the egg mixture with the mixer going.

He takes out puff pastry that he's bought from a bakery. He lines a removable bottom tart pan and trims off the edges. Bake the trimmings with sugar and cinnamon for the kids, he tells us. Michael then explains that the steam from the butter creates an area of air between each layer of dough as it bakes. So he pricks the bottom of the pastry, so the steam will be released and the crust won't puff up too much. He weights it with beans and bakes it blind.

Next we see Michael picking lemons off a tree. (The only things I can pick off my trees are gypsy moths and they don't make a very good filling.) He zests the lemons to add to the egg mixture. He tops the shell with berries and spreads over the "buttah battah". He bakes it at 400 deg F for 20 minutes. Wow, I want him, I mean that.

He starts his "Angry Sauce". What an evocative name for a highly spiced sauce! Into 1/2 cup olive oil, he places 12 cloves of thinly sliced garlic. "This is garlic as an ingredient." Whoa, Nellie, that'll be strong. He cooks them until they are light brown.

He slices a Serrano chili. "If you'd rather have mayonnaise maybe just upset, instead of angry, you can back off the chili a little bit." No, Michael, I want to go all the way. He readies basil leaves and zests an orange, not with the microplaner, but with a zester to make LONG strands. (He's thought of everything.) He adds the chilies to the pan, "You get the flavor of the chilies stretched out throughout the oil." He adds the basil and stands back, while the moisture from the leaves makes the oil sizzle. He cooks it until crispy and seasons with salt and pepper.

Michael remarks that Po'Boys are southern sandwiches usually made with fish. His are from the south too...the south of Italy...spiced up with his Arrabbiata Sauce. The orange zest goes into the garlic mixture with fresh lemon juice. After it's cooled a bit, he adds the entire "angry mixture" to 2 cups of mayonnaise.

As he retrieves the shrimp, he tells us to keep our seafood "as cold as possible, as long as possible to keep it as fresh as possible." He explains what 16/20 prawns means. (You get 16 to 20 prawns per pound BEFORE they're peeled.)

He places Wondra flour on a baking sheet, which he describes as "gravy flour". It doesn't lump up or get gummy. He adds salt and pepper and a lot of chili powder - "just something to move the flavor up a little bit."

He throws the shrimp on top and, with tongs, coats them well with the flour. He shallow fries the shrimp in one layer in hot oil, as he tells us that the name "Po'Boys" came from the '20's in New Orleans, when the street car workers were on strike. Various restaurateurs would feed them sandwiches from their back doors, saying, "Here are those "Po'Boys again." After the shrimp are browned (beautifully), he goes tossy toss with them in his large sauté pan (effortlessly).

He moves on to his gnocchi salad, which is basically a pasta salad made more interesting with the addition of gnocchi. He lays out sliced tomatoes, which I thought were going to get roasted, but it's just a way of seasoning them more efficiently. He bangs lemons together to coax more juice from them and uses 5 tablespoons for the dressing. He adds salt to the lemon juice "so it can melt " inside the dressing and whisks in 2/3 cup olive oil. (Of course, I would use my blender here.)

He salts and peppers the tomatoes AND lettuce. Have you ever seen anyone salting lettuce? What a pro. He seasons each layer of ingredient. He spoons the dressing over the tomato and the arugula (I guess he mistakenly identified it the first time. The recipe calls for "salad greens".)

Michael tells us to go the Food Network website (that's a first, isn't it?) to get his gnocchi recipe. Does he know how painful it is to search for anything on their website? Luckily, they're included the entire gnocchi recipe within the recipe for the gnocchi salad, so you don't have to stress.

MC suggests making a full batch of gnocchi and then freezing half. He cooks them for 90 seconds after they come up to the boil. He will be serving them at room temperature. "I do NOT like cold pasta at all, but I do not mind room temperature pasta." Me too, well, not really, but that's what I'll tell him, if he asks. He seasons the gnocchi "I season every component along the way. That's one of those habits from my restaurant life." See, I told you. "That way, every bite you take is seasoned...just perfect."

The dressing goes on the gnocchi. "As (they) cook, they're going to absorb the dressing." He arranges the platter gorgeously. The toms go on the bottom, greens on top and the gnocchi on top of that with a few shaving of ricotta salata. There is nary a frozen ice cube flower in sight.

To assemble the Po'Boys, he likes to hollow out the roll a bit, so the shrimp don't fall out all over the place. Good tip. He spreads the roll with the angry mayonnaise.

Do you think we could let our families and friends know the kind of mood we're in by the mayo we make? Angry Mayo for when there's something wrong, maybe a Curry Mayo when we're in a more mellow mood, an herby one for when we're feeling energized and invigorated.

The tomatoes go over the mayo and then the chiffonade of lettuce, a lot, salt and pepper, then the fried shrimp. "You're gonna be feelin' rich, not poor" after this sandwich.

The movie goers are watching a Mars movie, while eating the gnocchi and Po'Boys. Michael serves slices of the tart with a topping of marscapone mixed with a touch of vanilla as the episode ends.

My review? 3 thumbs up. Marvelous recipes, great leading man, and so much to learn from him.


Anonymous said...

I'm gonna create a "B*tchy and Bloated Mayo." :oD

I found a couple of Michael's books at my local library. I look forward to trying them out.

Sue said...


How about "Leave Me Alone Mayo" with 20 cloves of raw garlic?

Or "I Want You Right Now Mayo" with raw oysters?

Sue said...

PS I love trying out cookbooks from the library before I decide to buy them. The only bad thing is that you can't make notes in them. I probably have at least book's worth of Michael's recipes from the FN website. I'm always afraid they're going to disappear, so I print them out immediately.

How's about "I'm Depressed Mayonnaise" with over the hill herbs and sprouted garlic...?