Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ingrid Hoffman - She Actually Made Two Good Points

But May I Be Frank? The Rest Was Crap

Simply Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffman

Sunday Dinner
Coffee and Cola Pork Loin
String Beans in Vinaigrette
Spicy, Smoky Cauliflower Mash
Cheesecake Flan

To get the recipes:

Click here

Oh my! Dare I admit it? I kind of missed Ingrid while they were showing repeats...not enough to watch a show that I had already suffered through, but my snark meter was getting rusty. Not to worry. Today's show had enough to complain about to take me through an entire season of reruns.

She's making dinner for her family. At least her adorable mother is there, but alas, she remains frozen (how dumb is that?) while Ingrid cooks the meal by herself.

Ingrid starts with a pork loin. She makes a brine to soak it in. She mixes one cup of warm water with 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons salt. She eyeballs it. That's probably not a good idea. She stirs it to dissolve the salt and sugar, then adds COLD water to bring down the temperature of the brine. She doesn't want the pork loin to begin cooking in an overly hot brine. Wow, she almost sounds as if she's making sense. She places the pork loin in a big plastic bag and pours in the brine. The whole thing goes in a glass dish and into the fridge. She makes a big point of washing her hands.

Next Ingrid is making a combination of 2 different desserts in one - a flan and a cheesecake. She starts the caramel with 1/4 cup of water and 2 cups of sugar. She doesn't measure. What is it with people who can't cook who refuse to measure. How hard is it to pick up a measuring cup and just use it?

Ingrid is using one and half packages of cream cheese. Do we really need to see her opening the packets? I think next time maybe we could skip that step. She adds 3 eggs, all at once and beats them in. Then she beats in 14 oz of condensed milk, 1 can of evaporated milk, plus 1 1/2 cups of room temperature whole milk with 1 tsp vanilla.

Ok, I see where this is going. She taking the best qualities of the flan and the cheesecake and flinging them out the window and making an institutional version of both: incorporating the overly sweet, gooey taste of condensed milk with evaporated milk, which "has a slightly caramelized, 'canned' flavor that is not appreciated by all who taste it". That's putting it lightly...

The caramel does look good. She spoons it into the bottom of her ramekins, without issuing adequate warnings, however. She spoons in her industrial filling and places the ramekins in a baking dish that she's lined with a dishtowel. She pours hot water over, covers it with foil and bakes it at 325 for 30 minutes.

I have to say that Ingrid actually sounds like she knows what she's talking about. She tells us that the dishtowel prevents the ramekins from moving around in the dish AND insulates them from the heat of the oven. Wow, that's twice in one episode that she's said stuff that makes sense.

For the next dish, Ingrid steams cauliflower for 15 to 20 minutes until completely soft. She takes the pork out of the brine. She grinds together 1/4 cup of coffee beans with 3 star anise (hate 'em!), brown sugar, cinnamon and peppercorns.

She turns on a skillet, adds 1 tablespoon SALTED butter (she WOULD) with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. She gets it really hot. She pats the pork loin dry and rubs the spices on really well. It goes into the hot pan and Ingrid washes her hands. I do think that's great, but why was there such a complete lack of hygiene on her first couple of shows? She browns it for 3 minutes on each side. She takes out the ramekins and puts the pork loin in the 350 degree oven for one hour.

Ingrid freezes bacon for one hour before chopping it. (She freezes the whole package to use half a pound?) She washes her hands. She puts the bacon in a cold skillet, telling us it will make it cook more evenly.

She drains the cauliflower and puts it in a blender. Huh? She adds 1 cup of packaged pre-shredded mozzarella (to add to the rubbery mouth feel of the dish, I guess) with 1/2 cup of whole milk, 3 tablespoons of sour cream and salt and pepper.

Okay, let's take a minute here to discuss the merits of a blender compared to a food processor. It's not really that complicated and you would think that someone with a "cooking" show on the Food Network would know this already.

Mixtures that are basically liquid - soups, drinks - do better in a blender. They get much smoother than in a food processor. Mixtures that are predominately solids - puréed vegetables, meat loaf-y type of things - should go in a food processor.

The blender needs a certain amount of liquid to do its job. It's pointless to fight with it and to have to keep scraping at the mixture to get the solids to the top and the thinner stuff to the bottom. A food processor can do the job of puréeing effortlessly.

There is one huge food processor caveat: NEVER use a food processor for puréeing potatoes or any vegetable mixture with potatoes in it. They come out like glue. But that's doesn't apply here and WHY Ingrid is using a blender for the cauliflower is completely beyond me. There is absolutely no reason to.

She adds the juice of one lime and a tablespoon of chopped chipotle to give the cauliflower a smoky flavor. The recipe says to use just the adobo sauce and it doesn't say you get that from a can of chipotles. She blends that all together and puts the over-liquidy mass into a serving bowl. If she had been using a food processor, she could have cut down on the amount of liquid and the resulting dish would have had a more attractive texture.

Back to the bacon pan, Ingrid blots the actual pan with a paper towel to remove some of the fat and then she pours in 1 cup of cola with 1 cup of red wine and 1/2 cup of pre-made demi-glace sauce. She says you can substitute brown gravy mix. (The recipe says you can use a packaged demi-glace mix, whatever that is.) Why not just use gravy out of a can?

Honestly, please tell me do people really cook like this? I guess that's a bit of a disingenuous question, knowing, as I do, the popularity of certain FN hosts. She adds 1/2 cup of pineapple "tidbits". Where's the Red Food Coloring 2G?

She boils the green beans for 5 minutes. Frankly, I would STEAM the green beans and BOIL the cauliflower, but what do I know? I thought it was dumb to put a bunch of gloppy solids into a blender and, instead of soda and dried mixes, I usually cook with stock and real ingredients...

Back to the table, why are there framed pictures ON the dinner plates? Maybe they're the first course. Ingrid lets the pork loin rest. She has cooked the cola sauce for 30 minutes. It looks burned and bitter.

She drains the green beans. "It's almost dummy-proof." The operative word here is ALMOST. She thickly slices shallots and mixes them with mustard, sherry vinegar and salt and pepper. She adds the green beans and THEN the olive oil. Why the oil goes in AFTER the beans will remain an enduring mystery. Most likely, she has no idea what she's doing...They go on a platter.

She slices the pork, is that too pink? But, remember, I thought the flawless Ina had undercooked something or other. She "scoops" up the sauce and puts it on top of the pork loin.

For her table setting, she's using "granny chic", uniting different napkins by using the same napkin rings. Great, thanks Ingrid.

She gives them about 2 seconds to eat, before flinging the flan in front of them. They like it. Well, what are they going to say? The cameras are on and Mom is always gracious. Seeing her for 2 seconds was the best part of the show, oh, and getting my nettles up is always good to get the blood flowing again...


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Sometimes when I do manage to catch that show, I hear her say something intelligent.

I find myself wondering, "Is she really as clueless as she acts?" Every once in a while I get the impression she can cook, but dumbs herself down because the FN executives don't like putting knowledgable people out there anymore. Sometimes I wonder if she really does know what she's talking about.

Then again, it could just be she really is that clueless and just happens to have a few pieces of useful info up her sleeve that she picked up here and there.

Sue said...

Hi Shortie,

Probably the latter...

I'm grateful you're taking time from making your lists to read my blog. You can't have too many lists. Mine usually consist of a million post-it notes that get all stuck together and lost. But I've never forgotten the turkey...yet.

Emiline said...

I still haven't seen her show, but I feel like I have after reading your posts. I can't believe she has a show on the Food Network. I'm sure it will get cancelled soon.

Packaged gravy mix turns me off. The cauliflower puree ingredients don't seem to go together, either.

Sue said...


I betcha her show WON'T get cancelled, because the FN isn't all about food, unfortunately.

She'll probably be on for our grandchildren. Well, YOUR grandchildren, my great grandchildren...