Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sunny Gets Clever With Peppers, Plus A Rant About Meat Handling

Cooking for Real with Sunny Anderson
Real Comfort, Real Good
Spicy Macaroni and Cheese
Pan Fried Meatloaf in Tricolor Peppers
Shake Shots
I liked Sunny’s first show, which I saw some time ago, but not her timeslot. Sunday mornings are not my first choice for food tv. But I saved a bunch of Sunny’s shows and I like the menu on this one – one dish in particular I thought was very clever.

Sunny’s doing comfort food. She starts with her mother’s spicy mac and cheese. She adds 2 cups of elbow pasta to boiling salted water.

She goes on the meatloaf. Maybe since they’ve renewed her show, she could have a separate segment for each recipe. Sunny shows us an interesting way to present meat loaf AND use up extra peppers as well. She cuts them into thick rings and stuffs each one with the meat loaf mixture to make individual servings.

That’s smart and makes an attractive dish, as well. She gets about 3 one inch rings from each pepper. It doesn’t matter if they vary in size, the servings can too. She places the rings on a baking sheet. I wouldn’t do green, but yellow and red are pretty.

For the meat loaf mixture, Sunny adds white(!) bread cubes. I haven’t used white bread since…well, I do add it to my Thanksgiving stuffing sometimes, but that’s it for the year. Sunny dices the bread and adds it to a big bowl. She rough chops garlic, my least favorite way to use it, but she wants a strong garlic flavor.

She mixes turkey and beef into the bowl with lots of salt and a cup of canned tomatoes. Okay, hold on just a sec. I like you Sunny, I really do, but I have to mention one thing. This is what drove me nuts about Ingrid, although Sunny's transgression is not nearly as serious. I’m talking about meat handling. I know you’re making this for television, but SOMEONE is eating it, I suppose.

After every encounter with meat, particularly RAW meat or poultry, I ALWAYS wash my hands. Sunny added the ground beef to the bowl while resting the sealed ground turkey package on the wooden cutting board, then stuck her hands in the salt dish and used the pepper mill. That means if she uses that same pepper mill for a salad, she risks getting raw meat gunge on ingredients that aren’t going to be cooked.

She never actually handled the meat directly - not yet anyway - but that doesn’t stop me from my paranoia. She opened the package and absolutely could have come into contact with it. I would wash my hands then too. (I also have a small spoon in my salt, so I don’t pollute the entire batch, while I’m cooking. I can always throw the spoon into the sink.)

I never let any part of a meat or poultry package touch a cutting board, counter or anything, without cleaning it immediately after or putting it in the dishwasher. I never store meat directly on a refrigerator shelf. It goes in a plastic bag or a plate or dish.

I don’t think it’s that complicated. Raw meat or poultry cannot touch anything else, except when it’s inside a pot or pan and will be cooked. If I use tongs or a spoon to turn raw chicken or meat, I wash them before using them again in the cooked dish.

Anything coming into contact with raw meat or poultry has to be washed: hands, cutting boards, knives, counters…before you can proceed. That’s why I try to have my vegetables prepped first and then I deal with meat or chicken.

There are no shortcuts here. Sunny wasn’t awful, but it takes only one small lapse to have an unfortunate incident. But this is how I think about it: You can’t be sort of ok in this department. It’s an A+ or an F. There is no in between.

Back to this very cool recipe…Sunny adds the canned tomatoes, Worcestershire, hot sauce and an egg. (Oh, she cracks the egg on the board…I think you can guess how I feel about that.)

She chopped onions and added them during the commercial with some sage. Sunny mixes the whole thing up with her hands. Then she makes a tiny patty and fries it up to taste the seasonings. Good idea. AND she washes her hands at the appropriate time.

Back to the pasta. She takes it out a bit early because it’ll go in the oven.

Her little test mini-meat patty is ready. She tastes it. She’s “not mad at that at all.” That’s her expression for liking something. Kind of cute. She stuffs the meat mixture into the pepper rings really tightly. Don’t worry about overstuffing, because the meatloaf shrinks away from the sides. (More hand washing.)

This is a totally new twist on meatloaf. I like it. Sunny sears the meat loaf patties on both sides in some oil. She wants color on them before they go into the oven.

Sunny moves on to the mac and cheese. She adds flour, dried mustard, cayenne and nutmeg (not fresh) to bowl. She stirs in sour cream, salt and pepper. She stirs in an egg, milk, half and half and cream. This is an unusual way to proceed - not cooking the flour in a roux.

She adds cheese cubes to the cooked macaroni and adds that to a baking dish. She pours over her sauce, adds some more cheese, grated this time, and puts it in a 350° oven for 45 minutes. Hmmm, will that sauce really get thick without cooking it first?

Sunny flips the peppers. They look good. She pours the rest of her can of tomatoes around the pan and it goes into the same oven as the mac and cheese.

She prepares croutons for the top of the mac and cheese. She cubes 3 slices of bread and adds them to a pan of butter to sauté them. They’ll top the mac 10 minutes before it comes out of the oven.

For a garnish for the pepper dish, Sunny likes fried sage leaves. She heats oil to 350° degrees. That looks like a lot of oil. She adds washed and dried sage leaves and fries them until they’re crispy – 10 or 20 seconds later.

The mac and cheese is ready. Sunny serves herself a big scoop and a meatloaf pepper ring. Looks good and tastes good.

Her last offering is a little vodka in the blender with ice cream, which is softer than it needed to be, and a little cinnamon and nutmeg (not freshly ground) plus a squirt of chocolate syrup. Sunny blends it together and serves it in shots. I love that. I don’t think it even needs the chocolate. She tells us we can have it at the beginning or the end of the meal. I vote for both.

Some nice ideas here, even if there was a little raw meat issue. I normally hate stuffed peppers, but just a ring of them around the meat loaf is a great idea.


judi.0044 said...

My husband loves green peppers any way I find to serve them. I made the recipe with some minor adjustments cooking them on top of the stove during a hot spell rather than the oven. They were a big hit. This recipe will be a keeper. Mac and cheese however he will not eat.

marty said...

The pepper rings sound like a great idea; I'll have to try it! I agree that the meat handling (or even the cursory rinse of the hands some tv cooks perform) makes me cringe a little. But what really gets me crazy is the HAIR HANGING DOWN all over the food prep area!!!! Don't these women have any hair scrunchies to keep their luxurious manes from shedding into the food? Arrgh! OK. I'm done. Thanks for letting me vent.

Emiline said...

I completely agree with your meat handling rant.
I've been sick today, and I never feel like this. So I'm convinved it's food poisoning. I don't know what from though.
I think I recall Ina having some meat handling issues as well ? Maybe when you're on camera you just forget some of those things.

I would like a shot of ice cream, please.

Adam said...

I agree with both the meat handling and the long hair in the food. I've never had long hair, so I have no idea what it's like, but I imagine it would be a pain in the butt while cooking. On that new Food TV show with some young blonde girl (chic/easy or something) she always has her hair in her food.

I'd like my apple pie hair free thanks.

And I second the ice cream shots. Sounds like a nice post dessert to help digestion.

Nice site here Sue. I'll bookmark it.

Adam said...

Oh and congrats on the win, I never would of got that starch question. The only starch I like is from potatoes :)

Dhanggit said...

i love red and green peppers specially stuffed like this! i agree with you on meat handlings too. people dont realize that its this small gest and precautions that could save our lives from getting diseases :-)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

You go girl on that meat handling rant! The only cook on FN who consistently, and thoroughly washes her hands is Giada. Everyone touches everything these days.

When I saw stuffed peppers in that photo, I was thinking at first you would be displeased. The rings were a clever idea.

Marty-I've been ranting about FN and women and their hair quite a bit lately. The other night I had a dream where I got up in Mary Nolan's face, grabbed her lovely blonde locks and literally yanked them back. She went on camera with that sloppy ponytail before I woke up.

AndiePandie said...

I agree that the idea is cute but essentially it's the same as a stuffed pepper. Same concept and same ingredients really.

The meat handling is an issue of mine as well. Also, agree with Adam, pull your hair back and out of your face and the food. Other issues? Take your jewelry off. Nothing is more gross than seeing a chef mix up raw meat with their big ole rings on. Ew. Also? Get rid of the crazy long sleeved outfits. I'm looking at you Sandra. Those sleeves get in the food.

Sue said...

Hey Judi,
Welcome! That’s great that you loved that recipe. I love green pepper in pasta salads or crab cakes, but not stuffed. And I also love finding recipes that family members actually like and ask for again. That happens way too infrequently.

BTW, how can your guy not like mac and cheese?

Join the club. Vent anytime. Look for my hair comment further down.

INA?!! Meat handling issues? I think not. And if it APPEARED like that, it was just from bad editing. The Contessa knows how to run a tight…and clean ship. I’ll join you in the shots. She(Ina) would too.

Hey Adam,
Thanks for dropping by. I’m really happy to see that I have such hygienic readers. That will hold you in good stead no matter where your cooking takes you.

I have no idea how I knew that starch should be at 10 o’clock. That question was so poorly worded. (Not from Em, from wherever she got it. -

Hi Dhanggit,
YES!!! Meat handling is way too important to be treated casually.

Ah, Shortie,
You know me too well. I do hate stuffed peppers. But I like THIS, because the ratio of pepper to filling is way down. Plus it looks so pretty, I’d be willing to put up with a steamy pepper ring. Also the searing before putting in the oven might bring a nice char to at least the edges.

And ranting is like second nature to me.

About the hair thing…of course, each of you is right about that. But I have to admit that if I were appearing on television, I’d be loathe to pull back or hide my lovely locks.

I've had to blanket my hands in plastic and wear a baseball cap (which I ditched at every opportunity) in different cooking-for-the-public situations. I do understand a bit why these cooking show hosts want their hair NOT under a hair net.

Now SELLING food for consumption is a different matter, but demonstrating it with casual tasting…I just don’t have a conniption about a stray hair or two. I KNOW that’s completely atypical, considering my hygiene harangues, but there you have it. Anyway, isn't it extra protein?

Hi AndiePandie,
Yeah, but the good thing about this recipe is that it’s just a thin sliver of pepper, compared to a big bulbous thing that no one (except Judi’s husband) wants to eat all of.

The jewelry thing is important too, you’re right. Just think about walking around all day with RAW ground meat stuck in the claws of your diamond ring. Probably not the greatest idea.

mmoss7 said...

Great post and I agree with the handling of the meat.