Saturday, August 9, 2008

If You Ask Me, “Ask Aida” Is…

pleasant enough, but there’s no amazing cooking or real fireworks going on. Plus the computer thing is just a useless distraction and time waster.

Ask Aida with Aida Mollenkamp

Steak and Potatoes
Seared Strip Steaks with North African-Spiced Butter
Olive Oil Oven Fries
Simple Green Bean Salad with Lemon Dressing

Aida is going to show us how to make the juiciest strip steak in the world with a North African spice butter. She’s also going to do French fries and a simple green bean salad, plus tackle questions.

We’re told Aida is here for one reason - to answer our cooking questions. She’s standing next to a seated guy, Noah Starr, who is controlling the computer. He finds the questions from the hundreds (tens?) that are sent in. Tim and Aimee sent in a video question about how to get their fries nice and crispy.

Ok, wait, I can tell you that. For the very best fries, they must be cooked twice. The first is an initial deep frying in oil that is 325°F. It’s almost like blanching them. Then they are cooked until golden brown in a higher temperature-d 375°F oil.

By the way, they are called French fries, because they are Frenched, NO, not deeply kissed by admirers, but cut into long strips. (My favorite French fry eating is in Amsterdam, where you get them in paper cones topped with a mayonnaise sauce. YUM! )

Back to Tim and Aimee. I’m jealous of this nice young couple that cooks together. That’s so romantic.

Where did I go wrong?
(Oh, I know. I’m bossy and impossible in the kitchen and H can't take it…not that he has any interest in cooking or any native ability at it.)

In the olden days, i.e. in the first little bit of our marriage, I would cook and H would clean up. Then kids came, long work days (his) and now I have complete and utter control of the kitchen. Most of the time that suits me fine, but then I see Tim and Aimee and I think THEY have the right idea. (Of course, it won’t last.)

Their BIG problem is that they don’t know how to make French fries. Don’t scoff. That is a rather large dilemma that I understand could lead to sleepless nights.

(Tim IS kind of annoying. He has a mush mouth – what some of you said about Aaron. I replayed him 3 times and then had to use the close captioning to discover that all he said was, Aida, do you have a recipe for French fries?) Tim, let Aimee do the talking. You do the potato peeling.

Aida says she HATES soggy fries, so she’s going to show us a BAKED French fry recipe “that is really easy to prepare”.

Wait a cotton-pickin’ second! OVEN BAKED French fries isn’t a big trick. Just coat them with oil and seasonings, put them in a single layer and shove them in a hot oven.

The delicacy of real French fries comes from the careful adjustment of heat in the deep fryer and knowing when to remove them from their first cooking to await their final bubbling bath of glorious deeply tanning oil.

The show’s barely begun and I have to admit I’ve lost interest. Oven fries just aren’t sexy enough for me and if Aimee and Tim had any sense they'd turn off their web cam NOW.

Aida peels two russet potatoes and Noah pipes in that they’ve received an email about potatoes. Oh goodie!

Ok, this is funny. The email is from Alix someone or other and Noah pronounces her name, Ah-LEEKS. OMG. I’m surprised he didn’t say paw-teat-toe. Anyway, Ah-LEEKS wants to know the difference between baking and wax potatoes.

Are you telling me that a 20 something year old is going to go to the trouble of emailing a food show, rather than spending 10 seconds on Google?!! BTW, the usual classification of potatoes is baking and boiling. The boiling ones are the waxy ones.

Aida’s answer is kind of confusing. Listen, Alix, basically you can bake, fry or mash the russets and do anything else with all the other varieties.

Aida has her own version of RR’s garbage bowl, but she’s not so obnoxious about it and I don’t think she sells it. It’s a shiny metal container into which she puts the potato peelings for her compost pile.

She cuts the potatoes into 1/2 inch long “planks”. She cuts those in half lengthwise and then crosswise into ½ inch wide pieces. Aida is certainly making no attempt to make them look like French fries. They look like chunky rustically cut pieces of potato. They go into water to prevent them from browning.

Aida prepares 8 cloves of garlic. Noah pipes in with a garlic question. It’s from Hilary. Are you sure it’s not, High-Lur-Eye, Noah?

“Is there a trick to remove the garlic smell from my hands and the cutting board?” YES! Let’s see what Aida says, before I tell you. Aida is soooooooo impressed with this question that she instructs Noah to get Hilary on the phone. (Isn’t this the concept Adam presented to Gordon Elliot for his FN pilot? He would talk with people on the computer while he was cooking.) Aida tells Hilary she almost lost her high school boyfriend over the garlic smell thing, so she “totally” relates to her.

Okay, clearly this show is not for folks in my demographic. But that doesn’t stop me from loving on The Hills, or getting great party ideas from My Sweet Sixteen.

Aida says she and the sensitive-smell boyfriend had to go to couple’s therapy. This is stupid. But, bingo, she gives the right answer. Wipe your hands on anything stainless steel and it magically takes the garlic smell away.

I usually use a stainless steel tablespoon, but that doesn’t answer the part about garlic on the cutting board. Oh, she gives a good answer about that too. Kosher salt and lemon. I solve that problem by using plastic cutting boards that go into the dishwasher. I think it’s kind of gross to use anything else. Hilary is delighted with the answer.

Aida puts her 8 garlic cloves in a pan and adds 2 tablespoons of olive oil. We’re almost ten minutes in, by the way and she's barely cooked anything. She warms the oil over medium heat. She’ll remove it the minute she begins to smell it.

Aida takes the potatoes out of the water and puts them on baking sheets lined with paper towels to dry them. She pats them completely dry on all sides and spreads them out on a baking sheet. She pours over the garlic oil and says something about wafting smells. I don’t like the way she says wafting. She pronounced is like RAFTING. I prefer a softer “a”, like waahhhhhfting.

She adds Kosher salt and tosses the potatoes until well coated.

Back from a break. What did she need a break for? She hasn’t done anything yet. This is funny, the closed captioning doesn’t match what she’s saying. It seems like it’s minutes ahead. It says something about the great salted and unsalted debate and she’s not saying anything about that.

She is going to load up the butter with all kinds of flavors. Noah reports another question. Oh, THAT’S where that close captioned remark comes from. Jay-niss (Janice, to the normal person) wants to know if it’s okay to use SALTED butter if the recipe doesn’t specify which one to use. I agree with Aida’s answer. It most certainly isn't. You don’t add salted butter to a recipe, because you want to be able to control the amount of salt.

She adds cumin to some butter. (Sorry for being painful, okay, I’m not really sorry, but I hate that she says coo-min. I say cue-min). Aida says you’re probably used to seeing this in Mexican cooking. Uh, how about INDIAN cooking too??? Okay, she just mentioned Indian cooking.

Next Aida is adding smoked paprika to her seasoned butter. She forms it into a roll in plastic wrap and refrigerates it for 30 minutes. She says you could store it in there for a few months. Huh!!? In the FREEZER for a few months, but not the fridge.

She takes strip steaks out to bring them to room temperature.

She tops her green beans, as opposed to topping AND tailing them. She blanches them in VERY salty water for 4 minutes. It should taste like sea water. Then she puts them in a ice water bath.

Aida coats the steaks in olive oil and salt and pepper, after patting them dry with a paper towel. She flips them over and repeats the seasoning on the other side. Noah interjects with an apropos video from Amy. She doesn’t know anything about cooking steak and is on a limited budget. Well, Amy, first get rid of your weird eye makeup and the steak situation won’t seem so grave.

She’s worried she’ll only be able to serve a smidgen of beef to each guest at a dinner party. Here’s an idea, Hon, don’t serve beef.

That’s not Aida’s solution. Get flank steak she says. It IS a little tough, but she says to marinate it for as little as a half an hour in olive oil and garlic. Aida, that’s okay for flavor, but you need some acid in there to soften up the tough fibers and actually tenderize the meat – some balsamic or red wine vinegar is always a good idea.

Aida tells her to cook the steak on one side and before she turns it to put it in the same oven with the fries and take them out at the same time. (I would have said to put it in the oven AFTER turning.) Not a bad idea. She drains the green beans and starts to cook her own steaks. She cooks the first sides for 5 minutes.

Aida starts the dressing for the salad. She chops a shallot, saying she likes it because it’s less “stringent” than an onion. I kinda think she doesn’t mean that it’s severe, stern or strict. I think she means it’s less “Astringent”, as in it has a LESS sharp taste. She adds chopped parsley for its clean bright flavor.

Noah has another question about bowls. Wow, I can’t wait. “Does it make a difference whether you use non-reactive bowls when making a acidic based foods?” Yes, it does. DUH. Aida doesn’t roll her eyes and she says not to use a copper or aluminum bowl. Who would?

She chops cured black olives and brings out 2 anchovies…(can she spare them?) and chops them, Noah looks worried about the anchovies. Aida turns the steak.

Aida plates the steaks – one for her, one for Noah. She puts a pat of the seasoned butter on each steak while it rests. Noah leaves his computer station to get the fries out of the oven, while Aida finishes the green beans. She adds a tablespoon of olive oil to a serving dish with some lemon zest and juice and then mixes in the green beans. I guess that's where the olives and anchovies went.

Noah asks her the stumper question of the day. He shows her this and says what is it?

She guesses and she’s right. It’s a stainless steel garlic mincer. I would have said it was an instrument for keeping Noah in line. Noah demonstrates how to crush a clove of garlic with it and then roll the mincer across to pulverize the garlic pieces.

Noah tastes the steak. He likes it. We never see how the French fries came out. Well, we SAW them, but we never witnessed them being tasted. And we just have to guess what Tim and Aimee are up to in the kitchen with their newfound OVEN fry recipe..

So, did I like Aida? Frankly, I didn’t even notice her that much. I was too busy going off on various tangents. She really didn’t cook a lot and it took her too long to get to the little she did. This may be another instance where the host is better than the show. Why not just let her cook and let Noah ride around with Adam on his food foraging adventures? They do have wireless computers after all...


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

This show would annoy me to no end. If I asked how to FRY potatoes, I'd be really pissed if someone showed me how to BAKE them. Tyler Florence did a double-frying french fry recipe on his 911show a while back. Sounds like this couple would have been better off just doing a search on the FN website.

Emiline said...

I was wondering if you were going to review this show. In the commercials, she's so pretty it makes me jealous.

I TOTALLY agree with Rachel - I would be so mad if she gave me an oven baked fry recipe. I would be like, wait a cotton-pickin’ second, Aida!
I want the fries that you were talking about. Especially with the creamy mayonnaise sauce.

I didn't know that tip about the garlic. I've always liked the smell of garlic. I would wear perfume if I could.

Just kidding.

I think I say coomin and cuemin. Don't know which one is right. Kind of like culinary.

Sue said...

Hi Rach,
I wish I'd seen that Tyler show. Yeah, those folks could have gone anywhere - Epicurious, Joy of Cooking...McDonald's to get a better recipe.

Sue said...

Aida is pretty, but she has nothing on you!

A trip to Amsterdam is worth it just for the fries...and beer...and rijsttafel...and Van Gogh.

I think you WOULD wear garlic.

I have to think how I say it - CUE-linary...yup, that's how I say it. Although Cull-inary bothers me less than Coo-min.

Marc said...

For me she's always insincere and borderline bitchy. Whenever she get's a question, it's like whatever..I'll just say anything...stop bothering me and let me get back to my script. When has she actually answered a question in detail?

Being pretty probably got you a show, but your attitude will not win you an audience!