Monday, May 4, 2009

Aida Has Her Mom Over, Noah Is Inappropriate Plus A Master Skewerer

Ask Aida with Aida Mollenkamp

Mollenkamp Moms
Ginger-Rum Bundt Cake
Lemon Chicken with Artichoke Hearts

While watching this episode, I found myself thinking and, thus, writing things that I don’t really approve of. I couldn’t leave them out (well, I COULD, but I chose not to), so I put the really mean stuff in small letters. Feel free to skip those parts...Aida’s mother.

The only episodes of Ingrid’s that I liked were the ones that featured her mom, so I figured maybe Aida’s mom would bring that same thing to her show.

It’s hard not to notice that there’s a bit of a difference between Aida’s mom and just about anyone else’s - HER MOM IS HOT. And Aida looks like she glammed up a bit to share the spotlight.

Aida starts with a family recipe for sautéed chicken. She chops a yellow onion while What’s-His-Name interrupts with a question about tears while chopping onions. She goes through the standard answers:
Refrigerate onions.
Turn on fan or open window.
Turn on the gas flame.
Finally, she gives the same answer I would - younger onions produce fewer tears. (And I DO think refrigerating them makes a difference.)

Aida adds oil to a heavy-bottomed skillet and then her onions. Her mother uses only basil so that’s what she’s doing today. She slices garlic (not the way I would, but few do).

She begins to cut her chicken breasts. Noah (oh yeah, that’s his name) pipes in with a question about whether you should always pound the chicken breasts. (Okay, I know there are no dumb questions, but...Aida says sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. It depends on the recipe. Duh!)

She adds the chicken to the pot to sauté. I would do the order differently. I would sauté the chicken first and get it nice and brown and then I would remove it from the pan, lower the heat and soften the onions. This recipe doesn’t have that much going for it, so you need to squeeze every bit of flavor out of it. Wait, sorry, I meant to write that as, This recipe doesn’t have that much going for it, so you need to squeeze every bit of flavor out of it.” Joseph from Brookline, in the comments section of the recipe, is very astute.

Aida mixes together 1/3 cup water and 2/3 cup white wine. She grates a lemon and squeezes a bit of juice. Noah has another brilliant question - what’s the difference between lemon zest and lemon peel? One is peel and one is zest! I’m waiting for the question “Where is my head?” And Noah certainly won’t know the most obvious answer. Aida is much nicer and says the zest is the finely grated part of the lemon and the peel is usually in bigger pieces and removed.

Apparently, this show is for folks who usually order takeout, because Aida has mentioned quite a few times already that her recipes will take just a bit longer than ordering out. In fact, she says they will take only 5 extra minutes.

I’m not sure I buy that and, perhaps, she hasn’t factored in the cleaning-up time. Anyway, the reason to cook at home isn’t because it’s as fast as ordering out. I don’t think anyone could argue that. It’s because it can be cheaper, healthier, more satisfying and more relaxing. But let’s face it, at times it can also be more expensive, fattening, irritating and tiring. I wonder if after this show, we’d rather be on the phone to the local Chinese or Mexican establishment or in the kitchen.

Oh good, Mom is in the kitchen! I just love moms. They introduce us to her by a big caption that reads Marianne Lindstrom. Then Noah, looking all of 14 years old, greets her with, “I’m so glad you’re here, Marianne.”

NOAH, that isn’t how you greet your co-worker’s mom! It was a slightly icky moment, kind of like when Zac Efron has his hands all over his friend’s mother (who is actually his wife). (But Zac is soooooooooooooooooo hot, that he can get away with it.) *

Marianne is…sorry, I just can’t do it, MOM is stirring the chicken pieces and they’re nice and browned. (Aida seems nervous that she’s there. Hmmm, I wonder if it’s the never-good-enough syndrome or maybe it’s just that her mom is nervous and she’s picking up on it or maybe it’s Noah is annoying Aida, who really should be asked to leave after his etiquette faux-pas.)

We learn that this is Aida’s sister, Ivy’s recipe. She's probably gorgeous too. Aida apologizes for using canned artichokes. The frozen ones add too much water and Mom turns up her nose at using jarred artichokes in oil, “It imparts another flavor, which I don’t like.” Um, I am not going to diss someone else’s mother…well, don’t read the small print, but let me just say she doesn’t have the down-to-earth friendliness that Aida has. In fact, she seems a bit snooty. AND WHO DOESN’T LIKE OIL?

Marianne (I’m deep-sixing the MOM thing) adds the artichokes. She’s stirring in a kind of anal way. Noah asks if Aida was always a good cook and her mother says NO. WHAT?!!

That’s like if my mother were asked if I was a pretty child. Despite braces and thick cat-eye glasses, of course, she would have said I was pretty.

And if she were asked if I were a good cook, she wouldn’t have hesitated in saying YES and she would NEVER have mentioned the peach soufflé 4 days in a row that tasted like rotten baby food. Marianne, there’s something called UNCONDITIONAL love. PLUS you don’t rat out your kid on television.

They show family pictures. We do learn that Aida danced for ten years, which Marianne seems very proud of. Perhaps that’s a higher status skill than cooking.

Aida adds lemon zest and basil and Marianne stirs. They plate it up. Marianne really likes it. She’s really lady-like.

Aida starts a cake, with Mom sitting to the side. Aida toasts one cup of pecans at 350°F. Marianne gets up and comes over to show Aida how important it is to grease the pan well. That’s okay, bossy, controlling mothers I can certainly identify with – not because I had one, but because I AM one, especially in the kitchen.

But then Aida says she (Aida) ruined Christmas one year, when her bundt cake didn’t come out of the pan and HER MOTHER DOESN’T CONTRADICT HER. Even I want to say, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad, honey. Wow, I gotta stop taking this so personally.

Aida brushes melted butter over every nook and cranny with Marianne looking over her shoulder. She sprinkles flour over the pan and turns it to coat every part. She taps out the flour.

Marianne is back behind the dem bench. She beats sugar into butter, while Aida chops nuts. Noah interrupts with a question about why add sugar to the wet ingredients instead of the dry. She gives an accurate answer – it incorporates better. I have a question! What the heck is Noah doing there? Aida measures out 3 cups of flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder and salt and whisks them together. Marianne adds the eggs one at a time.

Question from Noah: Can you substitute skim milk for whole milk in baking? Aida’s answer is no. My answer is that I’ve done it a million times (probably more with 1% than skim) and as long as you’re not feeding the Queen of England, it’s basically fine most of the time.

She grates a tablespoon of ginger. Great (not!), there’s Noah again. I refuse to repeat his question about choosing fresh ginger. (Don’t buy it if it’s moldy. Okay?!!) Aida alternates adding the dry ingredients with milk and vanilla. She spoons it into the prepared pan.

The cake gets baked at 50 for 55 minutes in a 350°F until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs.

The bundt cake is out. It looks great. Marianne shows us how to poke holes in the cake with a long skewer. OH, I have some great metal skewers. The holes will allow the syrup to soak into the cake better. Marianne and I may just be on the same wavelength, after all. She gives such a picayune, precise tip that she’s probably best friends with Martha.

This is the tip: She says to make the holes for the syrup where the nuts are, because the nuts will camouflage the holes. That’s just nuts!!! And pretty brilliant. If that isn’t a type A tip, I don’t know what it. Maybe Marianne and I have more in common than I thought. (I bet our daughters could commiserate about how painful we are.)

Marianne also makes sure that the holes go all the way down so that more of the cake is reached with the syrup. Is this getting ridiculous or should I tell you that she also twists the skewers around as she’s poking to make the holes a big wider? She’s leaving no aspect of skewering up in the air.

Aida makes the syrup with ¼ cup water, 1 cup dark rum and ½ cup sugar. She brings it to the boil and adds a tablespoon of grated ginger and simmers it. She strains it and Marianne approves.

Aida grabs a regular spoon and says to spoon the syrup over the cake. Marianne says, I DON’T THINK SO. Oh, this is getting slightly excruciating again
, and Noah hasn’t even piped it lately.

Marianne ONLY uses a grapefruit spoon for the job, because it’s pointed and gets the syrup in there very efficiently. I totally agree, but it’s all about tone. How about enthusing about the grapefruit spoon, rather than tut-tutting the use of anything else? Mom says it takes 20 MINUTES TO A HALF HOUR(!) to do it properly and get every hole filled. Aida luckily has made one 3 days in advance for Marianne to taste. Thankfully, it passes muster and they all like it.

You know what? I’m sure Marianne is a perfectly wonderful mother. Aida seems lovely, so she must have done something right. I guess I just like old world mothers, Ingrid’s mother, Lidia, types like that. Marianne is more Martha Stewart than Carol Brady. I actually preferred Alice. And no matter what type, I think they should be addressed as Mom or Mrs. or Ms. So and So, and not by their first names by upstarts like Noah, who frankly also seems quite nice (and well-raised) just totally unsuited to being on a cooking show.

*Yes, I saw 17 Again, but the exterminator was here and I had to be out of the house for 5 hours. ZE is really dreamy and I swear I’m not kidding.

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