Less Money, More Moroccan
I wasn’t really all that excited to check out Melissa’s new show (which is different from the pilot they were pretending would be her new show), but I thought I’d give her a chance, actually two chances. I had two shows saved. So here goes…(Nothing?)
Why is Mel wearing a tablecloth, and a green one at that? Oh, she’s making a North African dinner, so she’s wearing a kind of Tunisian looking top. She’s taking longer to describe the dishes than they will take to cook.
Melissa’s making meatballs, which will have North African flavors. I like that she’s sweating her onions and not browning them. That’s what I do.
She adds lemon zest to the onions. So early?
Mel tells us that she does this “crazy” thing of buying olives at the olive bar at the grosh-ery store. Wow! I’ve never heard of anything so zany in my life. NOT! She continues giving us really great (not) advice to look in the salad bar for olives. I never thought of buying olives as a scavenger hunt, but if that makes it fun for her, then fine. As a last resort, you can use the olives in your pantry, she says.
Melissa deglazes the pan with ½ cup white wine. “You’re looking for the steam,” she says. That’s great, but there was absolutely nothing to deglaze in the pan…no little bits.
Mel tells us that canned tomatoes go on sale A LOT. Why is she yelling at us? Honestly, I have to turn down the volume. She makes a good point that canned tomatoes are canned at the peak of their freshness. She adds chili flakes and a bit of cinnamon and a little brown sugar. Her onions don’t look soft enough to me, but whatever. She adds the CANNED TOMATOES (shhh!) and then some CHICKEN STOCK. Really, she needs help modulating.
“Building a 10 dollar meal around the meatball isn’t the challenge. The CHALLENGE is to make the MEATBALL special!” OKAY, THANKS, but I can hear you.
For the meatball mixture, Melissa cracks an egg on the wooden chopping block, leaving raw egg dripping off the edge of the board. That’s not good. She whisks the egg with tomato paste with a too big whisk. She adds chopped cilantro (kids will HATE these) and some cumin and cinnamon.
Mel gets her ginger from THE FREEZER. (Her caps, not mine). She tells us she likes to store it there, so it can keep longer. She grates it into the mixture. That’s not a bad technique.
I’m not saying these won’t be good, but I promise you 80% of people won’t like them.
Mel adds whole rolled oats in the place of bread crumbs. Oh wait, she grinds the oatmeal first in a spice grinder. She says you don’t have to do that. Good, I never would. Next she adds ground beef.
BTW, Mel places the raw egg-ed whisk on the cutting board, which, added to the drips of raw egg already there, will COMPLETELY (MY caps) pollute the board. I keep a stack of small plates and mismatched saucers nearby to use as utensil rests. I NEVER put a used spoon or whisk down on the counter or board.
She adds the meat and mixes it in by hand. She says she likes small meatballs. Those don’t look all that small. They go onto a baking sheet. Oh, that’s just to hold them in one layer. She adds them to a sauté pan with oil. The trick to browning them, she says, is not to move them.
Melissa moves on to the couscous. It’s kind of “fancy” she says. Okay, I’m about ready to give up. This is enough of this. Wait a sec, she adds dates to the couscous – not a horrible idea. She adds the meatballs to the tomato sauce and leaves them to simmer.
Next is a glazed carrot recipe that she seems overly excited about. Melissa is using an overly large sauté pan, I think. She would need 5 pounds of carrots to cover the bottom of that sucker. She’s “building” a glaze. Melissa puts in water and chicken stock, then butter and brown sugar with cumin and a big pinch of salt. She’s peeling the carrots on the raw-egg-laced cutting board and cutting them into “coins”, except that they aren’t. Coins are round.
What is this face-the-camera-interview-thing” in the middle of each recipe? It’s really dumb as she talks about cooking carrots. Whoo-hoo! Really exciting!
The carrots are done. She adds a squeeze of lemon juice.
Mel plates the couscous and adds some meatballs and carrots. There’s nothing wrong with it. It looks fine. Did I learn anything? No, although I didn’t hate the idea of adding dates to couscous. She spends too long tasting and describing. It’s just not that complicated.
Bird on a Budget
The blue kitchen is hideous. Melissa grabs honey, never mentioning the different kinds that are available. She isn’t using a honey bear, at least. (You know I have a thing about good honey.) She adds that to a pan with frozen orange juice concentrate and salt and pepper.
She adds vegetable oil to a pan. (That looks exactly like the olive oil she was using in the previous show) You can save money on your grosh-ery bill by buying chicken on sale and on the bone with skin. Really? Stuff on sale is cheaper than stuff not on sale? Interesting.
Mel says freezing chicken doesn’t change the texture at all. No! That is only true with slow and gradual thawing in the fridge. If (like most of us) you take it out later than you should and speed up the thawing in the microwave, it can be nasty. She doesn’t mention how to thaw it at all.
Melissa puts the chicken in a hot sauté pan. Why are there only three pieces, if she’s serving FOUR people?
She moves on to the potatoes, which she peels and then puts in water, so they don’t oxidize. She says to cut off a tiny slice from the bottom, so the potatoes don’t roll around. Not a bad tip. She cuts them into ½ inch cubes.
Oh this is funny. We have another of those useless camera-to-us interviews and she’s wearing the green tablecloth shirt from the last show, not this week’s black one. I feel like one of those people who points out inconsistencies in movies.
Melissa tells us that she and her hubby lived in
She adds her potatoes to a hot skillet with vegetable oil. “Vegetable oil” makes me nervous. What exactly is she using? I use olive oil mostly, safflower oil for baking, peanut oil for frying - if I’m feeling flush - and walnut or hazelnut oil for the most divine salads. Oh, and grapeseed oil for a deep, warm, luscious flavor. What DOES she mean by vegetable oil? Plus her potato pan is really deep. Too deep.
Mel turns over the chicken so the browned skin is up. She brushes the glaze over the chicken and puts it into a 375°F oven for 15 minutes.
She grabs bacon from the freezer. Melissa tells us that 2 slices of bacon crosswise is the same as 2 regular long slices. Even if that is true, she’s screwed up the rest of the bacon to use as slices. The bacon goes into a pan to render.
Melissa goes back to the potatoes. She’s told us 10 times that she has a great trick for getting the inside of the potato “fluffy”, while the outside stays crispy. When have you ever had fried potatoes and considered the inside “fluffy”? Fluffy is for mashed potatoes, not fried.
AND there looks like there is way too much moisture in the pan, because she is using one with high sides, not a classic sauté pan or frying pan. The steam builds up on the sides and goes back into the pan, leaving you with sogginess.
Her great trick for fluffy insides to fried potatoes (which I’m not sure I want to begin with) is to lower the heat and pour in just a bit of water to create a lot of steam. That will cook the inside of the potatoes. She covers the pan. Of course, she had steam anyway because she was using the wrong type of pan, so she didn’t even need the water.
Her carrots in the last show were in the wrong sized pan too. Food Network, get the gal the proper cooking equipment!
Plus, if she’s says fluffy one more time, I’ll wring the neck of the next bunny I see. She adds some butter to the potatoes and spreads them on a pam-ed baking sheet to cook in a 375°F oven for 15 to 25 minutes.
She takes out the chicken when it’s halfway done and brushes it with her glaze. It goes back in the oven.
Melissa encourages us to eat fennel as a vegetable if we never have. Well, what else would we have eaten it as? Mel cuts up fennel and red cabbage. She chops up the fronds of the fennel too. For the dressing, she mixes ¼ cup mayo, a few tablespoons of red wine vinegar, a teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper and the fennel fronds. (I really hate those.) She whisks it together and pours it over. She adds some chopped scallions and bacon. That’s the accompaniment to her chicken. Very odd, but it might be okay with hot dogs.
Fluffy alert! Again. I am tempted to rewind and see how many times she really did say that. Oh my, the potatoes are so “crispy” as they come out of the oven that they sound like bullets hitting the baking sheet.
Mel takes the chicken off the bone and slices it. THAT’S how she deals with 3 breasts for 4 people, I guess. She scrapes the glaze from the pan and spoons it over. THAT reminds her of
Melissa’s show is fine. Her food is okay. But there’s no “star” quality to it. I don’t want to sound harsh, she really is all right. But neither the food, nor the host (yet) is really worth my time. However, please stay tuned for my Brian Boitano post. HE is awesome.