Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ina And Giada In A Tex-Mex Throwdown

The Tex Mex Cook Off – Part One: Giada Cooks For Kids And Moms

Truthfully, this throwdown is more in my imagination than what actually happened on the Food Network on Saturday. BUT since both Ina and Giada were cooking Tex-Mex, albeit separately, I couldn’t wait to compare and contrast and see who reigned supreme.

Giada at Home with Giada De Laurentiis

Tex Mex BBQ

Chicken and Steak Fajitas

Spicy Tomato Salsa

Black Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad

Cinnamon-Espresso Churros

Friends of Giada’s brought back a piñata for Jade from Mexico, so Giada had a group of kids and moms together for a Tex Mex banquet. Interesting choice of menu for tiny kids and where is Todd?

Giada peels and minces garlic for a marinade for the fajitas. She adds he zest and juice from 2 limes. That’s what I would do too…so far.

I would then add cumin, tons of cumin. Let’s see if Giada does. No, she adds ¼ cup of agave nectar. Hmm, why? I’m down with sweetness in just about everything, but fajitas? Not so sure. Plus ¼ cup seems like A LOT. Olive oil, salt, oregano and chili powder go in. She adds orange juice too, which I like the idea of. Why not just add THAT and no agave?

Giada marinades skinless, boneless chicken thighs and breasts with flank or skirt steak. Hold on a second. Does anything about that strike you as funny? Funny, strange, not ha-ha.

She’s marinating the raw chicken WITH the beef in the same container. Strictly speaking, if you’re going to cook both thoroughly and either discard or boil the heck out of the uncooked marinade, then that should be okay. BUT I still wouldn’t do it and I wouldn’t recommend anyone else doing it. Let’s just say there IS a problem with the chicken; then you’re transferring it to the steak.

It’s funny (strange, not ha-ha) that I have NEVER marinated different proteins together. Yet I’ve cooked sausage with chicken, chicken with shrimp, shrimp with sausage etc. and never even thought twice. I don’t know, call me old fashioned, but I’m not comfortable mixing raw meat and chicken.

Here’s way TOO much safety information on chicken. Here’s the same thing for beef.

Giada is marinating her meat and chicken for 4 hours. I also think that’s kind of a long time for the chicken.

Giada sets a simple, yet pretty, table - with no paper or plastic. Giada removes the chicken from the marinade and grills it on a stove-top grill pan, while she makes the salsa.

Giada adds halved tomatoes to the food processor with a garlic clove and lots of cilantro, which she describes as having a scent somewhere between piney and lemony. If you don’t like cilantro, you might say it’s more like a mix of Pine-Sol with skunk, but, luckily, I love it.

Giada also adds red pepper flakes, salt, fresh oj and a little olive oil and pulses it.

I NEVER make salsa in the food processor, unless I really and truly don’t care who I’m cooking for. You’re robbing it of its brilliant red color - it comes out looking muddy – and it’s way too liquidy. Plus in the quest to get the cilantro chopped finely enough, you pulverize the tomato.

A better way to proceed? Dice the tomato by hand and use the processor to chop the cilantro with the garlic and stir that into the tomato with any other ingredients.

Giada adds the steak to the grill and then she does something of which I heartily approve. She BOILS her marinade to use as a sauce. There’s a movement afoot that says marinades that have touched raw meat shouldn’t be used as sauces, EVEN IF they’ve boiled. That’s poppycock.

There is no one more e coli-phobic than I am and I am secure that boiling the heck out of a marinade for more than 3 minutes makes it safe to eat. Giada boils her for FIVE minutes.

Giada slices up the chicken and steak and keeps it warm, tented with foil in a 150°F oven. I REALLY don’t like chicken and beef on the same platter. Is it just me? If there WERE a problem with one or the other, why cross contaminate them? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

For a warm black bean salad, Giada heats olive oil in a sauté pan and adds chopped onion and salt with a bay leaf. PLEASE add some cumin. It’s so good with black beans. She can’t hear me. She adds smoked paprika, which is a good choice too. She adds ½ teaspoon of cayenne. It’s really like she’s boycotting the cumin.

Giada cuts the kernels off four ears of corn. Remember MC’s brilliant bundt pan trick for cutting corn off the cob? Giada adds the corn to the pan with chicken broth and the drained and rinsed black beans. (I always rinse canned beans until the all the foam is gone.)

Giada chops two really red tomatoes and jicama, which go into the pan with the corn and are cooked for a minute or two. (I’m thinking the jicama is a bit odd.)

Next Giada zests and juices a lemon and a lime and adds a bit of agave nectar, olive oil, salt and pepper. She removes the bay leaf and pours the bean mixture into a serving bowl. She tosses it with the dressing. WHY didn’t she dress the beans in the sauté pan and THEN put it in the serving dish.

I’m being way too picky. It could have to do with H leering at the television screen and he’s not at ALL interested in the black bean salad.

Giada moves on to the churros. How I love them! She heats up one cup of water and adds butter, a small amount of sugar and espresso powder. Interesting. This is seeming like a pâte à choux. Giada boils the mixture and shoots in the flour off the heat and mixes it well. THIS IS choux pastry.

Back on the heat, she cooks the mixture for another minute or two. I wonder why she’s not mentioning that this is the same dough you use for éclairs, profiteroles and croquembouches. Giada adds the dough to the bowl of a KitchenAid, beats in two eggs at a time and then beats it for another 4 minutes.

Giada makes a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons cinnamon and 1 tablespoon espresso powder to dip the cooked churros in. That sounds sooo good, but for kids?

Giada pipes the churros mixture through a large star tube into long serrated-edged pieces. She fries the dough for about 3 minutes in 350°F oil. They go straight from the oil into the flavored sugar. Won’t that keep the kids up all night?

Giada brings the food to the table with all the little kids around. I like that she’s not serving squeezable yoghurt and jello tubs, but espresso powder on the churros? Maybe you have to be Italian.

Jade is tooo cute with her tightly coiled pigtails. Really sweet. The kids try to hit the piñata. Ooh, candy AND MONEY are falling out.

Good recipes, but can she take Ina in a Tex-Mex rumble? Let’s see.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

I like the idea of leaving out the agave nectar in place of the OJ for the marinade. Although, I DO love agave.... I missed this episode, but it sounded really interesting! I know Ina's recorded on the DVR so I can't wait to hear your thoughts on that one!