Saturday, September 11, 2010

Aarti Party - Part One Of A Double Dose

Aarti Party with Aarti Sequeira

What Storms May Come

I Ain't Chicken Chicken: Crispy Roasted Chicken Breasts with Orange and Cardamom

The Ugly Duckling Salad

Huggy Buggy Bread Pudding

I decided to do a twofer and watch the second and third of Aarti’s shows together. I got off to a bad start, though.

In Episode 2, Aarti talks about how good food can change the mood of a bad day and how her accountability group is coming over?

What’s an accountability group? And why is she feeding them dinner? Is she doing her taxes? Is it an AA thing? Isn’t that supposed to be anonymous? Is she just using that word to mean people to whom she accountable? That sounds really strange.

So what does that MEAN? I’m annoyed now. And, sorry, I can’t puzzle over this all day. I have to go and get ready for my responsibility-monitoring colleagues to come over. (Just kidding. NO ONE monitors me…as you probably don’t need to be told.) I have to get over this. Maybe it will become clearer by the end what the heck she’s talking about.

Aarti is starting with her “Huggie Buggie Bread Pudding”. OMG. What an awful name. She’s not serving children in a hospital wing! Wait, maybe she is. Could THAT be what an accountability group is? Nah, that’s kind of far-fetched.

I’m getting really worked up NOW. The tv guide thingie said she was making an ugly duckling salad and I was sooo excited to see that, because I LOVE duck salad. It turns out she’s making some celery root salad or other and just CALLING it an Ugly Duckling salad. We’re not getting off to a good start.

She says AGAIN her accountability group is coming for dinner and that they have some “hard” stuff to talk through.

For the bread pudding, Aarti adds 3 eggs to a bowl. Oh no. There’s a lot to talk about here. She cracks the eggs on the counter and says not to crack them on the edge of the bowl or you risk getting some egg shell in there. But how about the egg goo on the counter? I would worry about that a lot more. (I know I got a C on that test, but I would never crack an egg on anything that didn’t go immediately into the dishwasher.)

She adds coconut milk to the eggs and says she often uses that in place of cream. Interesting. Aarti pours in 3 cups of whole milk. She tells us that she gave that name to the bread pudding because it makes her feel like she’s being hugged from the inside out. (That sounds slightly unappealing. It sort of makes me think of the digestive process.)

She also gave it that name because her husband is a “huggie buggie” and hugs everyone in sight. Um, marriages have ended on less than that.

Aarti adds in cinnamon, cardamom and ground ginger from her masala dabba with a cup of sugar and whisks it all together. She adds the bread, cut into quite big pieces, and presses it down to get moistened by the milk and egg mixture. (If using fresh bread, she says, toast it in the oven first).

Next to go in are dried figs, which have been soaked in hot water. She says to use raisins or dried apricots or cherries, if you prefer. I like that Aarti gives us an alternative, if you don’t love figs. (I like them fresh, not dried. And whatever I use, I would soak them in brandy instead of water).

Aarti pours the mixture into a buttered baking dish. She adds some roasted cashews over the top and she bakes it at 350°F oven for 35 minutes.

Accountability Group mention number 300. Ugh!

Aarti mixes potatoes with thyme. She says that in India not a lot of people have ovens, so having a roasted meal is a luxury. Aarti says growing up in Dubai they had an oven, but she still feels roasting is special.

I can’t tell if those potatoes are already cooked. No, I don’t think so. She adds salt, olive oil and thyme and puts them in a 500°F oven for…??? She never tells us.

She moves on to I Ain’t Chicken Chicken. (I am so not in love with her recipe names.) She says “back in the day” she would never make anything unless she followed a recipe exactly. This was the first recipe she strayed from. I still don’t get the name.

Aarti mixes half a stick of butter with cardamom, orange zest and fresh ginger, which she grates on her microplaner. That’s an excellent idea.

Aarti says to peel the ginger, grate it, form it into a cylinder and freeze it. That’s okay, but you’re losing a lot of flavor from freezing it already grated. I just wrap it really well in plastic wrap, freeze it and hack off a chunk when I need it. I use a teaspoon to peel it and then I chop it.

Aarti says she’s using chicken breasts on the bone, because they’re going into such a hot oven they can withstand the heat and they stay moister on the bone.

Kitchen hygiene alert. The package of chicken, wrapped in paper, was placed right on the kitchen counter. Paper isn’t plastic. Cooties can still get on the counter.

Oh my, things get a bit steamy. “You’ve got to get intimate with your chicken,” Aarti tells us as she rubs flavored butter under the skin. She washes her hands well. She adds olive oil and salt to the top of the chicken and cooks it for 30 minutes in the same hot over as the potatoes. Aarti says to cook it until it registers 160°F on a thermometer or until the juices run clear.

She starts her poorly named salad, which does sound good. Oh gosh, AGAIN she says her WEEKLY accountability group buddies are coming over for their WEEKLY (let me say that again) session on how to achieve their dreams. I’m sorry, but ick! Maybe I SHOULD just let this go, though, since in Aarti’s case, it obviously worked.

Aarti toasts pistachios and chops garlic (no removing the center stalk). She squeezes lemon juice into the blender. She adds a little sriracha (did you see this?) salt and pepper, hot water, nuts and canola (ugh) oil. I do like that Aarti’s using a blender, which I always do for dressings.

She assembles the salad – spinach leaves and celery root, which is the ugly duckling...dumb. Aarti breaks down the celery root by cutting off both ends and peeling it with a big knife. She’s grating it by hand (why?). She mixes together spinach, apple and the celery root. She thinks the dressing is a bit thick, so she adds a little water. I might have added some apple juice or OJ.

It’s good that Aarti roasted the chicken in a really hot oven, but the name makes no sense. Also, she takes the chicken off the bone. WHY? I admit it does look attractive sliced slightly on the diagonal, but she’s leaving so much behind.

Aarti wipes the cutting board off with a dish towel and sets the towel to one side. Big ew. She places a dinner plate on the counter. (Oh good, chicken germs can be carried right to the table and onto the hands of whomever handles the plate.)

But this next part is strange. Aarti says, “Look at this nice bright plate. Isn’t it comforting?” Really, I’m not trying to be such a stickler, I’m just reporting on what’s actually going on and that sentence makes less than no sense. A plate (albeit a perfectly attractive white plate with a red patterned rim) is NOT comforting. It wasn’t even PARTICULARLY bright. Oy!

Aarti adds the potatoes to the noteworthy plate. Boy, those are just a teensy degree from being burned. Also I need a little sauce, just a little something. Even a dab of her pistachio salad dressing would be good to dip the chicken into.

Aarti serves herself a plate and says, “I have to taste it and make sure I’m serving my friends some good food.” That’s a bit odd, but I guess we’re supposed to see her tasting it. She says (for the second time) that the ground pistachios remind her of the flavor of tahini. Interesting.

Aarti even digs into the bread pudding. It looks good, but it also looks in need of a bit of saucing. Oh, she’s adding vanilla ice cream.

So where is this group we keep hearing about? I guess a first season Food Network Star doesn’t warrant group scenes. We never see hide nor hair of them, but Aarti has eaten quite a bit of the food in advance of their arrival. She should really talk to someone about that.


Emily said...

What an awful name! Huggie Buggie Bread Pudding?? Really?

Hahaha her husband better not be hugging everything in sight!

You probably saw this already but..

Sue said...

NO, I didn't see that blog post. Thank you for that.

I'm so glad I wasn't the only one who wondered what she was talking about. I think Aarti seems really sweet and sincere, but I also think she leaves herself open to being ribbed a bit with her weird recipe names and funny-sounding groups that she belongs to.

Cynthia said...

You crack me up every time!