Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Paula, Lettuce Wraps And Groping Cute Guys

Part One - Boring Paula

Paula's Best Dishes with Paula Deen

Getting Healthy with Daniel Green

The only thing stranger than Paula cooking with Liza Minnelli (with a finale of Liza singing to a chicken) is Paula cooking healthy. These were the subjects of her last two shows.

About the Liza show, it was…well, odd. I was trying to think of analogies that could explain this unusual pairing.

Paula Deen is to Liza Minnelli as…let’s think about this…as lard is to schmaltz? As a BBQ pork sandwich is to a mile-high Reuben? As a hound dog is to a Chihuahua? As diabetes is to a hip replacement?

I dunno. I just know for some reason Liza lost her way and found herself in Paula’s kitchen. They’re both good old gals, full of pep and fun. But I don’t think anyone would have thought they were a natural pair. More about that show in Part Two…
THIS week’s show with Daniel Green was about healthy cooking. I guess that when this show was conceived, Paula probably knew about her diabetes (for years!) and thought it would be a good idea to have a few “healthy” shows in the can...for when the news was revealed.

Paula was excited to meet cookbook author, Daniel Green, because she thought he was really cute in his cookbook cover photo. She meets him in the makeup room and just stares at his hotness. (Daniel is okay-looking, but he’s no Bobby, Tyler or Curtis. He seems nice, though, so I’ll try not to objectify him…the way Paula is.)

WAIT A SEC, she actually starts to undress him. She reaches under his shirt and asks him if he’s wearing an undershirt.

Look, I love cute guys as much as anyone, but he’s a professional, trying to take advantage of his big break with Paula Deen and I don’t really think she should be groping him (on camera).

They start with chicken lettuce wraps. Paula slices up mushrooms and shitake mushrooms. Daniel says he needs some olive oil and tries to get Paula to say olive AWWWLLL. He laughs, she laughs. Did I mention he was British? So he talks funny too.

Daniel adds olive AWWWLLL to a really cheesy-looking nonstick pan. It looks like one of those old fashioned ones with the very chip-able, thin, enamel coating outside.

I have stopped using just about all Teflon nonstick pans, or whatever else they’re called. Birds dying alarmed me. I always had 3 sizes of nonstick frying pans, which I would replace every couple of years. But now I use an 8 inch Green Pan, which I love, for eggs and small amounts of things. I do use a nonstick spray, but one problem is that it makes these burned on drips of stuff that can never be really cleaned off. So now I spray a big gob in the middle of the pan and use a paper towel to coat the entire bottom and sides. It doesn’t seem to cause super-duper burned-on drips that way. (Of course, you could also use oil.)

When I need a bigger surface, I use my stainless-steel-with-an-aluminum-core sauté pans and do the same thing with spraying just the middle with nonstick spray and wiping it all over the inside. I do use olive oil too, but I can use less if I spray first.

Daniel sautés onions and mushrooms in that bootleg pan and adds ground chicken (at least, I think it is). Meanwhile, Paula is peppering him with questions, mostly about his body. He was a hefty teenager, lost a lot of weight with healthy eating (or it could have been the 12 inches he grew. Just saying) and he became a model. (If Paula asks to see his portfolio to check if there are any underwear pictures, I’m turning this off).

Daniel says to brown the “mince”. It doesn’t look browned at all. It actually looks anemic. They add garlic, scallions, mirin and sesame seeds. Thankfully, he adds oyster sauce and soy sauce, which will give the mixture some color. Daniel says he likes to caramelize the chicken, to get some color on it, but THERE IS NO COLOR.

He should have started with a hotter pan. But, of course, with that nonstick pan, you have to be careful not to kill any neighboring parrot life. Ground chicken is tough to get browned, but he could have done a better job. He adds more scallions in a fruitless attempt to add some color.

To serve, Daniel has Paula add plum sauce to the insides of some radicchio leaves. He tops them with the chicken filling. It probably tastes okay, but it’s not that attractive. How about adding some grated carrot and slivers of peppers to beef up the vegetable quotient and add some color? And, of course, he should have started the sautéing hotter and faster.

Actually, THIS is the way I think he should have proceeded. By cooking the onion and mushrooms first, there was too much moisture in the pan, so I would BROWN the chicken first. Then remove it, turn down the heat, add the onions, soften them a bit, turn UP the heat and brown the mushrooms. THEN add back in the chicken. OR you could just use a steel wok and cook everything speedily at a higher temperature.

NOTE: Here is PF Chang’s lettuce wrap recipe (supposedly). The chicken breasts are cooked whole and THEN minced. Interesting.

Next Paula and Daniel are making a tomato and crab pasta. He’s really proud of himself for using sundried tomato pesto. Daniel also adds cherry tomatoes and a few chopped sundried tomatoes. That’s fine, but why is the crab necessary? It sounds like one of those dishes that comes from a Knorr soup packet.

I do like the way Daniel throws the cooked pasta into the pan to absorb the juices from the quick cooking of the cherry tomatoes. He adds some useless crab. Whatever. Paula doesn’t actually rave over the dish. She says a quick “good” and remarks that the tomatoes are hot. She gets much more excited over the video of his pretty little girl.

I don’t want to exaggerate here. Her reaction was definitely not as bad as the time Giada served Oprah chocolate with basil, WHICH DID NOT PLEASE HER ONE BIT. THIS clearly wasn’t that bad, but Paula gave a pretty lukewarm response to his dish.

You know what? I hate to say this, but this is boring. I really was trying to avoid saying that Paula doing “healthy” dishes is a yawn, but, actually, it is. Let’s move on to Paula and Ms. New York, New York making artery-busting, clog-inducing fun food that I would never in a million years even think about cooking myself, but love watching in Part Two...


Victoria said...

There was a show on CMT called Top Secret Recipes and the host/food hacker guy actually did PF Changs Lettuce Wraps. Anyway, on the show he got to watch them making the lettuce wraps and the chicken was minced before cooking, not after.

Sue said...

Hi Victoria,

Thank you for that. I thought that sounded like a bootleg recipe (just like the bootleg pan they used). Here’s
the actual recipe I think you were referring to, which looks like the right one.