Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Paula And Giada Celebrate Father's Day...Plus Some Icky Paula News (at the end)

Paula's Best with Paula Deen

Giada at Home with Giada De Laurentiis

With whom would you rather celebrate Father's Day - Paula or Giada? Or ANY holiday actually…

Paula’s house might provide more laughs, but there are other factors to consider. Would you rather be sweating it up at a rowdy barbecue down south or be strolling on the beach while a beautiful vision is preparing a genteel dinner? Let’s analyze this.

Paula's would be a whole lot of fun, but the aftermath might involve a heavy hangover and weeks at the gym. At Giada’s, most of the labor would come beforehand as in “What in the world should I wear? And how should I do my makeup to look completely effortless and, well, UN-made up?”

OR we could compare menus and decide that way.

Paula’s cooking for her favorite dad in the world - her son, Jamie. They’re making fried po’k chops with potatoes and white gravy with black pepper. (Wouldn’t that make it SPECKLED gravy?) Paula’s also roasting cauliflower. The cauliflower doesn’t sound that festive to me, but she’s making up for it by making a HUGE cake, which looks completely yummylicious.

What's on the menu across the country? Giada is making some of Todd’s favorites - Bacon and Cheese Manicotti, Spicy Red Wine Spaghetti, which sounds dreadful – it’s spaghetti actually COOKED IN RED WINE, after it’s been boiled for a short time. I wonder if we’ll be treated to Jade spitting it up…She’s also making Meaty Penne with chorizo and salami. That sounds okay, but where’s dessert (maybe he’s a savory guy) and is she making all of those at ONE meal?

I’m leaning towards Paula’s menu, even if I’m not thrilled about the cauliflower. I LIKE cauliflower, but nine times out of ten, I make it like mashed potatoes. You know the recipe. It’s awesome. Also remember when I made Cauliflower Crusted Pizza? That’s good too.
Before Paula gets to cooking, she tells Jamie that his sons are lucky BUOYS (her accent really is wild) to have him as a father and she loves watching him with them. Sweet. I like Jamie and I’m happy he has a nice family life. (AND it all better be true.)

Jamie starts his gravy in a saucepan with a roux. He’s actually making a white sauce and calling it gravy. Why isn’t he using the pan that he sautés the po’k chops in? It would pick up so much more flavor.

Oh, this is interesting. He’s LAYERING the potatoes with the “gravy” to make a big casserole. He and Paula sprinkle the potatoes with chopped shallots as they layer and then he pours the whole pot of white sauce over the top. They cook the potato and white sauce casserole at 350°F. for 25 minutes.

It’s so interesting how you can combine the same ingredients differently for an entirely new dish. I thought this was going to be fried po’k chops with some kind of potato dish on the side, smothered in white gravy. But, no, they’re going for something different.

By the way, Paula suggests using the white sauce as a soup and just adding potatoes and ham to it and making “the finest pot of ham and potato soup you’ve ever put in your mouth, Y’ALL!”

We come back from a commercial and Paula asks Jamie what his death row meal would be. Isn’t there a more upbeat way to ask that question? He says fried po’k chops. That’s convenient as he sets to frying some up. (He also wants collard greens and cornbread and 17 beers. Let’s see if he asks Paula the same question… He doesn’t.)

Jamie opens the package of po’k chops to reveal chops ON THE BONE, because his mama always said there’s more flavor with the bone left on.

Sorry to digress, but a reader recently sent me this treatise on the biggest myths in steak cooking and, apparently, cooking steak on the bone to get more flavor is one of them. This is pork, but I think it still applies. I have to admit that I’m not super-opinionated on a lot of meat matters (YUP, there are a few things that I don’t feel the need to preach about), but I would probably have said to leave the bone in for more flavor. Actually, I would definitely say that with chicken, because it’s completely true. There’s tons more flavor in a breast with the bone and skin, but maybe it’s the fat from the skin that’s giving it all the flavor and not really the bone.

Anyhoo, Jamie is cooking po’k chops ON the bone. He turns them around in seasoned flour, which includes cayenne. He’s only using a touch of cayenne today, because Paula’s “pie hole is a little sensitive,” she says. That DOES NOT SOUND PROPER! Especially in front of her son…

Jamie browns the pork chops while Paula makes her cauliflower. I should never have expected that this would be boring old roasted cauliflower. Paula is adding cream cheese, heavy cream and a Vidalia onion. Of course, she is.

Jamie puts the two huge chops on TOP of potato casserole and cooks the whole thing in the oven for another 35 to 40 minutes.

Paula roasts the cauliflower until it’s tender. Meanwhile she adds the cream cheese and heavy cream to the onion, which she’s softened. The roasted cauliflower goes in and Paula adds a drop more milk to loosen it all up. How could that NOT be good? I get it now.

Jamie serves up the huge casserole of HUGE po’k chops and potatoes. Jamie says he could use a plate that was 3 times bigger. I guess that’s evidence of a good recipe - that you need a trough to serve it in….
Paula hugs Jamie’s arm and hangs on to it while she chews her po’k chop. She loves it AND him. Jamie says to the camera. “Y’all, quit watching TV and go cook (this) right now.” Paula says to wait 15 minutes until she’s shown us the cake. 
Jamie starts mixing up the cake batter under Paula’s direction. He creams 2 cups of butter with 2 cups of sugar. Paula says it’s a 1-2-3-4 cake - 1 cup milk, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour and 4 eggs. AND 2 cups of butter, but I guess 1-2-2-3-4 doesn’t have the same ring to it. Paula adds her eggs one at a time, after each has been cracked in a separate bowl. (I really should do that. I really never will.)

Jamie can’t believe he’s never had this cake before. Where does the butternut come in, I wonder? 
OH! It’s not butternut squash, it’s a flavoring. The recipe calls it "butternut extract", and Paula shows us a bottle filled with a thick brownish-red liquid that looks like hair color at the same time as a message flashes across the screen – “You can buy Vanilla butter and nut flavoring at your local supermarket and cake supply store.” You probably could, if your supermarket was in Marietta, Georgia, but around these parts, I’m not so sure. I don’t know if this is the same thing, but you can buy butternut extract on Amazon in their Health and Personal Care section. (Huh?)

Whatever that stuff is, she adds 3 tablespoons (actually a bit more) to the cake batter and it turns orange. Then they add pecans and Paula tells a touching story. When the boys were young they would buy pecans (from somewhere) and bag them up and sell them to the nuthouse for something like 39 cents a pound. They would make enough money to go the annual fair, because otherwise “there was no fair money”. I find it hard to begrudge Paula’s success now, because of all of her hard work and the many difficulties she had along the way.

Paula divides the cake batter into layers as precisely as she can. She says she’s a stickler for even cake layers. She uses those pricey scoop/measuring cups of hers. They ARE good for that, because they’re kind of flat and easy to scoop with. She and Jamie really bang the filled cake pans down to knock out the air bubbles and get them even. They bake in a preheated 350°F. oven for 30 to 35 minutes. When the top springs back and they start to pull away from the sides, Paula says they’re ready. 

The icing is confectioner’s sugar, cream cheese, butter and flavorings. (I hope it’s flavored with something I can find.) Nope, she’s using her “vanilla, butter and nut flavor”. What IS that? And wouldn’t it taste really artificial? It does make it a purdy orange color, though. 

Paula adds nuts to the icing.  She hums “mmmm” the entire time she ices the cake. She secures those big layers together with bamboo skewers. Very smart, so it doesn’t start leaning. Then she and Jamie start fighting over how to ice a cake. I could see how Paula could be very strong-willed. She tells herself, “Calm down, Paula, we’re almost done.” 
After they’ve fought it out, she cuts massive slabs…It actually would be hard not to. Jamie takes a ginormous bite, while Paula practically prays over hers.  “One of the finest cakes you’ll ever eat.” Jamie tries to make up for usurping her icing technique. He says, “It takes a great mom to make a great dad.” She melts into her cake.

I don’t know how Giada could beat that. Really. 

Giada fills her cooked manicotti with ricotta, spinach, Parmesan, an egg and chopped crispy bacon. She flavors the mixture with nutmeg. WHY she doesn’t grate her own really grates on me!

She heats cream and milk together and adds flour to thicken it and then lots of grated mozzarella. She calls this a fonduta. (I didn’t think a fonduta had flour in it. You usually thicken it very carefully with egg yolks.) AND THEN she adds marinara sauce to that. I did NOT see that coming. It’s funny whenever I make a baked pasta dish, I usually use both a white sauce AND a tomato sauce, but not together. I do something like this:

I coat the top of the lasagna or manicotti or stuffed shells or WHATEVER with a layer of white sauce. Then I dot the top with tomato sauce (and I also often spread tomato sauce on the bottom).

I sprinkle over grated cheese and bake it....


And each serving has pretty bit of red amongst the white sauce and cheese.

(By the way, that was a KALE Lasagna, which is pretty good. You could use Giada's filling - or ANY - and just substitute blanched chopped kale for the spinach.)

Giada fills the shells using a spoon! Wha!!! Just fill a piping bag with a big plain nozzle and pipe away. I know it’s kind of a chunky mixture, but a spoon makes your life SO difficult. It’s worth it to have one really big plain piping tip, just for jobs like this.
Giada spoons some sauce in the bottom of the dish, the stuffed manicotti go on top and then she pours the rest of the sauce over and tops the whole thing with more cheese. It’s baked at 375°F. for 20 minutes.

Next up is Giada’s Spi-Gitti. She starts the spaghetti cooking in water, while she sautés shallots and garlic in oil. Giada adds tomato paste and ONE BOTTLE OF ZINFANDEL to the saucepan. She simmers it for a few minutes and then adds the al dente pasta. She stirs it and the spaghetti turns wine-red. I don’t think I’m that enthralled with this. (In fact, am I allowed to say it looks kind of bloody? Sorry, but it does!) She adds parsley which is a shock next to the deep red color. Could this recipe possibly be in the same category as that misthought-out dish she made for Oprah? Goat cheese goes in too.

The last dish starts with one pound of chorizo, which has been taken out of its casing, which she asked the butcher to do! Is that a little spoiled? She sautés the chorizo and then removes it from the pan and cooks the vegetables in that good oil. She adds salami and then the chorizo goes back in with tomatoes. (The recipe does not mention adding the chorizo back in.) She simmers it for 15 minutes. 

Giada finishes the dish with Jade sitting at the kitchen counter. OMG, that is one beautiful kid, which the most gorgeous head of hair. Giada tops the penne with Parmesan cheese and then she pours the meaty sauce over and adds some arugula at the very end. It looks good, but the best part is seeing cute Jade sitting there making a Father’s Day card. 

Giada serve all three pastas to Todd and he acts anyway as if he loves them all. (He has to.) Actually, he doesn’t say anything specific and especially doesn’t  comment on the red wine one. Jade gives him the sweet card and Giada gives him a lovely picture of him throwing Jade straight up in the air. It's a photo which has been made into a watercolor and it’s really lovely. 

Sooo, whose menu did I prefer? Notwithstanding the incredibly cute kid, I have to go with Paula, who had her really cute kid with her too. (Jade may have been better behaved than Jamie, however, and I suppose the same could be said of the hosts..)

PS I checked out the reviews of the red wine spaghetti recipe to see if anyone had actually made it. A few people have and they generally liked it. (???) 

PPS As I’m posting this, there’s news hot off the presses about Paula. It’s a very disturbing story from The National Enquirer. (I refuse to link to them, so here’s the story elsewhere.) Part of this we already knew. She and her brother own a restaurant, Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House. Her brother ran the restaurant and is being sued by a former manager for sexual harassment. This manager also allegedly witnessed many racial incidents. Under questioning during a deposition, Paula admitted to some horrible things like using the N word and wanting to dress black servers as slaves for a wedding. I have no idea whether these things are being misinterpreted, but I’m not sure how they could be. I’m not happy about divisive social issues entering the sanctity of the kitchen, but racism is the scourge of our society and needs illuminating wherever it happens. I hope to find out that maybe Paula thought she was being funny and was just misguided, but who knows? I had been perfectly willing not to blame Paula for her brother’s transgressions. I hope they’re not hers too.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

What disturbs me the most about the red wine spaghetti is that it reminds me a lot of the only dish Rachael Ray actually cooked on the ICA debacle. Why would Giada want to be reminded of that????

I think both meals had their appeal. These days I don't know how my stomach would feel about Paula's dish. It might make me happy temporarily, but my lighter eating plan has caused me to feel a bit sick at really rich heavy foods these days. Although I don't eat much pasta lately either, although should I be looking for the occasional pasta indulgence, I'd be willing to try one of Giada's creations. I don't like her manicotti method either. In my family, manicotti are crepes. We roll them!

Not that I would make excuses for vile behavior, but restaurants seem like very high-pressure situations and tempers can flare and people get excited and say stupid stuff. Then again, if I'm angry and ready to shout something mean on the fly, the n word would not even occur to me. I'm sure something more mundane and non-race-specific like a-hole would come out. If you're in a snit, why did that epithet in particular cross your brain?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,

The red wine spaghetti is a recipe from Michael Chiarello (he uses broccolini in his in addition to shallots). I have made it and it's delicious. MC got the pan good and hot before adding the wine so it started cooking right away. Boiling the zin makes it softer (you should skim off the tannin stuff that rises to the surface before you add the spaghetti). Really, it works!

Emily said...

Oh man. Maybe this means there's a position at Food Network for you or me? ;) that's pretty terrible. I hope it's not true.

Your lasagna looks incredible. I want your recipe!

Sue said...

That's funny. I guess that recipe is making the rounds of the Food Network.

Honestly, I did not love either menu and as you could see, I didn't use any of their recipes.

Ugh, there's so much to consider about this Paula matter. I'm sure it will go on for far too long. I agree I would use a host of other words and not even think about that one.

Thank you! I found the MC recipe and you're right, it looks SO much better, especially the part where he reduces the wine by half.

That is so funny...except it's kind of sad.

I don't think I really have a lasagna recipe. Just do whatever you do, but add kale (cooked with a softened onion or blanched) instead of spinach to the ricotta filling and do that stuff on top that I talked about.