Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Hollywood" Bobby and Giada, The Waster (Or Is It Just Me?) Plus A Wedding Cake Contest

Giada At Home with Giada DeLaurentiis

I just learned that Michael Symon’s affectionate nickname for Bobby Flay is “Hollywood”, because of Bobby’s early embrace of celebrity chefdom. That’s not a criticism, by the way, from Symon (or me). Bobby was totally in the right place at the right time to learn his stagecraft (he was already an accomplished chef) when food television was just starting out. He admits his early forays into cooking on tv were less than polished.

Bobby is visiting Giada in her California kitchen. But before he gets there, she’s making dessert for him – a crostata, which is a free-form, open-faced fruit pie or tart. Giada is going to GRILL the peaches for the crostata, which is a really great idea. She halves the peaches as she tells us to use really ripe ones. But hers have a bright green center (around the pit)! Does that mean they’re not ripe or are they some kind of exotic Californian peach that we don’t see in these parts? Dunno.

The next thing she does is also odd. She drizzles white balsamic vinegar (which I love) over the peaches, making sure to fill in the holes where the pits where. BUT THE PEACHES ARE STILL ON THE CUTTING BOARD, so she’s going to lose any vinegar that spills over the peaches. That stuff is really pricey, so why not put the peaches in a shallow pie plate (for example) and catch any stray dribbles? You could use that in the next salad you make.

I don’t like this next step either. She grabs the peaches and places them cut-side down on a hot grill pan. As she does that, all the white balsamic vinegar spills out of the pit holes into the bottom of the grill pan. She COULD HAVE poured the balsamic vinegar on top of each pitted peach and then kind of swirled it around to cover the whole top and THEN poured it out into that pie dish BEFORE she grilled the peaches and not wasted it.
While the peaches are grilling, Giada is getting started on her CAR-mel sauce. For someone who squeezes every last syllable out of every single Italian word she uses (including the ones that have basically become English), it’s weird that she doesn’t give Kayr-a-mel its due. (Can you imagine how critical I’d be if I didn’t LIKE Giada, which I do. I just can’t help noticing these things.)

Giada starts the CAR-mel sauce by mixing together 1/3 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and putting it over heat to dissolve.

She grabs a STORE-BOUGHT crust. How can she say that with a straight face? And this is for Bobby? I hope he’s po’ed. She takes the peaches out of the grill pan and places them in circles on the pie crust with some in the middle. She folds over the edges of the crust to make an inch-wide border. How good that would be with real pastry!

To top the peaches, Giada adds butter and lemon to the pretty brown car-a-mel and, voila, it becomes a sauce.  She pours it over the peaches in the crust and put it into a 375°F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes. She’s going to serve it with thyme whipped cream. I SHOULD like the sound of that, but I don’t.

Oh good, Bobby has arrived. Was he just lurking in the wings all along? Giada starts boiling lobsters. Actually, she lets Bobby do it. He takes them out of the big pot. 

Giada tells Bobby to put the linguine in the lobster water. He loves that she’s getting that extra flavor into the pasta. She halves long green Anaheim peppers and cuts up Campari tomatoes, which are Italian cherry tomatoes. She’s grilling everything.

Bobby likes that Giada boils the lobster before grilling them. She coats the peppers and tomatoes with chili oil and seasons them. Bobby says that Anaheim chili peppers are interesting. They’re not that spicy but they add a nice flavor.

Bobby’s general rule is that green chilies are used fresh and red chilies are used dried. And the smaller the chili, the hotter it is. Isn’t that like those rules for learning English (or any other language) where there are so many exceptions, you might just as well not even call it a rule?

Giada puts the Anaheim peppers, tomatoes and lobster on the grill.
Giada asks Bobby how he fell love with chilies. He tells the (often told) story of Jonathan Waxman (the first chef to introduce California cuisine to the East Coast) giving Bobby his first job. Waxman introduced him to southwestern cooking and now he almost HAS to use chilies to get his taste buds going.

Giada asks, “Was cooking something you just fell into or something you always loved?” I know the answer! Bobby fell into it. He was a lousy high school student and when he started working in a kitchen he found his passion. Yup, that’s exactly what he said. He was 17 when he got his first restaurant job and that made him want to go to culinary school. And the rest is history, as they say. I said that, not him. Giada adds shrimp to the grill pan. She tossed that in chili oil too.

They’re finishing the dish with some garlic. Bobby is chopping the garlic and Giada is bothering him by trying to clean up after him. That’s obviously her Cordon Bleu training, where cleaning up as you go is almost as important as how or what you’re cooking. (I abandoned that credo a long time ago. I’d rather soak everything and do it at the end.) Bobby crushes the garlic on the board with a bit of Kosher salt. “Everything good starts with onions and garlic” he says.

Giada sautés some chopped shallots in the chili oil and tells Bobby to get the Parmigiano from the fridge. They spend a bit of time on a pronunciation lesson, with Giada stressing the “R”, saying Bobby is saying PAMigiano. He can't help it, he still sounds like a New Yawker. And wait a sec, what’s up with the cheese? Isn’t that a cardinal rule in Italy – with seafood, no cheese? Oh, lookie here, Bobby asks the exact same question. Giada says it’s an old wives' tale and Bobby says he agrees.

In fact, she says her grandfather used to add the Parmigiano to the pasta BEFORE the sauce, so it sticks to the pasta. Excellent tip.
Giada adds some clams to the cooking shallots. They take some time to open, so Bobby taps them on the shell with his chef’s knife and they open! That’s a good tip too. Giada is super impressed. Bobby adds all the chopped, previously grilled stuff - the tomatoes, peppers and lobster to the shallot pot.

Giada tells Bobby she doesn’t drain pasta, she just lifts it out and into the pot with the other ingredients. Bobby grates cheese over, Giada adds a bit of pasta water and some chili oil with some butter. Giada mixes it all together. Bobby inquires why she’s adding butter and not olive oil. She likes the silkiness they give to the noodles. They taste it for seasoning right from the pot. Bobby slurps his noodles, while Giada laughs. “Wow, that was classy.” Bobby says.

Next, Bobby makes them an apricot sour. He says he likes to serves everything he makes, including cocktails, family style. He drops mint leaves into a pitcher. He muddles the mint with some fresh apricots and superfine sugar. He adds a sour mix, which, AHEM, he made himself with fresh lemon and lime juice and simple syrup.
He adds the sour mix and apricot nectar and gin. Or you can add vodka. He stirs it gently. He tops the whole thing with Prosecco. I LOVE anything topped with Prosecco. Maybe not a latte, but most everything else. Bobby puts one GIANT ice cube in each lowball glass and pours the pretty drink over. Bobby says it’s sweet and sour and fruity, but not too sweet.. The reason for the mint sprig is that as you sip the drink you also smell the mint which becomes part of the taste of the drink. (Bobby learned that at the Kentucky Derby.)

They eat the pasta and Bobby loves the taste of the seafood and the spiciness “in unison”. Giada likes her pasta to have flavor in every bite, and she doesn’t “want it to live alone.”

She cuts the crostata, while Bobby grabs the whipped cream and ice cream. A little birdie told her he likes ice cream. He starts eating while she’s still folding the thyme into the whipped cream. He says he wants to taste the whipped cream too. She takes a big scoop of it and puts it...on HERS! They burst out laughing. He finally gets some and likes it all. He says, “The dough is so tender”. It’s really great (not!!!) that Bobby is rewarding her for using store-bought dough. She says nothing about the provenance of the dough, which I actually agree with. I don’t think the cook has to admit anything about what’s in or NOT IN the finished dish UNLESS you’re dealing with medical issues.

About the pastry, I’m sure that dough DID taste good, because that’s how they design it. Did you see this show, where they tested 3 different wedding cakes on 4 different people, including a person that jumps OUT of cakes. 

The over $2000 cake (and the Safeway supermarket wedding cake) lost to the Betty Crocker cake, baked by a producer at home. They were judged on taste only, not looks. Betty has spent a lot of time (and money) figuring out what it is that people want from their cake and she puts it all together in a little box. I would have liked the producer to bake a cake at home FROM SCRATCH! Who knows, though, maybe that wouldn’t have made any difference.

I liked the pasta recipe in this episode, because I like the idea that you can grill up a bunch of stuff in big pieces, chop it up, add it to sautéed shallots and put it over pasta. Each ingredient is getting a boost of flavor at different stages in the recipe. It all comes together for a delicious dish.

NOTE: Bobby and Giada were supposed to be doing a talk show together, which would have required Giada to move east. I’m not sure she was thrilled about that, but I think the two of them together would have been a great team. The only thing I can find about it is here, where it looks like it was passed over…for the moment.


Anonymous said...

I am amazed that Giada keeps using store-bought pie crusts. Especially since my parents tell me her mascarpone crostata crust is really good (they make it a lot). Perhaps the "store" she gets it from is a pie shop that makes real ones?

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
Ooh, I have to look for that crust recipe.

In this recipe, Giada calls for an "unroll-and-bake refrigerated pie crust". I'm pretty sure that isn't from any "pie shop". I also just don't get why she does that!