Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sunny - Yesterday My Life Was Filled With Rain

Sunny - You Smiled At Me And Really Eased The Pain

Cooking for Real with Sunny Anderson

Noshin N' Awlins
French Toast with Caramelized Pecans, Strawberries and Cream
Shrimp Pot Pie
Sunny's Sazerac

I just can’t get this song out of my head. Find it here and play it while you read this.

I didn’t like the way Sunny Anderson's Cooking For Real started. It was on for a full minute, before the host was actually identified. Her name should be on the screen at the same time as the rather generic Cooking For Real title.

Sunny has an interesting background, which I’m not sure is fully reflected in this show…so far. Her journey to the present certainly didn’t occur in a straight line.

I sussed out from this interview that Sunny is a former Air Force Senior Airperson, SrA, (I think they say AirMAN) and was involved in military newspapers and broadcasting during her service. Afterwards, she went into radio and then started cooking and catering.

As she began the show, she gave a much too long rundown of the recipes she was going to be making. She didn’t need to go into all of that in the introduction. Just say these are recipes from New Orleans that you really like and want to share.

Sunny starts with a Shrimp Pot Pie from New Orleans. She tells us that she moved to New Orleans after she had her first meal there. She mentions the military thing briefly.

You gave to me your all and all. Lalalala.

She takes out puff pastry and uses an egg wash with a bit of water for her puff pastry shells. She gets points for that. I can’t stand it when people apply an unadulterated egg to pastry. It’s too gloppy. She says to use a tablespoon of water beaten into an egg. (Julia says 1 TEASPOON.)

Sunny presses out thawed frozen puff pastry and pricks it all over with a fork. She cuts out a 4 inch circle with a cutter, reminding us not to turn the ring as you press, because that will compress the layers. Now, that’s a fairly sophisticated tip and I’m impressed that she included it.

She places the circles on a cookie sheet. She brushes an entire new sheet of puff pastry with the egg wash and places a new sheet over. She brushes that and tops it with one more sheet. She cuts out 4 inch rings, then a 3 inch ring inside to make a doughnut shape. She brushes the circle bases with egg wash and puts the ring shaped sides on top.

That is a very interesting method she’s used for forming her puff pastry shells. I have never seen vol au vents shells made this way. Everyone from Julia to the Joy of Cooking, as well as the Cordon Bleu and I’m sure the CIA, teaches you to cut out the bases, then cut out the rings for the sides separately and place them on top of the base. Sunny builds the 3 layers of the sides together. Interesting.

I think you would get a better rise from cutting the sides out separately, but this is certainly an easier way to get a straight sided shell and avoid a wonky one. The only downside is that you can’t reroll all the scraps because they have egg all over them, but this is definitely food for thought.

For the filling, Sunny heats olive oil and butter in a sauté pan. She adds shrimp, A LOT of cayenne and a little salt. As we go to the break, she’s moving the shrimp around a bit too much. Leave them alone to pick up some color from the pan.

Okay, this commercial is a bit disheartening. The slightly homely woman (she’s not really, but they’ve made her up to be) in the Disney commercial, sitting at the computer, is wearing my exact same Old Navy sweater. That’s not good. Why can’t GIADA be wearing my sweater, albeit with a few more buttons undone? (BTW, her cleavage this weekend was particularly monumental and I sure hope she wasn’t pregnant, because she was guzzling cocktails. Hopefully, more about that later in the week.)

Sunny starts her French toast recipe. Again, she TALKS about the recipe too much. Just do it. She slices strawberries for a topping. We do not need to see her slice every single one. She stirs in sugar and puts it aside to make its own syrup. I do think she should offer an proviso that they shouldn’t be left too long or they’ll get mushy.

Sunny adds a bit of heavy cream to the food processor with sugar and 8 oz. of cream cheese. That gets mixed together for another topping for the French toast. I don’t love that as a topping. I thought she was going to make a pocket in the bread and use it as a filling.

She beats 4 eggs in a square glass dish. (I saw her pick out some shell, which bothers me…not at all. I wish you could see what I pick out of my food…when I bother to, that is.) She beats in sugar and cinnamon.

She goes to her oven to take out the puff pastry shells. Her oven looks like a front loading washer or dryer. That’s freaky.

We seem to lose the picture for a bit. When we come back, she’s adding white wine to her sauté pan with the vegetables. Did we ever see her add the vegetables? I guess I was rambling on…Oh, yeah, she removed the shrimp and added began to sauté a bunch of vegetables.

For the French toast, Sunny slices thick slices of brioche and soaks them in the egg mixture. She turns them and takes them out really quickly and puts them on an attractive platter. She didn’t leave them in very long, I thought. (The recipe says to soak them well.) And why did she dirty an extra plate? Just put them right on the griddle. Oh well. They go on the hot griddle now.

She throws some cream into the pan with the pot pie filling and cooks that for a bit.

Next. she moves to the sticky pecans, also for topping the French toast. She talks about puh-cahns versus pee-cans. You know where I stand on the subject. (I like the pronunciation reminiscent of Grandma’s chamber pot). Pecans, butter and brown sugar go into the pan. She tells us to store our pecans in the freezer. That’s wise and something I always do.

Sunny (you smiled at me and…I really can’t stop singing that song) turns the French toast, way too early if you ask me.

You know, it’s interesting that the more established FN stars are obviously given more time to shoot each episode. They are allowed to do each recipe as a separate segment. The newer less-established folks are forced to cook in a more economical fashion. The Neelys always have several things going at once. Sunny is obviously in that situation. There’s nothing wrong with this, except when making totally unrelated dishes. You don’t normally cook shrimp right next to French toast. It IS a bit off-putting.

Sunny adds white pepper to her sauce to finish it off.

Supposedly as an aside, Sunny makes a Sazerac with whiskey, ouzo, bitters, simple syrup and lemon twist. Oh baby! She sips it with no ill-effects.

She puts a puff pastry shell on a plate and holding in the air, she spoons the filling in. I’d be careful doing that after a few of those cocktails. Sunny tastes it and likes it. Then she moves straightaway to the French toast. She plates one piece and adds the pecans and strawberries over the top. She puts a dollop of the cream cheese mixture on top. Looks good, but I would have preferred whipped cream.

Cooking for Real is fine. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, and it may grow into something really good. Have you seen Giada’s early completely un-smiling shows?

But I do wish Sunny exploited her interesting past a little more. She was a DJ, she could have had a few tunes playing. She was in the military. She could have given us some basic training in certain techniques or even a little salute here or there.

I guess for now we’ll have to settle for, “Sunny, thank you for the facts from A to Z,” or at least from French toast to sazeracs.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Thanks for that. I was so curious about this show. Is it possible we have a cook who knows what she's doing on FN? Time will tell. Of course if they're bad, it means I can enjoy you ripping them apart.

Sue said...

Gosh, I didn't realize that my well-honed criticisms and carefully considered assessments included ripping people apart. NOT!!!

I really do say it as I see it. In retrospect, I may have been too kind to Sunny, but time will tell. ALL a FN host has to do is educate me and entertain me. That's it! I'm easy...

Sunny Anderson said...

sue, i'm a bit corny and have to admit i'm interested in what people think. mostly because you guys watching is what keeps me on and i also know there are things i may miss or need to explain better when i'm on. i don't think i'll change my cooking style because it is who i am, but my delivery can always improve. i'm so new at this. that being said, thanks for your honest opinion. all the good and the bad, i appreciate it! i thought some of the same things you did as i watched my own show and now hope i get another go at it so i can improve. overall though, i gotta say i am so happy with myself, that process was brutal! 6 shows in 4 days! so, hope i can educate a bit and entertain a bit, and don't worry ... i won't stalk your blog :-) it came up in my google alert teeheehee! good stuff though! and remember, i was in the military, i can handle a good ripping lol!

Emily said...

I've seen advertisements for this show. Nice purple background. She looks nice. She might me able to entertain and educate us. I'm going to try watching her show.

But French toast is sooo boring. Anybody can make French toast. I'm sorry I'm being negative. I just want to watch something more challenging, you know?

Sue said...

PLEASE stalk my blog, I live for that.

Thanks for reading. I can only imagine what a whirlwind it was taping that many shows so quickly. I guess the FN believes in baptism by fire and if you can withstand that, you have what it takes for a full season.

I just hope they give you the chance to show us your stuff and allow your audience to grow and develop. Ten-Hut! I’ll be watching.

PS When you Food Network folks have your private get-togethers and retreats in the woods, could you please have a private word with Ina and Giada and tell them I love them and ask them what they think about my rantings and ravings? Sorry…noone else was supposed to see that.

Sue said...

Hi Em,
Purple is my favorite color, maybe that's why I'm favorably disposed towards this show.

About that French toast, next time I make it, I AM going to take that cream cheese topping and shove it INSIDE the French toast. That could be awesome.