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a review of rachel ray’s 30 minute meals -going where no man has gone before

September 30, 2009

The title may or may not be accurate, depending on how loyal male readers feel about her whole Maxim trying to break into new demographics and win new fans spread from a few years back.  The *only* hourglass pertaining and related to Rachel Ray (and this review) is the cooking sort.  Ahem.

Shocked I was to learn that Ms. Ray didn’t get her big breakthrough on the Mickey Mouse club, ala good girls turn bad Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.  No, this slice of Americana was thrown into the thick of things with her all too popular 30 Minute Meals, a cooking show of sorts whose title brilliantly and succulently sums up its entire premise (which luckily translates to less typing and Rachel Ray pondering for me).

On a positive note, most of the cooking on 30 Minute Meals is actually, well, cooking –unlike that neighboring ‘Food Network Star’ Sandra I wear different outfits and change the décor for everything I ‘cook’ Lee (more on that in a later post).  With 30 Minute Meals billed as a cooking show, that’s half the battle and, gulp, half a positive review.  Trust me, the world needs more ‘real’ cooking, so kudos for that.

“But wait” you say —-“I want negatively!  I want this little borderline talent less girl next door ripped a new one.”  Read on, my friend.

Ms. Ray has no off button.  Or maybe it was broken off, I dunno -between rambling to ‘in her head only Ya Ya Sisterhood Club’ about everything from her boyfriend become serious boyfriend become husband become mad at her husband to hangnails to what the weather was like the day she was born, no one cares.  Really, we’re worried about more important things like, um, the state of Romania’s political system circa early 20th century…

I'm peeling corn!  Corn that is!  Maize!  Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota account for over 50 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. Other major corn growing states are Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky.   Corn is produced on every continent of the world with the exception of Antarctica.  Corn, corn, corn, corn, CORN!

I'm peeling corn! Corn that is! Maize! What vegetable is more synonymous with the coming of summer than freshly picked corn on the cob? Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota account for over 50 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. Other major corn growing states are Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky. Corn is produced on every continent of the world with the exception of Antarctica. Corn, corn, corn, corn, CORN!

Okay, so she talks.  A lot.  Well, coupled with The.  World’s.  Worst.  Voice., you’ve got a serious recipe (no pun intended) for disaster.  Really –just focus on the food and cooking, please.  And fear not taking a breath more than every 15 minutes.  It’s good for the skin and may (will?) do wonders for those stressed vocal chords.

“What about the food”, you ask?  Well, hokey grub with a twist of no original thought or creativity is what it’s all about.  Think “Monkey Buns”, “Sloppy Dawgs”, and “Mini Steak on a Stick”.  No, I’m not pulling lines from Office Space, nor am I citing TGI Friday’s latest ‘food’ offerings.  Attempting to be cute titles would be a passing thought if the grub’s worth its weight.  Well, it’s not.  Far from it, in fact.  Sloppy Joes?  Processed sticky buns?  Yea, think I’ll pass.

And I’ll also pass on 30 Minutes Meals and that whole Maxim spread thing….thank you very much.

Rachel ray thumbs down

chicken picatta recipe

September 28, 2009

This is one of those recipes that’s so good and easy you’ll no doubt be convinced to stay home and cook vs. go to the local Italian joint.  At least I hope so.  Now, if your ‘local’ (read:  large conglomerate focus group tested food product serving place more eager to appease stock holders than diners) Italian joint begins with “Olive” and ends in “Garden” I just don’t know what to tell you.  Just.  Don’t.  Know.

This simple, yet classic Italian dish utilizes pan drippings and simple deglazing to create a delicious and tangy sauce that’ll have you coming back for more.  Me, I like my chicken picatta and sauce on the lemony side.  If you share the same sentiment you’re a winner in my book –cook as detailed below.  If you fancy chicken picatta that’s not all that heavy on the lemon stuff simply add less lemon juice.  Duh.  Eat up.

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts butterflied (cut so they are half as thick)

White flour

2 TBS butter

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

8 ozs. chicken stock

Juice of 1 lemon

4 TBS capers and brine

1 medium shallot finely minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Using a cooking mallet pound the chicken breasts until they are about a quarter of an inch thick, if not thinner.  Season w. salt and pepper and coat in a thin layer of flour.

Add the butter and olive oil to a large skillet over high heat.  Make sure you are NOT using a non stick pan, other wise this won’t work.  When very hot add the chicken and cook for a minute or so on each side or until brown (the goal here) and, well, cooked.

Butter-rific

Butter-rific

What can brown do for you

What can brown do for you

When cooked remove the chicken and add the shallot to the pan, cooking for 1 minute.

Add the stock, capers and brine, and lemon juice.  Scrape the brown bits on the bottom of the pan until dissolved.

Saucey

Saucy

Cook for a few minutes, season accordingly w. salt and pepper, and add a small pad of butter (optional).

Pour over the chicken and eat.

Serve with:

Pesto and Peroni.

finished chicken picatta

here’s to friday

September 25, 2009

As I’m sure you’d agree, it’s been a heck of a long one (always is….no!?).  You deserve a reward.  Beer up, my friend.

Beer up

Beer up

orange and avocado salad with jamaican jerk chicken recipe

September 20, 2009

Any excuse or delivery vehicle/mechanism that enables and facilitates consumption of Jamaican jerk chicken is fine in my book.  Actually, encouraged.

Case in point:  orange and avocado salad.  As previously detailed I’m not a huge fan of salad but this one is a complete package:  sweet courtesy of the orange, tangy care of red wine vinegar, rich thanks to extra virgin olive oil and avacado, and spiced thanks to the jerk chicken (using homemade jerk rub, of course).  Add in a wedge of good toasted bread for added crunch filling purposes and you’re good to go.  Oh…did I mention this takes a whopping 10 minutes to prepare?  Exactly.

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts cut width wise into quarter inch thick pieces

2 TBS vegetable oil

A couple of tablespoons of homemade jerk seasoning (use more for extra kick)

2 cups of assorted salad greens

Half of a red onion cut into thin strips

1 navel orange cut into half inch chunks

1 avocado cut into quarter inch thick wedges

A half inch nub of ginger finely minced

10 diced mint leaves

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

3 TBS red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix the jerk seasoning into the cut chicken and marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours.  Overnight is best.

When ready to eat, add the vegetable oil to a non stick skillet over medium high heat.  When nice and hot add the chicken and DON’T touch for a minute or so –this will allow some nice browning and flavor.  Don’t overcrowd.

After a minute stir the chicken and cook until, well, fully cooked.  Remove and set aside.

Spiced jerk chicken

Spiced jerk chicken

Mix the remaining ingredients together, top with the chicken, and eat.

Serve with:

Good toasted bread, red stripe, and a hammock.

orange and avocado salad with jamaican jerk chicken recipe

puerto rican lasagna (pastelon) recipe

September 16, 2009

No, really.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not your standard, run of the mill Italian style lasagna doused with sprays of Hugo by Hugo Boss, Tommy by Tommy Hilfiger, or similar cologne (save the hate mail, please).  All said and done, there really is such a thing as Puerto Rican lasagna, also known as Pastelon, sans male olfactory concoctions.

My personal and doctored up version of this dish yields a sweet and savory casserole composed of ripe plantains (the noodles), a good chorizo and turkey mixture (the meat), and a nice cheese sauce courtesy of a simple béchamel sauce (most pastelon recipes call for grated cheese covered with beaten egg –meh).  A half way decent grocery store, a lasagna tray, just a bit of cooking know-how, and an oven (!) later, this recipe will make any rookie/clueless cook giddy with prowess.

Ingredients:

8 ripe (semi to all black) plantains

Today's plantain victims

Today's plantain victims

1 diced green bell pepper

1 diced onion

3 minced cloves of garlic

8 ozs. of chorizo, cut into fine pieces

20 ozs. of ground turkey (can use ground beef)

1-2 finely chopped jalapeno or habanero peppers (optional)

3 TBS white flour

5 TBS vegetable oil

1 quart of 1-2% milk

8 ozs. of grated medium sharpness cheddar cheese

1 tsp paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

To make the cheese sauce, heat the milk, a bit of salt, and the paprika over medium low heat until just boiling/scalding.

Mix 3 TBS of vegetable oil and the flour to a large pot over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes.

Oil and flour -utterly delicious.

Oil and flour -utterly delicious.

Add the just boiling milk and stir —the mixture will thicken -béchamel, baby.

Turn the heat to low and gradually add the grated cheese, mixing to incorporate.  Once all added turn the heat off -done.

To make the meat mixture add the remaining oil along w. the green bell pepper, hot peppers, garlic, and onion to a medium skillet over medium heat, cooking for about 10 minutes.

Add the chopped chorizo, salt and pepper to taste (or adobo), and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the ground turkey and cook until, well, cooked.  Done.

Meat-a-licious

Meat-a-licious

To make the noodles peel the plantains and cut into ¼ inch pieces, lengthwise.

Vegetable noodles.

Vegetable noodles.

To assemble the actual lasagna/pastelon arrange a layer of plantains on the bottom of the tray followed some of the meat mixture and some of the cheese sauce.  Repeat, building the layers, until all the ingredients have been exhausted.

Awaiting cheese sauce

Awaiting cheese sauce

Add to a pre heated 350 degree over for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.

Fully baked.

Fully baked.

Serve with:

Medalla light, Hugo, and Tommy

served puerto rican lasagna (pastelon) recipe

collard greens southern style recipe

September 14, 2009

This fish outta water is certainly new on collard greens, a predominantly African American Southern staple vegetable (as well as the whole Southern thing).  But that’s okay -this recipe is just as good as those sampled at a wide array of BBQ joints in the NY area.

“Y’all may be recognized for pizza, bagels, Italian food (it’s the water!), and that aweeesome Times Square, it was sooo much fun, but BBQ? Greens?!  Clueless &%$!& Yankee.” *Closes Brower*  Well, many area BBQ joints have won national cook offs and awards and are no doubt just as good as if not better than those sampled south of the Mason Dixon line.  Check it out.  There…I said it.

Anyways, the best part of collard greens is no doubt the pot liquor -the green nutrient rich cooking liquid.  Soak it up with cornbread, drink it straight, or sophistically swig with a straw.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of fresh collard greens (about a lb).

Collard greens in the buff

Collard greens in the buff

32 ozs. of water

1 smoked ham hock or turkey leg

1.5 tsp salt

1.5 tsp sugar

2 TBS white vinegar

Directions:

Remove the large stems from the collard greens, thoroughly wash, and cut into 2 square inch pieces (or so).

Leather leafs

Leather leafs

Add water and ham hock/turkey leg to a large pot over high heat.  Once boiling add the sugar, salt, vinegar, and greens and bring back to a boil.

In the pot collard greens southern style recipe

Once boiling reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.

Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Serve with:

Gumbo, BBQ cornbread, and a straw.

Finished collard greens southern style recipe

shrimp and andouille sausage gumbo recipe

September 8, 2009

Answer:  A Southern recipe incorporating near burnt flour, random pieces of protein, scrap vegetables, and stock.

What is gumbo, Alex?

jeopardy pic

A dish incorporating the many cultures and cooking techniques of Louisiana, each individual ingredient in gumbo is rather far from assuming.  And that’s why kudos is in order for whomever accidentally (or intentionally) created this tasty, filling, and soupy/stewy delight –all the ingredients have a specific role building layer after layer of flavor.  And flavor is good.

Being a born and raised Yankee who for better or worse dabbled in a Mason Dixon border state for a few years, I’m stepping into unchartered and unwelcoming waters here.  Not packing much (any) credibility on the topic, my recipe is well studied and tested.  Really.  Give this a whirl, but don’t tell em’ the recipe is from a Yankee.

Ingredients:

3 ozs by volume of vegetable oil

3 ozs by volume of white flour

1 lb of unpeeled shrimp

2 quarts of water

1 large onion, diced

3 stalks of diced celery

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1 habanero pepper, diced (optional)

6 cloves of minced garlic

1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and cut into small chunks (not traditional, but I’m a Yankee)

1 TBS dried thyme

2 bay leafs

1 TBS old bay seasoning

1 cup of okra, cut into 1 inch pieces (a slimy pod shaped vegetable from Africa that’ll help thicken things up)

okra for shrimp and andouille sausage gumbo recipe

.75 lbs of andouille sausage, cut into .3 inch pieces and browned in a skillet

Pre browned

Pre browned andouille

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

To create the shrimp stock remove the shells from the shrimp and add to a pot.  Mix in the water, 6 cloves of garlic, old bay or similar seasoning salt, 1 tsp of thyme and a pinch of salt.  Simmer for an hour or until about half of the liquid has evaporated.  Strain to remove the solid stuff and set aside.

Boiling stock

Boiling stock

To create the toasted roux (which will add thickening prowess and much of the flavor) add the oil and flour to a large pot over medium/medium low heat.  Stir this CONTINOUSLY until it reaches a nice medium to medium dark brown color.  Don’t leave, answer the phone, do your business in the bathroom, or anything like that.  NOTE:  you may need to turn the heat down otherwise it’ll burn leaving you back at the drawing board.

Roux after 2 minutes

Roux after 2 minutes

3 minutes later...

3 minutes later...

4 minutes later...

4 minutes later...

3 minutes and a hand cramp later

3 minutes and a hand cramp later

3 minutes later...just about done

3 minutes later and just about done

Once the roux is the proper color add the onion, remaining garlic, celery, peppers, and a pinch of salt.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring continuously.

Roux and veggie party

Roux and veggie party

Add the tomato, thyme, bay leafs, salt and pepper to taste, and the shrimp stock (I like my gumbo on the thicker side and don’t always use all the stock…adjust the amount of stock you add accordingly).

Decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1.5 hours.

Add the browned andouille sausage and okra, cover, and cook for another half hour.

Just add shrimp

Just add shrimp

Turn the heat off, add the shrimp (the remaining heat will cooking em’), and taste and adjust accordingly for seasoning.  Top with scallions.

Serve with:

White rice, Abita beer, Mofro’s Country Ghetto on the music box, and a nap (esp. after typing this ever long post).

Worth the effort

Worth the effort