The Cooking Show Criterion

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I'm watching "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello," and once again, I'm not quite sure what to think. I like everything he cooks, and I am rarely, if ever, disappointed with his recipes in their taste and appearance. However, it really is the cliche cooking show, I.E. "Today we will be cooking with ingredients you've never heard of, using tools you can niether afford nor find, in a kitchen bigger than your entire house!"

I'm lucky to live in California, where practically everything is available to me within a short drive. However, if you're in Kansas or Paris, I don't think you'll be reaching out your window for that fresh buttery avocado, or driving to the local Chinatown for a black market mangosteen. I know that my sketchy easy bake oven built into the wall isn't even close to reliable, and the electric stovetop's reliability comes and goes with the faces of the moon. Then there is that one truly esoteric ingredient that is so hard to find that your only chance of obtaining it is by selling your left kidney to a specialty grocer on the internet. I recall one particular hunt for fennel pollen (aka: "the spice of angels", que the eye-roll), anise fronds eventually being used as a substitute.

Let's also take into consideration that Mr. Chiarello was raised on a very prominent and successful vineyard in the Napa Valley, and the winery has now expanded into also selling Napa Style, collections of Napa Valley inspired furniture, foods, and kitchen paraphernalia. Yeah, I'm thinking he has the time, staff, and resources to create such awesome food. Plus, most of what he makes is simply out of my humble budget's reach.

But Michael is not alone, lets look at a the Barefoot Contessa and her east coast Hampton home on the beach (or Martha's Vineyard, or wherever it is). Have you seen Sandra Dee's lifestyle? I'm amazed she can even do the show since it's always cocktail time for her it seems. Many of these culinary stars simply have access and excess that the everyday viewer does not.

But ah, I must confess, I still watch the shows. We observe the techniques, absorb the information, memorize the quick and easy to alterate recipes, and through osmosis learn of new and exciting flavors! It's a guilty and enjoyable pleasure!

I remember in college the Iron Chef Ramen competition we had. My friend and I made strudel, chilled ramen with spicy salsa, Thai Ramen, and of course pasghetti (never spaghetti). We need a cooking show thats a bit more every day: "Well, we have half a jar of jelly, a stick of butter, and some stale pizza crusts still sitting in the original box. Oh, and that ancient box of baking soda in the back. You also seem to have a zillion spices in your spice rack for the food you don't have."

"I've got some Starbursts and vodka in the freezer if that helps..."

"Excellent! Perfect for a dessert reduction sauce!" says our chipper celebrity chef. Twently minutes later we have some sort of edible, and possibly tasty meal. A cooking show for college students and for the weeks we just don't have a chance to get to the market would be awesome. I'm sure it's been done, but seriously, in college we made some crazy food that I still make once in a while.

Tune in this fall for "The Poor and Lazy Kitchen" with So-and-So on Food Network! Yeah... I would watch that.

Thai Ramen
Serves one, add one serving of each ingredient for each person.
This tastes like college food, btw, but great if you don't wanna move much or nuthin'.

What You'll Need...
1 package of instant ramen of any flavor
1/2 can coconut milk
1/2 can of chicken stock
1 cup each of milk and cream (or 2 cups of one or the other)
Dry unsweetened shredded coconut
pepper, sugar, salt

What You'll Do...
No real directions here. Cook the ramen and throw out the flavor packet; too many calories anyway. Drain the ramen and wash under cold water. Throw it into a bowl, add the liquids. Add sugar, pepper and salt to taste. Add the shredded coconut. Throw in some cilantro for appearance and taste. Boom, boom, boom, yer done. Feel free to alter this as you see fit, I can see lime or chili peppers working well.


  1. I NEED this show. That list sounds exactly like what I generally have left in my kitchen.

    If you could please tell me what to make out of grated parmesan cheese, half a jar of jam, basil leaves, water, beer, soy sauce, crackers, pasta and red wine, then I could pretty much have a back up meal for every time I don't have time to run to the store.

  2. I have to say I admire the Barefoot Contessa's kitchen setup. Her fridge might be stocked with ridiculous amounts of meat, butter & champagne, and there might be a huge set of Mauviel copper pots hanging behind her, but she usually uses the same few utensils, pans & appliances week after week. To some extent she's almost frugal in that sense and I think I've learned a lot about kitchen essentials from her.

    She's also often just as drunk as the Semi Ho, and that's damn entertaining.

  3. I used to love Michael Chiarello, but he's gotten whinier and squintier over the years. He's not aging well. Love or hate Rachael Ray, at least she cooks real-people food in a realistic kitchen setting. She's very lifelike.

    But fennel pollen?? I've never heard of such a thing. What's next, eucalyptus nectar?

  4. Okay. You've officially written the funniest blog entry I've come across! Thank you.

  5. I'm with you on Chiarello (and the other Food Network stars)...given that I'm a certified FN junkie the only one that comes close to a 'real' kitchen is Rachael Ray and she's far and away the most annoying chef on the FN ever. I'd love to have two stoves like Bobby Flay, but I don't think it's in the cards anytime soon.

  6. KT- Ummm, put is all in a blender and hold your nose? O.o

    Brian- Yeah, she is frugal in appliances, but she also buys from specialty stores.

    Sean- Squintier? LOL. My friends and I still can't figure out is he is gay or not. He has a daughter, but that proves nothing. LOL.

    Harry- Schweeeet. Glad you like it! >^.^<

    Mind- Yeah, RR is realistic, I'll give her that. Bobby Flay is a stupid head though. I want RR's stove though!


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