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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is the Food Network losing its edge?

When I was a child I remember cooking shows on PBS like Julia Child, Frugal Gourmet and that dude that always said I garronnteee. I was too young to enjoy them I suppose but I do remember watching them for a bit with a speck of curiosity.

It's pretty interesting how currently chefs are like rock stars now in a sense. At least to some people. If you were to ask me today would I rather go see a Led Zeppelin reunion concert or go to a three star Michelin Restaurant like Per Se I would no doubt choose the later. Ten years ago it would have been a different story.

I would have to attribute my initial interest in the culinary arts largely to the Food Network. The first show that really sparked my interest in food would have to be the original Japanese Iron Chef. At first I watched it because I found the voice dubbing comical but as time went on I was more entertained by the food. At that time some of the food seemed just as foreign as the show itself but it sparked my interest.

I was living at home at those days and never really cooked anything before other than eggs. When I moved out of my house into my first apartment I was forced into the role of the cook due to my wife's culinary short comings. I was in charge of the buying and preparing the food for the house. It was pretty exciting actually I just didn't know how to cook. After some trial and error you start to figure stuff out. The Internet also has a wealth of information on it so I utilized that.

This is when I first started watching Good Eats on the Food Network. Alton Brown was really helpful. The way he broke down a certain ingredient and then teaches the viewer on how to prepare it was perfect. The show gave me confidence. He was almost like a virtual mentor to me. After I watched him explain the background of an ingredient and then prepare it I knew I could do it too. At first I tried not to deviate or be too creative. I just learned the basics and from there I spruced things up.

Aside from the above shows I mentioned above I find a lot of the programing in the Food Network is not up to par compared to what other networks are broadcasting. How did they miss out on Gordon Ramsey! This guy is Television Gold! He might be the most charismatic celebrity chef out there and they didn't get him on their channel. The Travel Channel also has two of the best food shows out there. Anthony Bourdain's 'No Reservations' and Andrew Zimmern'sBizarre Foods' ' are two great programs that foodies everywhere watch. Last but not least Bravo's huge hit 'Top Chef'. Now in it's fourth season this is one of Bravo's biggest hits. How can a reality show about cooking not be on the Food Network? I just find their prime time lineup very weak. Emeril finally is lost his 8pm slot to Good Eats(rightfully so). After that we are bombarded with Ace Of Cakes,Unwrapped, Diners,Drive In's and Dives and Dinner Impossible. What kind of self respecting foodie is going to watch how an Unwrapped episode about how a tootsie roll was made(hosted by dude from Double Dare) over a Gordon Ramsey show?

From what I have read The Food Network is still very successful but how long will this last? The best primetime food programs are not on their network. This should be a major concern for them. Right now their big show is the Ultimate Recipe Showdown(again hosted by the dude from Double Dare). Ok it sounds decent but are two home cooks competing in a chocolate chip cookie battle really original or cutting edge?

Everything on the Food Network just seems so sweet and wholesome. What makes like Top Chef and Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen so good is that they are full of energy. There is real drama, real tears and lot of emotion. I think they just need to step it up a bit. Take a chance on something new. Try to create a program that some people might consider edgy. Its only a matter of time until another food channel surfaces. Will they survive an ultimate food channel showdown?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Snack Spotlight: Oversized Thai Squid Snack

I found this product in the snack isle of my local Asian market last week. I've seenfish snacks of all sorts but never one this big(2 ft long). I purchased this strictly on size, not really expecting it to taste all that good. There was a card game coming up at my house on the weekend and I decided to serve it as a snack.

When I showed the package to my wife she didn't display the same enthusiasm as I did toward the snack. In fact she ridiculed it and taunted me about it. She even threaten to destroy it before my brethren and I could consume it. I feared that the squid snack wouldn't make it to the card game. I pleaded with her to spare the abnormally large sea snack and she agreed.

So card night came and it was a great time. Good friends, beer and cards. Great combination if you ask me. I even managed to win $40 whilst my rival Butter lost $40. It was brilliant.

I served some food at the game, some soprosata and arugula wrapped around bread sticks and chicken skewers with peanut sauce. I strategically waited until the beers kicked in before I presented them with the squid snack. When I did bring it out there was some mixed reactions. There was some laughter, some tears and even some fear towards it. They had never laid their eyes anything like this before.

When I opened the package there was an immediate odor of the sea. A very strong odor. My dining room was soon engrossed with it. I did not let this odor sway me however. I tore off a little piece and tried it. It had the texture of a fruit roll up . The taste was very fishy with a sweet and spicy aftertaste. It wasn't very appetizing. My cohorts agreed and we disposed of the remains.

I have no regrets nor fond memories of the squid snack. One most be open minded when it comes to sampling cuisine from different cultures but sometimes the road is rocky. There will some hits and misses along the way.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dinner Tonight:Ostrich Fillet w/ Braised Endives

Ostrich. The other red meat. Yes cows everywhere are rejoicing over the other red meat yielded by this large, rather funny looking flightless bird. Why are they rejoicing? Maybe because Ostrich meat has less fat and cholesterol than beef. Not only that it has less fat and cholesterol than skinless chicken. In a growing health conscious society I can see in the future Ostrich steaks being a staple at your neighborhood steak house. I can also imagine some loud mouth at Yankee stadium yelling out 'Get your Ostrich Dogs here' while enjoying a ball game with the family. Maybe I am reaching a little bit, but if you have the opportunity perhaps you should give a cow a reprieve for one night and give Ostrich meat a chance.

The flavor and texture is similar to beef but it does have a slight gamy aftertaste. It's versatile like beef and I don't see why it couldn't be subsituted for beef in most dishes. You do have to show caution when preparing Ostrich though because it doesn't cook like beef.

Since it is much leaner then beef(any probably most other meats) be sure not to overcook it because it will dry out fast. Marinate the meat for to ensure maximum juiciness. Also because of Ostrich's high Iron content the meat well remain more red then beef even when cooked through. Cooking time for Ostrich should be the same time as beef and should be cooked to medium.

I made a simple marinade for a 4oz portion of Ostrich tonight that I purchased vacuum packed from supermarket. It consisted of:

2 tblspns reduced sodium soy sauce
1tpsn grated fresh ginger
1 tpsn Sesame Oil
Dash of rice cooking wine
Dash Orange Juice
Marinate for one hour prior to cooking.

Add a tablespoon of oil to a hot skillet and add the meat and the marinade to the skillet. Cook about three minutes on each side and serve. Keep in mind I am working with precut thin fillet.

If you are able to get your hands on a thicker Ostrich steak you should cook it to an internal temperature of 150 degrees

For a side I made some braised endives from a recipe I lifted from

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Dinner Tonight: Veggie Egg Foo Young

EFY is a classic Chinese American dish. I say Chinese American because I am pretty sure this dish was created for American diners during the Chop Suey craze. This doesn't make the dish less delicious maybe just less authentic Chinese. It's still a very versatile dish that can consist of basically anything you desire from meats,seafood and in this case vegetables. What makes this different from your normal everyday breakfast omelet is the addition of soy sauce and the amount of oil in which you fry your omelet in. It is also smothered in gravy. Every time I have had EFY from a Chinese eatery I'm pretty sure it's always deep fried to get that crispy airy texture. While I didn't deep fry mine I did add a little bit more oil than I normally would to try to mimic the original texture of the EFY.

For Omelets:

4 large eggs
6 Shitake Mushrooms sliced
1 small onion chopped
1 handful bean sprouts
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 tblspns soy sauce
2 scallions chopped
salt and pepper to tasted
Canola Oil for cooking
Dash white cooking wine

For Gravy:

12 oz chicken stock
4 oz cold water
1 tblspn corn starch
black pepper to taste


Add the chopped onions and mushrooms to a hot oiled skillet with cooking wine and saute for four minutes or so or until the onion are translucent and the mushrooms are tender. Add the frozen peas and bean sprouts and toss them around a few times and empty the mixture into a large bowl. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and the soy sauce together until the egg whites and the yolks are well blended. Add the egg mixture to the vegetables. Heat a large nonstick skillet with enough oil cover the bottom plus and additional tablespoon. With a ladle add the egg veggie mixture to the skillet and cook for about three minutes on each side or until the omelets are cooked through. Plate the omelets. Garnish with chopped scallions


Add cornstarch to the cold water and stir until dissolved. In a sauce pan bring the black pepper, stock and and cornstarch mixture to a boil. The mixture should thicken up into a clear gravy. Spoon over the omelets.

Serves two

Monday, March 3, 2008

Product Spotlight: Quron Garlic N Herb Chik'n Cutlets

I have always been fascinated by fugazi meat products. Sometimes they are decent and sometimes they are something people in prisons would use as a weapon rather than eat. The product I am reviewing today definitely falls into the category of decent. This is not the first Quron product I have tried. Maybe two years ago I purchased their plain chik'n cutlets and I found them rather bland and forgettable. So when I saw a flavored variety I decided to give them another try.

Quron's niche in the vegetarian food world is that it does not use soy as their base. Instead they use something called Mycoprotein. After reading the description on the carton and some more research I found out MP is actually a fermented fungi product that is naturally high in protein, and lowin calories and low in fat. Even though I am a big mushroom fan hearing the term fungi doesn't really make my mouth water. But whatever I have consumed so much questionable eats over the years some fermented fungi shouldn't really put me off.

It was easy enough to prepare 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes flipping once halfway. It actually wasn't that bad. As advertised on the carton it was crispy on the outside. The cutlet itself did have the texture of chicken more so than I remembered. It was on the dry side but considering the health benefits of it I was able to deal with it. I suppose you could sauce it up with some tomato sauce or something to offset the dryness. Maybe down the road I will consider that.

Final verdict? Well I don't think the poultry industry has anything to worry about but you may want to give this fungi a try. Especially if you are someone who is trying to cut down on cholesterol and fat in your diet.
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