Monday, November 13, 2006

Ray 1, De Laurentis 0

Everyone likes to hate on my girl Rachael Ray. But I think she's fabulous... and not only because she kicked Giada De Laurentis's skinny little ass last night on IRON CHEF AMERICA! It was an hour-and-a-half special... Mario Batali & Rach v. Bobby Flay & Giada... secret ingredient was cranberries. While Giada served up some "classic" italiano fare (including ravioli with squash and cranberry filling), Rach served up "drunken pasta" (pasta literally cooked in wine, instead of water) and a few other treats.

The Champions, Ray and Batali
But the ICA victory aside, I love Rachael Ray for many of the reasons other people hate her. First, as she openly admitted on the show, she's not a chef, she just really likes to cook. She doesn't even bake because it requires measuring things and it takes too much time. (In fact, while she was flattered to be asked to appear on Iron Chef America, she almost didn't do it. As she explained later, "I was really nervous... I'm not a chef. To be asked was honor enough, but I really didn't want to do it. Then I thought about it and I said, 'You're so frightened of that show, why don't you give it a shot. Food's food; so, you can't do fancy; you can do tasty!'").

Secondly, Rachael cooks food that people (meaning me) actually eat. She's a big fan of the basics: pasta, chicken, breads, soups stews and of course desserts. And let's face it, she's practical: most people just don't HAVE more than 30 Minutes to cook a yummy tasting meal for dinner, nor do they have much more than $40 a Day to spend eating out. And frankly who cares (not me) if she uses pre-packaged ingredients in her recipes... as long as they taste good and cook up quick it doesn't matter! (Honestly, most people don't have a fully stocked garden "out back" at all times of the year... like some of the other Food Network chefs claim. They film in a studio anyway! It's all lies!)
Finally, I don't find Rachael half as annoying as many of the other chefs on Food Network.... I appreciate her uber perkiness and enthusiasm... probably becuase I've got a similar personality. Oh yeah, and one other thing... I appreciate the fact that she's got a little pudge. It shows that she actually eats her food, and enjoys it! Probably helps that she loves butter ("butter makes everything taste better!"), but honestly, can you really trust an anorexically skinny chef (ahem, Giada and Sandra, ahem) to know good food? Please.
Rant over, I want to share one of my favorite RR recipes... I've made this one a few times, and I find that if you add a dash of red pepper to the seasonings it adds a nice touch of heat to the sauce. YUM-O!

RR's Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce
(lovingly ripped from Food

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO!), once around the pan in a slow stream
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
1/2 cup heavy cream
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
Crusty bread, for passing

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.
Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass pasta with crusty bread.


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