Food Network: The Anal Retentive Chef
As far as I am concerned the Food Network is Alton Brown. Everything else is just filler shows in between AB (and occasional leering at Giada, or if I’m feeling particularly saucy, Ina Garten). His show isn’t just about cooking. If you sit down expecting him just to rattle off a recipe for garlic chicken, you will be in for a shock. First he will go through the history of Garlic with a culinary anthropologist (# 2 on my list of jobs I wish I had, after President of the David Hasselhoff Fan Club. HASSELHOFF!). Then he will examine how it was first cultivated, what cultures brought it to America. Next he will go through the chemical composition of garlic that makes it what it is (smaller bulbs have more intense flavor, you must dice and/or crush the garlic so the enzyme allinase can digest the sulfur rich amino acid alliin, thus creating allicin, which creates the smell and taste of garlic we all love). From there he will tell you what to look for when shopping for Garlic, how to store it, and then, finally, go through a few recipe’s. Oh, and he’ll also go over a cooking instrument to help you find the best one on the market. And trivia. Lots of trivia. All that in one half hour. What more do you want?
Admit it. You didn’t know that did you?
Also with Alton is a cast of semi regulars who pop up from time to time to help us on our culinary journey. We have Shirley, the adorable big lesbian looking food scientist. Debra, out nutritional anthropologist and W, Alton’s Bond like equipment specialist. Even Altons mannish looking sister has made a few appearances.
Sadly Altons wife and daughter have yet to make an appearance. I don’t know why but I have been curious about seeing a picture of the woman he married. Jealousy? Umm, no, not really. I’m as man as man can be. Just ask my mom. I’m just fascinated by his oddly asexual behavior, so I wanted to see the woman he gets his freak on with. Does that make me weird? It does doesn’t it? Oh well. For anyone interested, here’s a picture of the happy family.
Sigh…The luckiest woman in the world.
Now with his odd choices there are the occasional duds out there. He once did an entire episode about beets. And try as he might, they are still beets, and beets are gross. Or he will go to such ridiculous extremes to get something that you can simply buy at a store in 5 minutes. When he was going through his long process of making homemade liquid smoke (which involved buying aluminum tubing of some sort) I remembered I saw a bottle of it at the Stop and Shop for $3.99. And who can forget his entire episode devoted to making your own homemade bacon? Well if you missed it, don’t worry, here is the recipe :
Once the brine has cooled place the peppered pork belly into the mixture until completely submerged. Refrigerate for three days. After three days have passed, remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Lay on a rack over a sheet pan and place in front of a fan for 1 hour to form a pellicle. Lay the pork in the protein box of a cold smoker and smoke for 4 to 6 hours. Chill the meat in the freezer for 1 hour to stiffen for easy slicing into strips of bacon. Slice what you need and keep the remainder in a freezer safe bag in the refrigerator or freezer.
Fantastic! All I need to do is spend 3 days brining pork, stick it in front of a fan for an hour and then into my handy dandy cold smoker for another 6 hours. Why isn’t the process of making your own bacon not sweeping the country?
But for every wildly impractical episode like that or “homemade mayonnaise” we get some real gems like his braised baby back ribs finished under the broiler or his amazing macaroni and cheese that will give any artery a run for its money.
Now if there is a downside to Alton it would be his amazing propensity to be the most anal retentive person in the history of the world. His 4 layer process on storing mussels just makes me concerned for his mental health. Who buys mussels and stores them? There was also an episode where he showed us the 8 steps in packing the ultimate cooler. He even cut it down the middle for a cross sectioned view. And he has this odd predilection for using Japanese Panko breadcrumbs that I have yet to figure out. That and Old Bay seasoning. He loves Old Bay. But so do I so I don’t mind that so much.
There is also what I like to refer to as the MacGyver effrect. Comparing him to MacGyver is nothing new of course. He’s even referred to MacGyver as his patron saint. Blasphemy if you ask me. I worship Saint B.A. Baracus, who teaches you to above all else, respect yo momma. But I digress. Alton loves to use unconventional items when ones normal people would use just aren’t normal enough. Or to put it a better way, he teaches you that buying a 99 cent unglazed quarry tile from a local building supply store is a lot better than a 40 dollar pizza stone from Williams Sonoma, and they both achieve the same result. Now sometimes his tips are helpful (you’d be amazed how many uses he gets out of a grapefruit spoon) and some are just plain odd (the cardboard salmon smoker). It never occurred to me to stick pots on the inside of a cabinet drawer with a magnet to save space. Or sticking spice tins on the inside of a cabinet door with Velcro. The man is just chock full of ideas like that.
Of his recipe’s I have made the following;
Baby Back Ribs. Fantastic. I still make them to this day.
Macaroni and Cheese. Great but a little labor intensive. That and the 8 thousand calories keeps me from making it a regular addition to my meals.
Fondue. (the less said about that evening the better)
Meatloaf. Ahh, this one was a masterpiece. His key is to not use a meatloaf pan and instead form it by hand on a baking sheet with parchment paper. This way you get more of that delicious crust.
40 cloves and a chicken. Chicken and lots of garlic. you can’t really screw that up.
Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes. Just writing that gets me aroused.
Coffee. Granted its just coffee but Alton has his own method. Now I love coffee. I am a whore for a “Big One” Vanilla Spice from Dunkin Donuts ($2.36 with tax). Actually I am whore for many things, but that’s another story. Using 2 heaping tablespoons of grounds to 6 ounces of water, as Alton does for making coffee is absolutely insane.
And with the holidays coming up, how awesome would it be if some devoted TvGasm fan decided to buy me the entire 27 disc complete DVD collection? It’s on sale for an amazingly low $279.99. What a steal! Any takers? Anyone? No? OK, but remember this. If you don’t buy it for me it will make baby Jesus cry. If you want that on your heads thats your business.
And if you’ll permit me a sappy moment, what I have learned how to do most of all from Mr. Brown, is to cook, not just follow a recipe. Once I found out how great his rib recipe was I tweaked it and experimented with it to create my very own version. That’s what cooking is all about, making things your own and moving off the page. OK. Now I’m starting to cry a little. Ah jeez. This is so embarrassing. Ummm. ahh. Heck, now that I’ve gone this far I’d just also like to say that ahhh , I love each and every one of you TvGasm readers. Even the ones who give me shit about my grammar. Sniff. OK. Focus Ed, focus. Think of Tara Reids nipple. And…I’m back.
So to conclude, Alton Brown is god. He taught me about the Maillard reaction, the 5 government classifications of tomatoes, and most of all, he taught me how to love again. You are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t watch his show.