Why I will not try out for MasterChef again.

Before I start this, I do not want any MasterChef hopeful to read any negative into this post. This is about me and my feelings, and where I personally went wrong.  Everyone should try and live their dreams as long as they are doing them for the right reasons. That is where I went wrong.

While this post is not about cooking from my book, I feel it is important to share with folks why I have made this decision, because it has everything to do with Gordon Ramsay and my food experience.

A number of years ago as some of you know, I decided to start this journey of cooking my way through this book and writing about my experiences.  I won't lie this has really helped me become a better cook and I wouldn't change it for the world, in fact this is back where I need to be.

I've tried out for MasterChef 3 different times.  One, I never got a call, the second I made it pretty far, and this time I fell flat on my face. I was elated when I heard that this year was going to have a casting right here in Phoenix, I was ecstatic and immediately started planning what I was going to do and with the help of a few friends I decided I would do corned beef and colecannon.  It is one of my best dishes, and while it may seem simple it's a two week process, and it is the best corned beef you will ever have.  I do it every St. Patrick's Day and every year my parties grow.

This time however was different.  In my haste to get my brisket into the oven, I made a rookie mistake and did not rinse off the brine.  I slow cooked that brisket overnight in the oven and the house smelled amazing the next morning. I flew out of bed to the oven so excited to pull out what I knew was going to be my ticket to being on the show, and finally getting to cook something for Gordon Ramsay.  One bite and I burst into tears, it was SALTY and when I think something is too salty then you know its horrid, because I am a saltaholic. My dear husband to the rescue helped me find a few middle pieces that weren't so bad, and when put on top of the peppery colecannon, and drizzled with the horseradish cream, and grainy mustard, it all balanced out and I was quite confident I was a winner.

But I have to back up a week or more.  I really had a bad feeling about this audition starting about a month before hand, and I told family and friends I really didn't want to try out this year.  I was barely recovering from 5 months in a wheel chair and I was very uncertain of my health, but there was more to it, I just didn't have it in me.  Family and friends kept encouraging me to go for it because it was my dream.  But was it? I didn't know anymore.  I never got over that feeling but I agreed with them, if I didn't go for it, I would always wonder and probably kick myself for not doing it.

Then a week before my audition a friend of mine (I will keep his name out of it) decided to take his own life.  I don't know why I was so overcome with sadness because we didn't really know each other all that well, but there was just something about him that made me happy.  His memorial was the same time of my audition down in Tucson. Once again, I did not want to go for it, but he was so excited for me to be on that show when he was alive I think he would have kicked my butt if I didn't go.  So I went. I thought for certain that I would make it on that show because I had him with me there that day.  I wish I could reach out to his partner and hug him right now.

So I got there early and I was the second group to go in.  My dear friend David Martinez was there cheering me on, and Monti Carlo was there cheering everyone on.  David is a very special person, and I would later that day find out how special Monti is.

Friends, I could not have plated that dish better if I was a professional chef, (a professional chef helped me with ideas, thank you Rita) it was beautiful.  I was VERY proud and I could tell the food experts loved it.  They did their usual thing, and then the debating and then called out the numbers of people who would be moving on in the next stage. Patiently I waited for my number to be called, sadly that didn't happen, and my whole world came crashing down around me and I left the room completely gutted.  I couldn't believe how absolutely devastated I was.  At least I knew I would have my husband and daughter there waiting for me so I could cry on them, but they weren't there, they were kicked out of that hallway. Who was there?  Monti Carlo and Taryn Jeffries.  Monti had offered to keep an eye on my wheelchair for them so I would have it when I came out. I was just sobbing and the genuine compassion those two ladies had in their faces was very touching, I'm glad they were there.  Then David and Bea came up to me and David said "Don't cry mama"  I think that made me cry more.  I didn't want anyone to feel bad for me, I just wanted to feel bad for myself.  My family has to feel for me, that's why they are family. These people?  They didn't have to give a rats butt, but they did, so I think that helped a little.

The crying didn't stop for a long time, maybe an entire week. One day while I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, my daughter Tara made some flip comment about how much money Daddy spends on things for me in the kitchen, and I said "well you won't have to worry about that anymore"  She asked why and I said "because I'm never cooking again"  She was very upset because after all Thanksgiving is coming and there is no way we are not having Thanksgiving, its the one day of the year I live for.

It was at that exact moment that it hit me. If Gordon Ramsay heard me say that, he'd probably kick my ass into the next county.  I had just given up!  Resigned myself to be a failure.  It was at that moment that I realized my motivation has always been wrong. Sure originally it started out because I wanted to meet Gordon Ramsay.  Well I had already done that, so really no big deal. It was more than that, the obsession to be on that show was way deeper than wanting to meet him, I clearly proved that if I wanted to meet him I could (probably the best day of my life)  Even though everyone kept saying "there's always next year" I knew that next year wasn't going to come.  I really wanted to be on MasterChef to prove to my sister,and all the people in my life that I was worth something, and look what I accomplished! So I had given up my love of cooking for what? A reality show?  Come on!  The people that really matter love me and accept me for who I am.  That's what counts!  I found myself resenting pictures of Gordon Ramsay when he was posting about the Iron Man competition and I was angry with him!  That is when I decided it was over for me.  I didn't have a food dream, I didn't want to write a cookbook, I didn't really have any reason to be on that show like those who make it actually do. No, my motives were all wrong, and I realized that. I didn't like that feeling I felt toward my hero I would rather continue to think of him as the man who inspired me, yes ME to be a better person and to be confident in what I loved. I needed to go back to that. Would MasterChef in anyway improve my life for the better? The answer for me is probably not. So there isn't much point.  I need to be okay with who I am and not what others want me to be.  I lost sight of why I started this journey, it was always about me becoming better at what I really loved to do, and that just isn't right.  I had to ask myself "why do you cook?" The answer was always there. I cook because I love to make others happy, and there is no place happier in my home than the kitchen.

I talked to my dear friend Ben Starr and shared these feelings with him and he gave me the courage to write what you're reading today, along with my husband who said I should write about how it made me feel.  The fact is, I still feel sadness, but I know that I have so much more to give.  I will find the meaning in my life if I have to keep plugging along for the rest of it.

For those of you who have encouraged me along this path, I am ever grateful for you.  If my trying out for MasterChef was intended only so I would realize that I don't have to prove anything to anyone, well then that is a positive outcome.

So this ends my MasterChef journey.  I will forever cheer on those who dream of winning it all. As for me. I have already won it all.

I love you Chuck you make it all worth while.  I love you and my family and friends with all my heart.

Peace. 

Meeting Gordon Ramsay

Okay dear readers it finally happened... I met the one and only Gordon Ramsay!  I always imagined what it would be like, but at the same time I never imagined it.

Let me start from the beginning....

I was sitting on the couch one day flipping through my Bon Appetite` magazine when I came across a one page spread advertising something called Vegas Uncork'd.  Reading the description about famous chefs showcasing their restaurants, out of some sort of morbid curiosity I went to the website just to see...

There it was "Master Series Dinner with Gordon Ramsay" My heart dropped! Timidly I clicked on the link to find out how much it may cost to go to such an opportunity and upon gazing at the price, I was saddened because I knew I would just not be able to meet him this time around. There was no way I was going to pay $275.00 per person for any meal, I don't care who prepared it. In my heart I knew that wasn't true, because to meet Gordon Ramsay I would have paid 5X that amount of money, the simple fact is that we are people of fairly simple means and quite frankly don't often have $550.00 laying around.  My darling husband said "no you have to go, I'll go with you and just wait out side until you're done"  I tell you folks, that's love right there.  Honestly it didn't even cross my mind to go alone. How fun is it, to experience something that you'll cherish for the rest of your life, if your true love isn't there to enjoy it with you?  I'm not quite certain Chuck understands my unadulterated adoration of Gordon Ramsay but he has never once discouraged it, and in many cases goes out of his way to encourage it (like helping me hunt all over gods green earth looking for conger eel, just so I can make a bisque)

Anyway... I was sharing this opportunity with a good friend of mine at work (I call her my work wife)  and she said to me "Donna, I don't care what you have to cut back you are going to that event"

That night on the drive home from work, Chuck says to me "today really sucked... we need a vacation, how does Vegas sound on the 9th of May?" I was floored... I think I spent that whole weekend crying because I was in utter disbelief that I was actually going to come face to face with the myth and legend himself.  However I had to wait until payday to buy the tickets, and that was okay it was just a few days away.

Payday came and I was Johnny on the spot.  "Master Series Dinner with Gordon Ramsay"  Buy now... "okay"  *click*

"Sorry this venue is sold out"

And just like that my dreams were shattered and I was gutted. Until I saw a Sunday Roast across the Pond... and what do you know it was less expensive and I would still get to meet him. Happy once again!  I'll fast forward now for the sake of the fact that I can feel you yawning as I type these words.

Turns out he wasn't going to be there after all, and I wasn't all too happy about that because quite frankly I can go anywhere I want and have a meal from any manner of 5 star chefs, and I don't care if they are hand picked by Gordon Ramsay. I wanted to meet Chef Ramsay.  I've tried out for Hell's Kitchen AND MasterChef for the sole reason of just that!  No, that would not do.  So I wrote an email, and yours truly was back in the game!  Of course, I never in a million years imagined I'd have to go there in a wheel chair because of an accident earlier, but I tell you I would have to been in a coffin to miss this.

So the time arrived, there we were standing in line to be seated, and I just knew he was there.  I tried so hard to not cry.  I self talked the entire drive to Vegas from Phoenix. "Donna, do NOT BABBLE, he does not like that, say what you have to say and SHUT UP!"  I was telling myself this the walk over to Caesars Palace, and even when I was seated. Once seated we chit chatted with some lovely people at our table and I took my book out of my purse and laid it in the middle of the table.  If I hadn't taken it out, surely I would forget to ask him to sign it. Then he came in.  He was so far away. I just watched, and I listened.  After some announcements he began to wander the room, and more watching on my part. "DAMNIT Chef Ramsay, why must you be so far away?"  (More self talk, and SHUT IT)

As he got closer I watched more intently as people mobbed him, and it struck me that it couldn't possibly be comfortable for him like this.  Now he was at our table! *breathe Donna breathe*  I literally just sat there looking at him. No words came from my mouth. He leaned over to Chuck and said "I know it took me so long to get here, your lamb must be ice cold"  To which chuck said "I don't care this is really GOOD"  He then looked at me and said to Chuck "is she always so chatty?"  (smooth Donna)  My darling husband said "she really is your biggest fan, she's very over whelmed right now"  It is true, I probably was very overwhelmed, but it was more than that.  I have had such a high respect for this Chef, that I was not going to be *that person* It was very important to me that I respect his space, and I knew he would eventually address me, and then I'd have the opportunity to share with him just how much he had influenced my life.  Finally it was my turn.... I locked the wheels to my chair and stood up and he asked me to please not, and you know there was no way I was not going to stand up and greet him. I had waited too long.  I stood up an gazed at him and shook his hand and said "Chef Ramsay it is a true honor to meet you"  I meant it folks. Some people might blow smoke up a celebrity's ass, but that is just not me. Chef Ramsay is my idol and mentor I wasn't going to flatter him with garbage he probably hears every day of his life.  So I went on to explain how much he has helped me become a better home chef and how much I had desired to meet him, unto the point of trying out on several shows to meet him.  He of course encouraged me to keep cooking and keep trying out.  I asked him to please sign my cookbook and he was very gracious (though I think I must have not pronounced my name right, because Dana isn't really my name, but who cares? Gordon Ramsay signed my book!) He did comment on how well used the book was.  I took that as a compliment.

We finished our short conversation, and he was off again. What was it like?  Well it was just what I imagined it would be. All of my thoughts about him came to a reality.  He was heartfelt and sincere, and you could just feel that.  My heart is swelling remembering it to this moment.  I often have a hard time explaining to people why I adore Chef Ramsay.  It is more than his celebrity status. I could follow any Chef honestly, like Alton Brown for instance, I adore him too (brilliant man)  What it is about him, is who he is/was and who he has become.  It takes a lot of self worth to rise out of difficult situations and dark pasts and make something of yourself.  I had a horrible childhood, and I get it. I get the struggles that it takes to tell yourself that you can be anything you want to be.  Chef Ramsay, I don't know if you'll ever read this, but if you do?  Just thank you.  I hope to see you on MasterChef.
donnaNramsay
amazingly enough, I like this picture of me. THAT never happens
(I was a nervous blob inside, but I still didn't cry)

yeah yeah I know you're saying "Donna shut up and get to the food"

Okay! don't get your panties in a twist.  Next up, amazing food.
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here it comes....

First up the amuse... chilled fennel soup with chilled shrimp. I will admit this was my least favorite thing. Not because it wasn't good, I've just never been a fan of chilled soup.  The flavor was really great.
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Next was a salad. Heirloom tomato salad with a banyuls  vinaigrette and goat cheese.  I think this was my favorite of the night. So much so I came home and ordered some banyuls vinegar. Now if I just knew what that darn cheese was.
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Again, this was the most amazing!

Up next was the fish course. Pan seared scallops.  Never a bad thing in my book!  They were perfect.  Of course they were.  Duh.
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I didn't eat any of the veggies, I was starting to become too full.

Up came the meat course.  I was a little nervous when I saw the menu, because neither Chuck nor myself are big fans of lamb.  Boy was I wrong.  This was so good, I will have to give lamb a whole new look.  I said to Chuck "maybe we just don't like leg of lamb"  I was SO full.  I ate 1/4 of one chop, Chuck ate all of his, and the rest of mine, so that was 3 and 3/4 chops.  So much I need to start exploring.
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and finally??????

Sticky Toffee Pudding!! TADA!  (though I will say, it is a bit better at GR Steak) Chuck ate all of his and all of mine too.
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The next night we had reservations to Gordon Ramsay Steak and I tried foie gras, steak tartar, and bone marrow for the first time in my life.  Man have I missed out on some amazing foods because of my weirdness about food.  Saturday we took my brother to Burgr for lunch on the condition that we were buying and he wasn't allowed to look at the menu and gripe at the prices.  I won't post all those pictures and talk about that. I've already written a whole blog about Steak. This trip was about Gordon Ramsay.

Dream Come True.  That is all.

Once I am out of this wheel chair, I look forward to getting back into the kitchen.  I'm sure my husband will be glad too, since I've spent the better part of my time on the couch ordering specialty salt, but I digress.

Until next time.

The journey continues.

Yeah yeah I know I suck....

Long time no hear.  Who knew blogging would be so time consuming.  Much less planning things out.  Anyway, I'm off to Vegas tomorrow to actually meet the man and the legend who IS Gordon Ramsay.  My life would be so complete if I could just get a picture with him, have him sign this book that has become the bane of my existence when it comes to sourcing and give me a hug. That would be so great for me.  This trip I am lucky because I get to A. go to Vegas Uncork'd and meet Chef Ramsay, have another which I am sure will be an amazing dinner at Gordon Ramsay Steak... AND have yet another dinner at his new place Burgr.  I promise promise promise pictures and reviews upon my return.

Until then

The journey continues....
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    enthralled

Dinner Party with Friends

So last month I was feeling a little remiss in taking so long in between cooking and posting to my blog I decided to dust off the cookbook and see what I could find.  Now you all know I live in Arizona and it is hotter than a frogs butt on a stone in hell here, so nothing really stood out to me as being remotely appealing in this heat.  So I'm going through the book and I see a couple of delightful looking summery type of foods. Strawberry Granitia and Summer Berry Trifle.  I thought... "how fun would it be to have a Sunday afternoon happy hour and invite some friends to share these things with me?"  So that's just what I did.

Now I'm not bragging about myself, but generally when I invite people over for food I usually get a pretty good response and this day was no different.   Since I was really only doing the sweet parts of it, I asked friends to bring appetizers and some wine if they wanted etc.  My friend Ellen brought a really yummy family favorite dips.  Now my friend Rose said "I will love to come and I will bring some wine from my collection"  When Rose tells you she's bringing wine from her collection don't assume she means 1 bottle.... Just sayin.  She brought several very nice wines, one of which has become my new favorite Chardonnay.  It is from Ledson Winery in the Careros Valley. Very wonderful buttery finish.
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Ledson does not pay me to say this, I just happen to be a wino.

Rose also brought some nice salsa and guacamole.  She says she doesn't cook, but that was very good guac.  My friend Annette brought some bruscetta (okay no she didn't I made it for her because she had an open house she had to do before she came over)  It was REALLY good Annette thank  you!

Okay so I started the strawberry granitia the night before because it takes a few hours of stirring and what not.  This was a fairly easy process of hulling the strawberries and cooking them down into a sticky sweet syrup with some sugar and water.  Once that came down to a lovely ruby red sauce, I pulled it off the stove and smashed it all through a sieve so all that was left was this pure dark red thick liquid.  Once that cooled down in went the champagne. Poured all that into a flat pan into the freezer and proceeded to babysit it for the next  day and a half.  Every hour or so, pulled it out of the freezer and gave it a good stir with a metal spoon.

So Sunday was the day of my party, and I had all my berries for the trifle all done and ready to layer in the custard that didn't seem like it would overly difficult to make. Boy was I wrong. I've never made custard in my life and I'm not sure I'll be attempting it any time soon.  A crud ton of work for what is supposed to look like this....

(more later technical difficulties)

Gordon Ramsay Steak

This post is straying off the path just a little but not really.  Since I follow GR so closely I would be remiss as an avid fan to miss a chance to go see just how good his restaurants are.

My husband and I have been wanting to get up to Vegas anyway, and since I got killer prices at the Paris, I thought we'd just go for it.  Now we chit chatted on the way up there about how excited I was go to to my hero's place (no I didn't expect him to be there),  I tried really really hard not to set my expectations too high.  I knew that if every little thing wasn't perfect I would be let down like the Hindenburg on a bad day.  I wanted to set my expectations low, so that when it was a good experience I'd be happy. So I won't make you wait until the end of this blog post to give you my results, I will say right now that without a doubt it was the absolute best dining experience I've ever had in my life.  So that screaming man you see on TV with the highest expectations of perfection can't be all that exaggerated.  I'll start from the beginning

We arrived actually pretty early on Sunday and our reservations weren't until Monday, but here we were coming down the escalator to check in, and I saw this....

There he was!  Big as life... be still stomach!
there he is bigger than life!  Calm down stomach....

So we're walking to our room we go by the front of the restaurant and I say to Chuck "can we go in and just have a drink"   Drat, no they don't open until 5.  *sigh*  I'll be back tomorrow Gordon Ramsay just wait. 

Finally 5pm on Monday night.  We check in at the front and the hostess says "oh I see you're big fan" to which I reply "indeed I am". Then she says "well we have a special seat for you"  And where does she take me?  Right in front of the pass!  OMG it just can't get any better, not only am I here, but I'm getting to see everything right up front and personal.  So exciting.
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Kind of blurry, but they move fast in there!

Before we got seated this was one of the first things I saw.  That cookbook looks very familiar to me!  Now I'm really glad I picked that one to cook from.
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Cooking for Friends is the whole reason for the blog. 

Next we ordered drinks. How cool is it that they give you the drink menu on an iPad?  It was very cool. Don't try taking them though, they're locked down.  (no I didn't try to take one)
ipad     ipad2
Chuck had a craft beer and I had the HK Martini, come on you know I had to. 

They brought us a plate of complementary breads which were clearly an indication of the wonderful food we were about to partake of.  They were so good!
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That butter is a sweet butter with black salt on top, who has ever heard of that?

Next order of business is to order an appetizer I had scoured the menu before we got there, so I pretty much knew I wanted to try the British Ale Onion soup.  I chose right. This soup is so good, full of sweet onions, Boddington's English Ale, and topped with Welsh rarebit. YUM!  must look for a recipe.  I have to tell you the customer service here is bar non the best I've ever had anywhere.  Chuck had to go up to our room to get a decongestant and while he was gone the sous chef was looking for him because his soup was ready, and I told the gentleman that he could just leave it and he'd be right there.  Well he wouldn't hear of it, he waited for about three minutes and threw away the soup sitting at the pass and brought a new one when Chuck sat back down. CRAZY!
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Next came time for us to order our steaks, and they wheeled out this cart of the most amazing meat I have ever seen!  The top row is American Kobe, and the rest was prime. 
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Chuck had the American Kobe rib cap and I had a beef wellington.  I just had to have this also since Gordon Ramsay seems to take the dish so seriously, and I really couldn't see myself ordering it anywhere else.  I am not going to lie, the fillet inside of that was so tender you could eat it with a spoon!  I don't recall ever having a steak so good.  I probably wouldn't have wellington again simply because of how much bread is on the outside of it. Too much for me to eat.  I also ordered a buttered poached lobster tail as an accompaniment for my steak but I really should have done crab legs for only 3 dollars more.  I am not much of a lobster fan, but I figured if it was going to be good some place this would be the place. The taste was good, but it was still a lobster tail that to me seamed tough. *shrug* Not to mention that for $35.00 you'd expect it to be bigger than a prawn, and it wasn't. 
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Beef wellington
ribcap
This rib cap has all the tenderness of a rib eye, without any gristle or fat slabs
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It may have been the size of a crayfish.

Even that little bit was a tad disappointing, it was still very good, and since there was so much else, Chuck and I split the bite of lobster and finished up our steaks, which again were AMAZING. 

We decided to have another cocktail and let our food settle because we had our heart set on trying the English stickee toffee pudding and browned butter ice cream. The staff there was so nice both the head chef and the head sous chef came and chit chatted a little bit and told me what a gentle person GR is and definitely a genius in the kitchen. Duh I knew this.  Just a relaxing non assuming nor stuffy atmosphere at all. 

Now here came the dessert.....
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All I can say about this is Chuck said "OMG F*ck strawberry shortcake" Which until now was his favorite. 

Well goodbye Gordon Ramsay, until we meet again *sigh* 

The take away from this was that I don't think I'll ever enjoy something like I did that night. Not just because of the place it was, but because I was with the love of my life.  He was so happy to spend that evening with me. I truly am a blessed woman.  I love you honey. 

The only negative that I can say, were the other guests of the restaurant. PEOPLE yes I know you're in Las Vegas, but have some F*cking class.  You don't go to a 5 star restaurant, dressed in shorts and flip flops with crying toddlers. 

The journey continues.  Next up will be Happy Hour with Gordon




Google and Pasta.... and Walmart

I'm tired of debating with folks on FB about this that and the other thing so I thought I would update my blog today with my latest recipe.  I'll get to the subject in a bit but first a few public service announcements.  Mostly because you're probably wondering why I have the word Walmart in the subject. 

I mentioned to my boss the other day that Walmart is really making it hard for me to dislike them. A) because of their generosity we were able to put over 300 kids to work this summer and B) because they're sponsoring the show MasterChef this season and I won't not watch it because of Walmart!  So what's a girl to do?  Deal with it I guess, so deal with it I shall, but I don't have to like it and here are my reasons why:

First of all I do shop at Walmart, but mostly for household goods for that kind of thing it really is the best prices, because honestly there aren't many local department stores if any.  So I don't feel as though I'm not supporting local community when I go to Walmart for towels and dishes and things of the like.  Food however is another story.  We have here in Arizona a local family owned supermarket chain.  I've watched with sadness sometimes at yet another neighborhood market close its doors and with it all of its employees in search of gainful employment. Where are these people going to go?  To Walmart?  In some cases some of these people have worked at these markets for years and are probably at the top of their earnings scale, so to go to work at a mega mart is a giant pay cut at best, not to mention they can no longer be that special person someone goes looking for when they need something at the market, they just become one of the drones you see in Walmart every day.  To be fair though, I've noticed a step up in customer service at Walmart. It used to be that you'd go in there and if you looked like you needed help with something, all of the sales associates would scatter to the four winds like cock roaches in search of a cube of sugar.  I love my little local store Bashas' I know I can always count on a smiling face with many employees that know my name.  I have the meat department number saved in my cell phone for when I get a whim of something I want to do, all I need to is pick up my phone and call the manager and tell him what I'm thinking, and within a half an hour I can go to the store and it is waiting for me in the back with my name on it. I don't really need them to put my name on it, because he always brings it out to me when he sees me coming.  I ask you kind readers, where in this day and age do you see that?  Yes it costs me a little bit more, but not enough to put me into the poor house. Oh, and lest I forget they still  use paper bags. I can't tell you all the things I make use of with paper bags.  Mostly they've replaced the trash bowl I used to keep on my counter when cooking, to collect all my rubbish until I was done. Now instead of washing another bowl, I just pitch the bag in the trash.  Now before someone gets their knickers in a twist and points out that it isn't me who does the dishes, I'll recant and say "instead of Chuck having to wash another bowl" HA! beat ya to it. *kiss*  So I am aware of the global impact Walmart has on the economy over all keeping lots of Americans in jobs, I am also aware of the impact of the little markets being stomped out.  So I do what I can to help my local economy. I guess though that MasterChef isn't looking to me as their target audience because most foodies which I am told by a good friend, are one of the smallest segments of audience they have. Yet you can bet we're the ones who are most vocal!  So if you're reading this, and you shop at Walmart for your food I implore you to consider that Bashas' down the street, I promise you you won't be disappointed. 



Okay </rant> 

Now I shall begin why this blog is written. My journey through one of Gordon Ramsay's cookbooks.  I know I know I said I wanted to do it in a year, but who has that kind of time?  I will get it done when I do, and enjoy myself along the way as I have done.  This weekend it was a dish called "Tagliatelle with Stilton and Mushrooms"  Well I just got back from a trip to Oregon where I visited my aunt and she took me to some really nice places, one of which was a place called "The Blue Herron Cheese Company"  I found a really nice wedge of stilton, and I knew I had a recipe in the book for it, so I bought it and brought it home.  

I don't know why my first step with any Gordon Ramsay pasta dish has to include Google.  With the exception of spaghetti I've had to look up ever single pasta in this book!  The bright side is, I get to act all snooty with my new found information and sound like I actually know what the hell I'm talking about when I am out amongst other foodies. "Oh tonight I think I'll have some farfalle with some browned butter cream sauce" sounds so much snootier than "Oh tonight I think I'll have some bow-tie pasta with some sorta sauce" See the difference?  I knew you would.  Its the same way with computers, I know the language more than I do the actual work, but please don't tell anyone, I still have to work. (Pam if you're reading this, this is really just for comedic effect in my blog, I really know all there is to know about computers, really I do)

So tagliatelle is really just some sort of fettuccine, but if you really want to try and find the fancy names for pasta, Barilla is really about the only brand I've come across that calls them the same as the book in most cases, and its pretty good pasta too for boxed stuff. I don't make my own pasta, someday I might, but for now as I've said in earlier posts this journey is about learning new things about my cooking ability, knowing that I'll throw the pasta across the room with a few f bombs isn't learning anything new, that's just sort of a fact, like pie crust.  

Over all the dish came out really nicely.  I wasn't sure how well I would like it because blue cheese is a very rich flavor, but it was a very nice blending of complimentary flavors, the oregano and parsley mellowed out the sharp of cheese.  Cremini mushrooms were mild in flavor and gave a really pleasant meaty feel on the tongue.  I decided to stretch myself a bit with the protein for this meal and grill some swordfish steaks that were on sale at Bashas' for $7.99 a pound, I say stretch because with my family it is hit and miss with fish. I'm getting tired of the stand by pasta protein of chicken or shrimp and in some cases scallops.  I marinaded the fish in some soy sauce, garlic, extra virgin olive oil (thank you Rachel Ray with your perky little face that has ruined EVOO for me) and some Old Bay seasoning.  It was stunning, everyone liked it so much there were requests that we try more fish. SOLD! 



What would I have done different?  I don't really know. Unlike a lot of things I do in the kitchen this went really smoothly, I had all my tools, didn't have to run out for something because I was out and forgot.... it was a nice dinner. Topped off from a visit from my daughter and her boy friend and a shared glass of pear wine, the night was a great success.

Oh wait.... Chuck did break one of my wine glasses on the end table sitting right next to me. It shattered into a million pieces of glass dust!  Thank goodness I wear glasses or I'd be blind. 

The Journey Continues...



(Bashas' does not endorse my blog or compensate me for my opinions)

What the EFF is a "pie bird"?!?!

So yesterday I decided I was going to make another selection from my Gordon Ramsay "Cooking for Friends" book, and my daughter in law picked out a chicken pie.  I read through the ingredients and decided we'd found a winner, it sounded simple enough and very tasty.  I picked up the book and started reading the directions to kind of get an idea of how long this pie was going to take me, and this is when I see, if you use a "pie bird"... I said (out loud mind you)  What the hell is a pie bird?  First recipe back into my blog, and what do I need to do?  Yep... Google (praise the heavens for Google)

Apparently this is a "pie bird"

This is a quote from a Wikki article

A pie bird, pie vent, pie whistle, pie funnel,or pie chimney is a hollow ceramic device, originating in Europe, shaped like a funnel, chimney, or upstretched bird with open beak. Funnel-style steam vents have been placed in the center of fruit and meat pies during cooking since Victorian times; the bird shapes came a little later.

Pie funnels were used to prevent pie filling from boiling up and leaking through the crust by allowing steam to escape from inside the pie. They also supported the pastry crust in the center of the pie, so that it did not sag in the middle, and are occasionally known as "crustholders". Older ovens had more problems with uniform heating, and the pie bird prevented boilover in pie cooking.

Now that I know what a pie bird is, and knowing there is no way I'm going to go out and get one just for one use, I decided to just go with my standard way of doing pies which is to cut steam holes in them.  That's what I did.

Okay time to start.  One thing I've been doing lately when I've been cooking is to gather all my ingredients and have them ready rather than trying to measure and chop as I go, it does create a few more dishes but I am not near as stressed... My family will tell you that is a big fat lie because there are still plenty of F bombs that fly around my kitchen, mostly due to things out of my control, but I'll get to that later. 

I started doing my measuring and pouring as I'm reading "1/3 cup of flour" Get the canister out, and yep first "F" bomb, I have no flour!!!!!  Why is it so hard that when someone uses the last of something that they can't say "Hey I just took the last of blah blah blah"  No, that would be easy, and we just don't do easy in our house.  Hubby to the rescue 10 minutes later, I have flour and we're back in business (thank you honey xx)

I kid you not, this is all that went into this dish....



I am not gonna lie this recipe was a bit time consuming, but only in the sense that I didn't want to stay in the kitchen because I was watching a TV show I am hooked on. 

So I got the chicken all poached up and pulled it out and set it aside for cooling while I cooked the veggies for the pie. Strained them out and set aside the broth and got ready to make the roux.  Who doesn't love a good roux?  Melt the butter.... add the flour and grab the.... WHERE IS MY FLIPPING WHISK???????? GRRRRR second "F" bomb of the night. Why is it that my tools are constantly missing???  Seriously?  There isn't a single time that I go into that damn kitchen to prepare a meal, and I'm not missing one or another of my vital tools, and it isn't like I move their resting places either, they always go in the same spots. I'm convinced there is an anti Gordon Ramsay gremlin in my kitchen, and when I catch that little mother fluffer, I'm going to wring its little neck! Again hubby to the rescue he comes in and we're both looking high and low, we never did find the darn whisk but he pulled a little one out of my hand mixer box that served as a suitable replacement.  Again... thank you honey. 

So the filling was now cooked and simmered down and omgosh, I have to tell you readers how could so few simple ingredients taste sooooo good?  It was the most delicious sauce and I didn't think it was possible to find a new ultimate comfort food but that is exactly what I've found.  This pie will be no stranger in our house.  Now what I really liked about this recipe is the simplicity of the ingredients, huge taste, little parts.  To be honest, I didn't even use the salt that you see in the picture, because it simply wasn't needed. 

The next step while the filling was cooling is to roll out the pie crust.   Now for those of you who are going to want to know about how well I roll out a pie crust, please think again. I don't do pie crust.... period.  I swear enough in the kitchen without having added stress that I just know will frustrate me.  I cheated and used the pre rolled crusts that you find in the dairy case.  I know they may not be as fluffy and flaky and as good as if I had bothered to try to make a pie crust?  However I've seen seasoned bakers hurl pie dough across a kitchen and I know my limits!  So I rolled out the crust, poured in the filling and placed the cover on.  Now I did go out of my way to make pretty little leaves so that it gave the appearance that i"m not too lazy to make pie crust..... So a little egg wash and we're in business! 


Pretty isn't it? 

Bake for 35 minutes, rest for 10... stuff face.



The lighting on this isn't the greatest, but you get the idea.

Okay so that was that.  Deep dish Chicken pie!

My one hindsight on this dish is that should have egg washed the sides of the crust better.  Next time....

What I learned:  Good food doesn't have to be difficult.  I have to find the gremlin and choke him.  And that I have an amazing husband.

The challenge continues....

I confess..

Dear readers,

Please be patient with me.  This week or weekend I will pick up where I left off.  I have been re-inspired to continue on with my quest.  I realize there are many things I will not be able to create in Gordon Ramsay's book because of location, but I will be able to cook so many others that I've just given up on.  I have to be true to myself and live up to my own promise and that is to finish what I start. If I can't do a recipe it will be, because I can't find something, not because I'm too lazy to try.  If there is a recipe in the book I can't do I simply will say so.  Some things I don't want to spend the money on because I know for a fact no one will like them, for example the fish and scallop pie, that was horrid.... (Sorry Gordon, it was horrid)  The raised game pie? equally as horrid.... but when you have to buy dried out frozen ingredients....


Anyway the good news is that I'm back.   First dish will be next Sunday!

xx
Donna

I'm not gone yet

Okay so here's the deal. I love Gordon Ramsay, who doesn't know that about me?  I have not stopped cooking but rather started my own little catering business.  My husband calls it my hobby because all I do is spend money on it.

I found it very difficult to find the ingredients that Gordon's books call for here in the desert. What a wonderful experience it was, and I learned that I am not so much of a novice as I thought.

So like I've said plenty of times throughout this blog, GR did teach me one thing and that was to believe in myself, so dear readers that is what I did. On Monday December 12, 2011 yours truly sent in a DVD to MasterChef Casting. So cross everything you can, that I make it on the show and become the next MasterChef. Cheers!

So I will not be posting on this blog anymore, but I will try to get on top of my other blog which is geared more to my own personal exploration of the wonderful world of food.

http://donnasdivinedelectables.blogspot.com/

Love,
Donna

*edit* I did not stop writing this blog. I took a break and came back to it.