Wednesday, February 01, 2006

children are cute but not tasty

Holy shit I'm a good cook.

Let's back up. I'm not the type to toot my own horn, generally speaking. But either I'm actually moderately talented when dealing with the creation of delicious food, or recipe preparation is foolproof.

I think there's a lot of evidence to the contrary regarding the latter statement.

Tonight I made a version of chicken saltimbocca that I saw Giada de Laurentiis (yes, she's related to Dino) make on her show, Everyday Italian. Serious foodies (they used to be called "gourmets," a term I vastly prefer, given my francophilia) deride her show as "food porn" -- soft lighting, sexy music, close-up soft-focus shots of her chopping vegetables, et cetera.

I usually watch Giada if I'm home in the late afternoon because I can't help but marvel at the fact that she cooks with butter, oil, and cheese, and is roughly the size of a toothpick. Plus she's fun to watch, and not as relentlessly perky as Rachael Ray, who -- I'm not the first to say it -- has definitely reached the level of inescapable overexposure.

Right, so back to the cooking. I tried to make a turkey saltimbocca once before, in the process of which I discovered that I don't really like sage. (Who knew?) So I've been wary of attempting yet another version. However, I saw Giada make this chicken cutlet saltimbocca, which appealed to me because it replaced sage with spinach, had a much more intuitive pan-gravy, and just generally looked phenomenal on the show.

I wasn't entirely inspired. I worried that it just wouldn't come out as well as saltimbocca should. First of all, saltimbocca -- literally, "jump in mouth" if you're one of the four people who reads this and doesn't watch Food Network -- is traditionally made with veal, and I'm not about to waste good money on delicious veal and tart it up with prosciutto and spinach and parmesan.

[Aside: I make no bones (ha!) about my appreciation of veal, lamb, and foie gras. Don't quote me the price if I haven't got the time -- I'm going to eat what I want to eat, and so stop reading if you won't deal with it.]

However, Giada's saltimbocca just looked too good to pass up. Jim really loves it when I make chicken cutlets Milanese -- or a la Polley, his mom, which is essentially the same thing with less Parmesan and more breading. I've been feeling a bit like I'm stuck in a recipe rut, however, making the same things over and over, and I had this chicken sitting in the fridge but no good way to prepare it. So I figured, eh, what the hell; we'll see if Giada knows what she's talking about.

Turns out, she really pretty much does. Sure, I tweaked it for my own purposes -- I used a mix of shredded Parmigiano, Romano, and Asiago, and I mixed it into the spinach beforehand, and I added my own seasonings, but generally speaking? WOW. Not only is this a dish I'd make again, it's a dish I'd make for company, and that's saying a lot.

If I can't ever make it as a teacher, I'll just become a caterer. It's far more delicious in the long run.


LizzieDaisy said...

Okay, I just have to say I spent like an hour making dinner the other night and was just annoyed. I'm not so sure I like cooking anymore. I thought I did but I don't think so now.

I must say though, the veal with proscuitto etc sounded fine to me so I guess I am not as good a cook, or picky (hee), as you. :)

And when I finally come visit, you are soooo making me dinner!!

Leigh said...

Well, no, traditionally saltimbocca is made with veal and it's great. But I don't buy veal that often so if I am going to spend money on it, I'm not going to hide it under a whole bunch of prosciutto and spinach. :)

Mel said...

Just to help connect your love of cooking and you love of theatre, here is a cute article from the Times (that you probably already saw, but i am sending you anyway)

you know me and cooking... it's a miracle i eat at all sometimes.