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Friday, April 3, 2009

Who Was Right--Gordon or Ben?

New York was excellent as always, full of fabulous food and great meetings with my super smart and highly entertaining editor and agent. I had a blast! I must admit, though, I'm glad to be home.

Did anyone else catch Hell's Kitchen last night? After my long drive from the airport, it was about all I could do to pop in a frozen CPK pizza and plop myself down in front of the tv for my weekly dose of Chef Ramsay. But I was so glad I managed it! As always, HK was a riot, full of delusional chef contestants, backbiting, sabotage, tears, and most importantly, a red-faced, white-jacketed Gordon Ramsay in a towering rage. He made his reputation for giving his unvarnished opinions in a loud, sometimes crude, manner--but this season he's truly surpassing himself. One can only assume the varied troubles in his off-camera life are at play. In the past few weeks, he's become so enraged during dinner services that he couldn't wait for the normal elimination portion of the show to throw somebody out. Last night? Total meltdown over pommes fondantes.

The contestants were asked to create their own unique and exciting menus--which turned out to be funny, since the two teams' menus were shockingly similar, from carpaccio appetizers to halibut entrees. But the biggest place each team fell down was with the vegetable garnish, the potato sides. The red team went for a potato dauphinois preparation, where the potatoes are thinly sliced, boiled in cream then layered in a casserole and baked. It sounds fancy, but really it's a very simple dish that Carol somehow managed to screw up, leaving the potatoes crunchy. Ben, my least favorite contestant, crashed and burned with his pommes fondantes by blanching them first. Gordon was horrified at their texture and color; Ben declared that Gordon's definition for pommes fondantes was just completely different from anything Ben had ever heard before. So who was right? Because we're talking classical French cooking now, and basically, there's only one way to do it. And that's the Escoffier way.

So even though pommes fondantes was in the top ten most Googled phrases this morning, I'm going to the actual expert, Auguste Escoffier. Who says to trim the potatoes into ovals, then cook them slowly in butter, turning frequently to give them good color. When they're soft, flatten them just a bit, breaking them open enough to absorb the fresh butter you then add to the pan. No blanching, Ben, thanks so much for playing.


Isn't it funny that potatoes, that humblest of all root vegetables, caused both teams to stumble? Who can't cook a potato?

And of course, I always side with Gordon.

There's only three real ways I like potatoes...baked and mashed and fried (McDonald's fries comes to mind)...okay. Not so sophisticated in the potato department...but I do love fine dining, believe it or not! :)

I have to catch it. I was out last night. Bummer. I'm going back to watch now.

"flatten them just a bit, breaking them open enough to absorb the fresh butter you then add to the pan"

...and that's why you should never, ever question Monsieur E.

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