Oct 30, 2009

Tales from the backstage kitchen at Taste of Emeril's

Destiny has a way of catching up with you, even when you’ve tried to side-step it. Years ago, I got a phone call from the television production office of FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen. They were looking for a “ mature women” to be a contestant against Gordon Ramsey for their very first season. “Mature” is code for old in Hollywood. They called me several times, but I told them absolutely not interested. I’ve worked in television for 20 years and I know the tricks.

Television, especially reality TV is all about setting the participants up for failure and then taping their reactions. Every scene can be manipulated and usually is. A show like Hell’s Kitchen isn’t entertainment unless someone is crying, sweating, screaming, swearing or failing. Bravo’s Top Chef is the same premise with a little more panache and more refined hosts (or they appear more refined).

I told the FOX producers on their last attempt to entice me, “but if I stab Gordon in the first episode, what do we do the other 12?” I could hear the click as they took me off of the speakerphone. Apparently, they weren’t looking for anything that real.

Why the success of reality cooking shows? They are cheaper to produce, give unknown chefs a chance at quick fame, and the audience feeds off of the train wrecks. I get it. I have the same appetite for websites that show botched plastic surgery or watching Sandra Lee cook on Food Network. I’m addicted to horror!

I just finished a culinary consulting gig in Atlantic City. I was hired to set up and organize the backstage kitchen for the food demos and challenges for a live, onstage cooking show entitled Taste of Emeril's. The host of the show is TV legend Marc Summers and the Chef is Ralph Pagano.

Um, where’s Emeril? He hovers above on a big screen with appropriate taped responses and after the show, the hotel kitchen passes out an Emeril taste treat to the audience.

If the show is a success, they will take it on the road.

The show is part theatre, part cooking, part game show and actually fun because of the unknown factors: the contestants. Yep, it is endlessly fascinating to me what people will do for the opportunity to whisk an egg and possibly win a cookbook. It’s a testament to Emeril Lagasse and how he has made people enjoy cooking that they are selling 500 seats a performance.

Why did I bring up the destiny circle? It just so happens that Ralph was a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen that first season, the one thatt this “ mature women” turned down. Obviously we were supposed to meet. I knew nothing about Ralph before our week together, but I’m a big fan now.

Ralph’s funny, can cook and is a true boy chef. He made my job easy. He worked diligently learning Emeril’s recipes, found the funny bits and was without a doubt
a pro. As a culinary producer, I’ve worked with all kinds; the mean, the ugly, the untalented and the blonde. It’s not always fun, and many times I needed vodka, I mean vitamins, to make it to the finish line. Happily, not this time.

If you can’t get to Atlantic City, watch for Ralph’s television show called Pressure Cook. You might catch some episodes on the web and it may be airing on a Scripps Network in your area very soon. It’s a wonderfully produced show that takes you around the world and shows what Chef Ralph is made of. Having a great sense of humor, and being able to laugh at your self is a terrific personality trait combined with legit cooking chops.

I’ve had the opportunity to have one of the greatest cooking careers ever. I’ve met and cooked with some of the world’s best chefs, eaten really well, and for crying out loud, drank some extraordinary wine! Even the days that my backstage kitchen may have resembled the Titanic (and my feet were wet), The Taste of Emeril experience did not disappoint, and I’d like to thank everyone connected with the show and Fremantle Entertainment for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it.

Denise Vivaldo is writing a memoir entitled Cooking Like the Boys, and is the author of five cookbooks.

Oct 29, 2009

Chinese Banquet: Ginger Chicken Pot Stickers

Blog Mistress Mandy was in Palm Springs with her husband and in-laws for Thanksgiving and wanted to make something "different" that didn't take a lot of effort and that grown ups and kids alike would enjoy.

Rather than prepare an entire meal, she made pot stickers (utilizing her Entertaining Encyclopedia, of course) and rounded out the rest of the meal with gourmet Chinese take out (ok, it was Panda Express). Grant and Gannon love their orange chicken, which we are pretty sure contains neither orange or chicken.

Above is her mise en place.

The Encyclopedia's recipe calls for shrimp, but says ground chicken is an acceptable substitute. Since Mandy is allergic to shrimp, the choice was obvious. She browned the meat in a bit of vegetable oil, and added sliced green onion, fresh grated ginger, minced garlic, cayenne pepper, black pepper and sea salt.

While the chicken mixture cooled, she whipped up the spicy mustard dipping sauce. You will notice that she took MANY liberties with the sauce as it was written: cream cheese instead of sour cream and cayenne pepper instead of hot sauce. Still pretty tasty!

Sauce ready in less than 30 seconds.

Time to make the pot stickers. Mandy added one egg white and some chopped fresh cilantro to the chicken mixture and added a heaping teaspoon into the center of a store bought wonton wrapper.

After moistening the edges with a damp finger, she pressed opposite corners together, making a little bundle.

This is easy, but a bit time consuming. This is a good time to speakerphone your parents or sing Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" at the top of your lungs.

Uncle Jeff was tired of listening to GaGa, so he volunteered to help, and made super fun crescent shapes "by accident". Fancy.

These babies fry up quick in a hot pan, just about two minutes. To save time, the chicken (or shrimp) mixture could be made the day before and refrigerated until you're ready to bundle!

Ginger Shrimp Pot Stickers with Hot Mustard Dipping Sauce

8 oz bay shrimp, cooked and roughly chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg white
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp grated gingerroot
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1 package wonton wrappers
2/3 cup hot mustard dipping sauce

In a bowl, combine shrimp, green onions, garlic, egg white, cilantro, ginger, salt, black pepper and cayenne.

Place wonton wrappers on a clean work surface. Place a heaping teaspoon of shrimp mixture in the center of each wrapper. Lightly dampen inside edges of wrapper with water and gather up and over the filling into a little bundle, squeezing edges together lightly.

In a deep, heavy saucepan, heat 3 inches of oil over medium heat until it registers 375 degrees on thermometer. Working in batches, fry pot stickers until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove pot stickers to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Serve with Hot Mustard Dipping Sauce.

Hot Mustard Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients, except salt and pepper, together. Season to taste.

Food Styling Master Class. January. San Fran. Will You Be There?

Located at The International Culinary Schools at The Art Institute in San Francisco, our Master Class highlights include:
  • Breakfast foods (making abundant looking omelets, the ever ellusive "perfect syrup pour"...)
  • Grill marks
  • Pretty meat
  • Plating and Garnishing
  • How to deal with real ice cream (and how to fake it)
  • Frozen desserts
We hope to see you January 16 and 17! You will learn. You will get your hands dirty. You will not want to eat fried eggs for awhile.

Click here for more information and to register.

Questions? Blog Mistress Mandy wants to help. Email her with any and all concerns you may have.

Oct 26, 2009

We've Upped Our Status To "Bible". Sweet.

Gorgeous Photo Courtesy of Gaby Dalkin

Fantastic Los Angeles personal chef, freelance food stylist and food blogger, Gaby Dalkin, wrote a wonderful post about our Entertaining Encyclopedia. It's kind of a love fest, and the feeling is mutual.

Click here to enjoy the article, and the blog.

Oct 23, 2009

Tips To Have A Flu-Free Party This Holiday Season

Don't let Swine Flu prevent you from partying this holiday season. Denise (and others) offer pointers on how to share the love without sharing germs.

Click here to enjoy the Seattle Times article.

Denise quote of the day:

Life is uncertain, eat European butter.

Oct 20, 2009

Live In The Bay Area? Come Watch Denise And Be A Part Of The Studio Audience On "View From The Bay" November 19!

Besides getting to kiss and hug Denise, you will meet Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang and get a chance to see the behind the scenes of a live television broadcast!

Tickets for the show must be reserved in advance. Audience doors open at 2:15pm with a cut-off time of 2:30pm. The show is live from 3-4pm.

To reserve your seats please call the ticket request line at (415)-954-7733, or visit View From The Bay and click on “be in our audience” and fill out a ticket request form.

You can also click here to go to the online ticket request form.

Please be sure to note under “comments” that you are coming to support Denise on November 19.

*Please note that all seats must be reserved in advance. Tickets that have been requested will be sent via an email confirmation with detailed instruction on where and when to arrive at the ABC studio.

Oct 9, 2009

Direct from the Entertaining Encyclopedia: Petite Lobster Pot Pies

Petite Lobster Pot Pies


Can be multiplied up to 4 times

These are a huge improvement over frozen mini quiches, and are worth the trouble to make at home.


If you're multiplying the recipe more than 2 times, use a large, heavy saucepan instead of a skillet.

Make Ahead

These pot pies can be made ahead up to 2 weeks if kept frozen. Let filling cool to room temperature before filling. Place muffin tin in the freezer until pies are frozen through, about 3 hours. Transfer pot pies to sealable plastic bags and freeze until the day of your party.

Place frozen pies back in muffin tin and bake in a 350°F (180°C) oven until filling is hot and crust is golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)

24-cup mini muffin tin

1⁄4 cup unsalted butter 50 mL

1⁄4 cup very finely diced carrots 50 mL

1⁄4 cup minced onion 50 mL

1⁄4 cup very finely diced peeled russet potato 50 mL

1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour 50 mL

1 3⁄4 cups Quick Chicken Stock (pg 223) or reduced-sodium chicken or fish broth, heated 425 mL

1 lb shelled lobster meat, cooked and chopped 500 g

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 recipes Basic Pie Crust dough (pg 261) 2

1. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Sauté carrots, onion and potato for about 4 minutes or until light golden. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes. Gradually stir in stock. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in lobster and cook just until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

2. On a floured surface, roll out pie dough to 1⁄8 inch (3 mm) thick and cut into twenty-four 3-inch (7.5 cm) rounds and twenty-four 2-inch (5 cm) rounds. Press each of the larger rounds into the bottom and up the sides of a muffin cup. Fill each with 1 scant tbsp (15 mL) lobster mixture and cover with smaller dough rounds, pinching edges to seal.

3. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until crusts are golden brown.

Oct 5, 2009

Obama Put Hot Sauce In His Gumbo: Liz Reyes Interviews Dooky Chase's Miss Leah

Denise had the pleasure of meeting Liz Reyes in New Orleans while she was enjoying lunch with Miss Leah of Dooky Chase fame.

Check out Denise's cameo appearance in Liz's lovely editorial piece on Miss Leah, as well as a touching interview where Miss Leah talks about feeding Presidents, Jacksons and everyone in between.