Friday, January 11, 2008

The Naked Chef Gets Down and Dirty

Oh happy days! British Chef Jamie Oliver (Sir Jamie to you) returned to American television this week with his first show on the Food Network in a few years—“Jamie At Home” about cooking with fresh ingredients from your garden. I’ve been watching Jamie since his “Naked Chef” days cooking in that tiny London apartment/set. I’m a big fan of his simple approach to cooking and his enthusiasm for food. And really, he just makes me laugh.

The Food Network had a “preview” episode this past Sunday night to drum up interest in the show, which actually premieres this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. I really don’t get the whole concept of the preview episode, because all the Food Network did was show an actual episode “Peppers and Chillies” that is also scheduled to air again in the regular time slot in a couple of weeks?! Anywho, doesn’t really matter because I can watch Jamie again and again and again. When’s that “Jamie At Home” marathon?


I love the quiet approach of the new show. For example, there’s no transition music in and out of commercials. Just these artsy sketches of the program fading in and out. The focus is purely on Jamie’s cooking and his love for fresh ingredients. No food challenges. No eliminations. I love watching all the Jamie Oliver series because they’re produced not by the Food Network but by Fresh One, a venture between Jamie and Freemantle Media.

Because I love his new show, I decided to do these “food TV summaries” of each episode. They’re not exactly recaps because, really, there aren’t enough twists and turns in the plot of a half-hour cooking show to really write about. So each week (probably Sunday nights), I’ll just give a summary of his recipes that were featured, my thoughts on them, and a few fun Jamie facts. Here’s the first one:


Jamie At Home: Peppers and Chillies

Jamie’s cooking in his “garden” (I have my suspicions whether it really is his garden. I do know he credits a gardener named “Brian.”) so it’s a lot of outdoor stuff. And even though he’s focused on bell peppers and chilies, which really seems like a summer thing, I’m still feeling the heat watching all the beautiful, colorful peppers he’s using.

He starts off making baked peppers by cutting a red and yellow bell pepper in half and removing the seeds. He places them on a baking dish and then makes the filling with three to four cherry tomatoes, one minced garlic clove and a bunch of different hot chilies (which he takes a bite out of each one before he masterfully chops them into thin slices). He even tries this pretty orange chili called an apricot chili. Where can you buy those?

To the filling he adds capers, basil, a pinch of pepper, salt (he says a pinch but it’s more like a tablespoon), two tablespoon of red or white wine vinegar, five to six pitted olives and olive oil. He uses his hands to scrunch all the ingredients together.

Initially I thought, hmm, this doesn’t really look that interesting because he’s just putting peppers into peppers. Why not just make a salad? But after he filled the bell pepper halves with his ingredients, he draped each one with pancetta. Oh yea. Everything’s better with pancetta. (Pancetta is Italian bacon.)

He covers the baking dish with aluminum foil to create a steaming effect and places it in an outdoor oven for 15 minutes. When they all cooked down, they looked like these soggy mess, but he serves it up nicely by placing them on top of this toasted, rustic-looking slice of bread. He also pairs it with mozzarella with raw chili slices (again, the orange colored one) and “rocket” (his favorite green he often uses that’s similar to arugula).

Next up he moves inside to make his Spicy Pork and Pepper Goulash. (Full recipe can be found here on the Food Network site.) He begins by scoring a pork shoulder (basically just getting a knife and cutting a pattern onto the fatty exterior of the meat) and then sears it skin side down in a braising pan to render out the fat. Then he gets an amazing array of beautifully colored bell peppers and removes the seeds and chops them up. He takes the pork (beautiful browning, BTW) out of the pan and then sautés the bell peppers, adding two big spoonfuls of paprika. He also adds a pinch of salt, caraway seeds, roasted red bell pepper slices from a jar, two red onions finely sliced and fresh marjoram (or oregano). He puts the pork back into the pan with the other ingredients. To finish everything off, he adds a can of tomatoes and covers everything with stock (or water) until the pork is almost covered. He also adds a few dashes of red wine vinegar (for that “twang”) and cooks the covered pot in a 350 degree oven for 2.5 to 3 hours.

While the pork is cooking, he makes basmati rice as a side. And this is probably the only time I’ll be critical of Jamie. But he made his rice like he was making pasta. He had to drain the rice out, pouring out a whole bunch of water. All the times I’ve made rice, I’ve never had to worry about draining out excess water. You should really just put enough water to cook the rice and plump them up. The cooking technique for rice shouldn’t be the same as boiling pasta! Anywho, I’m going to overlook that since it has been a few years since Jamie’s been on TV.

Jamie serves up his tender goulash pork (BTW, never stick your finger into a pork butt right out of the oven) with his rice and some sour cream with chopped parsley and lemon zest.

For his final recipe, Jamie goes into what looks like a tool shed to make his smoked salmon with chilli salsa. (Full recipe here.)

He gets a “biscuit tin” (see translation below) and puts wood chips along with a twig of fresh sage and rosemary and places chicken wire over everything. Then he gets two salmon fillets, season them with salt and chili oil and places them on the chicken wire. With what looks like a pen, he punctures some holes on the cover of the biscuit tin and then covers the can and puts the whole thing on top of a gas burner to cook.

Then he works on his salsa. (I love the way he talks about salsa like he’s reminiscing about an old flame. He steps back and sighs as he says “salsa.”) In his salsa he adds tomatoes, a cucumber, lime (because you want that “schwiiiing”), spring onion, coriander, three types of chilies (yellow, red and jalapeno), avocado and some olive oil. He blends everything together.

When he opens the smoked salmon in the can, it has this mustard-brown color. He serves his salmon on a plate over a spoonful of the salsa. Of course, when he takes a bite to try it, he doesn’t have to say a word because he’s just dancing with joy. And I dance along with him at home because I love his enthusiasm and am so glad he’s back on TV. (BTW, I also like the music at the end by Tim Kay.)

Must be a British Thing:
Just some clarification on some of the terms Jamie uses.

Chilli=Chile

Tin foil=aluminum foil

Blackened peppers= roasted red bell peppers

Tin of tomatoes=canned tomatoes

Biscuit tin=cookie can

Coriander=cilantro

Jamieisms heard in this episode:

“Rock and roll”
“Hungarian-styley”
“Happy days”
“Wodge” (a heaping spoonful)
“Plonker” (looking foolish)
“Brilliant”

Jamie At Home airs on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. on the Food Network. Visit Jamie’s Web site at www.jamieoliver.com. More on the accompanying book for the series here.

Photos courtesy of jamieoliver.com and Sydney Morning Herald.

1 comment:

Mrs. L said...

I missed the preview but did see his squash show. Brilliant (grin). Mr. L and I have been going around saying "wafer thin" (with Jamie's pronunciation of course).