Raise your hand if your peeved with reality TV! You can’t see it, but both of my arms are flailing around in earnest right now. I am quite fed up with the infiltration of my boob tube by people doing dumb things. Extreme Couponing. Toddlers and Tiaras. Moonshiners. Hillbilly Handfishin’. And these are on TLC – the so called “learning” channel – and the Discovery Channel! Don’t even get me started on Much Music or MTV because I know I’ll upset some readers if I attack Jersey Shore. But the network that I’m really disappointed in is the Food Network. Note: If you noticed I haven’t added links to the above reality shows because I refuse to promote such nonsensical programming.
The Food Network has become your source of cheap, mindless entertainment, lightly peppered with food and cooking. Try finding a good old-fashioned cooking show at a decent hour on the Food Network. Go ahead, try. It’s not gonna happen. You can watch a number of different food competition shows though. These include Iron Chef America, no less than 6 times a day. Then there’s Chopped and of course Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, Top Chef Canada – not to undermine the talent of Rob Rossi, one of the runner ups and the former executive chef at one of my favourite Toronto institutions, Mercatto - Top Chef Texas, Top Chef Just Desserts! See what I mean!! Can I just please watch a show where an experienced cook or chef shares delicious recipes and gives me useful tips and above all inspires me to cook? They even put Diners Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri and his backward sunglasses and porcupine-esque hair, in Jamie’s Meals in Minutes time slot! Oh the inhumanity of it all!
If you’re lucky enough to flip to the Food Network and actually find a cooking show you might stumble upon some true gems, one of them being the inspiration of this dish today. Ina Garten, better known as The Barefoot Contessa may be a bit of a yuppy with lots of yuppy friends who all live in Yuppyville - aka the Hamptons - but you know what, the woman knows how to cook! Her recipes are simple, yet so very sophisticated. Any one of her dishes can be served to company with stunning results. The recipe that inspired this dish was her Mac and Cheese with mushrooms and fresh bread crumb crust. I use her technique for homemade fresh bread crumbs to coat the trout. Making your own bread crumbs from sandwich bread that isn’t stale – contrary to popular practice – is so much better than the dried stuff you buy at the grocery store. Mind you, those bread crumbs do serve a purpose, but for this dish, or any other recipes that call for a bread crumb topping (i.e. gratins, baked pasta dishes, casseroles, etc.) fresh is the way to go! The crisp, yet fluffy texture that absorbs flavouring so well elevates these dishes to another level.
While I am very critical of the Food Network today, I must give credit when credit is due. If it wasn’t for the Food Network – when it was actually good and educational – I probably wouldn’t enjoy cooking as much as I do today. I learned a lot from Chef at Home, The Barefoot Contessa, Everyday Italian, The Naked Chef and many others. However, most importantly, these shows inspired me to recreate these dishes at home and motivated me to keep going even when some of the recipes didn’t turn out so well. Below is a list of my favourite cooking shows that still air from time to time and if you’re extremely lucky you might actually get to witness these cooks in between marathon episodes of Dinner Party Wars and The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
Chuck’s Day Off
Chuck Hughes is the epitome of cool. He’s the chef at Garde Manger and Le Bremner in Montreal’s Old Town and is the bad boy of the cooking world. The man is covered in ink, which includes tattoos of lemon meringue pie and arugula! His show is unlike any show on the Food Network. It revolves around his day off from the restuarant, where he cooks a meal for people who are integral to the success of the restaurant. The last episode I watched he cooked for the guy who sharpens his knives! Throughout the show, they cut into scenes of the kitchen and dining room when the restaurant is open and hopping. It makes me want to drive the six hours just to have a meal there. The show is taken to another level with Chuck showcasing great Canadian Indie music. Groups like The Bedouin Soundclash, Dragonette, Hollerado and The Junction can be heard as Chuck does his magic. To top it all off, he’s the only Canadian Chef to beat Bobby Flay in Iron Chef America and he’s really cute too!
Jamie’s Meals in Minutes
If you read my last posting, you would have learned that I am mildly obsessed with this Brit, so I’m not even going to go there again today. All I have to say is that if Jamie’s hosting, it’s bound to be good!
The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics
Ricardo and Freinds
This show is no longer on Food Network, but I think they run re-runs every few seasons. At first, I couldn’t stand Ricardo! I think it had something to do with his perma-smile, but over time I warmed up to him and now miss his heavy Québécois accent. Ricardo, retournez vous s’il vous plaît!
French Food at Home
Laura Calder is a bit quirky, but that’s what I like about her. She has that chiqueness about her that exudes French culture. Her food is like that too. Simple but fancy at the same time. Rich and sophisticated. Unfortunately, this is another show that has been replaced by shows like Nadia G’s Bithcin’ Kitchen. I think I hear Julia Child rolling over in her grave.
Baked Trout with Dijon Mustard and Bread Crumb Crust
In this recipe I used rainbow trout, but you can use a fillet of salmon, arctic char or any other large fillet of fish. For the breadcrumbs, Ina calls for white sandwich bread. I always have whole wheat at home and used that instead.
Bread crumb topping adapted from Mac and Cheese, Ina Garten
Serves 2 to 3
1, 1 1/2 lb trout fillet or 2 smaller fillets
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 slices white or whole wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed
1 clove of garlic
2 Tbsp of parsley
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Place fillets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Season with salt and pepper. Combine Dijon mustard, dill, lemon juice olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Spread the mixture over the fillets and set aside while you prepare the bread crumbs.
Pulse the garlic and parsley in a food processor. Tear up the pieces of bread and pulse until bread resembles large crumbs. Season with salt and pepper
In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the bread crumb mixture and brown slowly, stirring frequently. Once fifty-percent of the mixture looks browned, remove from heat.
Spoon the bread crumbs over the fillets and bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges and garnish with fresh dill sprigs.