Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Top Chef's Radhika Desai & Mark Bittman's Osso Buco


I rarely mention Top Chef on this blog, although I am hooked on the show, mostly because many of my readers don’t live in the States and don’t see the episodes we see and have no idea what the hell I am talking about.

But I will make a bit of an exception this week because of something that chef-contestant Radhika Desai said in this week's episode:

“I never use canned or aged ingredients," she said, referring to a segment that had them making a dish out of prepared and pre-packaged foods. “To me, that’s something a housewife with little time would use. It’s going to be difficult because we are used to using natural, flavorful, real ingredients.



I don’t actually think of myself as a housewife, whatever hateful thing that means, and I don’t feel like I speak for housewives, whoever they may be, but I think Radhika has been smokin' the crack during commercial breaks. I mean, I know there are lots of folks who only cook from packages and cans - I get that - but make no mistake, there is a lot of great, creative, fresh cooking coming out homes chock full of kids and busy families. Not everyone is pulling out the Campbells and the Kraft Dinner.

Has Radhika been sleeping through the food Renaissance of the last decade? Who does she think is watching Food TV and driving the careers of people like Rachel Ray and Paula Deen? If Radhika ever writes her own cookbook, it won't be chefs who buy it. It will be housewives and home cooks looking for alternatives to Hamburger Helper and Rice-a-Roni - people who want to cook simply with fresh, tasty ingredients or who want to enhance the pre-packaged food they are using. Rachel Ray built her career on this model.

Radhika might want to start developing that home-cook/housewife base now. You know, if she wants to sell any books.

And, because I want to drive this point home with a simple, time-friendly recipe, I give you Mark Bittman's stupidly good Osso Buco. "Any housewife with little time" can make it. This is a meat-falling-off-the-bone, marrow-filled orgy of veal shanks in a natural jus. It takes about two hours, but you only have to actively spend about 20 minutes cooking over the stove, the rest of the time the shanks are in the oven. It is simple and fabulous.

If you can't find good veal shanks at your local supermarket, head out to Costco or BJ's or any of those super stores. That's where I get mine. Oh and get out your pickle forks when you eat - digging into the marrow bones and pulling out all that succulent marrow and popping it in your mouth is a rare little treat.

Double the recipe and the next day you can use the soft chunks of meat and heavenly jus as a base for a hearty winter soup with pasta or beans.

Oh and I served this with a little Gremolada sprinkled over the top, also courtesy of Bittman. The Gremolada is just a little minced fresh parsley (1 tablespoon), minced lemon zest (1 tablespoon) and garlic (1/2 teaspoon) all mixed together and drizzled over the top just before serving. I had a bit of it leftover and I used that as a flavorful garnish on the soup the next day.

If you are suffering from the freezing temperatures this weekend, this Osso Buco is your winter remedy. Have a great one, house wives!

xxoo YM
_____________________________________________________________________________________


The Housewife's Osso Buco Revenge

Recipe by Mark Bittman

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 2 hours, largely unattended
Active Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 4 center-cut slices veal shank, 2 pounds or more
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 3 or 4 cloves garlic, lightly mashed and peeled
* 4 anchovy fillets
* 1 cup dry white wine, chicken or beef stock, or water
* 2 teaspoons butter, optional

Method

1. Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Add the oil, swirl it around, and pour out any excess. Add the veal slices and cook until nicely browned on the first side, about 5 minutes. (For even browning, you can rotate the slices, but try not to disturb them too much.) Turn and brown the other side.

2. When the second side is just about completely browned, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and add the garlic and anchovies to the pan. Cook, stirring a little, until the anchovies dissolve and the garlic browns, about 2 minutes. Add the liquid and let it bubble away for about a minute.

3. Turn the heat to low and cover the skillet. Five minutes later, check to see that the mixture is simmering -- just a few bubbles appearing at once -- and adjust the heat accordingly. Cook until the meat is very tender and pulling away from the bone, at least 90 minutes and probably somewhat more; turn the slices every half-hour or so. (When the meat is tender, you may turn off the heat and refrigerate the dish for up to 24 hours; reheat gently before proceeding.)

4. Remove the meat to a warm platter and turn the heat to high. Boil the sauce until it becomes thick and glossy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter if you like, and serve the meat with the sauce spooned over it.

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12 comments:

Bobbie said...

As soon as that sentence left Radhika's mouth, I knew I'd been reading about it all over the food blogs, and I was right. You're not the only one to call her out on that. I hope she realizes what a stupid comment that was and how untrue and offensive it actually is. I am waiting to read an interview with her wherein she apologizes for what she said.

The Yummy Mummy said...

Hey Bobbie -

You know, I'm glad to hear other people wrote about it. I went looking to see if there were bloggers "up in arms", but I didn't find anything.

To be honest, some food bloggers (a notable minority)- people who consider themselves purists or very hardcore - have had a tough time taking cooks with kids seriously. They think we are just granola moms posting cute pictures of our kids and finding ten different ways to make mac and cheese.

They don't get it. We probably cook more meals per day than the average foodie and definately more than a lot of celebrity chefs who never see the inside of a kitchen. There is serious cooking happening in our kitchens.

To be lofty and maybe a little dramatic - we are in charge of the palates of tomorrow. We are setting the path for good eating and cooking practices for years to come. We are changing how food will be prepared decades from now just by caring enough to take our kids to farms, get their hands in the soil, grow our own veg and include the kids in the cooking process.

It starts with us and good things are happening. I might be the mother of the next Thomas Keller, Wylie Dufresne, Ferran Adria or Alice Waters. Imagine that. Imagine how that will change the world.

I don't need some food blogger or chef's recognition of our efforts because well, it's not about them, but I just thought Radhika's remark was shitty and emblematic of a larger disregard for home cooks with kids. Or just women who stay at home in general. That there is a lack of daring, imagination or care in our homes and kitchens.

We can't just sit by when people perpetuate this myth.

She was condescending to people who are over the burners every day, whether they are good at it or not. Whether they love it or not. Whether they make their stock from scratch or use Swanson's. She didn't do anything to inspire someone to stop using pre-packaged food. Her ideology is exactly what is not needed in the food world.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed.

And that concludes the lecture portion of this blog...Yikes! Who knew I was so pissed?

Kim

Elise ~*~ said...

Granted, I know every mother who heard/read that took it as an immediate affront (as well they should); but really, it is just a continuation of the classic arrogant foodies who want to increase their superiority by ONLY using organically grown food that was washed in the tears of beautiful children and dried by the breeze of butterfly wings and if you can't afford that level of freshness - you are a failure and doomed to Cheez Doodles and everything that is wrong in the world.

It is all a load of crap and pretense. There isn't a chef alive that doesn't use some canned item (San Marzano tomatoes especially) or packaged item.
But to admit this would lower them to the level of the plebians - and that just cannot happen. (insert eyeroll here)

rita said...

That photo of Osso Buco mad my mouth water & brought back memories. As you know my grandmother raised us. She made Osso Buco often & the thing I loved the most was sucking the marrow out of the bones. She made her own red cabbage, pickled herring and pickled beets. We ate liver, tongue, rabbit & just about anything else you could name. Consequently, to this day, I'll try anything that is well prepared. By the way, she had a "Victory Garden" I wonder how many of your readers know what that was???
As for Radhika, is she kidding? All the chefs I've seen on the food network are pretty ambivalent regarding homemade vs canned products. I suspect, unlike most "domestic engineers" ( a fancy term for housewife, whatever that means), do not have a staff to keep them constantly supplied with natural, flavorful and real ingredients. Alas, sometimes we must settle for Swanson's broth or DelMonte tomatoes. Damn!!! Rita

SaintTigerlily said...

Um, considering her recent showing, I don't think Radhika is going to have an opportunity to write any books or require a fan base.

I think all the cooking moms out there are rightfully affronted by the comment in question, but - consider the source - as Fabio correctly pointed out, she took an hour to clean and grill corn. If faced with the multi-tasking bonanza that is cooking and parenting her head would likely explode.

She has nothing on you guys.

Clueless.

Mommy said...

I can not STAND Radhika - she has been a lazy and petulant child all season, her statement only confirmed it for me.

And just before I hit post I read St. Tiger Lily's comment. You are so right my dear!

The Yummy Mummy said...

I should challenge her to some kind of death match cook-off. Or mud wrestling.

Yeah, mud wrestling...

ntsc said...

My wife can break up a chicken in about four minutes, slowing down for the camera.

http://blog.charcuteire.com/2008/10/13/chicken--piece-it-yourself.aspx

Calling her a housewife cook, could be detrimental to Radhika's health.

melissa said...

Kim, your lecture in the second comment there was awesome.

And I also loved Elise's comment - too funny.

After my last post, you know how much I agree with you here. I'm tired of feeling badly about myself for using ingredients deemed "unworthy." Jeez.

The Yummy Mummy said...

Melissa -

Actually, what you said in your post was much better than what I did here. And anyone reading this should click on your link and read every word of it.

There really is a whole cult of what you should or shouldn't cook, what ingredients and equipment you should or shouldn't use. It is easy to get caught up in that, to be ashamed of using canned tomatoes instead of fresh or frozen vegetables instead of stopping your life and running to the farmers market for fresh peas.

And there are people who look down on you for it. I've bought that line of thinking. I thought buying it would make me a better cook. It's bullshit.

What makes me a better cook is that I cook. Plain and simple.

You Melissa, are the real thing, and I love you and your blog. You go, sister!

Kim

Anne Stesney said...

When it turned out I was going to work and Fred was gonna mind the kid, my husband who only owned one pot became the weekday family chef. He was insecure about it but took it on nonetheless. Yes, I inwardly cringed a bit when he tore out Campbell's recipes. But I was NOT going to discourage him by mocking his decisions and besides, I love a good Campbells casserole.

Now it's been a year and for the first time, he's making dinner without a recipe. Spinach and red pepper quesadillas with queso fresco. I'm so proud and so glad I didn't take a condescending attitude towards his earlier choices. Prepackaged goods were his training wheels. Now he has the confidence to cook without them. I think the food will get better and better. But I still pray for the Cheesy Ham thing he made with Cream of Mushroom soup. That shit killed.

Rebecca (Foodie With Family) said...

I went all ninja around the living room when Radhika said that. I have five sons, I used to work prep in a restaurant kitchen. I work harder now than I ever did and dang if I don't turn out fresh (mostly) fabulous food three meals and two snacks and elevensies every single day.

And when you said 'in charge of the palates of tomorrow' you weren't kidding. My now-11-year-old requested homemade o nigiri and edamame for his 8th birthday party. And he meant it.

Besides, Radhika had a weird 'children of the corn' kind of vibe that freaked me out before she made her hausfrau faux pas.