Saturday, February 11, 2012

Virgo-Pisces Alliance No.227: Plotting the perfect pasta dish

Oh how lost is my FoodNetwork!  As you know, football season has ended.  This means that there is only one thing to watch on the old HDTV, and we ain't talking about basketball.  We're talking about cooking shows.  Food season begins the second that football season ends.

Unfortunately, the Food Network has rolled over and died in the past year.  I didn't mind much last year, as I was undergoing rapid weight loss after gastric bypass.  This year, the state of the Food Network has become insufferable.

Why?  Let me enumerate the reasons why!

  1. The Food Network is no longer in the teaching business.
  2. The good old teachers such as Alton Brown, Tyler Florence, and Giada DiLaurentis have a minimal presence on the Food Network these days.
  3. It seems that the Cooking Channel, in low-def only, has now become the haunt of all those who would like to improve our culinary knowledge and skills.  Better low-def than nothing, but the Cooking Channel really should make the leap to high-def soon.
  4. The Food Network has gone over to the reality show dogs.  Am I alone here when I say that there is simply nothing worse than these stupid game-shows masquerading as reality shows?  Reality shows were bad enough, but now that they have gamed them, these shows are even worse.  Unfortunately, this absolute rubbish is the prime-time substance of the Food Network.  I am utterly  disgusted beyond words.  I cannot pour enough scorn and venom on this programming strategy.
  5. Alton Brown doesn't seem to be cranking out any more episodes of Good Eats.
  6. Tyler Florence is busy running a restaurant in Mill Valley California, recharging his culinary batteries, according most insider reports.  He's not doing any new episodes of Tyler's Ultimate.
  7. Only Michael Symon is cranking out good teaching programming at this point, and only for the Cooking Channel.  He has never done a true teaching program in HD.
Nevertheless, it is quite clear that Michael Symon has slid right into the spot formerly occupied by Tyler Florence.  Astrologically, this is to be expected.  Tyler is a Pisces.  Michael is a Virgo.  These are 180 degree opposites, but more alike and complementary than you would ever expect at first glance.  The demographic Tyler appealed to is exactly the same demographic Michael Symon will appeal to.  You would expect their audience test scores to be very similar.

Is there anything more than that?  Well, I am certainly glad you asked me that question.  If you can, view the following episodes of Tyler's Ultimate and Symon's Suppers back to back, and tell me you don't see any resemblance in the food or meal plan.
  1. Tyler's Ultimate Sunday Gravy, first aired on 2/27/2010
  2. Symon's Suppers Childhood Favorites, first aired on 2/9/2012
In episode 1, Tyler is preparing a spaghetti  meal with pork shoulder, ribs and meat balls.  He braises these items in a sauce very similar to the base sauce for Bolognese.  In episode two, Michael Symon is cooking with his mother and father.  He prepares a spaghetti meal with ribs and meat balls in a base sauce very similar to Bolognese.  

Michael Symon proceeds from the statement that this is his mama's recipe, and his favorite from childhood.  You can't help but feel a conversation is taking place.  You cannot help but feel that Michael Symon is developing a dialectical culinary conversation with Tyler.  Obviously, these two gravies are vastly more similar than dis-similar.

Evidently, Mike's mom didn't use pork shoulder.  Too bad... the pork shoulder looked sensational.  I would not leave out the pork shoulder.  Also, Symon's use of Ricotta cheese in the meat balls is critical.  Tyler did not use Ricotta in his meatballs.  I would not leave out the Ricotta.  I am sure those meatballs were sensational.

Symon also braises with a cheese rind.  That is a sensational trick I learned from an Italian gent, and it works like crazy.

If that is not enough for you, then consider the following pair of episodes:
  1. Tyler's Ultimate Winter Comfort Food, first aired 1/17/2007
  2. Symon's Suppers Sunday Suppers, first aired 2/2/2012
In episode #1, Tyler prepares Tagliatelle Bolognese.  In episode #2, Michael prepares Tagliatelle Bolognese.  The key difference is that Tyler uses beef and pork with some panchetta.  He finishes with some Italian Parsley.  Michael Symon used some sensational Lamb shoulder and finishes with Mint.

Symon also reduces his sauce to a chunky thickness, he then loosens the reduction with pasta water.  I do this myself.  You concentrate the sauce as much as possible to a paste, then you re-hydrate with that starchy and salty pasta water.  This greatly enhances the flavor of the sauce.

You can't help but feel a conversation is taking place.  You cannot help but feel that Michael Symon is developing a dialectical culinary conversation with Tyler.  It is a fascinating conversation as well... At least from my perspective.

Personally, I would mix Pork and Lamb, use Black-forrest smoked bacon, and finish with Mint.  I would also home-brew my own fresh Tagliatelle pasta.  In fact, I just decided I am going to do this tonight.  Tonight is the night.

I am shocked Michael Symon didn't do his own fresh pasta in this particular episode.  I have seen him do this a hundred times before.  I got my vacuum-sealer stunt from him. That is when I really took my own home-pasta to the next level.  

Returning to the ultimate home gravy, for just one moment, I am going to have to do this recipe soon, but I won't do it until I have a bunch of people to help me eat it.  This stuff looks just too precious to waste.  It also is intended to be shared.  I know that just by taking one look at it.

A quick shout out to Tyler:  We need you to come back, man!  The Food Network just ain't the same without you.  We need you to do some new material, and we need Michael Symon to do his first HD teaching show.  Both shows needs to go into a prime-time slot, back to back.

I promise you, oh managers of the Food Network, that you will dominate that time slot if you will put this deal together.  Trust me.