Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Things I've Learned From Food Network

The Chef and I often sit and watch Food Network for hours and hours. Like some people yell at the television during sports, he and I will yell at the chefs and competitors on cooking shows- Noooo!!! Don't use that knife!!! Hurry and get it on the plate! You can't fry THAT!! OMG you overcooked the tuna!!! We'll yell, stress out, get excited, experience disappointment just like during football season, no thanks to you, Minnesota Vikings. We especially like watching Chopped. The mystery baskets always contain crazy ingredients and quite often, something we have never heard of. One of us will google it and find out whatever the strange ingredient might be- caul fat, hiutlacoche, unusual vegetables and ethnic foods. We have learned tons just from watching. 

Molto Mario was another show we loved. Mario Batali is a human encyclopedia of food knowledge. Every episode he talked about not only the food he was preparing, but wines that pair well and the region of Italy from where the dish originates. While I have visited Italy and experienced authentic Italian foods, not just the Americanized versions, the Chef has not, and he really picked up a lot of ideas and inspirations from Mario. Other notable chefs from Food Network that I have followed over the years include Sarah Moulton, Ming Tsai, Michael Chiarrello, and Ina Garten.

Food trucks feature prominently in several programs on Food Network. The food truck phenomenon is just beginning in our city, as the city council was a little reluctant to grant permits, but after a couple years we are finally on trend. Seeing these shows made us consider that as a business opportunity, and who knows- maybe we will. It's fascinating to see all the unique food these trucks serve and how talented their cooks are to be able to manage a small mobile kitchen. Pretty incredible really.

Myself, I have become familiar with ingredients and foods I had never heard of. Things like sea beans, durian and jackfruit were unheard of in the middle of Iowa, but thanks to Food Network I now am always on the hunt for these things. I've been able to try dragonfruits, carambola, rambutans, purple sweet potatoes, I've made own kimchi, and learned that jackfruit is not just a fruit, when cooked properly it has a texture much like pulled chicken or pork and can be substituted for those meats in different dishes. Crazy! I have been able to fine tune my baking skills in a big way with all the shows that focus on baking and desserts. This has been a huge benefit for me especially in breadmaking. 

This recipe was featured on the Food Network show The Kitchen. Prepared by Jeff Mauro, it's a super easy recipe to pull together. Jeff prepared the shrimp and half the amount of sauce I used but served the shrimp in lettuce leaves with no added vegetables or rice. I made the recipe more like an entree by adding baby corn, bell pepper and water chestnuts, doubled the sauce and served over rice. You can add your favorite veggies, like broccoli, snow peas, carrots, whatever you like. The heat in the sauce is pretty substantial so if you like things less spicy cut back on the sriracha or leave it out entirely. It will still be delicious. 

Bang Bang Shrimp with Vegetables
*Inspired by Jeff Mauro's recipe 

2 packages frozen popcorn shrimp (total 4-6 servings)
1 can baby corn
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 large bell pepper
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons sriracha
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)

Heat the oven according to package directions.

Spread the shrimp out on a large baking sheet.  Cut the bell pepper into 1 inch chunks. Add to baking sheet. Add the drained sliced water chestnuts. Drain the baby corn; cut each cob into four pieces. Add to baking sheet.

Place in hot oven and bake as long as instructed on the box, usually about 15 minutes.

Stir remaining ingredients together in a small bowl.

When the shrimp and vegetables are done, place in a large mixing bowl. Pour the sauce over, tossing to coat evenly. Serve immediately with rice, if desired.

I don't normally use commercially prepared foods in recipes but after seeing this on Food Network I just had to. I used instant rice as well and had dinner on the table in under 20 minutes, and that was a great bonus, not just for me on a lazy Thursday but for millions of busy families that barely have time to breathe between work, kids and real life. So, I have to admit I've also learned that it's ok to use prepared food products once in a while and even chefs do it from time to time. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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