Abominations of the Food Network

I'm @solarpowerspork, a freelance designer (and wanna-be foodie) who examines the recipes shown on the Food Network.
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On July 4th, the Food Network featured roughly 6.5 hours of Paula Deen’s cooking shows (6 hours straight, and a half hour show a couple hours after the marathon ended - I included this half hour in my calculations, explained below). The recipes were BBQ-centric - mainly grilled items, although a fair share were deep-fried as well. Seeing this as an opportunity to get to the nitty-gritty of the Paula Deen love affair with butter, I decided to consult the Food Network’s website, and looked up all the recipes included in the marathon. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of each episode (although a few are saved for their horrifying recipes), I decided to calculate the total amount of butter used in these 13 episodes.

The final tally? 182 tablespoons of butter.
(add another 8 if you, like me, believe Paula Deen would use butter instead of oil in a standard brownie box-mix in this recipe. Also, 2 tablespoons total were added to accomodate the idea of “more butter to grease the pan” mentioned in baking recipes)
That’s 22.75 sticks of butter (there are 8 tablespoons in 1 stick of butter). 

Most butter-laden recipe: Cinnamon-Apple Bars.

Least butter-laden episode: Summer Favorites, which managed to have no butter in any recipes (but did include 10 pieces of bacon!)

Paula Deen is definitely not swimsuit-diet ready.

*(5.675, to be exact - each stick of butter is 1/4 lb)

In pursuit of all things culinarily excellent, my friend Jenni turned me on to a non-Food-Network site about different condiments for hot dogs. I admit to being a hot dog purist - please walk my dog through the garden and NOTHING ELSE, please - so maybe the worst offender of this post, the GRILLED PINEAPPLE, offends me more so because I didn’t ask for my dog to walk through an orchard after the garden walk.

Here is that hot dog, topped with a pineapple-chile marmalade and FRIED TOMATO SKINS. Apparently it’s how the Ecuadorians rolls, but I just can’t image this being a good idea.

Maybe I’m old fashioned. Maybe you can put ketchup on a hot dog. And maybe, maybe one day you’ll not know of a day where pineapples don’t sit atop hotdogs. But today isn’t that day. And hopefully tomorrow own’t be, either.

The Food Network has been pretty tame recently - mostly grilling recipes, which, to be honest, are pretty hard to mess up. Fire, Smoke, Meat? Pretty much a recipe for awesome in all situations.

But Paula, our dear Queen of the Butter, has come through for us, with an episode which contains FOUR sticks of butter. That episode is “Taste of the Tugboat,” and contains three out of four recipes which would each deserve a post on their own.

The first, Buttery Crab Pot Pies, contains our first stick of butter. It’s a basic take on a pot pie, with crab instead of poultry. Pretty tame for Paula, and the recipe in and of itself isn’t inherently bad - just very rich, especially for a summer meal main course.

The second recipe, which is to serve as the “appetizer,” is a pasta. Pasta as an appetizer is pretty common in Italian cooking, but it’s usually a very light pasta with fresh tomatoes or a light dusting of cheese. Not in Paula land! In Crawfish Fettucini, we get not only another TWO STICKS of butter for our first course, but a ton of milk AND a whole can of cream of mushroom soup. This recipe appalls me as a lady with half Italian-American roots - really, a can of cream of mushroom soup has ONE purpose, and that’s White Trash Tater Tot Casserole*. 

Third and final of the Butter Trifecta is our dessert, Chocolate Macadamia Cheesecake Bars. Again, nothing here is offensive, we’re just talking yet another heavy dessert for a supposedly “summer” dinner. I am not a huge macadamia fan myself, but I think I would not be unhappy with a version of this containing walnuts instead.

I want to stress, none of these recipes completely turned me off - it’s the combination of three put together as one complete meal that does. Especially a meal that, continuously throughout the episode, touts itself as being a perfect summer meal. I don’t know about you but I certainly hate eating tons of butter, cream, etc on a summer day. Why didn’t we just grill the crab and crawfish (and maybe do a butter dip) with a light pasta salad instead, Paula?

Coming soon: a friend has informed me of a hot dog episode that includes grilled pineapples. I will definitely be investigating this for the good of the blog.

* This dish is one of my guilty pleasures. Sounds absolutely disgusting on paper, but ho-boy, this is delicious. I am actually not a fan of melted cheese, especially any sort of cheddar, but this is more like a hashbrown on steroids than anything else. I cook my tots to crispiness beforehand, and it’s amazing. It also goes over really well at Shabbat dinners!

Oh, Rachel Ray. What are we going to do with you?

You take a salad, something that is usually considered “healthy” and manages to be “delicious” and then you…ruin it. Well, not ruin it taste wise - I’m sure if you’re into egg-battered fried grilled cheese sandwiches, this is delicious - but you definitely ruin the health value by turning that Monte Cristo Croque Monsieur into YOUR CROUTONS. I like this to the “hamburger between two grilled cheese sandwiches.”

Ingredients

2 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 tablespoons grated shallot
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large heart romaine lettuce, cleaned and sliced 3/4-inch thick
1 large head or 2 small heads frisee lettuce
5 tablespoons butter
2 rounded tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Grated nutmeg
8 slices good quality white bread
8 slices Gruyere
8 slices baked ham
3 whole eggs

Directions

Preheat a griddle pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat.

Whisk together the marmalade, shallot, 1 tablespoon of the Dijon mustard and vinegar, in a small bowl. Add the extra-virgin olive oil in a slow stream, while whisking, and then season the dressing with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Combine the romaine with the frisee on large platter or in a shallow bowl.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a sauce pot over medium heat, then whisk in the flour, and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in 1 1/3 cups of the milk and cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of mustard and turn off the heat. Spread 4 slices of bread with the white sauce and top each with a slice of cheese, 2 slices folded ham, another slice of cheese. Spread the remaining bread with sauce and cover the sandwiches. Trim the crusts, if you prefer, then quarter the sandwiches.

Beat the eggs with the remaining milk in a shallow bowl and dip the sandwiches in the batter as you add them to the griddle. Wipe the griddle with butter nested in a paper towel before you start adding the sandwiches. Griddle the sandwiches until deep golden, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Toss the salad with the dressing and divide it among 4 plates. Arrange 4 Croque Monsieur Monte Cristo croutons on top of each salad and serve.

From 30 Minute Meals

Thank you, Rachel. I was getting down about the fact I’ve been busy and wasn’t posting for my adoring fans (hi Mom!).

Not necessarily a bad recipe - I mean, it’s just “peas” and “butter” - but the comments here are truly hysterical and deserve a shout out. Well done, Food Network readers. Well done.

I love sweet potatoes.

I don’t love sweet potatoes….with orange marmalade.

Now, I know this is probably going to sound good to some people, but not to me. Not to me at all. Too many ingredients all fighting for position in this recipe.

Ingredients:2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons butter
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmegDirections:Boil the potatoes in a large pot of boiling water until tender, about 12-15 minutes. Drain and return to the hot pot. Mash with buttermilk, marmalade, butter, hot sauce, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste to adjust the seasonings and serve.

From 30 Minute MealsWhy don’t we adjust seasoning by NOT adding sweet jam to sweet things, to start with? Rachel is just proving the less is more theory TRUE by adding not just the jam but also buttermilk, hot sauce, AND nutmeg. Maybe I need to make these to find out what the deal is, but from my experience, this is just SO many flavors that do not need to be going on a SWEET POTATO.

This project is very hard work (me and the cat settled in for Guy’s Big Bite, which had decent recipes but annoyed me because his kid is obnoxious).

Paula, known as “queen of butter" and "subject of Adrienne’s favorite meme" will probably be an easy target of this blog, but for good reason: she will create things like "Cheesy Ham and Banana Casserole."

Let that sink in. Cheesy Ham and Banana Casserole.

Ingredients

Butter
12 slices white bread
8 large slices deli ham
4 bananas, sliced on the bias
2 cups shredded Cheddar
2 cups crushed potato chips
6 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 9 by 13 glass baking dish. Butter both sides of the bread and layer 6 of them into the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping them as necessary but keep them even. Layer the slices of ham on top of the bread and then the bananas, 6 more slices of bread, then the cheese, potato chips, and bacon. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour this over the casserole almost to the top. Bake for 45 minutes until brown and bubbly. Cut into squares and remove with a spatula, like lasagna.

From Paula’s Home Cooking

Let’s start with the obvious: BUTTER has no quantity listed. Guys. This means you want to use ALL OF THE BUTTER. Ever. Get that cow out and start churning for AN INFINITE AMOUNT OF TIME.

Of course, this recipe includes bacon, which is a spice instead of a protein these days. I know when I’m looking for that extra something, I sprinkle a dash of BACON on it.

Oh, and don’t forget the potato chips, this needs some CRUNCH.

And I haven’t really touched on the kicker of this dish: the BANANA. Yes, the banana. I really can’t understand why the banana is here. I can understand everything else here - I am not a huge fan of lots of melted cheese, especially cheddar, since it so often just separates into an oily mess - being what most people would crave and want to slap together into a casserole dish and bake for a long amount of time. But…bananas.

And don’t forget to garnish it with some parsley, y’all!

So I’ve heard a bit about this Robert Irvine guy - besides being ridden by Paula Deen, he’s got a bit of a shady past about his culinary achievements - but as I sat down for this “Dinner: Impossible” episode the other day while waiting to go on the Andersonville Wine Walk, I was just appalled by his choices.

He was challenged to “divorce” some great food pairings - like peanut butter and jelly, porkchops and applesauce - and create new ones. His idea of great new food pairings included: Red Beans and Jelly, Chicken wrapped in Spaghetti, Fish and Waffles, and the grossest one of all - Cookie-crusted Porkchops:

Ingredients

12 (4-ounce) bone-in pork chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 dozen oatmeal cookies, store-bought or homemade
1/4 pound butter, room temperature
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
3 tablespoons apricot jelly
1 teaspoon chopped chives

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Season the pork on 1 side with salt and pepper, to taste. In large heavy-bottomed pan, over high heat, add the grapeseed oil and heat until almost smoking. Add the pork chops, seasoned side down. Sear the chops until golden brown, 2 minutes per side. Remove the chops from the pan to a sheet tray or roasting pan.

In food processor, crush the cookies until they resemble bread crumbs, not a dust. In a medium bowl, blend by hand, the butter, panko, herbs, curry and cookies until the mixture resembles a well mixed crust. Combine the mustard and jelly in a small bowl. Evenly coat the top of each pork chop with the mustard mixture then cover with cookie mixture.

Roast the chops until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the chops from the oven to a serving platter and garnish with chives. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

From Dinner: Impossible

Why would you ruin two amazing things: pork chops (which I hear are great, but I’ve really not eaten much of) and cookies (luckily he used the most unwanted cookie in my mind, Oatmeal Raisin) by combining them? And this wasn’t just one culinary offense - I swear, the entire episode was made for people with no taste buds or pregnant women who can’t figure out what craving they’d like to indulge. I’d rather have thrown all of these ingredients into a blender and sucked it through a straw than to actually try these “recipes.”

Not to mention - this guy’s muscles REALLY scare me.