Friday, November 10, 2006

Bam! Emeril and Daniel Braise the Rabbit

It has been an amazing month. On Thursday, I sat in the front row, eating mussels, during a taping of Emeril Live, the Food Network's flagship show, starring Emeril Lagasse and his endearing enthusiastic personality. Now, I know what your thinking. But I tend not to be overly judgemental of mega-culinary personalities--regardless of how much they must "cook down" to their audience in order to garner a big enough one. Guys like Emeril, Alton Brown, Nigella Lawson, Rachel Ray, Tyler Florence et. al. simply introduce more people to good food than all of the hoity-toity Michelin Guides or gourmet reviewers combined. Without at least some instruction on home cooking, most of us would be relugated to eating breaded, compressed, deep-fried, flaked, factory-farmed, machine-molded, dry white meat chicken pieces.

Further, I have actually eaten at Emeril's restaurants in New Orleans and Las Vegas--AND THEY ABSOLUTELY DO NOT SUCK! I have yet to have a bad meal in any of his establishments. Not always off the charts, but never disappointing.

But it gets better. Today on Emeril Live. Daniel Boulud of Daniel, DB Bistro and Cafe Boulud in NY, and restaurants in Palm Beach and Las Vegas was Emeril's special guest cooking from his new book Braise, which he wrote with Melissa Clark. Now Daniel is certainly a world class chef if the one meal I have eaten at Daniel is any indication--and of course Michelin and the New York Times agree. The book is a global look at amazing dishes that share one thing in common: their method of preparation is that of slow cooking with intense seasoning in various liquids.

I took a cooking class from Daniel in Monterey last year at the Masters of Food and Wine, and was amazed by his cooking but, until Braise, found some of his instruction a bit intimidating. Braise, by contrast, is very approachable, save for the occasional tough to find ingredient. On the show, Daniel concocted a rabbit in mustard braise, which seemed spectacular (the plate never got around to me unfortunately, but those partaking appeared in rapture) and a dessert of pears with various forms of licorice flavoring that I will attempt this weekend.

Rabbit is the best meat on earth. Leaner than almost everything and tastier than almost everything. Good free-range organic pork is tastier than almost everything, but leaner than almost nothing. Chicken is leaner than almost everything, but tastier than almost nothing. Rabbit is the dream meat, in my opinion. Bison is a close second, when one wants to combine leaness and tastiness. I tell 3-year-old Max that "Bunnies are pets, but rabbits are tasty" in a doomed attempt to counteract the wierd American bias that allows us to consume 6 week old force-fed baby chickens at will, but regard mature rabbits as too cute to consume. This bias unfortunately afflicts his much-more-influential-than-me mother, so I have little hope in succeeding.

Besides the Rabbit and the Pears in Braise, I am looking forward to trying these recipes from the book:
  • veal breast with cinnamon
  • pork butt with hazelnuts and Jerusalem artichokes (f I can find the latter)
  • smoked chili
  • Thai curry chicken
  • grilled tofu with Chinese sausage, and
  • skate cioppino
The Emeril Live experience is just that. A live taping of an actual show from beginning to end--not segment by segment, but as if it was going to air live without much, if any editing. So it moves fast, and the audience is expected to be raucous--so much so that you actually ache from clapping and screaming by the end of the 90-minutes. Emeril appears genuine. Even with cameras off, he treats people with respect and courtesy and is always thanking those around him--nice to see. The crew is professional and entertaining, part of what it takes to keep the audience in the moment and the show alive. And the band--Doc Gibbs and the Boys--made you wish the commercial breaks would never end.

My only complaints--I didn't get to taste the rabbit and we only got to say "BAM!" one time. French-bistro food is apparently not amenable to the emphasis of the BAM. It should air in early 2007--but the best thing about The Food Network is that it will air at least once a month for the next 200 years. One way to preserve my legacy.


Blogger Mark said...

I think I'll buy that book. Do you know when that episode will be shown?

1:11 PM  

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