Monday, July 27, 2009

Rachael Ray Cooks Ghetto Gourmet

Rachael Ray Cooks Ghetto Gourmet

A transcript from the new Food Network series
Episode 6: Chicken à la Ramen with Iceberg Salad
Original Air Date: 06-18-09


I FOLKS! I’m Rachael Ray and I cook ghetto gourmet. That means that if you’re at home watching this program at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, you probably got laid off and are riding out the recession with a pack of Wal-Mart–brand bologna and the fading memories of what you used to cook back when you could afford 30-minute meals. But just because you’re paying 17-percent interest on that stalk of celery in your grocery cart doesn’t mean you can’t make a delicious—and healthy—meal in the time it takes to watch this show. Actually, who cares if it takes longer than 30 minutes? It’s not like you have anywhere else to be, right?

Today I’m making an Italian classic with a college-student twist: Rich, succulent chicken parmesan topped with a melted layer of Easy Mac sauce over a bed of 18-cent ramen noodles, paired with a wedge of iceberg drizzled with whatever dressing packets you swiped from the 2-for-1 early bird salad bar at Ruby Tuesday’s last week. Yum-O!

Here’s a tip, kids: Look for meat with a bright orange “manager’s special” sticker. It’s 14 hours away from being spoiled, but it’s half-price.

Now, my husband and I are big chicken parmesan fans. We actually had the dish on our wedding night, outside a chicken farm on the outskirts of Rome. His family wanted to enjoy the fancy-schmancy catering; mine just wanted to gorge themselves on the cake. So we reached a compromise of sorts by buying dinner from a somewhat sketchy street vendor named Ricardo who deep-fried anything that could be loosely classified under the category of poultry. The meal postponed our honeymoon by four days, but it inspired this recipe, which calls for any cut of chicken that’s usually overlooked by the general public: gizzards, giblets, whatever’s on sale. Here’s a tip, kids: Look for meat with a bright orange “manager’s special” sticker. It’s 14 hours away from being spoiled, but it’s half price.

So out of the fridge we’re going to grab the chicken, an egg, some canned tomatoes, a bit of wine and a medium-sized onion. I’m going to drizzle some F.V.V.O.—Family Value vegetable oil—into a medium-sized saucepan and brown up my onion until it’s nice and translucent. Then I’m adding a dash of garlic. Fresh works best, but so do those useless little cups of garlic sauce from Papa John’s that no one likes. Deglaze the pan with a splash of Boone’s Farm, then add a can of diced tomatoes. Here’s another tip, kiddos: Most grocery stores knock 20 percent off dented cans. Not saying you should go all Big Daddy on me here, but just sayin’.

As our sauce thickens, I’ll make the chicken portion of our parmesan, which basically involves dipping the meat into an egg wash, then breading it in a bowl of bread crumbs. Wonder Bread works just fine, but if you live by a Panera, get up at 6 a.m. Thursday mornings and you can beat out the homeless folks lined up for bags of ciabatta by the dumpsters reserved for the church ministry. One big, fat bag should do—you want day-old bread to make breadcrumbs anyway, so crumble up that ciabatta on a baking sheet and set it under a broiler for five minutes. Easier than a drunk hooker! I think that’s how the saying goes.

Our chicken is done and our sauce is boiling, so all we need to do is pour some hot water over three packs of noodles. Hello, Mr. Ramen! I’ll let you in on a little secret: Up until the producers of Food Network offered me this show, the only time I had ever boiled water was to cook Ramen noodles. My husband said, “Rachael, you need more than a Prozac personality and an arsenal of catchphrases to make it on prime-time television.” But he won’t be laughing at the size of his alimony checks if I decide to divorce him, hee-hee! Anyway, give the noodles 15 seconds, and they’re ready. Use your spoonula to dish them out onto the plate. Pour some of our Papa John’s garlic-tomato sauce down over the top, add a piece of chicken, then sprinkle with the cheese powder from a box of Easy Mac and nuke it for 10 seconds. Oh! I almost forgot the wedge of iceberg salad! Um … that’s pretty self-explanatory.

And there you have it! A meal to impress your sweetie, even if he’s spent the afternoon in the unemployment line at the local welfare office. We’re all out of time—I’m Rachael Ray, and remember: A gourmet meal, no matter how ghetto, is only 30 minutes away.

Melissa Wozniak is a writer/editor in Nashville. She currently earns a rather respectable living by collecting insurance checks from people who hit her car in the parking garage.

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