Ok, I know Wolfgang Puck was really the FIRST celebrity chef, but no chef emerged as THE celebrity chef bringing gourmet food to the masses like Emeril Lagasse. The man serves as a great bridge between the highfalutin food of a gourmet restaurant and "guy food" that an everyday person would want to cook.
Picture it, 1990-something (yes, I return to the shameless "Golden Girls" way of starting a story). I was watching Food Network in its infancy. Ice was in the other room. He walked in and said, "that looks good - I would eat that!" It was like the heavens had opened and the angels were singing down because whatever that recipe was, it was OUT of his meat and potatoes comfort zone. The show? "Emeril Live." I happily searched out recipes on the FN website from his show and tried them. To this day, I owe Emeril for the recipe he put out for onion strings (aka spicy onion rings). They were a football Sunday staple and the first time I think someone called me a food goddess.
That Christmas, I received the first cookbook from Ice (of many more to come) - "Emeril's TV Dinners" based on his hit TV show. I have to admit, back then, many of the ingredients were a bit exotic, or frankly out of a college student's meager food budget, but I conquered a delicious chorizo-stuffed roast chicken (okay - all I could get was Mexican chorizo and not the Spanish chorizo he intended), but it was still yummy, and even cooked artichokes from scratch. If it came from Emeril (cookbook or otherwise), Ray would at least try it. I even sank so low as to say it was an Emeril recipe when it wasn't, until Ice started getting suspicious.
Fast forward over a decade, and I found myself looking on his cookbook with fresh eyes and a much improved food budget, availability of gourmet ingredients, better palate, and more open-minded taste-tester. All of a sudden, I didn't find one or two recipes worth trying, I found DOZENS. With renewed vigor, I planned a menu of two items for a weekend I had a little time to cook.
First was a Heart of Palm strudel. (Really just a stick of Heart of Palm rolled up with spicy remoulade sauce inside phyllo pastry and baked). I loved it - Ice strongly disliked the taste of hearts of palm. No matter - it inspired a new love affair with phyllo that continues!
The second recipe was a bona-fide 100 on a scale of 1 to 10. it was homemade mushroom and prosciutto ravioli. No sauce for this - simply preparation, boiling to cook the pasta, and then a quick saute in butter. The ravioli probably cost me $20 in ingredients alone - prosciutto ($5), dried exotic mushrooms ($5), won-ton wrappers ($4 - yes,they work as pasta sheets!), parmigiano-reggiano ($3 - the real stuff), but IT WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY. Served with some broccoli, it was a gourmet experience I ate in shorts and a t-shirt. Think of it, we didn't have to spend gas money to go to a nice restaurant, dress up, and spend $20 per person on the same food. The true compliment to the meal? Ice came into the kitchen and his face fell when he thought I was about to put the ravioli up. He wanted seconds!
My one statement about this cookbook in particular is that the food is a little more involved and gourmet, with influences from his various high end restaurants as well as his upbringing in Fall River, Massachusetts. It's Sunday food - something that takes time and that you make with love rather than trying to throw together in 20 minutes on a busy Monday after working late and trying to squeeze in a workout at the gym (or just choosing to veg on the couch). That said, I will always turn to this cookbook when I'm feeling adventurous and ready to conquer something away from my comfort zone and, thanks to Emeril, I know Ice will willingly try too!
Welcome to my world!
I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.