I have two words for Gordon Ramsay: Yes, chef! Even after I volunteered to try to follow along with Gordon Ramsay: Cookalong Live on Fox Tuesday night, I was a bit skeptical. I have no TV in my kitchen (thank you, DVR pause button!), the ingredients list was daunting (at least $100 in groceries to feed a family of four), and the menu sounded dated (in 2009, does anyone eat red meat in cream and brandy sauce!?).
But despite all my fears, I found the experience a huge amount of fun, I had a smile on my face watching the show, and I certainly had a great meal to show for it. This Steak Diane was so yummy I might even make it again — if only to use the rest of that brandy I had to buy for the Cookalong.
This one-hour special had Chef Ramsay (looking hot in that plaid shirt) welcoming guests LeAnn Rimes, Cedric the Entertainer, and Alyson Hannigan cooking along with him (they didn’t embarrass themselves, and Hannigan’s husband Alexis Denisof even pronounced her steak “delicious.”) Whoopi Goldberg and her daughter were cooking along in New Jersey, wives of active-duty Marines also opened their home to cameras and everyday people Skyped in from across the country.
Sure, a random assortment of B-list entertainers cooking along is a bit cheesy, but it helped to keep the show entertaining even if you never plan to cook these recipes. At about 10 minutes into the show, everyone on Skype and in the studio was able to hold up their plates of angel hair pasta with shrimp, chili, and tomatoes. That was a nice confidence boost — if they can do it in 10 minutes, so can everyone at home. Yes, this was going to be fast-paced but it was all possible!
Gordon made a few jokes with Cedric (and a few awkward saucy comments with LeAnn) but somewhat miraculously he wasn’t profane (sadly he didn’t even call anyone donkey!). There was a bit of muted sound after Cedric thought Gordon said “balls out” instead of “bulbs out” (as in garlic).
Gordon called his menu “food so good it could jump start your love life” but actually this butter- and cream-laden main course would have you sitting on the couch in a food coma. I’d love to see him trying something a bit healthier and with ingredients that everyone already has in their pantry — my kitchen stocks don’t regularly include heavy cream, mascarpone cheese, Marsala wine, or lady fingers. Still, the man was teaching Americans to cook a three-course meal in one hour, which should help kitchenphobes feel like they can get cooking and avoid calling Domino’s at least one night this week.
Some of his tips were good (how to sear the steak in a hot pan without oil burning you) and some were funny (telling guys “don’t go for a pee” after handling chilis). Even making “posh” food seemed easy after watching everyone do it. It was my first flambeing experience, and I have to say watching Gordon and co. do it on TV a few times — as opposed to reading a line in a book — gave me a lot more confidence that I wasn’t going to set my kitchen on fire. (But was anyone else frightened when that Marine’s wife was flambeing so close to her kids?)
I’d also like to see a few more concrete tips: How thin should we have pounded that steak? How many minutes are you cooking those peas? My own follow-along wasn’t perfect (I ran out of olive oil midway through cooking, and my steaks turned out too well done for my taste) but the results impressed me nonetheless.
Ramsay did a great job of handling the live environment — cooking, instructing, checking in with various guests and home cooks, and throwing to taped segments (including one with “man on the street” Jay Leno making fun of British food). There are some logistical issues with the live follow-along format: Are you really going to wait until 10 p.m. to start eating? And won’t your steak get cold while you make the tiramisu? I know, I know, the DVR solution — but if you watch later, you don’t get that cool feeling that someone down the block, or across the country, was cooking the same dish at the same moment. The group experience was part of the thrill. Here’s what my results looked like:
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience, except for the stack of dirty dishes and pots now stacked in my kitchen. Looks like it’s Steak Diane leftovers for lunch Wednesday.
Who else cooked along? Did you enjoy the experience and did anyone have a flambe incident? Should Fox commission a whole series of Cookalong? If so, what should Ramsay cook next?
Photo Credit: Alex Bailey/Fox; food photo: Wendy Mitchell