If you’re stumped as to what to make your family for Thanksgiving, you can give them high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lots of excess calories by using the recipes the chefs roll out on the Food Network, a fantasy land where every recipe calls for a tablespoon of, or even a stick of, butter. But hey, it’s only once a year, where’s the harm?
The Food Network exists in a world in which people love food, rather than worrying about it. And this week it’s all about Thanksgiving – with all of the favorite chefs giving their spin on the holiday. Rising star Rachel Ray fits her recipes into her usual 30-minute time frame, Giada DiLaurentis puts an Italian spin on American recipes, as does Michael Chiarello. Emeril does his thing, Food 911 teaches inventive but doable recipes and then there is Paula Deen.
Paula Deen, one of the more engaging hosts on the network, gives us one cruelly delicious recipe after another. Her trademark is butter. She puts butter where you never imagined it could go. Even after deep-frying a turkey, she must pour a stick of melted butter into its crispy cavity to ensure good flavor. She made a pumpkin gooey cake that had one stick of butter in the cake part and another stick in the topping part. If that recipe alone doesn’t clog an artery or two, I don’t know what.
Ms. Deen, however, is so charming and funny that she makes a joke about her butter addiction. And anyway, it’s not instructional TV so much as it is entertainment. It’s food porn for those who dare not ever eat a bite of gooey butter cake (be afraid, be very afraid).
Even still, if you’re looking for a recipe that will wow a crowd, butter and all, look no further than Food-TV. You can access the recipes online, at www.foodtv.com, if you missed one of the episodes. Staying on top of the cooking trends is key to the network’s continued success.
Fast and easy is the name of the game on many of the shows, including “Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee” where she shows you how to fake out your guests by using lots of pre-made, store bought foods and adding something extra to them to fool everyone into thinking you slaved over a hot stove for hours. And no one is more popular than the 30-minute girl, Rachel Ray, who is so popular she’s started her own magazine and will soon have her own daytime show, produced by Oprah’s company, Harpo Productions.
So, what’s cooking on the food network this year? Deep fried turkey is out. Roasted turkey, two small ones instead of a big one, is in. Pies are out. Twists on the pumpkin thing are in. My personal favorite, “The Barefoot Contessa” made a pumpkin cheesecake to die for. If you do make pie, making your own crust is out. Store bought pastry is in. Fancy side dishes are out. Traditional ideas are back – green bean casseroles, mashed (or smashed) potatoes are back in. And, of course, egg whites are out, egg yolks are back in. Corn bread is the bread of choice for the stuffing and everyone uses freshly ground black pepper and course kosher salt.
And if you’re looking for the food snob’s version of pumpkin pie, go for Alton Brown’s suggestion of no-pumpkin pumpkin pie using sweet potatoes. Alton Brown, host of “Good Eats” has his foolproof. anal-retentive recipes. His Thanksgiving may lack the passion of Paula Deen’s or the creativity of Emeril’s but you can’t go wrong with his methods.
So, this year, you can’t go wrong if you make all of the foods you’re told not to make every day of your life. There are things to be thankful for this season, and one of them is the Food Network – an endless font of information for those of us who haven’t a clue.
Recipes and videos of the episodes on Food-TV can be found on their website, www.foodtv.com.
Notable TV This Week
Thursday, November 17
The Venetian Dilemma, 8 p.m., KCET.
Iconoclasts, premiere, 10 p.m., SUNDANCE.
Shadow of a Doubt (***), 9:15 p.m., TCM.
Friday, November 18
Chicago (***), 8 p.m., BRAVO.
Dateline NBC: The Life and Legacy of John Lennon, 8 p.m., NBC.
Emeril’s Thanksgiving Feast, 8 p.m., FOOD-TV.
Love Story (***), 9 p.m., WE.
The Newsroom, 10 p.m., KCET.
Saturday, November 19
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (***), 8 p.m., ABC.
The Wedding Singer (***), 8 p.m., TBS.
Rachel Ray’s Thanksgiving in 60, 9 p.m., FOOD-TV.
Stella Dallas (****), 9 p.m., TCM.
Sunday, November 20
Emeril’s Thanksgiving with our Troops, 8 p.m., FOOD-TV.
The Poseidon Adventure, 2005! 8 p.m., NBC.
Snow Wonder, 9 p.m., CBS.
Masterpiece Theatre: The Virgin Queen, 9 p.m., KCET.
Monday, November 21
Scarface (****), 7:30 p.m., USA.
American Experience, 9 p.m., KCET.
Tuesday, November 22
Nova: Storm that Drowned a City, 8 p.m., KCET.
2005 American Music Awards, 8 p.m., ABC.
The Sixth Sense (***), 8 p.m., FAM.
Frontline: The Storm (Hurricane Katrina), 9 p.m., KCET.
Wednesday, November 23
U-571, 8 p.m., BRAVO.
Faith Hill: Fireflies, 9 p.m., NBC.
In Search of Myths and Heroes, 9 p.m., KCET.
Pollock (***), 9:45 p.m., IFC.