Sunday, September 9, 2007

Recipe Showdown: With Sanda Lee vs. Giada De Laurentii

“Semi-Homemade Cooking With Sanda Lee” Fried Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Pepper Relish and Artichoke Caper Dip
Giada De Laurentiis’ “Everyday Italian” Fried Ravioli
For awhile, I’ve really been wanting to give a Sandra Lee recipe a run thru. But I am also a cheap bastard. I don’t want to spend $20 on something that I suspect will be inedible. But the recipes fascinate me, since they're usually done so badly. As a tech writer, I have a high respect for a well constructed recipe... since it's basically tech writing with food. Carefully constructed instructions that should hopefully bring you to a successful result.

On last Saturday’s show, she made “Fried Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Pepper Relish and Artichoke Caper Dip”. Looking at the recipe, I saw problems right away. I’ve had fried/toasted ravioli many times. Usually breaded. Once, not breaded. And it made for some horribly tough pasta. Not tasty. And hers are of the “unbreaded” variety. But, it is a recipe that surprisingly (for her) relies on some standard pantry staples and wouldn’t require me to go on a hunting trip for high-priced ingredients that I’d never use in anything else.

I knew that today, the first Sunday of football season, I'd be sticking close to the kitchen since I've got a huge-ass pot of chili on the stove for dinner tonight.

But.... on to the showdown. First up, the sauces.

I at least made the sauces first, unlike Aunt Sandy on the show with the recipe. Only variation from the recipe was that rather than roma tomatoes, I used some cherry tomatoes. My cherry tomato plant is still going strong, and I'm not about to spend money on tomatoes when I've got them right in the backyard. Since the ravioli that I got looked even smaller than the ones Aunt Sandy used, I diced up the pepper and tomato up as small as I could, already suspecting that there are problems in serving a chunky sauce with these teeny little ravioli. Due to trying to get the teeny dice, it took about 7 minutes to get this done. Listed prep time on the Food Network site is 10 minutes. Ok... well, I'm willing to admit if I wasn't going for such a small dice, I might have gotten it all done in 5. But the problem now... I don't have multiple sets of the measuring spoons I need to make the next dip. Unless I think that a little balsamic vinegar and brown sugar will add something to the artichoke sauce (which I don't) I now need to clean those spoons. Damnit. I hate doing dishes. Ok, I claim those two minutes back in prep time, which brings us back to 7 minutes.

The taste? Not *that* bad. It might not be a bad relish for chicken or fish or something. But I do not see how the hell it's a "dip-able" sauce.

On to the other Sandy sauce.

I was originally going to use just canned artichokes in the sauce, since I'm not a fan of the jarred/marinated ones. But, going thru my fridge yesterday, I found a half-full jar of artichokes. Ok, looks like jarred artichokes. Again, working for as fine of a chop on the artichokes as I can, and the rest of the sauce came together quickly enough. Five minutes. So, all in all, 12 minutes prep time.

The taste? Like a really nasty artichoke dip. A really nasty, thin artichoke dip. It's almost like the artichokes, which were well-drained, had some bad chemical reaction with the (reduced fat) sour cream and mayo and thinned everything out. And that marinated taste of the artichokes is all you can taste. Not like actual artichokes, just, well, nasty.

The Giada recipe? A half-full jar of Prego leftover from the Lightened Chicken Parmesan ( that I made earlier in the week. Prep time? Zip. Ok, a minute in the microwave to take the chill off. But, prepping the ravioli with the breading took about 5 minutes.
The taste? It's Prego, people!! Many times in college, my dinner was some nice french bread and the better part of a jar of Prego. Personally, it's my favorite jarred sauce, so of course, it tasted good.

Looks like the Prep/Sauce round goes to Giada. Especially since I didn't have to re-wash anything during it.

And a word about the ravioli.... for either recipe, you'd end up tossing some from the package anyway where they've stuck together, and they rip when you try to get them apart. I think I lost about 10... maybe 1/3 of the package. Thrifty!!

But wait.... apparently the prep time includes bringing your fry oil to temp. The Sandy recipe is 10 minutes. Giada's is 15. Does oil somehow heat faster when it knows you're doing Sandy's recipe? Does oil just come to temp faster in a Semi-Ho kitchen?? The hell???

In any case... it took about 15 minutes for my oil to come to temp. On to the fry!!!

Nothing notable about the differences in frying. Drop stuff in hot oil, watch it cook, flip it, watch it cook some more.

Alone, the Semi-Ho ravioli were pretty good. The pasta did not get tough as I thought it might. Crispy, warm center.

The Giada ravioli were also good, I personally liked the breadcrumbs more, since they added a little more texture, and they did a better job of covering all the places the pasta dough had created huge bubbles that made the Semi-Ho ones look kinda like radioactive mutated ravioli.

As for the sauces.... c'mon......

The red pepper sauce, all you could taste was sweet.

The artichoke sauce, all you could taste was something tart, and not in a good way.

For both of them, it was a huge problem that to get any sauce on the ravioli, you just had to go with a huge amount compared to the size of the ravioli. Which might be one reason the dips were so overpowering. At least with the tomato sauce, a little dip in to the sauce was perfect. No need to go in there and scoop away, and you could actually taste the ravioli.

Couldn't get the hubby to try ANY of them. He's not a ravioli fan in the first place, and he's saving his hunger for a couple bowls of chili tonight.
For photo evidence of the experience......

No comments: