Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kitchen Klutz: Food Network showdown

Photos by Ted Levin

By Michèle De Meglio

“The Kitchen Klutz” and one of the “Worst Cooks in America” have joined forces to destroy the Food Network’s pristine kitchens. Not intentionally, of course.

Picture this — “Worst Cooks in America” contestant Rachel Coleman and I are armed with super sharp knives at our very own station in the Food Network’s massive test kitchens, housed in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market. Right behind us, a dozen professional chefs are testing recipes for my favorite shows and the network’s awesome magazine. Bobby Flay’s sous chef, Miriam Garron, is baking just five feet away! We are so not ready for a throwdown!

Even though it was unlikely we’d create anything as glorious as the luscious chocolate layer cakes on display, we wanted to try our best — and not be laughed at. Fortunately, two savvy chefs were at the ready with helpful tips — and probably making sure we didn’t burn the joint down.

Coleman, a Bushwick resident, and I were attempting a Seared Scallops with Citrus, Arugula and Pomegranate Salad dish created by Anne Burrell, Coleman’s mentor on “Worst Cooks” and the host of “Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.”

Coleman’s skills have clearly improved thanks to her stint on the reality show. In fact, while I squealed when placing scallops in a hot frying pan, and slicing a red onion, and segmenting a clementine, Coleman was cool as a cucumber. Burrell must be the best teacher!

“After being on the show and being in the kitchen with Chef Anne yelling at me and having the time ticking away and freaking out, it’s really relaxing to be here with you chilling,” Coleman joked.

Coleman even showed me how to properly handle a knife as long as my forearm! Apparently, you don’t just hold the handle and watch the blade flail dangerously (that’s my trusted technique). Burrell taught Coleman to keep two fingers on the base of the blade, thereby steading the potentially deadly weapon.

With a new grip on the chef’s knife, I tried my hand (shaking just a bit) at segmenting a grapefruit for the first time in my life. Since I am often nervous when handling steak knives, you can imagine my fear when Coleman advised me to hold the peeled fruit in my palm and use the giant knife to remove tiny portions — all without cutting my fingers. I did this very slowly and carefully. My segments may not have been perfect but all my digits were intact!

The fruit was combined with baby arugula for a sweet-smelling salad, which we paired with sautéed scallops. Yum!

Verdict: We didn’t screw up! Our scallops were deliciously buttery and the perfect compliment to the light citrus salad. Maybe we’re not so bad after all.

“Worst Cooks in America” airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. on the Food Network.

Kitchen Klutz follows 20-something Michèle De Meglio as she burns casseroles and her fingers, all in hope of trading frozen dinners for home cooking.

Seared Scallops with Citrus, Arugula and Pomegranate Salad

Recipe Courtesy Anne Burrell


3 clementines, peeled and cut into segments

1 ruby red grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments


Pinch crushed red pepper

8 large dry diver sea scallops

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 cups baby arugula

1/2 small red onion, finely julienned

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds


Combine all the citrus in a medium bowl with a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper and reserve.

Season the scallops with salt. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking add the smashed garlic cloves. When the garlic has become golden and very aromatic remove it from the pan and discard it. Next, gently lay the scallops in the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. If the pan begins to smoke, reduce the heat of the burner. The scallops should look beautifully caramelized on each side.

While the scallops are cooking, dress the arugula in a small bowl with some of the juice from the reserved citrus and also high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and some salt.

Arrange the arugula on individual serving plates. Toss the onion in with the citrus and give it a sprinkle of olive oil. Lay the citrus on the arugula.

Cut the scallops in half equatorially and place them overlapping in a line against the citrus. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and give another little drizzle of olive oil.

Yield: 4 servings


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