I have been buying The Food Network Magazine off and on since it came out around a year ago. How I love hanging out with TV foodies I feel I know so well. Here in Canada we are in the season of repeats so I am looking elsewhere for inspiration. Last week I decided I did not just want to read the magazine, I wanted to put it through my test kitchen. I choose three different recipes with three different techniques for making food: Almost-Famous Orange Milkshake (AKA Orange Julius), Pickled Garlic Vegetables and Shrimp with Green Sauce. Let's start with the good news first.
The fake-out Orange Julius was very tasty. I did not grow up in malls religiously drinking this drink so I can not attest to the authenticity 100% but I thought it was very close. This recipe is tasty and easy to make and was definitely the best recipe I tested. It was very similar to a recipe test I did last year using an Alton Brown recipe. His version used fresh orange juice that he freezes instead of relying on concentrate. My only complaint of the magazine version is that it is too sweet. I think Alton Brown's recipe proved that you do not need to have that much sugar. Still, it was quite delicious, refreshing and similar to the classic drink.
I also tried the Garlic Pickled Vegetables. Woah! Crazy strong! Not just with the vinegary flavour but they taste so much like the white wine I used, I was not expecting that. I did not know if I was going to like this one so I did not spend $4 on fennel or look in to buying garlic scrapes (?) and just stuck with carrots and radishes. The radishes loose their colour completely and are hard to differentiate from the garlic cloves.
There are not a lot of food memories I have of my mom in the kitchen but as soon as I started to brew the pickling mixture, I was back in her kitchen. How she loves pickles! I do too, I am crazy about bold flavours but this did not impress me that much. It is something different to try but I probably will not make it again.
Last and definitely least was the Shrimp With Green Sauce. From the photo, I was convinced that I was going to love this dish. Shrimp and garlic, what is not to like? I wanted this to be more of a main dish so I added some tortellini. When it comes to cooking, I stuck to the recipe.
I found this dish flavourless and boring. I am a stickler for realistic representation of food photos and theirs for this dish was phenomenal. That bold and deep green created by the parsley is what I wanted when I made this dish. Which is why I was so disappointed when I read that you add the green sauce and warmed through. As soon as this happened, that mermaid green colour disappeared. I can understand needing to cook the brandy and the wine but by cooking the parsley and the garlic, all that fresh and bold flavour disappeared. This would have worked much better as raw sauce. It was so bland and boring I had to cover it with Parmesan to make it have any flavour at all.
Despite some of the disappointments, I have to admit that I still love this magazine. My favourite part of the magazine (and this sounds weird) is that their recipe index is visual, it is done with photos as well as text. For someone like me, this makes navigating through the magazine effortless. It is pure genius. Their Copy That! section where the Orange Julius recipe is found is something I always look forward to. I made their version of the Olive Garden's Salad and Breadsticks and was blown away. I love the idea of making a beloved restaurant recipe at home and feel this is a risky choice for them which I approve of entirely.
Despite the disappointments, I probably will be picking up a copy The Food Network Magazine again in the very near future. I feel I know the people in the magazine quite well so it is like coming home when I go through it. I love the photographs, the plethora of recipes to choose from and information about food in general. I just hope the next time I put them through my test kitchen there are less disappointments.