Sunday, 11 July 2010

Robert Irvine - Impossible to Easy

Impossible to Easy
111 Delicious Recipes to Help You Put Great Meals on the Table Every Day
Robert Irvine
with Brian O'Reilly
Hardcover, 304 pages

I am a fan of Dinner: Impossible, I enjoy thinking about how I would perform under the difficult cooking situations and what I would make. Robert Irvine is fun and personable and fairly even-tempered while he cooks on the fly - in spite of the barriers the show puts up for him - he gets creative and he always prevails.
The book looked interesting to me, I enjoy the creative twists he puts on dishes and he does have a flair for big flavour. I like that in a chef.
That being said, I did have a couple of issues with the recipes that I tried.

The Welsh Rarebit was absolutely delicious, but I got the feeling that the 2 cups of cream in the recipe was far too much for the amount of cheese and bread. Also the timing - five minutes at 325F would not be enough to brown this dish. The high volume of liquid made the texture more like a savoury French toast and I needed much more time, plus the broiler to cook and brown the dish - but the flavour was out of this world.
I took a look at his online version of the recipe - it is largely the same but he uses 3x more cheddar and makes more of a fondue-style dip for crispy bread croutes.

My son chose this Windy Stovetop Pizza - who doesn't love pizza? I am always up for a new way to make it. Irvine has you make a 14 inch crust to go into a 12 inch pan, ostensibly to have the remaining crust go up the sides and make it deep dish. Great idea. Until you realize you have to flip it. What happens to the sides? Sort of like flipping a pie dish upsidedown. I pressed the center down and went on. I love his souped-up pizza sauce, and the concept of this pizza. The fact that the crust gets cooked on both sides first means it is very crunchy - I love that. Except for the edges, which don't get as much heat on my standard electrical burner. They are puffy and doughy - my son loved them and ate all of ours. A matter of taste, I suppose. The toppings are basically steamed on, as you add them to the stove-top pizza and close the lid. Different than oven-baked but very tasty. I will make this again, but I will make the crust flat to fit the pan exactly.

We greatly enjoyed the Salmon Fillets over Whipped Potatoes with White Wine Sauce, a very family-friendly dish that offers elegance as well as ease. (The chopped parsley in the photo should be dill - I realized too late that I was out. No matter, it was delicious just the same.)
There was a fair amount of liquid added to the potatoes, making the purée much more soft than I would have made them, but the dish was very tasty indeed.

Last night we had the Roasted Chicken Thighs with Black Cherry Chutney and Sweet Potato Cakes. A delicious dish that everyone loved. The thighs are crisped up in a pan and then finish roasting in the oven while you make the delicious chutney. The sweet potato mash is meant to be made into cakes, but with the volume of liquid added, 4 tbsp butter and 1/8 light cream or milk to 1 pound of potatoes - they were too soft to form into patties and sauté. No matter really, we just mounded the sweet potatoes in the middle and served the chicken on top. Very tasty indeed.

And for dessert.. we had the Almond Rochers. Absolutely delicious, the meringue is started stove-top and whipped up to glossy perfection before adding toasted sliced almond pieces and baked off. We loved them and ate them all up very quickly. No problems with this recipe, I think mine look even better than Robert's! I'll definitely be making these again.

All in all I found the recipes to be inspiring, if sometimes flawed. Irvine offers handy time-lines for cooking but may forget to tell you what temperature to heat your oven to or when to add an ingredient. This may be frustrating to the beginner cook, but seasoned home cooks will be able to work around these small flaws and use their own discretion to create his delicious and creative dishes.

Click here to check out Robert Irvine's Impossible to Easy.