How do I love thee, Melissa D’Arabian? Let me count the ways… specifically, there are three: Crispy-skinned orange chicken, individual potato gratins, and now braised pork.
For those of you who don’t watch Food Network (and I can’t imagine why in the world you wouldn’t), Melissa recently won the most recent season of Next Food Network Star. The woman is a working mother of four girls (all under the age of 6, including 1-year-old twins), NOT a trained chef, yet she kicked the asses of much more qualified contestants up and down the stage. And in just a few short episodes, she has rocked the Food Network house. Most everything she makes looks delicious, and affordable. The premise of her show is that you can make dinner for four people for less than $10. I question some of the ingredients, but when you take into account the things already in your pantry, I would say she’s darn near right on the money. So to speak.
The first Melissa dish hubby and I tried to make was individual potato gratins. These are simply thinly sliced potatoes layered in a muffin tin with shredded cheese. You pour a little bit of cream over the top of each one and bake until bubbly and toasty. Genius. Sheer genius. They are so easy, tasty and utterly adorable. We are currently experimenting with different kinds of cheese, a touch of garlic here, maybe a few crumbles of bacon there…
Next up came an attempt at Melissa’s Crispy-Skinned Chicken A L’Orange. The secret ingredient here? Frozen orange juice concentrate. Again, GENIUS. The only fault I found with this recipe is probably my own.
I always seem to have issues with defrosting frozen chicken. I thought I had completed defrosted my chicken breasts in the microwave, but it wasn’t until I’d already seared them and put them in the oven to take their temperature for the first check that I realized they were still slightly cold in the middle. Argh! Back into the microwave for a few more minutes on defrost, then back into the oven to finish cooking. So because my oven cooking time took a little longer than expected, the glaze slightly overcaramelized and got a little bit too dark in spots.
Still, the dish was super tasty. The chicken was very juicy and the glaze was absolutely delicious when it mixed with the chicken juices in the pan to create the sauce! I thought it might be a little too sweet when I read the recipe, but it was great. Awesome orange flavor. Hubby loved it, too. I will definitely try it again, with fresh chicken this time. I love how she is able to create such deep flavors and sophisticated food with simple ingredients and instructions.
Succulent Braised Pork is the third Melissa recipe I’ve tried, and it may just be my new favorite… I could only find pork shoulders at the store in the 8-pound range. Way too much for just my husband and I, so I used country-style pork ribs instead. They made the sauce just the tiniest bit greasy, but it was still delicious. The dish smelled soooooo good as it was cooking, hubby and I were practically pawing at the oven door waiting for the timer to go off. I served it with rosemary roasted sweet potatoes and baguette. Hubby and I stuffed ourselves silly. I seriously wanted to pick up the casserole dish and drink this sauce. The pork is so tender, and again, I am amazed how so few ingredients can create something that tastes so rich and complex.
Check it out for yourself. Her cooking show, “Ten Dollar Dinners” runs on Sunday mornings here in Indianapolis on the Food Network. In the meantime, you can find all of Melissa’s tasty recipes on the Food Network web site at http://www.foodnetwork.com/melissa-darabian/recipes/index.html. Go. Go now. Right now. I’ll wait…
I cannot wait for this woman to come out with a cookbook. All hail Melissa!