Thanks to Alton Brown, Iron Chef America can be quite an educational tool. Things learned during Chef Todd English's pizza dough battle with Iron Chef Mario Batali:
Zatar is a Middle Eastern aromatic spice mixture containing toasted white sesame seeds, ground sumac, thyme and salt. Chef English tossed liberal amounts of zatar and fresh herbs on a rack of lamb he was pan-frying. Between Alton's description of the herb smell and the stunning shot of the lamb in the pan - I've got to try it!
Ramps - aka the Wild Leeks of Appalachia - are a springtime vegetable and a member of the onion family. They apparently have a strong garlic-like aroma. Never heard of these in my life. Again - got to try this!
Pork butts come from the shoulder of a pig, not the rump. Who knew?
I have a new favorite foodie show: Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America. The premise of the show is simple. Gordon Ramsay - a chef as famous for his short temper and vocabulary that would make a longshoreman blush as his culinary prowess - takes on the challenge of turning around a different floundering restaurant every week. Gordon sweeps in, examines the restaurant from top to bottom, critiques the food, frightens the employees, picks on the owners, revamps the menus, and of course proves that all the abuse-flavored advice was worth it when by the end of the week the restaurant seems to be on the mend. A month later, Gordon returns unannounced to check up on the restaurant's progress.
I loved this show. You can hate Gordon all you want - and believe me, there are no end of reasons to dislike his cocky personality and inexcusable rudeness - but you have to admire his passion not only for good food, but his deep understanding of all the delicate balances that need to be struck in the kitchen in order to marry the art and the science of building a dish, a meal, a menu, an atmosphere, and how every piece contributes to a satisfying restaurant experience. It's a wonderful peek into the inner workings of a dysfunctional scenario, and how much or little effort it takes to right all the wrongs to make a kitchen - and by extention, a restaurant - shine. New episodes Tuesday 9pm, on BBC America.