Attending a taping of "Secrets of Louisville Chefs Live"  ranks with sleep deprivation, mock executions and forced listening to Justin Bieber.
Watching--and smelling--two local chefs prepare their signature dishes, unable to dig in yourself until the very end, is psychological torture of an order usually reserved for offshore bastions of legal limbo. Saturday morning at Sullivan University's  Kitchen Theater, chef Mike Driscoll of Molly Malone's Irish Pub & Restaurant  (933 Baxter Ave. and 3900 Shelbyville Road), chef Dallas McGarity of Z's Fusion  (115 S. 4th St.) and "Secrets of Louisville Chefs Live" host Tim Laird tortured (yeah, I'm sticking with the metaphor) a studio audience of about 40 people, cooking meals that left me drooling worse than my 2-month-old daughter and making cocktails that had me craving a stiff drink even though I hadn't yet finished my wake-up latte.
Molly Malone's Driscoll went first at the two-hour taping, sharing secrets for making the traditional Irish dish Shepherd's Pie, like adding non-traditional Irish ingredients like Cajun seasoning and sweet chili sauce. And, because food is better with booze in it, add red wine. "This is where we really get some good flavor," Driscoll said as he poured wine into the pan. (Recipes for all of the dishes described herein should be posted soon on the TV show's website .)
Driscoll, who's being kept busy with the recent opening of Molly Malone's new St. Matthews location, then provided insight into cooking mussels: don't buy ones that are open, slippery or smell bad, as it means they're already dead, although if you tap and open one and it closes, it's fine and you can still give it a hot bath. Also, don't cover them in your refrigerator or they'll die. And you'll probably want to trim the mussel's beard.
Molly Malone's mussels dish, which is cooked in beer, marinara sauce (with diced onions, garlic, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, thyme and that ubiquitous red wine) and heavy cream, includes 18 of the buggers. "The only ones who go away hungry are the ones who don't bother to eat," Driscoll said of the pub's typically large servings.
And sticking with the Irish theme, Laird then made his green apple agave, which includes el Jimador blue agave tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar and sour apple mix. Think of it as a sophisticated margarita. And, don't be nervous about coming off as an amateur mixologist by squirting lime juice on a friend; Laird, who doubles as Brown-Forman's chief entertaining officer, nailed the show's cohost Kevin Harned with lime juice while adding the finishing touches to his concoction.
The kitchen then changed over for the taping of the second episode, when Z's Fusion's chef Dallas McGarity made sauteed Hawaiian blue prawns with bacon mango bourbon BBQ sauce, white cheddar polenta and melted greens. And using nature's tongs--his gloved hands--McGarity formed perfectly shaped black bean cakes. He also added bourbon, lots of bourbon, to the pan taking the top off its squeeze bottle, just pouring it in. "Kind of smells like Kevin on Friday night," Laird said. Some other pointers from McGarity:
- fresh spinach cooks fast
- a super-hot pan is the key to cooking prawns that are crispy on the outside and moist inside
- leave the head on the prawn for extra flavor
As for the payoff at the end, the Shepherd's Pie, prawns, black bean cakes and muscles were at delicious as they smelled, although there's a reason chefs usually don't serve all four of those dishes on the same plate. Of course, I probably shouldn't have devoured my plate in less time than it takes to do a shot of tequila.
"Secrets of Louisville Chefs" airs Sundays at 5 p.m. and Wednesdays at noon on the CW network. Make sure you have food in front of you when you tune in.
And for more inside cooking tips from local experts, check out "Secrets of Louisville Chefs Cookbook, Volume Three,"  which can be purchased online  or at area bookstores and food specialty shops.
Photo: Courtesy "Secrets of Louisville Chefs Live"