Any food that can make your tongue tingle has got to be worth a taste.
I’m not talking a seltzer-like zippiness or even a searing chili heat. I mean literally tingling because your tongue is at once numb and buzzingly alive.
That is the power of the Sichuan pepper (also called Sichuan peppercorn). But why would you want to (albeit mildly) numb your mouth? Because aside from the basic coolness of a tingling tongue, that sensation also changes the way you taste food seasoned with the pepper, adding a wonderful punchy vibrancy and warmth unlike anything else.
First, the basics. Despite appearances, Sichuan pepper is not a true peppercorn. It is the dried rind of the berry-like fruit of the prickly ash tree. And chances are, you’ve had it before. Sichuan pepper is a basic component of Chinese five-spice powder. As its name suggests, the spice has left a serious thumbprint on the cuisine of China’s Sichuan province. It also is used in Japan, where it is called sansho.
Get the recipe for Sichuan Pepper Meatballs »
Since the next two days will be a whirlwind of cooking and greeting out-of-towners, take advantage of the calm before the storm to make sure you have absolutely everything you will need. Having all of your ingredients at the ready will make Thursday a breeze. If all of the cooking seems daunting, work on finishing your table. And remember: Thanksgiving is supposed to be fun.
• Supermarket Sweep: If there is one season that you really need a decent meat thermometer, it’s now. If you don’t have one, buy one. And if you have one, make sure it’s in fine working condition. Then head to the supermarket today to pick up all of your produce — and your turkey! Everything will still be fresh by Thursday and you’ll avoid the mad rush tomorrow and the day of.
• Quick Fix: Get the cranberry sauce out of the way today if you’re planning on making your own. It won’t take you more than an hour, and then it’ll be sitting in your fridge ready to go at the last minute.
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Appetizers on Thanksgiving can be tricky to manage. After all, you want to serve your guests a few snacks but nothing that may fill them up or detract from the main meal. To solve your appetizer apprehensions, check out Food Network’s top five pre-Thanksgiving dinner recipes below for no-fuss appetizers that will pair perfectly with the bird.
5. Onion Dip from Scratch — Alton uses a combination of sour cream and mayonnaise to make his tangy dip, featuring fresh onions and a dash of garlic powder.
4. Crispy Smoked Mozzarella With Honey and Figs — Giada uses store-bought phyllo dough to save time when making these light and airy eats, which are stuffed with a smoky mozzarella, quickly deep fried and drizzled with a honey-fig sauce.
Get the top three recipes »
Thanksgiving is by far one of my favorite holidays of the year. Not only because it’s all about food, which is clearly something I am very passionate about, but because it’s a great time to throw a fabulous party with your friends and family. In fact, this year I am throwing two Thanksgiving soirées, one with my friends from Los Angeles a week before Thanksgiving (aka Friendsgiving), and one for my family up in Seattle on the actual holiday.
For me, the key to throwing a great party is wowing your guests with a memorable food and drink experience. That means introducing them to a new ingredient or an inventive way to cook something. I’m a big believer in getting food into people’s hands shortly after they arrive to a party, especially if you’re having guests that might not know one another. It gives them something to do and a common ground to get the conversation going.
For Thanksgiving, most people come to expect the traditional appetizers like Baked Brie or Spinach Artichoke Dip, but this year, try something different. One of my favorite simple appetizer ideas, Fried Ravioli, comes from Giada and they really get the party started. These cheese-stuffed ravioli served with a side of warm marinara sauce are always a crowd-pleaser for adults and kids alike. Make sure to make a double or triple batch if there are a handful of kids — I can guarantee that they are going to go nuts over these fried bites of pasta.
Put your own personal spin on it »
Next Iron Chef judge Simon Majumdar joins us on the FN Dish each week to share his insider’s take on what went down Sunday night.
Great chefs don’t just work from recipes. The very best can take disparate ingredients and turn them into something unexpected and often magical. I have witnessed this many times in Kitchen Stadium, but this was the first opportunity for the judges to see if the remaining seven chefs had enough improvisational chops to hang with chefs of the Iron variety.
A seemingly innocent trip to a comedy club ended up not only in an encounter with Saturday Night Live legend Kevin Nealon, but also with an ingredient list for the Chairman’s Challenge that would test any chef in the world to their absolute limits. The bemused combatants were informed they would have to create a single dish that included the unlikely bedfellows of marshmallows, kumquats, tortillas and octopus. That they were able to create even vaguely edible dishes from these ingredients cemented their status as superstars. The fact that some chefs were able to produce dishes that were among the best of the whole competition was even more remarkable.
More from Simon »
Less than a week to go to Turkey Day and it’s time to hammer out the details. If your family vetoed your idea for an innovative reimagining of pumpkin pie, channel your creativity into designing a table centerpiece to set the mood. Also, consider four days ahead as a good time for a freezer exchange — frozen turkey (if you bought it that way) should come out, homemade pie crusts go in.
• Setting the Stage: While the food and the company always make Thanksgiving memorable, it doesn’t hurt to have a beautifully set table to sit around. Consider mixing flowers in with some artful edibles or even scout your backyard for inspiration. We like gourds, mini pumpkins, acorns, pine-cones and Indian corn to give the table a real fall feel. Gather everything you’ll need for the table (except the flowers), and stock up on candles for an extra-special touch.
From freezer to table »
I simply can’t say enough good things about Taleggio cheese. At once nutty, salty, rich, creamy and decadent, it only gets better when it is melted and becomes soft and smooth. To make the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich that is literally oozing with gooey goodness, combine Taleggio with a light tomato sauce on slices of thick, rustic bread and lightly grill with butter. Quick enough to make on a weekday and hearty enough to be served as a simple supper, this easy, cheesy recipe will become a family favorite.
For a light side dish, try Aarti’s Massaged Kale Salad, tossed with fresh, ripe mango pieces and crunchy pumpkin seeds.
Get the recipe: Taleggio Panini from Food Network Magazine
Meatless Monday, an international movement, encourages people everywhere to cut meat one day a week for personal and planetary health. Browse more Meatless Monday recipes.
The fourth season of The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs is in full swing, with 10 new chefs fighting it out for a grand prize that so many would-be chefs covet: joining the ranks of Iron Chefs Marc Forgione, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Cat Cora, Jose Garces and Michael Symon. Each chef will try to pull out all their tricks to stay in the competition but, ultimately, one chef must go home each week. Every Monday, FN Dish brings you exclusive exit interviews with the latest Super Chef to get the boot.
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For the first time ever, Food Network is going Live! Just in time for the feast, on Sunday at 12 pm/EST, Rachael, Bobby, Anne, Alex, Ted, Melissa, Sunny and your host, turkey master Alton Brown, will be on hand to answer your Thanksgiving questions live on-air. What do you want to know? Ask your question here.
The best Thanksgiving appetizer: Watch the Thanksgiving Live pre-show on Livestream or FoodNetwork.com at 11:30 am/EST Sunday. We’ll have exclusive interviews with Food Network chefs as they head into the kitchen to answer your questions.
The best Thanksgiving appetizer: Watch the Thanksgiving Live pre-show here at 11:30 am/EST Sunday. We’ll have exclusive interviews with Food Network chefs as they head into the kitchen to answer your questions.
With the holidays looming, the wine mind naturally turns to occasions where we can break out the special stuff. Here are four of my favorite options:
Older Champagne: While most sparklers are meant to be drunk soon after release — when bubbles are vigorous and the taste shades to the citric and snappy — a good wine merchant can steer you to a bottle of mature Champagne (i.e., 10 years or more of bottle age). Its delicate bubbles and haunting, hazelnut flavors will make your important occasions seem that much more memorable.
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