All Posts By Alex Guarnaschelli

Every week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex’s Day Off, shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

Alex Makes: Skillet Potato Cake

by in Holidays, Recipes, December 21st, 2011


The skillet potato cake is a lot like a potato gratin and, in my opinion, easier than making a lot of individual latkes. It has tremendous flavor and goes really well with other lighter dishes that adorn your holiday table. Let’s face it: Who doesn’t love a scoop of some kind of potatoes this time of year? I love to give people what they want. Last week, while I was cooking at my restaurant, we were making various sauces for pasta and all I could think of was a simple tomato sauce. This potato cake serves the same purpose.

Get Alex’s Skillet Potato Cake recipe »

Chef Alex to the Rescue — The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs Finale

by in Shows, December 19th, 2011


I have to say, if you’re not going to win a competition show, being recruited to help cook by the last two standing is a pretty decent consolation prize. As was true for the entire duration of this series, I learned a lot on that day. Elizabeth and Geoffrey have very different styles of cooking and very different work methods. The hardest part? Going out to sit in the audience with my fellow competitors and knowing that I was soon going to have to join each team for 15 minutes. Wow. That’s like joining Gene Kelly in the middle of one of his tap-dancing routines without rehearsal. That Chairman doesn’t know when to quit, does he?

I started out on Team Geoffrey. After years of working together on Chopped, I know that we share a great love of French food and impulsive cooking. Geoffrey seemed as if he hadn’t completely decided what he was making and in his shoes, I would have been in the same position. “Take the cranberries the Chairman just gave us, the rice and sake and make me risotto as one of the dishes,” he shouted above the din of the kitchen noise. Make an entire dish? For him to serve to the Iron Chefs? I cooked some onions and butter in some sake and added the arborio rice. I stirred the rice, added some more sake, a sprinkle of sugar and a pat of butter and let the mixture simmer. Separately, I cooked the cranberries until tender with some spices (not too heavy) and set them aside for Team Geoffrey to reheat to their liking. The key to cooking food in a context like this is to get everything close to how you want it and perfect it at the last minute. The pressure was unreal. What if that ended up being the one dish the Iron Chefs didn’t like?

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Spa Treatments for Kohlrabi

by in Food Network Chef, Recipes, December 6th, 2011

kohlrabi
Kohlrabi comes from the German words “kohl” (cabbage) and “rabi” (turnip). It tastes like a slightly peppery mixture of turnip and radish with a pinch of Brussels sprout. The bulbs are at their best when they’re around the size of a baseball or softball. If much bigger, they tend to have a tougher texture. I found that both light green and purple kohlrabi don’t taste dramatically different. Maybe the purple was a touch sweeter? You be the judge. How do you eat it?

Raw: The simplest choice. Simply peel the outer layer of skin off with a vegetable peeler and grate the kohlrabi raw over a salad.

Get my dressing recipe for a crisp kohlrabi salad »

Alex Makes: Indian Pudding

by in Food Network Chef, Recipes, November 29th, 2011

alex guarnaschelli
This is a classic New England dessert my mother would make during the fall months. She would always make it in a deep, small dish, but I like a shallow (about 2-2 1/2 quart capacity) baking dish. The caramelized apples give the dessert a lighter, fruitier touch. I chose some of my favorite apple varieties for their flavor and ability to hold their shape while cooking. At my local farmers’ market, the guys always have great apple suggestions, and every season I like to pick a new apple variety and make it my “apple of the season.” Last year, I got stuck on the Mutsu for its tart, but also somewhat sweet-when-cooked flavor and crisp texture. This year, I am in search of the perfect cooking apple. What would that entail? An apple that would hold its shape when cooked and also retain a lot of flavor. Not an easy task. I am currently experimenting with Braeburn and Empire apples.

Get the recipe for Indian Pudding »

Alex’s Turkey Day

by in Holidays, November 23rd, 2011

turkey dinner
Every year, I pull out my giant roasting pan (with fitted rack) and thus begins the annual ritual of cooking a giant turkey for Thanksgiving. What kind of turkey did I make last year? How did I cook it? Though I consider myself a fairly well-seasoned cook, learning how to cook the perfect turkey is something I take care to re-learn every year.

So, where to begin?

A few preliminary questions I always ask:

1. How big does my turkey need to be? I usually estimate about 1 pound of turkey (factoring in the carcass as part of that weight) per person.

2. What kind of turkey? Like a lot of poultry these days, there is quite a variety of turkeys (all raised in different ways, fed different foods) to choose from. You know, this is a difficult question to answer. I don’t think I have ever cooked the same turkey two years in a row. I love Heritage brand the most, but those types of birds are raised in such a way that the meat is leaner and can be slightly tough. I also love a good ol’ supermarket turkey. I say, whatever suits your personal taste.

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Alex Makes: Apple Bars

by in Food Network Chef, November 8th, 2011

apple bar recipe
alex guarnaschelliEvery week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex’s Day Off, shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

Recently, I shared my one of my two favorite apple recipes with you: a warm and comforting Mulled-Apple Cider. Now, I’m whipping up a Thanksgiving treat that will become a fall staple.

Get the recipe »

Alex’s Perfect Mulled Apple Cider for Halloween

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, October 25th, 2011

mulled apple cider
This Halloween, I’m taking a break from the usual pumpkin-related suspects and immersing myself in apples. I love to mix different apples when cooking. I always look for crisp texture, not too sweet and slightly floral.  For reliable texture that stands the cooking test I go for Granny Smith and Rome. For snacking and raw in salads I prefer Macouin, Braeburn and Royal Gala. For pickling? Fuji. Another effective approach is to totally ignore what everyone tells you to buy and get the apples that look the best to you.

This week, I’m sharing my warm and comforting Mulled Apple Cider recipe.

Get the recipe »

Alex Eats: Peppers of All Kinds

by in Food Network Chef, How-to, September 20th, 2011

pepper variety
alex guarnaschelliEvery week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex’s Day Off, shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

Sometimes I like to enjoy the full blast of a chile pepper and sometimes I want a mellower version. Hot peppers can be tamed by removing the seeds and slicing the ribs off the interior flesh. Try not to learn this lesson the hard way if you can help it: Wear gloves to protect your hands when cleaning chiles of their ribs and seeds. If you’ve ever touched the chile and then touched your eyes, you know what I’m talking about.

On one end of the heat spectrum, habaneros and scotch bonnet peppers are two of the hottest varieties. They are small and appear in various hues of green, yellow or red. Because they are so spicy, I use them sparingly in their raw form. I also love to slice and cover them with olive oil — it’s like a bottle of spice that naps in my fridge until I need it. Cooking them can also offer that tamed flavor. Sometimes I marvel at how floral spicy peppers can be underneath all that heat. A few paper-thin slices can brighten (and spice up) a light butter sauce for grilled fish or a hot marinade for other vegetables, such as eggplant, or meat.

Jalapeno, serrano, bell and wax peppers »

Alex Eats: Tangy Creams

by in Food Network Chef, How-to, September 13th, 2011

tangy dairy creams
alex guarnaschelliEvery week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex’s Day Off, shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

As a lover of all things dairy, I especially like sour cream, yogurt, crème fraiche and buttermilk because they add “tang” to my cooking. They get their base flavor from friendly bacterial cultures that actively convert the natural sugars in milk lactic acid through fermentation. So if each of these four tangy dairy variants gets its signature acid zip the same way, what makes them different?

Sour Cream: Take cream, add those miraculous cultures, allow fermentation to partially run its course, and voila. It’s has such a thick texture, it can stand on its own. A dollop of sour cream on a baked Idaho or sweet potato is just delicious. I love adding sour cream to blue cheese dressing instead of mayonnaise. Hot blueberry pancakes topped with cold sour cream? It’s so creamy against the fruit.

Yogurt, crème fraiche and buttermilk »

Alex Eats: Plums

by in Food Network Chef, Recipes, September 6th, 2011

plums
alex guarnaschelliEvery week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex’s Day Off, shares with readers what she’s eating — whether it’s from the farmers’ market or fresh off the boat, she’ll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

I love plums. I am always impressed with their sweet flesh and slightly tangy skin. However, I am also often disappointed with their texture — sometimes pasty, mealy and overly firm. Here is my solution:  I buy under-ripe plums and toss thin slices with roasted beets or cherry tomatoes. I appreciate the almost green, tangy flavor the plums have. When I find riper, but firmer plums, I enjoy a recipe like the one below. The vinegar adds a surprising brightness to the flavor.

Get the recipe for Cinnamon-Ginger Plums »