All Posts By Maria Russo

Maria Russo is an associate editor at Food Network, now living in New York City after being born and raised in the great state of Michigan. She likes her eggs runny, her pasta cheesy and has been known to throw back dozens of oysters at a time.

A Win for Sale — Alton’s After-Show

by in Shows, August 25th, 2013

On last week’s After-Show, judge Simon Majumdar said: “Being a great chef is one thing. Being a strategic chef is another. If you can combine those, you can actually end up winning Cutthroat Kitchen without being technically the best chef.” And tonight Alton may have proved that theory to be true when he told Simon the lengths to which one competitor went to claim the win.

The name of the game in Cutthroat Kitchen is indeed sabotage, but with that comes personal advantages for the competitor dealing those devastating blows to his or her rivals. With every big-ticket disruption one chef purchases and assigns to another contestant, he’s essentially buying himself safety from that challenge. Alton told Simon that, in this week’s final auction, one chef — who would ultimately go on to win the battle — spent almost all of his or her money ensuring his or her own smooth finish by assigning someone else the challenge of making crab cakes without a binder, like mayonnaise. This person “bought victory,” Simon said of the outcome, chalking up this reality to the fact that “anything is possible in Cutthroat Kitchen.”

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Restaurant Revisited: A Pie in the Sky at Aponte’s Pizzeria

by in Shows, August 25th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleFacing nearly a quarter of a million dollars in debt, Tony Aponte looked to Robert Irvine and the Restaurant: Impossible team to give his Mason, Ohio, business, Aponte’s Pizzeria, a second chance at success. Tony had been working in pizzerias since he was 11 years old and purchased Aponte’s just eight years ago. But during that time, he hadn’t made a single change to the menu. “I grew up on it, and I stick by it,” Tony said of his food. Ultimately, it was this menu that Robert deemed to be the root of Aponte’s downfall. “There’s just no taste to anything,” Robert said simply, noting that the dingy decor and difficult-to-navigate entrance didn’t improve the overall dining experience. With only two days and a $10,000 budget, Robert got to work on breaking down the self-described “bull-headed” Tony and transforming Aponte’s into a thriving pizzeria once again. FN Dish caught up with Tony a few months after his business reopened to find out how it’s doing today.

After a rocky start, Tony is adjusting to the changes at Aponte’s. Robert’s improvements have boosted the restaurant’s bottom line, with a 60 percent increase in sales at the end of June.

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Ice Cream Sandwiches Your Way — Weekend Cookout

by in Recipes, August 24th, 2013

Super Cool: Ice Cream Sandwiches

Wrapped in paper and featuring the deliciously classic combination of a chocolate cookie exterior and cool vanilla center, store-bought ice cream sandwiches are a timeless summer treat. But there are indeed more ways to celebrate ice cream sandwiches than the original, especially when you think way beyond those chocolate and vanilla bars and commit to making your own signature creations at home.

Cherry-Almond CroissantsThe key to making successful ice cream sandwiches is combining flavors that you know work well together, like peanut butter and jelly or chocolate and bananas. Start with your favorite ice cream flavor — no need to make it from scratch, as any grocery store brand will do. Then look to complement it with two shells; cookies are a traditional pick, but other treats like doughnuts, crackers and sweet breads transform the sandwich into something extra special.

Food Network Magazine created a collection of frozen concoctions — Super Cool: Ice Cream Sandwiches — that features inventive sandwich-inspired twists, like Cherry-Almond Croissants (pictured right), Coffee and Doughnuts and Chocolate-Banana Bread. Check out these photos to learn how to craft these desserts and more at home. No matter what ingredients you choose to use, Food Network Magazine notes that it’s important to “freeze your base before assembling” and to “freeze sandwiches at least 1 hour before serving.” This will give the ice cream a chance to solidify, so that it doesn’t turn into a melted mess when you eat it.

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What to Watch: Two Chefs Try to Beat Bobby Flay

by in Shows, August 23rd, 2013

Beat Bobby FlayFor years Bobby Flay traveled across the country battling professional chefs and home cook enthusiasts alike in throwdowns, but in his all-new special, Beat Bobby Flay, he’s upping the ante and challenging culinary powerhouses to face off against him on his own turf, right in New York City. The concept is simple: One chef will have the opportunity to go head-to-head with the famed Iron Chef, but only after he or she bests a competitor. Two of Bobby’s peers — Jeff Mauro and Alex Guarnaschelli — will be on hand to determine which hopeful proves himself or herself worthy of a contest with Bobby by successfully outcooking the opponent using a secret ingredient. The winner will have ultimately earned the right to meet Bobby in battle — and will surprise him with the signature dish they both must cook.

In this 30-minute episode airing tomorrow, Saturday, August 24 at 9pm/8c, a Los Angeles- and a Chicago-based chef will travel to the Big Apple for their chance to beat Bobby Flay. They’ll throw down in an audience-packed arena, but just one will have the culinary chops needed to stand up against a Kitchen Stadium great. Be sure to tune in to find out who makes it to the final round of competition and see whether Bobby Flay ends up being beaten at his own game.

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Giada De Laurentiis to Open First Restaurant in Las Vegas

by in Food Network Chef, News, August 22nd, 2013

Giada De LaurentiisYou’ve seen her host her own Food Network series, including Giada at Home, and mentor budding talent on Food Network Star. She’s an Emmy award winner, a six-time cookbook author and a mom. Now the Italian-born Giada De Laurentiis can add one more accomplishment to her long list of accolades: restaurant owner. After years of speculation regarding if and when this Food Network superstar would launch her very own eatery, Giada announced yesterday that she’s set to open her premiere restaurant in Las Vegas. “Ever since I was a little girl hanging out at my grandfather’s restaurant, I’ve dreamed of having a restaurant of my own,” Giada said. “Now, I couldn’t be more excited about working with Gansevoort Las Vegas and Caesars Entertainment to turn this dream into a delicious reality.”

Perched high above the glamour of the shining Sin City, Giada’s restaurant will take over the second floor of the not-yet-opened Gansevoort Las Vegas and offer outdoor dining, plus striking views of the Las Vegas Strip. The menu, of course, will keep with the style of classic yet innovative Italian fare fans have become familiar with on Giada’s shows and in her cookbooks; freshly baked breads, antipasto, signature pastas, flatbreads and custom desserts are just a few of the specialties she’s promised to unveil at her sure-to-be-hot spot when it opens early next year.

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Best 5 Back-to-School Sandwiches

by in Family, Recipes, August 22nd, 2013

Ultimate Ham SandwichYou’ve exhausted the peanut butter and jelly routine and have rolled your final turkey and cheese wrap. Now what? When it comes to packing your kids’ lunchboxes, variety is key; after all, no child — or adult — looks forward to eating the same lunch day after day, so it’s important to keep their midday meal both interesting and easy to eat. Check out Food Network’s top-five sandwich selections below, and switch up your usual school lunch rotation by introducing these fresh, flavor-packed recipes that are as simple to prepare as traditional favorites and every bit as kid-friendly.

5. Chicken Salad Sandwiches — Put the leftovers from last night’s chicken dinner to work in this quick-fix salad sandwich, laced with a creamy mayonnaise-mustard dressing.

4. Mediterranean Tuna Salad — All it takes is two slices of bread to turn this chickpea- and tomato-studded tuna salad into a ready-to-go salad sandwich.

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Quick Tomato-Peach Salad with Basil — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, August 19th, 2013

Tomato Peach Salad with BasilWhether you enjoy them straight off the pit, baked into cakes and cobblers, or turned into cool ice cream, there’s no denying that peaches are one of summer’s best — and juiciest — treats. Given their natural sweetness, peaches pair well in desserts, either on their own or with other stone fruits and berries, but it’s their sweet flavor that also makes them go-to ingredients in savory recipes. The secret to integrating them into salads, for example, is featuring them alongside complementary flavors that will balance their sweetness. Tomatoes are one such classic accompaniment to peaches, as they’re full of sugars but undoubtedly acidic as well.

Food Network Kitchens creates a Tomato Peach Salad with Basil (pictured above) that’s as simple to make in 10 quick minutes as it is full of light, fresh flavors. Since the salad is made with only six ingredients, it’s important to use the best versions of them you can find, especially when it comes to the heirloom tomatoes and ripe peaches. This recipe is largely no-cook, save for a basil puree that’s made by blanching fragrant basil leaves and processing them with fruity olive oil and seasonings; use this bright-green mixture as the base of the dish, and serve the tomatoes and peaches on top of it before finishing the plate with refreshing lime juice and whole basil leaves.

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Strategy Reigns Supreme — Alton’s After-Show

by in Shows, August 18th, 2013


To succeed in the Cutthroat Kitchen, it’s not enough for a chef to come equipped with his lucky knife kit and years of experience at the stove. After all, a fellow competitor may prevent his use of that cutlery and make him question the extent of his skills, all with the help of $25,000 in spending money and the will to disrupt. Chefs must take assigned curve balls in stride and turn out quality dishes for a judge, who, without knowledge of the earlier mind games, will decide based on taste alone whose plate is the weakest. On Alton’s After-Show, host Alton Brown will reveal to the judge what’s gone down, and together they’ll dish on how the events unfolded and the food ultimately came to light.

In the series premiere, judge Simon Majumdar joined Alton in the Cutthroat Kitchen, and even after learning of some chefs’ use of inferior pork products in Round 1, revealed, “They all produced dishes that were kind of passable with one or two errors, rather than bad dishes with one or two good things about them.” Even though Chef Gianchetti had the most sought-after meat — thick-cut bone-in chops — in that round, his pork was severely overcooked, so much so that Simon admitted that “is actually worse than getting a poor ingredient and making it tasty.”

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How to Make a Perfect Burger — Weekend Cookout

by in Recipes, August 17th, 2013

How to Make a Perfect BurgerWhile burgers are one of summer’s quintessential dishes and an ever-popular pick at backyard barbecues everywhere, cooking the ultimate between-the-bun creation takes patience and a bit of know-how. It’s not enough to simply slap some meat into a patty, flop it on the grill and melt cheese on top, as doing so has likely led to sorry results at least once or twice — or more. The kind of meat you buy, plus how you form the patties and the way in which they’re cooked all contribute to the overall taste and texture of the burger. Check out a few of Food Network’s top tips below for crafting a perfect burger at home, then browse step-by-step snapshots to learn more about how it’s done.

Fat Equals Flavor:
You may want to save the calorie-trimming for another meal, because making burgers isn’t the time to skimp on fat in your ground beef. Opt for ground chuck blended with about 20 percent fat (this will likely be advertised in stores as an 80/20 mixture), and season it simply with just salt and pepper to allow the taste of the meat and char to shine through between the bun.

Flat-Top Rules:
How many times have you formed a seemingly flat beef patty only to have it dome up while cooking? Prevent those humps and turn out level burgers every time by pressing your finger into the center of one side of the raw patty before it’s placed on the grill. That indent will account for the growth in height while cooking and ensure the final product is even.

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Best 5 Corn Recipes

by in Recipes, August 15th, 2013

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Garlic Butter, Fresh Lime and Cotija CheeseYou’ve seen it overflowing the farmers market tables and piling high in the grocery store produce section: Corn is officially in season, with its sweet, bright-yellow cobs at their peak of freshness from now through the end of the summer. While shucking and boiling corn, then dousing it with butter and salt is a deliciously traditional way to prepare this family-friendly vegetable, there are indeed dressed-up versions of the classic that are every bit as simple and quick to prepare. Grilling fresh cobs will deliver a smoky note, while experimenting with ingredient butters or baking the kernels into a sweet casserole will offer next-level tastes and textures that highlight corn’s natural flavor. Check out Food Network’s top-five corn dishes below from the Neelys, Guy, Bobby and more Food Network chefs for easy recipe inspiration.

5. Smoky Corn on the Cob — Thanks to a low and slow grilling technique, these slightly charred cobs have time to become tender without burning.

4. Sweet Corn Pudding — A creamy, cheesy casserole that will round out your backyard barbecue, the Neelys’ fresh-corn bake is spiked with a pinch of cayenne pepper for subtle heat.

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