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.

The Challenge of Prepared Products — Chopped After Hours

by in Shows, June 16th, 2013


In the last After Hours episode, Chopped judges tried their hands at ingredients that collectively proved to be some of the most common ever featured on the show, and their experience with them was a challenge in and of itself. Similarly, on tonight’s all-new battle, judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Aarón Sánchez and Marcus Samuelsson faced a basket with one particularly demanding ingredient: lobster bisque. In the same way that the last group of judges had to transform the familiar, Alex, Aarón and Marcus had to redefine something that was already a finished dish.

“I think that’s the hardest [ingredient] right there,” guest judge Amanda Freitag said of the bisque, “’cause someone made it already. And maybe they made it too creamy, too thick.” Her peers understood what she meant by that, and they each went to great lengths to transform the bisque into something else, instead of simply warming it and serving it as-is. Aarón and Alex treated the bisque as the base of their sauces, guajillo and marinara, respectively, while Marcus used the bisque as the building block of another bisque. He added yogurt and white wine to the basket ingredient in an effort to increase its “sourness,” and cooked it with squid, potatoes and daikon radish. What resulted was a “completely complex” offering, according to Aarón .

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Family Time, German Chocolate Cake and Peanut Butter Balls — Trisha Yearwood Celebrates Father’s Day With Garth Brooks

by in Food Network Chef, Holidays, June 15th, 2013

Trisha YearwoodWhile some families craft extensive plans and elaborate surprises to honor their dads on Father’s Day, the scene at the Yearwood-Brooks home will be far more low-key tomorrow. For Trisha, her husband, Garth, and his three daughters, there will be just one item on the agenda: spend time together enjoying some of Dad’s most-treasured treats.

“As long as his girls are all three in the same place, that’s huge,” Trisha told FN Dish of Garth when we caught up with her last month. “Now we have two [daughters] in college and one in high school, so getting everybody together is harder.” When the family is finally under one roof, especially at a time like this weekend, quality time is of the utmost importance. “Father’s Day really is just whatever Dad wants to do, and it always means he wants to have his girls there, so it’s always just something with them,” Trisha says of how they’ll be celebrating tomorrow.

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Bobby Flay’s Top 5 Tips for Summer Cooking

by in Food Network Chef, June 15th, 2013

Bobby FlayBobby Flay may be one of three no-nonsense judge-mentors on Food Network Star, but he’s also Food Network’s resident grill master, the go-to guy for top burger, side dish and cocktail recipes all summer long. He’s known for his penchant for barbecue and fresh, contemporary takes on classic Southwestern cuisine, so it’s no surprise that when FN Dish caught up with him at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, he was preparing jerk chicken tacos with red cabbage slaw and tangerine margaritas. Fresh off his win at the 2013 Burger Bash competition, Bobby chatted with fans in the standing-room-only crowd, sharing strategies for stress-free summer entertaining and answering questions about hosting the ultimate cookout. Read on to hear from Bobby, and learn his top-five tips for warm-weather eating and drinking.

5. When you’re serving something in a tortilla — like a taco — it’s best to overseason the filling because it will have to work to maintain its flavor within the wrapping.

4. “Taste every single thing,” no matter what you’re cooking or how.

Get Bobby’s top three tips

Frozen Desserts for Dad’s Day — Weekend Cookout

by in Holidays, Recipes, June 14th, 2013

Peanut Butter PieThis summer, Food Network’s Grilling Central is packed with recipes for the entire family’s taste buds, boasting the best in burgers, dogs, chicken and more all season long. But with so many recipes, where do you start? Each Friday, FN Dish is giving you a complete menu that is stress-free, and this weekend’s spread will be finished with a chilly frozen dessert to celebrate Dad on Father’s Day.

Even if your dad isn’t a fan of all things meat, bacon and beer, you can treat him to an extra-special dish in honor of Father’s Day this year — just save it until the end of the meal. Richly decadent and deliciously indulgent, frozen desserts are go-to party fare; they’re almost always prepared well in advance, and they’re guaranteed crowd-pleasers, no matter if you’re entertaining kids or grownups.

Showcasing the classic combination of peanut butter and chocolate, the Neelys’ top-rated Peanut Butter Pie (pictured above) is a five-star fan favorite that’s a cinch to make quickly at home. Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and creamy peanut butter to make the foundation of the richly decadent filling, then fold in vanilla-laced whipped cream to add an airy lightness. The Neelys save time in the kitchen by using an already prepared chocolate crust as the base of their pie, so it’s A-OK to opt for the store-bought variety here. Be sure to let the pie chill for at least four hours before serving to allow it time to set, then offer guests toppings of hot fudge and crunchy peanuts on the side.

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Caption It: What Caused Alex to Make This Face?

by , June 14th, 2013

Bobby Flay and Alex GuarnaschelliChopped fans know that when it comes to doling out blatantly honest criticism and no-nonsense feedback, Alex Guarnaschelli, a longstanding member of the judges’ panel, does it best. She has more than 15 years of experience at the table and knows what winning dishes look and taste like, which means that come Sunday night, Food Network Star finalists will have to cook above and beyond Alex’s expectations if they want to impress her. She’ll join the Selection Committee as a guest judge during the Chopped-style challenge, overseeing the contestants as they attempt to fuse mystery basket ingredients into camera-worthy meals.

While some contestants may indeed prove to her their culinary chops, others will inevitably disappoint — and then some will simply be so shocking that Alex is rendered nearly speechless at the sight of it. Take a sneak-peek look at the snapshot above from Sunday’s all-new episode: Bobby can’t help but chuckle as Alex looks on in amazement at what’s going on in front of her. What do you think has caused her to make such a face?

Before you tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c to find out what causes Alex’s stunned face, we’re challenging you, Star fans, to write your best captions (tastefully appropriate, please) for this moment in the comments below.

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The Infamous Shimmy: Duck Fat Will Never Be the Same Again

by , June 13th, 2013

After watching Damaris Phillips‘ premiere performance last week, judge-mentor Bobby Flay had but one piece of advice for her: “Don’t try to seduce us.” It appeared as though she took that instruction to heart, but, unfortunately she let history repeat itself this week during the Burger Bash challenge, and it almost forced her week-two elimination.

Not long into her live cooking demonstration in front of the Selection Committee and an audience of 100 guests, Damaris once again resorted to uncomfortably suggestive body language as she described a key ingredient in her dish. She revealed duck fat to be the must-have addition to her pimento cheese burger, and she accompanied the announcement with a shoulder shake and shimmy that left the audience both grimacing and laughing — “at her,” no less, according to Alton Brown.

Damaris realized almost immediately the mistake she’d made, explaining, “When I get nervous, I default to being awkwardly sexy sometimes.” Come evaluation, she knew she’d be in for harsh feedback: “My presentation was crap. I went up there and did exactly what the Selection Committee told me not to do.” Bobby indeed doled out hard-to-hear criticisms, among them that her demonstration was “a little off-putting,” and Damaris was simply unable to hold back tears in front of her peers and the mentors.

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Best 5 Zucchini Recipes

by in Recipes, June 12th, 2013

Grilled Zucchini Salad With Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette and Shaved Romano and Toasted Pine NutsWhether you grow it in your backyard garden, shop for it at the farmers’ market or just pick it up in the produce aisle, zucchini is a can’t-miss vegetable this time of year, as this mild, versatile squash is at its peak of freshness during the warm summer months. Simply sauteed zucchini with olive oil and seasoning is a go-to standby, but when you want to dress it up or feature it in creative ways, think beyond everyday preparations and check out Food Network’s best-five zucchini recipes below. Some of your favorite chefs, including Ina and Bobby, showcase this seasonal pick in their top-rated dishes for comforting gratin, quick salads and more can-do plates that are elegant enough to serve to company but easy enough to prepare on a weeknight.

5. Zucchini Gratin — Ina uses just a handful of ingredients to make her big-batch casserole, laced with a buttery sauce and finished with cheesy breadcrumbs for a textured topping.

4. Zucchini Corn Fritters — The secret to making Food Network Magazine‘s quick side dish is salting the zucchini after you shred it and letting it rest before combining it with sauteed corn and onions; this process will draw out much of its moisture, so when you fry the zucchini, it becomes deliciously crisp and golden brown.

Get the top three recipes

Crisp Mozzarella Sticks — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, June 10th, 2013

Crisp Mozzarella SticksThink back to the mozzarella sticks you ate as a child (or last weekend at the sports bar): the frozen-then-baked sticks whose skin was soggy and cheese tough, or the grease-laden logs overpowered by the taste of dried herbs. Now forget them entirely, because these mozzarella sticks are nothing like those. Light and fresh, once-indulgent cheese sticks have been made over and are now not only healthy but deliciously satisfying, too.

The secret to making Food Network Kitchens’ Crisp Mozzarella Sticks (pictured above) is using wholesome ingredients in each component of the dish. To make the coating, stick with ground whole-grain Melba toasts for texture and add whole-wheat breadcrumbs, plus fresh oregano and a dash of cayenne for flavor. After a double-dredge process in an egg-garlic batter and this dry mixture, the part-skim string cheese will be generously coated in a thick, crunchy crust. It’s important to let the sticks chill in the freezer before baking them to golden brown so that the cheese doesn’t melt as soon as it meets the heat. Served alongside a bowl of marinara sauce for easy dunking, these eat-with-your-hands beauties are a timeless, kid-approved favorite.

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Restaurant Revisited: Lost in the Woods at Pinehurst Country Lodge

by in Shows, June 9th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleRoger Murray, the owner of Pinehurst Country Lodge in Greeley, Pa., had no experience in either working at or owning a restaurant before he purchased the business just six months ago. Although he was once prosperous in the corporate world, Roger’s venture into the culinary industry proved less successful, and he was facing a $350,000 debt when Robert Irvine arrived to rescue him from despair. Strung with unattractive holiday lights and offering a menu of unpalatable food, Pinehurst Country Lodge was in desperate need of the design and menu revamps that Robert’s Restaurant: Impossible team was ready to provide. After just two days and with only $10,000, Pinehurst reopened to a bustling crowd and offered guests a menu of freshly prepared meals. FN Dish checked in with Roger a few months after Robert left to find out how his eatery is doing today.

“Business has picked up since the filming,” Roger tells us. “Overall I’d give it a 10 percent bump revenue-wise but consider my bottom line to be expanding more than that.” Pinehurst is indeed making more money than it was before its transformation, and Roger adds that he’s now seeing income from the bar.

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