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.

Mentors’ Restaurant-Style Meals to Make at Home

by , July 31st, 2013

Chicken CacciatoreEven if you’re a frequent restaurant diner, there are surely times when you want to dig in to dinner in the comfort of your home, and on these nights, you shouldn’t have to settle for average, predictable dishes. You can indeed turn out restaurant-style meals — like the ones the finalists reinvented during last week’s Star Challenge — with quick, simple recipes. This week, Food Network Star mentors are sharing their can-do versions of a few of the meals the competitors made over at Phil Trani’s restaurant. Try Giada‘s, Bobby‘s and Alton‘s top-rated recipes for chicken cacciatore, salmon and steak to enjoy professional chef-quality plates in your own kitchen.

Rodney transformed the chicken cacciatore at Phil’s into a pie, but Giada’s Chicken Cacciatore (pictured above) is a tried-and-true classic that’s full of traditional flavor and texture. After quickly browning chicken breasts and thighs, Giada simmers them in a bold white wine-tomato sauce with sweet bell peppers, onions and briny capers until the meat is cooked and tender.

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Host-Turned-Competitor Ted Allen Joins the Battle — Chopped After Hours

by in Shows, July 30th, 2013


Although he’s overseen hundreds of rounds of Chopped, Ted had never before cooked in the kitchen, and he didn’t know the experiences of manipulating mystery ingredients, running through the pantry or competing against the clock firsthand. Until tonight, that is. In his first foray into battle against the Chopping Block, Ted went head-to-head-to-head with Marc and Maneet in an After Hours competition, while Chris filled his hosting shoes for the day. Ted and the judges watched three chef-competitors attempt a basket of crab legs, sweet vermouth, green asparagus and Mexican wedding cookies, before they, too, tried their hands at those ingredients with only 30 minutes on the clock.

Ted may have been the rookie contestant in the kitchen, but that didn’t stop him from tackling an ambitious dish of crab cakes, especially since the crab was frozen at the start of the battle. He quickly boiled it, making the meat easier to work with, before getting started on a vermouth vinaigrette. As is often the case among the chefs, he faced a potentially damning problem with just minutes left to cook, when his vinaigrette broke in the blender. Per the advice of peer and guest host Chris, however, Ted remade the mixture, and in the end, “it totally made the dish,” according to Chris.

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Giada’s Quick Pasta with Spinach Sauce — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, July 29th, 2013

Penne with Spinach SauceNo matter if you’re preparing a lean vegetarian dinner or a hearty beefy entree, cooking on Monday nights needs to be easy and fast. With summer camp schedules, after-work commitments and various errands, the first day of the week isn’t the time to experiment with complicated meals. Instead, reach for tried-and-true recipes — those that require hardly any prep time.

Giada’s Penne with Spinach Sauce (pictured above) is one such dinner, ready to eat in less than 30 minutes. The secret to her fuss-free dinner is relying on a no-cook sauce to dress the noodles. After whirling garlic, goat cheese and cream cheese in a food processor, she adds nutrient-rich spinach to create a tangy, smooth puree, which she mixes with whole baby spinach leaves and uses to top just-cooked penne. Be sure to save some of the pasta water when draining the noodles; you can use the starchy liquid to loosen the sauce. Before serving, season the pasta and finish with a sprinkle of nutty Parmesan cheese. Click the play button on the video below to watch Giada made this go-to dinner.

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Restaurant Revisited: Good Food, Bad Vices at Benner Street

by in Shows, July 28th, 2013

Benner StreetFaced with a mountain of debt, Dorothy and Thom Williams, husband-and-wife owners of Benner Street restaurant in Bethlehem, Pa., were unsure if they would see their retirement if the dire situation at their business didn’t improve. They looked to Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team to give their eatery the second chance it deserves, and when Robert arrived, he soon realized the root of Benner Street’s problems: its bickering owners, to start, plus its drab interior and poorly stocked bar. With just two days to work and a budget of $10,000, Robert helped Dorothy and Thom learn how to effectively manage a staff while he overhauled the restaurant’s design and revamped its menu. FN Dish checked in with Dorothy a few months after Benner Street’s reopening to find out how her business is doing today.

“Business is up 40 percent,” Dorothy says. “All the employees and family are excited about our new beginning and all are working toward our success.”

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Step-by-Step Pulled Pork — Weekend Cookout

by in Recipes, July 27th, 2013

Pulled Pork SandwichesThis 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 weekend, FN Dish is giving you a complete menu that is stress-free, and the star of this weekend’s spread is tender, juicy pulled pork sandwiches.

The sweet, smoky flavor, the fall-apart-tender meat and the tangy, sticky sauce — you’ve surely enjoyed traditional barbecued pulled pork sandwiches at restaurants, but thanks to the Neelys’ recipe and step-by-step photos from Food Network Magazine, you can now re-create that tried-and-true taste at home. One 10- to 12-pound pork shoulder will make up to 12 sandwiches, so this top-rated recipe is perhaps the ultimate big-batch dish to feed a crowd; plus, the Neelys’ signature barbecue sauce is more smoky than it is spicy, so it’s a sandwich fit for kids and grownups alike.

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Poll: Did the Right Finalist Earn Salvation?

by , July 26th, 2013

Chad Rosenthal and Lovely JacksonDuring last Sunday’s episode, Lovely made a surprise return to the on-air contest after besting six previously fallen competitors on Star Salvation. Maintaining her “party on a plate” point of view during the exclusive Web series, she proved to host Robert Irvine her culinary chops and commitment to the competition. But now, looking back on her performance and her rivals’, do you think Lovely was the correct finalist to earn a second chance at stardom?

Do you think Daniela or Andres — the first two ousted contestants — warranted more time to show off their skills, or should Danushka have stayed, on account of her one-of-a-kind attitude? Would you have liked to have seen more from restaurant chefs Viet, Chris or Chad, or was Lovely indeed worthy of redemption? Tell Star Talk by voting below for the competitor you think most deserved salvation.

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Best 5 Grilled Chicken Recipes for Summer

by in Recipes, July 25th, 2013

Ring of Fire Grilled ChickenA simple blank slate that you can dress up with seemingly any and all flavors and textures, grilled chicken is perhaps the ultimate go-to family dinner, guaranteed to please kids and grownups alike. Given the versatility of grilled chicken, however, it can be challenging to know where to begin in transforming the meat into a flavorful, juicy meal. Check out Food Network’s top-five grilled chicken dishes below for crave-worthy recipe inspiration, and find out how Guy, Bobby, Alton and more Food Network chefs put their signature spins on this classic summertime favorite.

5. Asian Barbecued Chicken — The secret to this weeknight-friendly dinner is finishing the chicken with a sweet, tangy homemade barbecue sauce featuring five-spice powder, garlic, hoisin sauce and honey.

4. Chipotle-Mango BBQ Chicken — Guy lets a mixture of mango, chipotle peppers and cilantro do triple duty in his simple recipe: It serves as a marinade for his bone-in chicken, a glaze with which to baste the meat while cooking and a finishing sauce to serve on the side.

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Star-Worthy Pastas to Make at Home

by , July 24th, 2013

Nikki DinkiWhen it comes to cooking in the Food Star Kitchen, mediocrity will never suffice. Week after week, Star finalists must turn out camera-worthy meals that are both deliciously inspired and intelligently presented. But just because mentors demand excellence on the plate doesn’t mean the rivals have to concoct complicated dishes that take hours to prepare; easy-to-make, quick-cooking offerings are also acceptable, and the finalists proved that with their preparations of classic pasta dishes duringlast week’s episode.

Damaris PhillipsDamaris‘, Stacey‘s and Nikki‘s pastas were among the simplest prepared during the Mentor Challenge, so much so that you can make them easily in your home kitchen. Nikki’s Fire Island Burst Tomato Pasta with Lemon Herbed Goat Cheese Balls is a family-friendly plate that puts seasonal cherry tomatoes to work. Nikki starts by sauteing the tomatoes with garlic until they’re soft and sweet, then she tosses the sauce with linguini and tops it with a sprinkle of fragrant basil and mint. For an indulgent finish, she studs each plate with a few goat cheese balls, which she’s rolled with bright lemon zest and fragrant basil, mint, rosemary and thyme.

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Charred Tomato Gazpacho — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, July 22nd, 2013

Charred Tomato GazpachoTomato season is officially upon us, and while recipes for marinara sauce, salsa and BLTs offer easy ways to put these fresh beauties to work, there’s one tomato-focused dish that’s perhaps as quintessentially reminiscent of summertime as is a juicy, ripe tomato itself: gazpacho. Traditionally served cold, gazpacho celebrates the best tomatoes’ natural sweetness, and when rounded out with peppers, garlic and spices, delivers a simple but satisfying soup.

In its recipe for Charred Tomato Gazpacho, Food Network Magazine puts a smoky twist on the classic dish by starting with grilled tomatoes and finishing the dish with toasted cumin- and coriander-scented olive oil. Once the tomatoes are blistered, blend them in two parts with garlic, vinegar and a pinch of sugar to create a smooth puree, and chill the mixture for at least a few hours. The secret to this bowl’s creamy-looking texture is the addition of water-soaked bread; by adding these cubes to the blender, the gazpacho takes on a thick texture and becomes instantly heftier. Top each bowl with chopped cucumbers and bell peppers for a crunchy bite, then drizzle with the olive oil for an extra-special finish.

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Restaurant Revisited: Barely Edible at Hurley’s American Grille

by in Shows, July 21st, 2013

Restaurant: ImpossibleWhen Robert Irvine arrived at Edibles Restaurant & Pub in Horsham, Pa., it didn’t take long for him to realize the “misguided family” that owned the business was as much of a contributing factor to its failure as was the eatery’s filthy interior, “blah” decor and unappealing food. Husband and wife John Sr. and Butzy Hurley have been at the helm of their business for nearly 30 years, but despite their presence in the kitchen and at the front of the house, their staff, including their children, John Jr., Heather and Jennifer, and their nephew Steve, noted a significant lack of leadership. This, coupled with John Sr.’s strained relationship with his son, had contributed to Edibles’ $4,000-per-month losses, which Robert had only two days and $10,000 to attempt to rectify.

For the first time in six seasons of filming Restaurant: Impossible, Robert believed the best and most important means of improving a restaurant would be to change the business’ name and rebrand it with a descriptive, engaging and enticing identity, which is how Edibles became Hurley’s American Grille on opening day. Read on below to hear from John Sr., Heather and Steve, and find out how Hurley’s is doing a few months after its relaunch.

“The first couple weeks were great,” Steve explains of the time immediately after filming. “I feel like we’re busier, but our bills are higher because of the expenses of new staff.”

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