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.

Restaurant Revisited: Poco’s on the Boulevard

by in Shows, November 21st, 2012

Robert Irvine at Poco's on the BoulevardWhen Robert Irvine arrived at Poco’s on the Boulevard in Kansas City, Mo., he met owner Claudia Endicott and her sister, Danna Gutierrez, who were ready and anxious to receive Robert’s constructive criticism about their Latin restaurant. Since their mother passed away several months ago, Poco’s had been dishing out inconsistent food, and Claudia had struggled with earning the respect of her staff. Robert and the Restaurant: Impossible team spent two days revamping the dining room and overhauling the menu, and in the end, they helped return Poco’s to its former glory. We checked in with Claudia a few months after Robert left to see how the restaurant is doing today.

Since the renovation, diners have been pleased with the changes at Poco’s. The restaurant is once again making a profit, and sales have risen $20,000 from July to August.

Claudia appreciates the updated decor, including the new paint color and expanded bar, and says that it has been well received by customers. “The counter space makes it more comfortable to spend time at the bar,” she tells us. She especially like the photo of her mom, Poco’s founder, which was hung near the entrance. “I feel like she’s present when I see it,” Claudia says of the image.

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‘Twas the Night Before Turkey Day: Quick Pasta Recipes for Thanksgiving Eve

by in Holidays, Recipes, November 21st, 2012

Penne With Vodka Sauce
You’ve made it to the day before Thanksgiving, and by now you’re practically counting down the hours until T-Day, right? Even with all of the prep work that likely needs to be finished before tomorrow, the question of tonight’s dinner remains. While it may be tempting and admittedly easy to rely on pizza or takeout, if you’re planning on pulling off the ultimate Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, you can surely handle a no-fuss made-at-home dinner tonight, especially if that dinner is quick-cooking pasta.

One of the easiest meals to make in a hurry, pasta is endlessly versatile, and when you’re cooking for what’s possibly a houseful of extended family, simple, adaptable dinners are downright necessary. Check out a few of Food Network’s favorite pasta recipes, each ready to enjoy in just 25 minutes or less.

Rich and comforting, Food Network Magazine’s Penne With Vodka Sauce (pictured above) is a top-rated pasta that’s packed with decadent ingredients. To prepare, sauté sweet shallots with fresh garlic and just a pinch of red pepper flakes, then add a splash of vodka, tomatoes and smooth heavy cream. Since the sauce will need to cook for at least 10 minutes after the vodka is added, the alcohol in it should cook off, and what will be left is a thick mixture just waiting to be tossed with noodles and nutty Parmesan cheese.

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Pre-Thanksgiving Salad and Soup — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, November 19th, 2012

Pomegranate Arugula Salad
You’re just days away from an indulgent feast full of mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams and casseroles, not to mention the sweeter side of the Thanksgiving spread, like pies, tarts and turnovers. This week, as you get ready for what’s sure to be a deliciously decadent eating extravaganza, keep your meals simpler and lighter, both in preparation and flavors. A classic, no-fail combo, soup-and-salad is easy to make with whatever ingredients you have in the refrigerator and can be suited to your family’s tastes. Check out one of Food Network’s favorite soup-and-salad pairs below, then tell us your ultimate matchup in the comments.

For a light salad that serves as a simple lunch or easy side dish, try Tyler’s top-rated no-cook Pomegranate, Arugula Salad (pictured above). Tossed with toasted walnuts and juicy pomegranate seeds, this is a go-to recipe that can be made in only five quick minutes. The secret to Tyler’s bright, refreshing salad is its sweet and tangy dressing, a fruity vinaigrette made with pomegranate molasses, zesty lemon juice and red wine vinegar.

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What’s Cooking on Thanksgiving Live!

by in Holidays, Shows, November 18th, 2012

Thanksgiving Live! ChefsWhat happens when nine Food Network stars come together in the kitchen around the holidays? If you guessed a whole lot of cooking, eating and drinking, then you are correct. This afternoon, Alex Guarnaschelli, Alton Brown, Aarón Sanchez, Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Jeff Mauro, Rachael Ray, Ree Drummond and Sunny Anderson will gather in Food Network Kitchens for Thanksgiving Live!, Food Network’s annual call-in show, to answer all of your Turkey Day questions and cook up a holiday feast from start to finish. Want to see what’s on the menu this year? Take a peek at the recipes below, and be sure to catch the show from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Cocktails and Appetizers
Alton’s Concord Grape Royale
Aarón’s Hot Punch (Ponche)
Jeff’s Maple Perfect Manhattan
Sunny’s Fruity Limoncello Spritzer
Rachael’s Ginger Snap
Ree Drummond’s Holiday Bacon Appetizers
Aarón’s Sopes

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VOTE: A Next Iron Chef 3-Way Meatball Cook-Off — Rival Recipes

by in Shows, November 17th, 2012

Rival Recipes: Chef Appleman vs. Chef Estes vs. Chef FalknerComfort food was the name of the game on last week’s episode of The Next Iron Chef, as the Chairman challenged the rivals to put innovative twists on classic dishes. But instead of focusing on the all-American meatloaf, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes, they embraced the flavors of three global favorites: banh mi, tacos and falafel. While the chefs were busy taking these Vietnamese, Mexican and Mediterranean staples, respectively, to the next innovative level, we noticed that one country famous for its tried-and-true comfort food was left off of their international food tour. Home to hearty, cheesy pastas, warm breads, beefy meats and perhaps the most-decadent pastries, Italy could have offered the rivals a fourth and formidable comfort food: the meatball.

That’s why this week’s Rival Recipes cook-off is picking up where the Chairman’s Challenge left off and introducing meatballs to the competition. We’re pitting three Redemption rivals against each other and asking the question: Who makes a better ball? Chefs Nate Appleman, Duskie Estes and Elizabeth Falkner are bringing their best saucy bites to the showdown, and it’s up to you, Next Iron Chef fans, to pick whose recipe reigns supreme.

Are you all about the beef? Then you may appreciate Chef Appleman’s Pepperoni Meatballs from Food Network Magazine, made with four different kinds of beef, plus red wine and creamy ricotta cheese. If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, Chef Estes’ Sicilian Lamb Meatballs with pistachio nuts and cherries may be more your style. Chef Falkner’s Spaghetti and Meatballs with herbs and cheese from her cookbook, Cooking Off the Clock: Recipes From My Downtime, however, will appeal to traditionalists who just can’t enjoy a meatball without a twirl of pasta alongside.

VOTE NOW

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Play Time — The Next Iron Chef Caption It

by in Shows, November 16th, 2012

Chefs Nate Appleman and Eric Greenspan
Though it’s true that The Next Iron Chef rivals are known for their unbreakable focus and competitive mindset, they sure know how to let loose and have fun when the clock stops running and the cameras aren’t rolling. Just watch what happened last week when Chefs Estes, Falkner and Freitag completed a 30-minute three-way Secret Ingredient Showdown. Given the stress of what Chef Freitag called a “pressure cooker situation,” they channeled their nervous energy into a no-holds-barred food fight, whipping handfuls of ingredients across the kitchen.

In the above sneak-peek shot from this Sunday’s episode, it looks as if Chefs Appleman and Greenspan aren’t letting the stress of the competition get them down either. They’re proving that it’s not all work and no play on The Next Iron Chef as Chef Greenspan poses with a dish, making a funny face while lightheartedly teasing his fellow rival. Will the chefs let their lively personalities shine as they’re photographed by a special guest on Sunday, or will they come across as subdued and serious?

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VIDEO: Next Iron Chef’s First Food Fight

by in Shows, November 13th, 2012

If you’ve ever thought that the Next Iron Chef kitchen is home only to neat, orderly, proper chefs, it’s time to think again. When the cameras stopped rolling after last Sunday’s Secret Ingredient Showdown, Chefs Elizabeth Falkner, Duskie Estes and Amanda Freitag indulged in a second battle, this time a physical one. Within minutes of Alton saying “The challenge is over,” the first handfuls of food were flung and a full-fledged food fight was underway. Each of the chefs aimed for her fellow rivals and doled out the leftovers of her dish’s components, and each took the ingredient inundation in stride, becoming covered with marshmallow fluff, flour and more in a flash.

Want to see how it all went down? Click the play button on the video above to watch Chefs Falkner, Estes and Freitag go head-to-head-to-head in the ultimate Kitchen Stadium food fight, then tell us: Who do you think started the fight and which chef became the messiest?

Get behind-the-scenes food fight photos

Spicy Vegetarian Chili — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, November 12th, 2012

Spicy Vegetarian Chili
This time of year, as the days get shorter and the weather turns chillier, few things are more comforting than a hearty, piping-hot meal that’s loaded with rich, bold flavors. A warming bowl that never disappoints, chili is a cinch to prepare and can be easily adapted to your family’s favorite tastes and ingredients.

Food Network Magazine take everyday chili to a hot new level with its one-pot Spicy Vegetarian Chili (pictured above), made with a fragrant spice mixture of chili powder, cumin and oregano and a single, spicy chipotle pepper in adobo. Fresh, seasonal vegetables and beefy pinto beans add so much heft to this thick and hearty bowl that you won’t miss the meat of a traditional turkey or chicken chili. For simple family-friendly serving, set up a chili bar with an assortment of your favorite toppings, like Cheddar cheese, fresh scallions and more, and let everyone build his or her ideal chili bowls.

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VOTE: A Next Iron Chef Pineapple Showdown — Rival Recipes

by in Shows, November 10th, 2012

Chef Mendelsohn vs. Chef Mehta - Rival RecipesOn last week’s episode of The Next Iron Chef, rival chefs Spike Mendelsohn and Tim Love went head-to-head in the Secret Ingredient Showdown. They battled it out with pineapple, otherwise known as “the death fruit,” according to Alton, since it’s ousted all past Next Iron Chef finalists who’ve tried to feature this sweet, juicy fruit in a savory dish. Both chefs tempted fate by cooking decidedly savory dishes, and in the end, this cursed ingredient got the better of Chef Love. Chef Mendelsohn, however, claimed victory over his rival — and pineapple — with a savory seafood dish with pineapple and sweet and sour sauce.

This week’s Rival Recipe matchup forces Chef Mendelsohn to once again bring his pineapple A-game, this time in a showdown against Chef Jehangir Mehta. Both rivals boast standout recipes for pineapple-focused fruit salads: Chef Mendelsohn a colorful Fresh Fruit Salad with red and green grapes, bright pineapple and fragrant mint, and Chef Mehta a refreshing Orange-Marcona Almond Salad With Pineapple Granita featuring juicy oranges, crunchy almonds and pineapple juice.

Now it’s time for you, Next Iron Chef fans, to channel your inner Simon Majumdar, Donatella Arpaia and Iron Chef Zakarian and judge which fruit salad reigns supreme. Would you prefer the classic combination of fruit featured in Chef Mendelsohn’s dish, or do you like the different textures that are offered in Chef Mehta’s offering? The vote is in your hands. Tell us whose pineapple salad gets your pick.

VOTE NOW

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Welcome to The Next Iron Chef: Redemption Kitchen Set

by in Shows, November 9th, 2012

The Next Iron Chef Kitchen SetMore like a culinary amphitheater than an everyday cook space, the Next Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium is, of course, not just a kitchen. Featuring multiple stovetops, a slew of ovens, an ice cream maker and more, the set can accommodate several chefs at a time and is stocked with oddball and classic ingredients alike that allow the rivals to cook up Iron Chef-worthy dishes.

You’ve seen Next Iron Chef finalists sprint from stove to pantry to freezer in a flash and grab exactly what they need, but have you ever wondered what’s on and in those wall-to-wall shelves, deep refrigerators and freezers? We were curious about what it takes to outfit the Next Iron Chef kitchen, so we checked in with Food Network’s culinary team, the group responsible for stocking it with its tricked-out appliances, top-notch cooking gadgets and Secret Ingredients. Read on below to get a behind-the-scenes look at Kitchen Stadium and find out how the culinary department prepared for the fifth season of The Next Iron Chef.

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