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.

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VOTE: A Next Iron Chef Lamb Cook-Off — Rival Recipes

by in Shows, December 29th, 2012

Chefs Duskie Estes and Eric GreenspanIn true finale form, last Sunday’s eighth and final episode of The Next Iron Chef: Redemption featured no ordinary cook-off, but a next-level contest designed to celebrate current Iron Chefs and test the future Next Iron Chef. While most Kitchen Stadium competitors find themselves presented with a single Secret Ingredient, the top two rivals, Chefs Amanda Freitag and Alex Guarnaschelli, met an altar of more than 12 different ingredients inspired by the flavors of Southwest, Japanese and Mediterranean cuisines, and they had to cook with at least two offerings from each culinary category to honor long-standing Iron Chefs Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto and Michael Symon. Although the rivals took different approaches to their appetizer and dessert offerings, their main dish presentations were strikingly similar, both showcasing juicy lamb loins as a sign of respect for Iron Chef Symon. The judges were impressed with both chefs’ balanced, beautifully cooked entrees, but ultimately it was Chef Guarnaschelli who took home the coveted title of The Next Iron Chef.

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In Their Own Words: Next Iron Chef Rivals’ Journals Revealed

by in Shows, December 24th, 2012

The Next Iron Chef: Redemption JournalHave you ever wondered what the Next Iron Chef: Redemption rivals were thinking when, on the first episode, they opened their coolers on the beach to find fateful ingredients from battles past? Or when in episode 4, they entered the kitchen to find an altar of canned products? Have you wondered how they felt when their friends and fellow chefs were eliminated after hard-fought battles, or simply how they managed to stay organized and efficient within the chaos of cooking under pressure?

Before filming began for the season, each rival was given a journal to use during the competition, and it was in these personal notebooks that the chefs shared their ideas for challenges, reflections on eliminations, plus must-have ingredient lists, inspirational reminders and more, week after week. Their handwritten notes, some beautifully legible in colorful markers and others scrawled in barely recognizable penmanship, tell their stories on the road to redemption, and at the end, create a scrapbook of sorts of their time in the competition.

Want to see what each rival wrote in his or her journal? Flip through the below photo galleries to get an insider’s look at actual pages from their journals plus behind-the-scenes photos from some of their most memorable challenges and showdowns.

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Appetizers for Christmas Entertaining — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, December 24th, 2012

Toasted RavioliEven though the holidays are all about indulgence and your plans for the next 48 hours likely include a seemingly endless buffet of ham, beef, turkey or pork, there are indeed ways to work in a few meat-free bites, especially during the appetizer course. As you prepare to host a holiday get-together, look to Food Network’s roundup of simple-to-make, meatless starters to impress not only vegetarians but hard-core meat-eaters alike. Check out a few of our favorite party-ready appetizers below, each a flavorful combination of traditional holiday tastes and ingredients, then tell us in the comments: What’s your favorite holiday appetizer?

No longer reserved for the pasta course alone, ravioli make go-to party-ready appetizers when served not under a saucy topping but as eat-with-your-hands snacks. When preparing its Toasted Ravioli recipe (pictured above), Food Network Magazine saves time in the kitchen by using store-bought fresh ravioli instead of making these cheese-filled beauties from scratch. After a quick dip in herbed breadcrumbs, the ravioli are deep-fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside and warm on the inside. Serve a bowl of your favorite marinara sauce on the side for easy, delicious dunking.

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Simon Says: Judge Simon Majumdar’s Best One-Liners From The Next Iron Chef

by in Shows, December 23rd, 2012

Simon Majumdar

There’s no question that this season of The Next Iron Chef: Redemption has been one of Food Network’s most-intense culinary competitions to date. After all, 10 superstar chefs have put their personal and professional reputations on the line — for a second time — in the hopes of making gastronomical history by claiming the only title that matters: that of The Next Iron Chef. Week after week rivals fall and their hopes at achieving redemption become crushed in an instant.

Despite the anxious, pressure cooker-like challenges and Showdowns in which the chefs inevitably find themselves, judge Simon Majumdar has managed to interject a host of witty, well-timed reactions and one-liners that delivered some of the smartest and flat-out funniest moments of the show. Among his best instances of constructive and comedic criticism have been his reaction to Chef Spike Mendelsohn’s use of an apparently juvenile melon baller — he quipped that “We are talking about becoming The Next Iron Chef, not The Next Home Dinner Party Cook” — and his judgment of Alex Guarnaschelli’s too-green spiced ham ravioli, which he deemed reminiscent of “Kermit in a blender.” These sharp, entertaining remarks have provided some of the most LOL-worthy moments of the season to date, and what makes them perhaps even more hilarious is that they’re coming from Simon, a notoriously no-nonsense judge with little tolerance for less than perfection.

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Christmas Eve Feast: Seven Fishes

by in Holidays, Recipes, December 22nd, 2012

Roasted Shrimp CocktailWhile some families are slicing the holiday ham or carving the crown roast of pork on Christmas Eve, many Italians and Italian-Americans are preparing a meal with not just one star ingredient, but seven. It’s an Italian tradition to celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, and with that comes a long, relaxing meal of fish-forward dishes. The strictest adherents to the seven-fishes tradition will tell you that indeed there should be seven fish on the dinner table, but for the sake of simplicity, consider any and all seafood, including shellfish, to count toward your final fish tally. The key to committing to cook seven different kinds of seafood is spreading out the dishes throughout the meal; instead of preparing seven whole fish for what would be an excessively large main dish spread, offer perhaps three small appetizers, a soup, pasta, then entrée plus a side salad, each with seafood as the focus. Check out Food Network’s favorite Feast of the Seven Fishes menu below, then tell us in the comments: What’s your favorite kind of fish?

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VOTE: A Next Iron Chef Three-Way Bacon Cook-Off — Rival Recipes

by in Shows, December 22nd, 2012

A Next Iron Chef Three-Way Bacon Cook-Off - Rival RecipesBacon was the name of the game on last Sunday’s episode of The Next Iron Chef: Redemption, as the final four rivals were challenged to transcend the everyday Las Vegas buffet by creating a five-course buffet offering with bacon at the forefront. Teammates Nate Appleman and Amanda Freitag embraced the test wholeheartedly, featuring an easy-to-eat spread complete with bite-sized dishes and Sin City-inspired plates alike. Chefs Alex Guarnaschelli and Marcel Vigneron had buffets on the brain when they imagined their French-style feast, but a few technical flaws forced them into a Secret Ingredient Showdown. In the end, it was Chef Guarnaschelli who survived to cook in the upcoming finale episode alongside Chefs Appleman and Freitag, after a raw rack of lamb proved to be Chef Vigneron’s undoing.

In this week’s installment of Rival Recipes, we’re putting the focus back on everyone’s favorite pork product and asking the top three finale-bound chefs to bring their best bacon-centered bites to battle. Chef Appleman has chosen to use pancetta (Italian cured bacon) in his big-batch side dish of Roasted Green Beans With Pancetta and Yogurt, while Chefs Guarnaschelli and Freitag are letting bacon shine in an appetizer and main dish, respectively. Chef Guarnaschelli’s recipe for Flatbread With Bacon and Scallion Pesto uses thin slices of thick-cut bacon to finish a lemon zest-topped dough, while Chef Freitag’s Bacon-Wrapped New York Trout With Brussels Sprouts and Mustard Sauce features a bacon blanket and classic Italian seasonings.

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Raise the Bar — The Next Iron Chef Caption It

by in Shows, December 21st, 2012

Donatella ArpaiaAfter eight weeks on the road to redemption, just one battle stands between the final three rivals, Chefs Nate Appleman, Amanda Freitag and Alex Guarnaschelli, and the culinary kingdom that is Kitchen Stadium. Of course the stakes have been high throughout the competition, as it’s the nature of the Redemption beast for chefs to be eliminated each week, but come Sunday, the rivals are put to the ultimate test in a last-supper challenge, one that will require them to bring their A games if they want to make their dreams of total redemption reality.

The judges’ panel on The Next Iron Chef has made known what they want to see from the chefs’ challenge offerings: elegant, sophisticated plating techniques, unparalleled creativity, expert use of the Secret Ingredient and, of course, ingenious flavor profiles. But looking at the sneak-peek image above from Sunday’s finale episode, it seems as though judge Donatella Arpaia is suggesting that these elements are not enough anymore — that in this all-important finale, the remaining rivals must raise the bar to new levels of Iron Chef-worthy greatness if they want to cook in Kitchen Stadium. Do you think Donatella is referring to one chef’s approach to challenges in particular? Which rival do you think is most in jeopardy of not earning a place among the final two?

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What to Eat on Apocalypse Eve: An End-of-the-World Menu

by in Recipes, December 20th, 2012

Beatty's Chocolate CakeIt seems like almost every few months there’s a day creeping up on the horizon that is predicted to be the end of time. Just a few weeks ago, there were doubts that we’d make it past 12-12-12. Luckily, we did. The next doomsday forecast lists tomorrow, December 21, 2012, as the end of the world, as that’s when one cycle of the Mayan Long Count calendar is said to conclude. Whether or not you believe the theories behind that prediction, one thing is certain: We could potentially have just hours left to eat.

If today is the day before the world ends, then the time is now to get your fill of favorite foods, to throw caution and diets to the wind and indulge in the most over-the-top, sinfully decadent meals you can. Let yourself enjoy those meals you’ve deemed once-in-a-while treats. Relish in second — or third — helpings of your most beloved recipe. Why not? Check out some of Food Network’s most decadent, comforting meal ideas below, then tell us in the comments: What must-have meal is on your end-of-the-world menu?

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Restaurant Revisited: Rising Sun Bistro

by in Shows, December 19th, 2012

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleWhen Robert Irvine arrived at Rising Sun Bistro in Kalispell, Mont., he learned that this French food-focused eatery was nearly $500,000 in debt. On top of that, it was being run by three owners, Jennifer Griffith, Peggy Kirby and Sally Racine Truscheit, who couldn’t put their strained relationship aside to effectively run the business. In just two days and with only $10,000, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team put new life into Rising Sun, adding fresh, authentic French offerings to their menu, revamping the interior design and working with Jennifer, Peggy and Sally to mend their partnership and begin to ease their debt. We checked in with Jennifer a few months after the renovation to find out how the restaurant is doing today.

Since the transformation, she tells us, sales at Rising Sun have increased nearly 27 percent and diners have been pleased with the updated French-inspired decor and communal table that Robert and his team created.

While Rising Sun is no longer serving breakfast, its dinner menu has stayed largely the same since Robert left. Jennifer says that they’ve added “a cod dish, pasta [and] boeuf bourguignon” to their list of offerings, but she notes that Robert’s “brie and caramel is a big seller.”

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The Next Iron Chef: Redemption From Alton Brown’s Point of View

by in Shows, December 19th, 2012

Alton Brown and Chef Amanda FreitagBy now you’ve noticed that after Alton announces, “Let the cooking begin,” at the start of every Chairman’s Challenge, he takes his place in his kitchen alongside the rivals as they spend each of their precious minutes prepping ingredients, cooking and plating. Instead of just watching what goes down, however, he interacts with the chefs, questions their plans for their challenge, explains their cooking techniques and comments on ingredients, all while playing cameraman. That small gray box you’ve seen Alton toting this season, propping on top of workstations, inside blenders and above stoves — that’s his very own GoPro video camera, and he’s used it to record behind-the-scenes happenings, rival chef banter and all of the flare-ups and meltdowns that a large camera couldn’t catch.

Since we can’t be in the kitchen with the Redemption rivals, Alton’s video footage is the next-best way to experience exactly what the chefs are thinking, feeling and cooking. Want to watch the challenges from Alton’s point of view? Check out this exclusive video clip (or click the play button below) of Alton chatting with Chef Marcel Vigneron and tasting the rival’s blue cheese ice cream, then browse this photo gallery to find insider images of Alton with his GoPro camera.

Be sure to tune in Sunday at 9pm/8c to watch the finale of The Next Iron Chef: Redemption.

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