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: Dinner Bell Restaurant

by in Shows, February 27th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: Impossible

Not long after Robert Irvine arrived at Dinner Bell Restaurant in Madison, Tenn., it was clear to him that this mission would be unlike any he had done in the past. “This has got to be the most desperate restaurant I’ve ever been to,” he reflected after meeting owner Tommy Kirkpatrick. Before its Restaurant: Impossible experience, Dinner Bell was just two days away from closing its doors, so it was up to Robert and his team to rescue the eatery from the brink of financial ruin. Despite initial tension between Robert and Tommy, who was frustrated with the acknowledgment of his failures, Dinner Bell ultimately reopened to a full house after a much-needed deep clean, a revamping of the menu and an interior overhaul. We checked in with Tommy a few months after the renovation to find out how his business is doing today.

Dinner Bell remains “very clean,” according to Tommy, who, since the renovation, has held his employees accountable to excellence in both the front and back of the house. “Kitchen staff are expected to taste the food before each shift to ensure quality and expected to keep the kitchen in clean, working order,” he tells us. The servers “definitely look more professional than they did before the show, and Tommy is “ensuring [they] are consistently wiping the tables and table bases down, and guests are greeted with personality and friendliness.”

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Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Guide to Following Recipes

by in Events, Food Network Chef, February 27th, 2013

Iron Chef Michael SymonHow many times have you searched for the ultimate recipe only to find one that’s nearly what you’re looking for but features perhaps a single ingredient or flavor that you simply can’t bare? When that happens, do you scrap the recipe altogether, vowing to find one that’s perfect, or do you settle for the undesired taste because the rest of the recipe fits the bill? We caught up with Iron Chef Michael Symon at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and he told us that instead of an all-or-nothing approach to recipes, look at them as detailed suggestions you can use to build the dish that best suits your tastes.

“Let your palate be your guide,” Iron Chef Symon said. He was reminded of a time that his father suffered through a batch of salsa that, while it was made according to its recipe’s instructions, boasted cilantro, an herb his father doesn’t like. Looking back on the moment now, Iron Chef Symon recalled that it would have been perfectly acceptable for his father to swap in other “soft, leafy herbs” for the cilantro so as to keep with his preferences and ultimately allow him to enjoy the dish.

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Know Your Knife Skills: Worst Cooks Recruits Butcher Proper Cutting Techniques

by in Shows, February 25th, 2013

When it comes to meal prep, not much can be done in the kitchen without a knife, so it’s no surprise that Chefs Bobby Flay and Anne Burrell devoted an entire week to demonstrating basic knife skills on Sunday’s episode of Worst Cooks in America. Both mentors showed off the whats and hows of various cuts like a fillet, slice, dice, julienne and chiffonade to their team members, some of whom were even unfamiliar with how to hold a knife and admitted to a strong fear of the sharp objects.

In the Skill Drill, the recruits were tasked with filleting whole black sea basses plus chopping oddly shaped produce to practice what they’d learned, and while some proved to be successful, a few contestants managed to cut their fingers and hands on the stainless-steel blades. Perhaps the most difficult test came during the Main Dish Challenge, however, when each recruit lifted a cloche to find an entire chicken with its head and feet still attached. Chefs Bobby and Anne both detailed the proper method for butchering the bird, but Chef Anne treated her team to a spine-ectomy how-to so that they could recreate her dish of chicken chasseur.

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Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s Eggplant Parmigiana — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, February 25th, 2013

Eggplant ParmigianaDon’t let the fact that this recipe was created by an Iron Chef fool you into thinking that it’s difficult to make or features particularly unusual cooking techniques. Alex Guarnaschelli’s Eggplant Parmigiana (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine is simply a dressed-up version of an Italian classic, and is in fact easy to prepare at home.

The secret to her family-friendly dish is the garlic-laced tomato sauce, made deliciously sweet not by the dash of sugar she adds (that’s there to balance the acidity of the tomatoes) but by the onions that are slowly cooked until tender and translucent. To make this all-in-one meal, she coats slices of eggplant in herbed breadcrumbs, then fries them and layers the golden-brown beauties in a deep baking dish with the tomato sauce and a trio of cheeses including mozzarella, provolone and parmesan. After 40 minutes in the oven, the top layer of mozzarella will be melted and bubbling and each tier of eggplant will be piping hot and ready to enjoy.

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One-on-One With the Latest Red Team Recruit to Go Home — Worst Cooks in America

by in Shows, February 24th, 2013

Team Anne BurrellFor the 14 recruits competing on Worst Cooks in America, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime to learn kitchen basics and culinary how-tos from Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay — two of New York City’s top restaurant chefs and some of Food Network’s most celebrated stars. It’s up to the contestants to use the tools the chefs provide to learn how to master certain skills on their own and demonstrate progress in the kitchen. Despite their best efforts, however, one recruit from Chef Anne’s Red Team and another from Chef Bobby’s Blue Team will ultimately succumb to the challenges of Boot Camp week after week as they compete for $25,000 and bragging rights for their coach.

Check back with FN Dish every Sunday after the episode for the first interviews with the latest eliminated contestants to read their exclusive reflections on the competition, thoughts on difficult challenges, plans for the future and more.

SPOILER ALERT: Find out who went home

One-on-One With the Latest Blue Team Recruit to Go Home — Worst Cooks in America

by in Shows, February 24th, 2013

Team Bobby FlayFor the 14 recruits competing on Worst Cooks in America, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime to learn kitchen basics and culinary how-tos from Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay — two of New York City’s top restaurant chefs and some of Food Network’s most celebrated stars. It’s up to the contestants to use the tools the chefs provide to learn how to master certain skills on their own and demonstrate progress in the kitchen. Despite their best efforts, however, one recruit from Chef Anne’s Red Team and another from Chef Bobby’s Blue Team will ultimately succumb to the challenges of Boot Camp week after week as they compete for $25,000 and bragging rights for their coach.

Check back with FN Dish every Sunday after the episode for the first interviews with the latest eliminated contestants to read their exclusive reflections on the competition, thoughts on difficult challenges, plans for the future and more.

SPOILER ALERT: Find out who went home

Robert to the Rescue at Hands-On Dinner in Florida

by in Events, February 24th, 2013

Robert Irvine at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food FestivalWhat do you get when you gather tables full of amateur cooks and ask them to prepare their own dinners with no advance notice of the menu? If you answered chaos, scorched ingredients and plenty of laughs, then you are correct.

That’s precisely what happened last night at the Barilla Interactive Dinner during the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival. 200 party-goers at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., turned into honorary chefs as they attempted to prepare multi-course meals for one another with little more than a saute pan and wooden spoon. Lucky for them, however, soon they received a wanted dose of culinary guidance in the form of Robert Irvine, who, together with Chef Lorenzo Boni of Barilla, guided guests through each step of the cooking process in the hopes of eliminating major flare-ups and meltdowns.

Chef Boni shared step-by-step tips for making an indulgent pasta with prosecco and caviar, while Robert — in true Restaurant: Impossible form — arrived just when guests needed him most: the tricky entree course. He balanced his no-nonsense commitment to top-quality food with lighthearted how-tos and willing patience to help each table tackle seared swordfish with apple-horseradish sauce and creamy parsnip potatoes.

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Kitchen Safety: How to Cook Responsibly With Kids

by in Family, Recipes, February 23rd, 2013

Guy and Hunter FieriIt’s no secret that if you want your little ones to enjoy a well-rounded diet and to look forward to mealtime, the key is to let them have a hand in cooking, even just once in a while. When they have a chance to impact — ever so slightly — what they’re making and how it’s prepared, they’ll feel ownership over the meal and be more likely to dig into the final dish. Plus, kids are more apt to take interest in and try a new, healthy ingredient if they’re able to warm up to it before it’s simply scooped onto a plate in front of them.

But at what age is it appropriate to let kids start cooking, and what tasks are most fitting for little chefs to take on? We have the answers below, plus kid-friendly recipes that are easy to make with youngsters and sure to please the whole family.

Julie Negrin, M.S., a nutritionist and speaker dedicated to teaching both children and grownups how to cook, says that there’s no such thing as an incorrect age to start cooking with your kids and letting them have a place in the kitchen. Even toddlers as young as two years old can pitch in during meal prep, but it’s important to give them very specific jobs and of course monitor them at all times. “This age group … needs very close adult supervision, a lot of space and large bowls,” Julie notes, “since their dexterity and motor skills are still developing.” So while your 3-year-old may not be ready to slice broccoli florets off of the stalk, he can surely rinse the entire head under the sink or put the produce into a bowl once you’ve chopped it.

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Giada Brings Italy to Paradise

by in Events, February 23rd, 2013

Giada's Italian in Paradise - South Beach Wine & Food Festival 2013South Beach may be famous for its sparkling blue waters, white sandy beaches and diverse culture, but when Giada De Laurentiis is in town, the focus here inevitably turns to food. For her first solo event at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, she joined forces with the team at Casa Tua Hotel and Restaurant — a longtime favorite of hers in the area — to offer an Italian in Paradise Dinner to an intimate crowd of just 100 people. She promised an authentic Italian feast designed by herself in conjunction with Paolo del Papa, the chef at Casa Tua, and together they delivered an elegant yet comforting spread complete with five signature courses and paired wines.

Before Giada took to the kitchen to help with meal prep, she mingled with guests at a walk-around cocktail hour in the upstairs lounge of the restaurant, posed for photos and signed cookbooks galore, providing fans a seemingly one-time-only opportunity to get to know their Food Network favorite. Party-goers munched on an array of passed spuntini — snacks — like rolled zucchini stuffed with creamy goat cheese, plus bite-size eggplant parmesan and chunks of deliciously salty parmesan cheese straight from the wheel of grana padano as they chatted with the hostess. Looking ahead to dinner, Giada told us, “We’ve been prepping for three days. It’s been awesome … Hopefully everybody will enjoy it.”

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Paula Deen Kicks Off the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival

by in Events, February 22nd, 2013

Paula Deen at The Q - South Beach Wine and Food Festival 2013When it comes to kicking off a weekend-long celebration of all things cocktails and culinary at the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Paula Deen knows just how to do it. She and her son, Bobby, were on hand last night to host The Q, a seaside bash featuring a feast of barbecue-inspired fare with dozens of top-notch chefs from across the country and crowds of hungry food fans. The Deens and other Food Network stars like Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and Robert Irvine, plus past The Next Iron Chef: Redemption rivals Tim Love and Duskie Estes, mingled with guests and dished out a seemingly never-ending supply of their best smoky bites.

While the atmosphere at The Q among chefs and guests alike was relaxed and tropical, the food scene was serious. To start, Robert Irvine put the focus on pig, offering tender braised pork cheeks with fried pickles on a soft brioche bun.

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