All Posts By Sarah De Heer

The Chopped Basket Revealed: The Masterminds Behind the Mystery Ingredients

by in Behind the Scenes, Shows, April 20th, 2012

chopped basket rob bleifer
“Ugh! Who comes up with these crazy basket ingredients?” This is a statement that I commonly hear and read after watching an episode of Chopped. But the truth is, someone does have to research and choose what four ingredients will go into a Chopped basket — three different baskets per episode. Do the ingredients get tested first? Has there ever been a repeated ingredient? And why are four ingredients the magic number and not three or five? These are all questions I asked Food Network Executive Chef Rob Bleifer last week when I sat down with him in Food Network Kitchens.

How are the ingredients picked?
Sara Nahas, the culinary producer of the show, and myself sometimes work together, sometimes work apart, but then come together to compare each other’s work. We’ll sit across from each other weeks in advance and knock out themed shows or random baskets — potential flavor and color combinations that will end up on the plate and, of course, that one ingredient that will get people talking. We have a list of ingredients we’ve already used in front of us, which is around 15 pages long, so I cross-reference that. In the past, we may have used an ingredient twice, but sometimes it’s intentional.

Is there a secret to a good Chopped basket (one part this, two parts that, etc.)?
While we’re creating the baskets, if we have to think too long about the possibilities of dishes, the baskets go away. If it takes us more than 15 seconds for a solution, it’s out. The contestants don’t have that much time.

We’ll often try, certainly in an entrée, to have a grain or starch or one ingredient that is substantial, whether it’s a protein or produce. But there’s no hard and fast rule that there has to be this, there has to be that.

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Spring Clean Your Supper

by in Community, In Season, April 18th, 2012

spring peas with dates and walnuts
Let’s face it, spring cleaning isn’t the most exciting chore of the season, but it’s so gratifying after it’s all done. The same notion also applies to making over meals, especially when the produce starts to become so abundant. Our friends over at Yahoo! Shine have invited FN Dish readers to join their Supper Club. This month, they’re challenging readers to make weeknight dinners that are as fresh and bright as the season.

Don’t know where to begin? Food Network’s Spring Produce Guide is a good place to start. From asparagus to rhubarb, you can find tips and recipes for cooking up spring produce at its peak.

Spring Peas With Dates and Walnuts from Food Network Magazine (pictured above) is a market-fresh salad that calls for not one but three kinds of spring peas: English, sugar snap and snow peas.

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Four Gourmet Globetrotters Take on Chopped and We Chat With the Winner

by in Shows, April 16th, 2012

gourmet globetrotters
What do Marcela Valladolid, Keegan Gerhard, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira have in common? They are masters in global cuisine and they spent several nerve-wracking moments together on the Chopping Block last night during the second episode of Chopped All-Stars. Last week, Michael Symon advanced to the finale as he took on his fellow Iron Chefs. This week’s episode was just as competitive, and some would argue that the ingredients were more challenging. If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode and chat with the winner.

The baskets:
Appetizer: pancake mix, strawberry papaya, blue foot mushrooms and precooked chicken feet
Entrée: maraschino cherries, peas in the pod, parsley root and tripe
Dessert: ostrich eggs, plantains, dried strawberries and galangal

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What Is Sour Trahana?

by in How-to, Shows, April 13th, 2012

sour trahanaLast Sunday night on the premiere episode of Chopped All-Stars, the Iron Chef contestants opened up their baskets to find sour trahana. I quickly found myself Googling the term, only to find out several minutes later from Ted Allen that it’s a traditional Greek pasta that is essentially flour kneaded with sour milk, buttermilk or yogurt and some salt.

 

 

I couldn’t get a good glimpse of the grain on TV, but imagine a substance similar to couscous.

According to The Food and Wine of Greece by Diane Kochilas, “Until a generation ago, sour trahana was the shepherd’s and farmer’s breakfast. It was made at the end of every summer all over Greece in preparation for the winter months.”

So what can you do with sour trahana? Try cooking it in a soup, like Cat Cora’s Chicken Soup. The longer you cook the grain, the thicker it becomes.

If you can’t find sour trahana in the international aisle of your local supermarket, try searching for it online at a Greek specialty store.

Tune in this Sunday at 9pm/8c when four gourmet globetrotters — Keegan Gerhard, Marcela Valladolid, Jeffrey Saad and Aarti Sequeira — take their place on the Chopping Block.

Chopped All-Stars Begins: One Iron Chef Moves On, Three Say Goodbye

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, April 9th, 2012

chopped all-stars iron chefs
What can you expect when you put 16 star chefs you know and love on the Chopping Block for charity? Inventive dishes, out-of-this-world ingredients, smack talk, laughs, sweat and a grand prize of $50,000 for the winner’s charity — you can expect it all on the newest season of Chopped All-Stars.

Here’s the breakdown. Each Sunday, a new group of All-Stars will compete for a spot in the finale. Last night, four Iron Chefs battled it out. In the coming weeks, you’ll see gourmet globetrotters, former Food Network Star contestants and Chopped judges. That’s right — the judges are coming out from behind their judges’ table to show the world they’ve got the chops to win the grand prize, too.

Last night, Michael Symon, Jose Garces, Cat Cora and Marc Forgione stepped out of the comfort zone of Kitchen Stadium to compete against each other. If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — we’re about to break down the episode, divulge the winner and chat with the runner-up.

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And the Worst Cooks Winner Is…

by in Shows, April 2nd, 2012

worst cook judges and team

It all started with a nation-wide search for the worst cooks in America. After narrowing that search down to 16 recruits, Bobby Flay and Anne Burrell each chose eight, making up their new teams for the season.

A new addition this season was Bobby Flay, who joined the show to battle it out against seasoned champ Anne Burrell. Each hopeless cook competed for a chance to win $25,000, which would be awarded to the winning contestant who achieved the most progress and best performance, in addition to a victory for his or her culinary mentor.

It can be argued that the recruits were handed some pretty difficult tasks this season, tasks that every day home cooks probably don’t tackle, like making their own noodles and cooking fresh seafood. But in addition to those, Bobby and Anne made sure they could handle the basics like making breakfast, cooking chicken to the proper temperature and rolling the perfect meatball.

SPOILER ALERT: The winner of Worst Cooks in America

What to Watch: Classy Ladies

by in Shows, March 28th, 2012

alie and georgia oysters
We’re shaking things up on FN Dish. This week, we want you to check out something new and exciting on CookingChannelTV.com: Classy Ladies.

Go on location with Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark as they consult the experts of the culinary world. Join the ladies as they get a lesson in gelato-making, consult a master oyster assassin, visit the butcher to discover where bacon comes from and more. After the field trip, it’s time to put the lessons into practice by serving up themed cocktails and appetizers.

Watch one of my favorite episodes after the jump, where Alie and Georgia go right to the source for their bacon and then turn it into the ultimate cocktail. Want more? Watch more videos of Classy Ladies here.

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Be a Part of Share Our Strength’s Food Blogger Bake Sale

by in Events, March 28th, 2012

share our strength blogger bake sale
It’s that time of the year again when Share Our Strength hosts the Great American Bake Sale, an incredible feat that asks people across the country to host or participate in a bake sale to raise money for the 1 in 5 kids in America struggling with hunger on one day, Saturday, April 28.

This year, Bloggers Without Borders is working with our own writer Gaby Dalkin, of What’s Gaby Cooking, to help spread the word via bloggers. Well, FN Dish wanted to help, too. Last year, they raised $25,000 through 26 bake sales. This year, Share Our Strength has set a challenge to raise $50,000 with the help of bloggers from all 50 states.

With just $1 connecting a child to 10 meals, the community would be helping Share Our Strength ensure that the more than 16 million kids facing hunger today never go hungry again.

Here’s how you can help:

Get Involved: Click here for a list of bake sales already taking place. If you’re interested in participating in a bake sale, please reach out to the host. If there isn’t a bake sale taking place in your area, maybe you’d like to host one (see details below).

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Welcome Back to School, Recruits — Worst Cooks in America

by in Shows, March 26th, 2012

bobby flay and students
The school bell rang in the seventh episode of Worst Cooks in America, and the remaining four recruits dealt with some of their toughest critics yet: 30 second-grade students with impressive palettes. Each recruit was tasked to create their own healthy spin on a cafeteria classic, as well as a veggie side dish. Anne’s team took on chicken tacos, while Team Bobby tried their hand at quesadillas. While these dishes may sound easy, it’s a struggle for cafeterias across the country to make meals nutritious.

One rule that was strictly enforced: sanitation and dealing with raw chicken. Bobby had no problem with the recruits getting him sick, but he was adamant about maintaining food safety and avoiding cross-contamination for the children, making Melissa bring her sauce to a boil to destroy possible bacteria after she cross-contaminated her spoon.

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2012 James Beard Nods Are Out: Congrats to Ina, Ted and Chopped

by in Events, News, March 19th, 2012

2012 james beard nomination
The James Beard Foundation announced the final nominees for the 2012 James Beard Awards at an event in Las Vegas today, and Food Network has not one but three reasons to celebrate: Ted Allen and Ina Garten are nominated for Best TV Food Personality/Host and Chopped has been nominated for Best Television Program, In Studio or a Fixed Location.

The winners of each category will be announced on Monday, May 7,  in New York City as Food Network’s own Alton Brown hosts the event.

Alton won’t be the only Food Network chef making an appearance on stage. On Friday, May 4, James Beard Award-winning chef and Food Network Iron Chef Michael Symon, along with four-time James Beard Award-winning correspondent Martha Teichner, will co-host the annual James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards Dinner.

Continue reading: The complete list of 2012 James Beard Award nominees

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