Leftovers: This is what Family Meal is all about at Food Network Kitchens. It’s important that we limit the amount of wasted food in the kitchens. This past week, we had multiple meals left over: some jerk chicken from a dinner we hosted for one of our cable partners, grilled meats from a lunch meeting we held with the digital department and some fennel from Anne Burrell’s satellite media tour. Miriam, the Throwdown queen, roasted the fennel with lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper, then finished it off with Parmesan breadcrumbs. It was so good — I ate it and I don’t even like fennel. (Try Giada’s Roasted Fennel recipe at home.) So even though we get swamped with various types of projects, we’re grateful that they help make Family Meals happen.
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In the June issue of Food Network Magazine, I put my own spin on fried chicken and eliminated what I think is the worst part of making the much-loved dish at home: the frying part. My kitchen always ends up spattered with oil. Not to mention, disposing of all the oil is a big pain.
To make this recipe, I took a technique I learned for making Italian chicken spiedini (essentially skewered chicken). Instead of deep frying, you coat chicken kebabs in bread crumbs and then grill them for a crispy, crunchy crust.
It took a couple of tries, but the natural fat in the chicken literally fries the bread-crumbs as they grill. You get the best of both worlds — the crispiness of frying and the smoky taste of grilling. Just make sure to keep the heat of your grill on medium so the chicken doesn’t get overly charred.
Try it: Crispy Grilled Chicken Thighs
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Behind the scenes on Iron Chef America, Food Network’s culinary production team is responsible for making sure that the rival chefs have everything they need to cook and present their dishes — from a stocked pantry to plenty of serving vessels — even outside of Kitchen Stadium. Daniella LaRosa from Food Network Kitchens recently shared some fun facts about what it took to pull off last night’s special episode for Grilling Week — the first-ever Military Grill Battle in Hawaii — that pitted Iron Chef Cat Cora against Iron Chef Michael Symon and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. They weren’t alone, though: Each Iron Chef was paired with a sous chef from the Navy, Army or Marine Corps.
Was setting up Kitchen Stadium in Hawaii more difficult than the mainland?
Creating Kitchen Stadium from scratch took a lot of time. We had treated both the Tailgating and Grilling battles like they were challenges from Next Iron Chef — specifically in that equipment and pantry items were going to be limited, and they might have to share during the battle. Because shipping anything to Hawaii was so expensive, we ended up having to spend about four full days personally shopping for equipment and specialty foods in Hawaii for the Iron Chefs and their sous chefs to use during the battle. We used all local produce — the Secret Ingredients were all sustainable and local. We used as many local vendors as we could find or found through word of mouth while we were there. It was also very difficult on both shoot days when we had to set up Kitchen Stadium at 6:00 am using the headlights from our rental car.
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“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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Recently, several members from the Food Network Kitchens headed down to Nashville for three weeks to film Trisha Yearwood’s new show, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen. Most nights we would wrap up late and go to Rotier’s, a dive restaurant famous for their grilled and fried Southern food. We saw deep-fried spicy pickles on the menu and once we tasted them, we fell in love. Every time we ate them, we would tell each other, “OK, no more fried food,” and then we would find ourselves ordering them again. The balance of the cool, crispy pickle spears with a crunchy, flavorful crust was perfect with the spicy ranch dipping sauce. When we got back to Food Network Kitchens, I wanted to re-create the dish for Family Meal. The recipe below combines crunchy dill pickle spears with a smoky, crispy crust and a spicy dressing that reminded me of my times in Nashville.
Get the recipe for Fried Pickles
In Food Network Kitchens, Family Meal is usually a topic we talk about the minute we walk through the door. As you can imagine, we’re juggling numerous projects at once, so it sometimes slips off our radars. That’s exactly what happened yesterday.
Around noon, I got up from my desk and noticed nobody was making lunch — so I stepped in. I saw peeled shrimp left over from a grilling photo shoot and two quarts of marinara sauce. After a little hunting I also found mozzarella cheese. All of these ingredients together equals pure bliss, otherwise known as Shrimp Parmigiana.
To cook the dish, I added oil, chopped garlic and fresh thyme into a pan over medium heat. After two minutes, I added the shrimp and sauteed them until they were cooked through. Next, I deglazed the pan by adding a splash of white wine and the marinara sauce. I finished the dish by topping the shrimp with slices of mozzarella cheese and throwing it under the broiler until the cheese was melted. You can serve it with a loaf of crusty bread on the side and watch everyone smile.
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Family meal is usually simple, but sometimes there’s a reason to make it more elaborate. This week we planned on combining Family Meal with a baby shower for one of our food stylists, Morgan. But sometimes with baby showers, the guest of honor finds it a better idea to stay close to home when she starts to have contractions. That’s what happened in this instance. Luckily, Mory Thomas, Charles Granquist and I are all Pisces, and we all had birthdays within the past couple of weeks, so we stepped in as emergency guests of honor. (If you had to interact with us on a daily basis, you would figure out our Pisces-ness pretty fast).
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The family meal. What is it, you ask? It’s a meal that is prepared for restaurant staff before their dinner service starts, providing them with necessary nutrients before their busy shift. Here at Food Network, ours takes place at lunch-time. Starting now, I will be giving you a sneak peek at what we feed our staff in the Food Network Kitchens on a weekly basis.
Yes, we do eat in Food Network Kitchens, and yes, it’s really good. Family meals are always interesting. They consist of different types of meat or poultry pulled out of the freezers, as well as vegetables, filling salads and an occasional dessert. These items are left over from various shows and recipe developments for Food Network. This week, Esther Choi (pictured above), took charge of Family Meal and asked our new intern Emily to assist her (more like an initiation). Esther is especially good at making Korean food.
The menu: Duck Lettuce Wraps With Kim Chi Pickles and grilled cheese sandwiches.
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People are, understandably, very particular about their Christmas cookies. For many, the baking of holiday cookies is a ritual and tradition passed on from generation to generation.
For the December 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine, the editors at the magazine decided on a red-and-green cookie story. We in the test kitchens immediately got excited and started spurting out cookie-coloring ideas (doing our best to avoid the expected royal icing with food coloring): “green tea,” “dried cranberries” and “pistachios.”
By the next day, we were churning out colorful, delicious cookies. We made green mint-swirled meringues, lime buttons, dried cranberry butter cookies, green tea shortbreads and pistachio sables. But as the days progressed, we began to notice the cookies, although beautiful on their own, were not beautiful as a collection.
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The slow cooker is our friend in the test kitchen, and we’ve discovered some helpful tips to create the perfect dish every time:
1. Pick the Right Cut of Meat: Use cuts of meat that are best for slow braising, like pork shoulder, and try to avoid leaner cuts, like pork tenderloin, that don’t hold up as well.
2. Spend Some Time Up Front: All you need is 30 minutes or less to brown your meat. Make a quick pan sauce or reduce wine before adding to your slow cooker — it makes a big difference in flavor.
3. Choose Your Alliums Wisely: Onion, garlic and shallot all belong to the same genus and when they’re added raw to a slow cooker, sometimes they create a metallically after-taste. We prefer to use leeks (also in same genus), which are milder. We also love to toast thinly sliced garlic in butter or oil and stir in at the end (like in Food Network Magazine’s Vegetable and Lentil Slow Cooker Soup, pictured above).
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