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).
Get quick add-ins and recipes »
Coming up with 50 of anything for Food Network Magazine’s monthly 50-recipe booklet can be daunting — in the past, the booklet has featured 50 salads, 50 pizzas and 50 cookies — but this month, Food Network Kitchens tackled a single ingredient: bacon.
To dream up dishes such as Bacon Guacamole (No. 1), Bacon-Beer Mussels (No. 22) and Bacon Muffins (No. 32), testers went through hundreds of ideas. “We don’t put things in for shock value,” tester Leah Brickley says. “The recipes always taste good and have appeal.”
The chefs developed their own version of the trendy Bacon Explosion (see the original here), but in the end, decided it was a little too over-the-top to make the cut.
Get the recipe for the Barbecue Bacon Bake »
You’ve likely seen the name Food Network Kitchens featured in many our most popular recipes, such as Oven Fried Chicken, Baked Ziti and Creamy Tomato Soup. But have you ever wondered who the chefs are or what exactly goes on inside Food Network Kitchens? Food Network Test Kitchen Manager Claudia Sidoti recently offered some fun facts about the expansive and well-stocked kitchen of Food Network headquarters in New York City to Grub Street.
Split between two separate working kitchens, one for testing and the other for camera-worthy plates, the space features a rustic table large enough to seat a crowd, several stove stations and a whopping 18 refrigerators, including one walk-in and three freezers.
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Microwaveable snack pockets are one of those foods people love to hate on. They’re often thought of as a last-resort after school snack or a guilt-laden solution to the midnight munchies. The comedian Jim Gaffigan even has a pretty hilarious skit about them (watch it here). But the truth is a lot of people secretly love them. It’s not hard to understand why. I mean, they’re hearty, easy to eat and convenient.
Here in the Food Network Kitchens, we wanted to capitalize on all the great things about snack pockets and fix all the bad things — like the processed, overly salty, not-so-good for you fillings and often soggy crust.
Find your favorite filling »
For recent story on old-school fruit leather roll-ups in Food Network Magazine’s September issue, chefs in Food Network Kitchens tried all sorts of combos, but apple-ginger, spicy mango and raspberry-vanilla were clear favorites. Don’t ask for pineapple, “No matter how many times recipe developers tried it, it just wouldn’t set.”
Get the recipes and check out behind-the-scenes photos »
Last month, fans of Food Network Star had the chance to get up close and personal with Susie Jimenez, Mary Beth Albright, Whitney Chen, Vic “Vegas” Moea and the Sandwich King, Jeff Mauro, during the Food Network Star: The Official Insider’s Guide Book Tour.
We were there to snap memorable moments, including an unforgettable autographed sandwich signed by the Sandwich King himself.
Browse the behind-the-scenes photos »
With any half-hour episode of Crave, there are hundreds of facts and thoughts I don’t get to share. If you watched this past Monday, thank you. If you missed it, well, suffice to say, your chicken knowledge is in serious decline.
Fried Chicken Facts and Thoughts
FACT: Chickens are the closest living relative to T. rex. They got the short end of that evolutionary stick.
THOUGHT: I realized that my ultimate fried chicken would be crossbred with a spider so that it would have eight drumsticks.
FACT: In China, KFC sells Irish Fried Chicken dipped in Bailey’s liqueur. Next time you’re at a local watering hole, ask for a drumstick in your snifter.
The average American eats about 80 lbs. of chicken a year »
Each month, Food Network Kitchen chefs put more than 100 recipes to the test for Food Network Magazine. Every recipe goes through at least two to three rounds of testing, plus a round of cross-testing, where the recipe goes through one final run-through to make sure it works as it is written in final form.
“We make sure language, timing and visual cues are correct,” says Andrea Albin, a Food Network Kitchens recipe tester.
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It’s state fair season, so for the September issue of Food Network Magazine, chefs in Food Network Kitchens raided the fridge and pantry and deep-fried for days, looking for hits and misses for the story, “Can You Fry It?”. There were a few explosions — marshmallows melted, gumdrops sank to the bottom of the fryer, and the iceberg lettuce came out looking like a sea creature.
Fried Snickers, muffins, bananas and more (with photos) »