From baking cookies and roasting ham to hosting your relatives and preparing for Christmas brunch, the road to the holidays can be a long one, and when it comes to tackling seasonal cooking and entertaining questions, there’s perhaps no one better outfitted for the task than Alton. Cutthroat Kitchen‘s master of eviliciousness and the longtime host of Good Eats stopped by Food Network’s Facebook page yesterday for the ultimate holiday tell-all, dishing on the hows, whys and whats of his best party-ready recipes. Read on below for the top snippets from the chat, to learn Alton’s answers to some of the most-asked questions and to get his tried-and-true recipes you can count on.
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Our annual Mother-Daughter Holiday Tea is a treasured tradition that marks the start of the holiday season for me and my four young daughters. Every year, we invite the women we treasure into our home to eat, drink, laugh and connect on the first Saturday in December. My girls set their holiday calendars to the Mother-Daughter Tea, and so do I.
This year was shaping up to be a perfect start to the holiday season. For the first time in years, I wasn’t traveling the week leading up to the tea, so I baked at my leisure, planned my menu and relaxed. Philippe and I made Potato-Bacon Tortes like crazy one night. Margaux and I made hundreds of Buttermilk Scones (rosemary and chocolate chip scones, as well as lemon zest-vanilla bean-cardamom scones) in advance and froze them uncooked, ready to be baked up fresh on Saturday morning. Valentine and I made another round of scones another day, but gluten-free. (Get my bake-ahead tips and more baking recipe ideas here.) I bought special chocolate to melt for the kids’ favorite chocolate fondue fountain. I planned out the party logistics with the confidence of someone who had done this all dozens of times. I even had the creative space to brainstorm a genius addition to the d’Arabian tradition: a fully stocked hot chocolate station. It’s a veritable buffet of goodies like marshmallows, whipped cream, caramel sauce and mini chocolate chips to pile on top of steamy hot cocoa. I knew I was headed for the Best. Tea. Ever.
For the d’Arabian family, the day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season. We put up holidays lights, shop for a Christmas tree, light up the fireplace (even though it’s 70 degrees) and decorate the house. The girls celebrate with a teapot full of homemade hot cocoa (tip: stir in a spoonful of pumpkin puree for a little extra fiber and vitamins), and we start our holiday baking. Our annual Mother-Daughter Holiday Tea is usually the first week of December, which means we typically have one or two weeks to bake up the treats. And because the holidays are our favorite time to share homemade gifts with friends, neighbors and teachers, we have plenty of baking to do!
My girls, of course, want to be part of it all, and that’s the fun of it — it’s a family activity! One of the best pieces of advice I can give parents who are looking to cook more with their kids is: Plan it for when you have plenty of time. Make it a Friday night activity after an early dinner, or spend Sunday afternoon with music on and the oven humming, keeping you cozy and warm while you bake away lazily. To get the baking done in time, then, we have to start early and freeze just about everything. So whether we are cooking for neighbors’ gifts or getting a jump-start on party food, I embrace make-ahead options that can be frozen (which in baking, is just about everything).
And that leads me to my No. 1 holiday baking secret weapon: my Simple Buttermilk Scones (pictured above) from Food Network Magazine. They are quick to make, they are scalable, and they are a versatile canvas for almost any flavor profile you can imagine — add tiny chocolate chips and fresh rosemary, or orange zest and dried basil, or dried edible lavender and chopped white chocolate.
The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is full of travel, traffic – and tradition. As families descend upon their Thanksgiving destinations, it’s a busy night for pizza spots, since no one feels much like cooking dinner. (If this is your game plan, we rounded up some of the best places across the country to pick up a pie.) At the New York City Wine & Food Festival, we chatted with Food Network stars about their pre-turkey day plans. Some choose to eat light to save up reserves for the big day, while others carb-load to get ready. What does your family do – and eat – the night before the big feast? Read more
It’s no secret that breakfast is the most-important meal of the day, but nevertheless many children go to school hungry, having not had breakfast at home beforehand. That’s where No Kid Hungry comes in. This nonprofit organization is committed to helping end childhood hunger, and recently a few Food Network favorites teamed up with No Kid Hungry to bring a hearty breakfast to kids at school in New York City.
In the spirit of the holiday season, The Kitchen co-hosts Geoffrey Zakarian and Katie Lee joined Chopped judges Alex Guarnaschelli and Marc Murphy at East Harlem Scholars Academies to deliver deliciously nutritious breakfasts to the kindergarten and fourth-grade classrooms there. As Marc noted, “A kid cannot learn if a kid’s hungry. A kid can’t play if a kid is hungry,” which is why Alex said, “We have to really make breakfast cool.”
Get the recipe for Marc’s easy breakfast, an Asparagus and Parmesan Frittata, then check out more kid-friendly breakfasts below.
There may be little as sexy as a man who truly knows his way around the kitchen. The swift, confident knife skills, the joyful embrace of the spicy and sensually pleasing, the willingness to experiment and get messy — a certain sort of male chef, especially if he happens to be handsome, can really make a person salivate.
That fact is apparently not lost on the editors of People magazine. In the just-released Sexiest Man Alive 2014 issue, they’ve named Food Network Chopped judge and restaurateur Marc Murphy as “Sexiest Chef.”
Marc was included, along with poet Terrance Hayes, “snake charmer” Evan Antin, scientist Hendrik Streeck, “model with tats” Parker Hurley, teacher Nicholas Ferroni and artist Javier Gomez, as one of the magazine’s picks for “Sexy Men at Work.”
Wondering what your favorite chefs have up their sleeves (and in their ovens) for next Thursday? We caught up with more than a dozen Food Network stars about their unique Thanksgiving traditions with family and friends. Bobby hosts a themed Thanksgiving for 50, Alex does double-dinner duty and Guy likens his epic outdoor feast to “a shotgun wedding”. Read on and check out the full gallery for all the tasty details.
At this year’s New York City Wine & Food Festival, Rachael Ray was all about Thanksgiving — but not the huge blowout meal you might be thinking of. Instead, she took this meal of all meals off its anxiety-inducing pedestal, revealing tricks for a no-sweat day of and day after. Whether it’s nixing the giant bird altogether or going big with leftovers, her tips make it easy to keep your Turkey Day celebrations budget-friendly and meltdown-free. Here are the takeaways, which can be used on the big day itself or any day of the year:
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’d like to give a little shout out to the mashed potato. While the internet will likely now be debating the best way to ensure a juicy turkey (easy: Alton Brown’s brined turkey recipe), or whether stuffing should be cooked inside the bird (I say no), I want to send a little love to the one that really brings it all together; the one item on the Thanksgiving plate that gives gravy its own little well, clearly recognizing that it is far too delicious to be merely drizzled over things. Thank you, mashed potatoes.
Mashed potatoes are the perfect comfort food. Eaten alone, they are rich, creamy and earthy. And paired with roasted meats or stews, they become the supporting player, letting the meat shine. At Thanksgiving, mashed potatoes share their space on the plate with an interloping carb, stuffing. And still, the meal seems somehow to make sense. All this, and they are cheap, too! (A tip: Potatoes are usually a much better deal in the 5-pound bag than loose.)
What with its early elimination of one contestant and the cliffhanger ending to decide the fate of another, last week’s series premiere of Kitchen Inferno proved that this brand-new heated competition is far from chill. As chefs contemplate risk versus reward at the end of every round, host Curtis Stone is on hand to watch these decisions unfold and oversee the fiery battles that result; after all, no one knows the competition quite like he does. FN Dish recently caught up with Curtis to learn more about Kitchen Inferno from his perspective and find out what he considers to be the most-common mistake made during the contest.
Congratulations on the new series Kitchen Inferno! What aspect of the show are you most looking forward to?
Curtis Stone: You know what’s so exciting is that we sort of put the power back into the contestants’ hands, because we give them the opportunities to [decide] how far they think they can push themselves, or how far they can go. And I love those moments through the show where you sort of — they’ve just won, and they get money or more money, and then you ask them that question: You know, do you believe in yourself enough to keep going, to win more money? Knowing that you have real cash in your hand and you’re going to have to literally tear it up. So they’re always really fun moments.