While you may have mastered the art of preparing dinner for your immediate family, have you learned the secrets to entertaining a crowd of partygoers at home? Shopping and cooking for, as well as serving, a meal at a big-bash party invites questions and challenges that you may not face when planning everyday eats and drinks: What are some go-to dishes that will please a diverse group of guests? How much food is needed to feed everyone? What’s the best way to serve multiple courses?
No one can answer these questions better than restaurant chefs, those who’ve made a career out of cooking for large groups of people and who know the ins and outs of preparing to host a crowd. Elizabeth Karmel, owner and executive chef of Hill Country, Elizabeth Falkner, owner and executive chef at Krescendo and a two-time competitor on The Next Iron Chef, and Hedy Goldsmith, executive pastry chef at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, Fla., showed off their exemplary party-throwing skills in New York City last weekend at the fifth annual Sunday Supper at Chelsea Market, supporting the James Beard Foundation‘s Scholarship for Fulton Youth of the Future and Wellness in the Schools. Together with more than a dozen of their chef colleagues, these ladies cooked a six-course feast for nearly 300 people that included such deliciously inspired bites as caponata with creamy burrata, pasta with sweet onions, tender jumbo prawns and pear crostata.
FN Dish was on hand not only to see the orchestra that’s needed to successfully pull off an event of that magnitude but also to find out from Chefs Karmel, Falkner and Goldsmith how home cooks can utilize similar tricks and techniques when entertaining on a smaller scale.
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Hot Tips From Food Network Kitchens’ Katherine Alford:
For a fast weeknight meal, roast two half chickens instead of one whole bird. It takes just 35 minutes (see Food Network Magazine‘s Roast Chicken With Apple Slaw, pictured above). Use a rimmed baking sheet instead of a deep roasting pan (the short sides help the heat circulate evenly). And choose the convection setting on your oven if you have one: You’ll get crisp, golden skin in a hurry.
With the approaching Easter holiday, you can expect to be boiling a lot of eggs, whether you’re coloring them with the kids or just boiling a batch to serve for brunch, lunch or the holiday dinner. But when it comes to boiling eggs, do you find you’re never quite sure when they’re done? Do you get soft-boiled when you wanted hard-boiled or vice versa? Do your yolks get that green ring (a sign they’ve been overcooked)? Food Network is here to help you in the egg department, making sure that boiling eggs is the least of your worries during the holiday — after all, there’s the whole family to contend with.
Find out how to boil the perfect eggs
As the executive pastry chef at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami, Fla., the author of Baking Out Loud, a frequent guest on Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets and FN Dish’s own resident dessert extraordinaire, Hedy Goldsmith isn’t your average sweet tooth. She’s been known to put a homemade red-velvet twist on traditional Twinkies and even bake pies in jars, so when FN Dish visited Hedy at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival last month, we knew we’d be in for a treat — and it turns out that we were greeted with an entire plateful of treats.
Speaking to a packed room at the Shelborne South Beach Hotel, Hedy along with Josh Wesson, a New York City-based sommelier and the co-founder of Best Cellars, offered guests an interactive seminar on the pairings of desserts and beverages, both wines and liqueurs. They agreed that the key to blending any food and drink is finding among them elements that are similar and contrasting, an idea that’s similar to what Hedy follows when making her confections.
Known for expertly bridging the gap between sweetness and saltiness — the combination of which she describes as “the story of my life” — her signature creations are not typical desserts in that they’re not overly sweet, and they utilize seemingly eccentric and out-of-place ingredients. To Hedy, baking is all about “checks and balances,” not just between the amount of sugar and salt in a recipe, but also the flavors of the other ingredients she uses.
In the March issue of Food Network Magazine, you’ll find my recipe for homemade ricotta. Traditionally, ricotta is made from the whey left over during scale cheese production, but at home it’s easy to make using fresh milk. In my version, I chose to add a little bit of heavy cream to the mixture to make it a little richer and more luxurious.
There are 101 ways to use ricotta, but when you are using homemade stuff, it’s best to do as little to it as possible. One of my favorite ways to eat it is in a simple sandwich inspired by one I love at Saltie, a Brooklyn sandwich shop:
Split a 5-inch square of focaccia through the middle and lightly toast it, then drizzle it with some good-quality olive oil. Mix about 1/3 cup of ricotta (preferably still warm) with about 2 tablespoons mixed chopped basil, tarragon and chives, a good grind of black pepper and a tiny bit of freshly grated lemon zest; spread it on 1 side of the bread. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, and add a lightly beaten egg and a pinch of salt to the pan; stir it constantly with a rubber spatula to make a very soft scrambled egg with small curds (it will take longer than you are used to). Scoop the egg onto the ricotta and top it with the other piece of bread.
I used to have a backyard bursting with bunches of basil, parsley, lemon thyme and a plethora of other herbs. Whenever a recipe called for some, I’d just go and pluck a handful. Aside from the hot, balmy New York City summers when the plants required constant care, mother nature mostly did the work — sunshine during the day and the occasional rain once a week, which supplied enough water to make up for the days I forgot to give them a sprinkle with the hose.
The apartment I live in now doesn’t have a garden, so I rely on window boxes for growing fresh herbs. Indoor plants need more attention and due diligence, especially in the water department. When I went away for the Christmas holidays this past December, I forgot to set up my self-watering globes. It was no surprise that I came home to bone-dry plants.
As with all of life’s mistakes, though, there is a lesson to be learned. Ever since I accidentally killed all my plants, I’ve been relying on the farmers’ market for fresh herbs — luckily we have a hydroponic farmer at the Union Square market during the winter months. The problem with buying herbs versus growing them is that I don’t usually finish up the bunch before it wilts. Then one day, I glanced at the old containers of dried-up plants (I swear I’m going to empty them this week), and suddenly the light bulb went off. With a little planning, I could make my own dried herbs. I use the fresh-bought herbs as I would normally, but just before any leftovers hit the wilting stage, I pluck the leaves and set them on a baking sheet.
Deglazing: you’ve surely heard the term mentioned by your favorite Food Network chefs and stars, but do you know what it means and how to do it? Chef Bobby Flay introduced the idea of deglazing to his team of recruits on last Sunday’s premiere of Worst Cooks in America as he taught them how to make a mushroom-wine sauce for steaks, but for some contestants, the lesson could have used a second explanation. If you’re in need of a refresher course as well, look no further, because we have the how-tos for tackling this can-do cooking technique, plus easy recipes to help you master the process.
To deglaze a pan is to use liquid — be it stock, wine or water — to unstick any bits of food leftover on the bottom of the pan after searing or sauteing. In the case of Chef Bobby’s recipe, he used bold red wine to deglaze the pan in which he cooked his beef tenderloin. Thanks to a quick sear, the meat had taken on a golden-brown crust full of flavor, and after flipping it, remnants of that flavor remained on the pan. With just a splash of wine and a bit of stirring, however, those crispy pieces added a new depth of taste to the sauce without much effort.
Practice deglazing at home
Homemade pasta is great and everyone loves it, but most people don’t own a pasta machine because it’s a pricey piece of kitchen equipment.
Problem solved. Our resident kitchen-gadget hacker, Cliff, has come up with a brilliant solution. Click the play button above to watch Cliff demonstrate how to make a pasta machine out of a paper shredder. Fresh, homemade pasta has never been easier.
Lobster is one of the most romantic meals to eat on Valentine’s Day — whether out at a restaurant or in the confines of your own home. While it’s certainly a special treat, it can also be terrifying, especially for new couples just starting to date (it can get quite messy). How do you eat a lobster? Where do you crack it? Can you only eat the tail?
No worries. Valentine’s Day dinner is only a few short hours away, but there’s still plenty of time to learn how to eat a lobster before then. Click the play button after the jump to watch Food Network Kitchens break down a lobster and you’ll soon be a pro (and your significant other will be very impressed).
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Cast-iron skillets can be used everywhere, from the stovetop (to make the best pancakes you’ve ever had) to the oven (for my family’s favorite Chicken With Caramelized Lemons Olives and Tomatoes) to the grill (for those warm summer nights when nothing sounds better than grilled corn on the cob, burgers and sweet baked beans).
When a cast-iron skillet is seasoned well, it can develop an almost non-stick surface perfect for cooking omelets and other foods using less oil for cooking. An added benefit is cast iron’s ability to leach small amounts of iron into food.
A cast-iron skillet is one of the least expensive kitchen tools you’ll ever purchase and it’s the type of kitchenware that tends to get passed down through the generations. So if you didn’t inherit granny’s cast-iron skillet that always made her famous cornbread, then get one for yourself and start the tradition in your family.