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Happy Fat Tuesday

by in View All Posts, February 24th, 2009
(image courtesy flickr user CTB4)

In celebration: what seems to be the best-worded king cake recipe on the Internet, excerpted from the original 1901 version of the Picayune’s Creole Cookbook.

As an aside — the level of culinary knowledge/fortitude assumed in this recipe is fascinating, especially when compared to similar recipes from now.

As another aside, yes, every Tuesday at FN is essentially Fat Tuesday, but I’ll thank you not to mention that.

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

Wine Manifesto: Part 1, with lessons forthcoming

by in View All Posts, February 23rd, 2009

At dinner last night at a new Italian restaurant near where my parents live (which is otherwise impeccable and a gift to the region), I had a fairly bizarre wine-ordering experience. I told the well-meaning woman tasked with wine service that I was looking for a red from Trentino, it didn’t have to be from Trentino but I like a more-restrained, Austrian style, that I’d had one of them on the (incredibly long and well-chosen) list and liked it, and what would she recommend along those lines? She told me that if I liked the wine I’d had before, I should have it again, or, if I would like to try something new, “everything on the list is good.” The list, mind you, is more than a hundred bottles long.

Ok. Shift gears. New tactic. I like the Sylvaner from this producer on your list, known for sort of wacky, interesting wines; can you recommend something similar in style, but red? After mis-correcting my pronunciation of Sylvaner, and expressing both surprise and slight disdain for my enjoyment of said Sylvaner, she recommended first a Supertuscan and then a Rosso di Montalcino, the sort of wines that are basically the exact opposite of everything I’d been asking for.

Later in the evening, we overheard her loudly telling the table next to us that “knowing about wine is pretentious” and she didn’t believe it was necessary.

Well, clearly.

But, and this is something that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about, as a large part of my job involves wine education — the first thing I usually tell people is to find a trusted expert, whether it’s a wine store with a well-curated selection and a friendly staff, a sommelier at a restaurant you go to regularly, or even an importer whose tastes match yours. Once you have a grounding, and a general idea where your preferences lie, it’s a lot easier to get make sense of a hundred-bottle wine list or giant wine store.

I guess my question is what responsibility a restaurant has to its customers when its list is a) incredibly long and b) not cheap. I’m sure you could make the argument that by curating their list well, the restaurant has fulfilled their obligation — but man, no wonder the most common question I get is how not to be intimidated by a wine list.

So, announcing wine lessons, to be posted here with some sort of recurring regularity. Keep your eyes peeled.

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

What we’re hiding in the basement

by in View All Posts, View Video Only, February 23rd, 2009

Follow Ask Aida’s Noah Starr into the underbelly of the Food Network studios, and meet Design Director, Wendy Waxman.

Hand-Pulled Magic

by in View All Posts, February 20th, 2009

To do our jobs, we have to be a little obsessed with food—okay, maybe a lot. My latest obsession is all things Chinese, especially hand-pulled noodles. This amazing process turns a lump of supple dough into ethereal noodles in a matter of minutes, just by repeatedly pulling and stretching the dough by hand. I eat them as often as I can. Bob goes a step further; he tries to make them at home!

Recently, with the introduction of Michael Gray, a Sinologist friend, we were invited into a Fuzhou noodle shop, Eastern Hand-Pull Noodles, at 28 Forsyth Street (formerly at 27 Eldridge Street) in New York’s lower Chinatown.

Mrs. Gao, the co-proprietor, and Mr. Wong, the cook, demonstrated the technique: it’s a magical combination of taffy pulling, towel snapping, and lasso twisting. As often as I watch this, it’s impossible not to be awed. Mr. Wong stretched and slapped the dough until it miraculously turned into 128 noodles in less than 3 minutes. While Mr. Wong manipulated the dough, Mrs. Gao prepared the pork, beef, and vegetable toppings. The noodles were divine, but as delicious was the generosity of these talented cooks sharing their craft. Even though we didn’t share a language, the noodles gave us a common ground.

Katherine Alford, VP, Test Kitchen

Sound Off with Mr. Music

by in View All Posts, February 20th, 2009

Have you ever been surprised when you find out your work friends (the friendly people you have water cooler time with) have a life outside of work? I really don’t like the work phrase “in my prior life,” but sometimes you run across those rare peeps that really had an interesting prior life. Neil Perry, FN Sound Designer/ Music Composer, is the perfect example of this.

Click ahead to see what celebs Neil HASN’T worked with.

New Experiment at the Novatt House

by in View All Posts, February 19th, 2009

We’re trying something these days called “Will my 4 year old eat it?” — closely followed by “Will my 1 year old eat it?”

Last night’s first installment: Collard Greens.

4 year old: she loves bacon and she’ll eat spinach, so I gave it a go with collard greens and bacon. She was really into cooking it. She put it in her mouth and chewed 3 times. It ended up in a napkin.

1 year old: ate the greens, spit out the bacon. After about 10 bites he threw his plate on the floor.

Jill Novatt, Executive Culinary Producer

Camera Crews and Corn Nuts

by in View All Posts, February 19th, 2009

Here’s a little tip for any viewers out there that might someday have an opportunity to screen test for the Food Network: Pick a demo recipe that includes corn nuts as one of the ingredients.  Today, we were all huddled in Studio B for talent tests, freezing and hungry, and running behind schedule. 

As luck would have it, our test subject whipped up a delicious salad topped with those crunchy golden nuggets of corn goodness.  And I discovered that no one can resist corn nuts!  The extra tub of corn nuts that we wouldn’t need for the shoot was gone within minutes, as everyone tried their best to crunch quietly in the background.  Ah, corn nuts, the ultimate in studio mood elevators.

Of Foie and Fairness

by in View All Posts, February 18th, 2009

There’s a fantastic, and balanced, piece in today’s Village Voice about foie gras — the author, Sarah DiGregorio, visited Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the nation’s largest foie gras farm, to make up her own mind about the process; she’s also interviewed veterinarians and advocates on either side. She brought a photographer along with her to document the process as well; a slideshow of his findings can be found here.

Of course meat is controversial, and of course there are ways of both raising meat and choosing meat conscientiously. DiGregorio’s piece is impressive in its fairness to all involved; if you’re a foie fan (and I am), I completely recommend reading the whole thing.

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf

by in View All Posts, February 18th, 2009


I met Alex Guarnaschelli from The Cooking Loft at a recent Food Network event, and I was amazed by how warm, personable and funny she is. When she breaks out her deadpan punch-lines, she seems more like a stand-up comic than a chef.
More Alex dish and tasty meatloaf here.

317 days to go….

by in View All Posts, February 17th, 2009

Christmas_Decorations

‘Tis the season to put away your Christmas decorations. However, a select group of Food network employees are either gearing up for the 2009 holiday season, or they just can’t seem to part with the Christmas spirit of ’08. Honestly, I think it’s charming that (inadvertently or not) these guys have chosen to keep the festivities going year-round here at the Food Network offices. Come to think of it….why does society tell us that we’re allowed to eat Christmas cookies only around the holidays?… Eureka!
Get to the cookies here.