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Lock, Stock and Barrel

by in View All Posts, October 2nd, 2008

So about a week ago, I got a call from my friend Robert, who is, I’d say, at least in my top 5 favorite cloud-physicists-moonlighting-as-food-writers. The gist of Robert’s phone calls tend to be “Deliciousness afoot; come immediately.” This was no exception; this time, he wanted to know if I could meet him to drive 6 hours round-trip to have dinner in a field of a tomato farm sort of near Allentown, PA. He was leaving in three hours.

Because I am not stupid, I said yes.

Dinner, put on by these guys and cooked by this guy at Eckerton Hill Farm, run by this guy, was awesome. But that’s not the point. Also, the meeting that I totally skipped out on to be there is also not the point.

At one point, Wayne Miller, who works at Eckerton Hill, handed me one of the North-Indian-style chiles they were growing. I had fully intended to bring it home to my mother, who is sort of painfully blithe about the kind of heat that would fell your average grown man and/or horse.

But I wasn’t going to see her for a bit, and the chile was starting to look sad, so I thought I’d throw the chile into a pot of stock I was making, along with all the sad remnant produce from the day-before-we-get-our-weekly-CSA and a bunch of similarly benign things.

Yeah, ok. The second it went into the pot, I started coughing. A minute later, my husband, at the other end of the (admittedly tiny) apartment, started coughing. Two minutes later we were both weeping, which continued over the course of the evening.

Turns out that chile was in fact recently named the hottest in the world, equivalent in heat to about 100 jalapenos, and hot enough that you could probably make a convincing case for pre-emptive war against the kind of country that would harbor such a thing.

So I made risotto with about a third of the stock. Rice, butter, shallots, white wine, and Parmesan. Thought the butter and Parmesan and starchy Arborio would mellow out the Stock of Doom.

Of course not. In the risotto’s defense, though, it only caused minor physical tremors.

Anyone want some homemade chicken stock?

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

By The Time They Got To Foodstock

by in View All Posts, October 2nd, 2008

Recently, over 60,000 participants came to Slow Food USA’s coming-out party in San Francisco. This organization, as its name implies, celebrates real non-processed foods and the farmers, fishermen, cooks, servers and eaters that share them.

I was lucky enough to be part of this well-fed throng. I strolled through the fantastically lush victory gardens in front of SF City Hall, stuffed myself silly (“slow” didn’t mean “restrained”) on delicious foods that included incredible Olympia oysters, rustic Southern soused pork and cornbread with sorghum and buttermilk, vibrant Bronx grapes, perfect peaches, awesome ice creams, intense chocolates, artisanal cheeses and salumi, remarkable Indian flatbreads and the best hand-crafted beers.


Although a couple pounds may be with me for a bit, it was the Food for Thought series that will stay with me forever.
SFN assembled the best and the brightest of the food community — Michael Pollan, Corby Kummer, Wendell Berry, Carlo Petrini, Alice Waters, Vandana Shiva, Marion Nestle, and James Oseland — to grapple with the bigger questions about how we choose to feed ourselves. These panels were inspiring. The issues aren’t simple, and we have lots of work to do to build a sustainable food system that is good, clean, and fair. But the energy and passion of all the participants was a fantastic opening act.


Check out this declaration that emerged from the panel discussions: http://fooddeclaration.org

Katherine Alford, Test Kitchen Director

What I’m screening …

by in View All Posts, October 1st, 2008

I just saw the final cut of our new reality series The Chef Jeff Project.

Chef Jeff Henderson came to our offices more than a year ago, and we were instantly transfixed by his compelling personal story and his powerful presence. A teenage drug dealer, he was sent to prison where he learned to cook. He vowed to reform his life and ended up becoming Executive Chef of Café Bellagio in Las Vegas. Now he wants to help others. So he hires six at-risk young adults to staff his new catering company in Los Angeles, which cooks for high profile events. Can he transform the troubled lives of his young charges while running a high pressure, high profile business? Not without a lot of struggle.

While I don’t generally recommend crying in front of your staff, there I was streaming tears as I screened the first episode at 9:00 am on a Monday morning. How humiliating.

The Chef Jeff Project premieres Sunday, October 12 at 10pm ET/9pm CT

That’s it from where I sit.

Bob

Questions, Questions, Questions …

by in View All Posts, September 30th, 2008

Reading through your first batch of questions, I caught a couple of common themes, which I thought I’d tackle here:

WHY DON’T YOU SHOW COOKING SHOWS AT NIGHT?   I know there’s a large group who would love to watch our cooking shows at night.   But there’s a much larger group (quite a sizeable majority, actually) that prefers our evening programming to be more story driven and entertaining than straight instructional:  competitions, travel, docusoaps, food science, chef challenges.   That’s why we pack the weekends (til 2pm) and weekdays (til 7pm) with all our best cooking shows. Will we please everyone all the time? No, but try to remember the last time you got a few million of your friends to unanimously agree on something.

WILL YOU BRING BACK ROBERT IRVINE TO DINNER IMPOSSIBLE?  We’ve gotten tons of e-mail on both sides of this argument.  In any case, there’s no doubt that Robert is a talented chef, a compelling tv personality, and has earned a large fan base.  As we said at the time, we’ve worked hard to earn the trust of our viewers, and we had to address what appeared to be intentionally misleading statements Robert made about his culinary credentials.  We did say we would reconsider Robert’s involvement with the network down the line.  At this time, we’ve simply not made a decision about the future.

WE LOVE INA AND NIGELLA.  WHY AREN’T THERE NEW EPISODES OF EITHER ON NOW?  You’ve got good taste. I love them both, too.  We bought all of Nigella’s recent series:  Nigella BitesNigella Feasts and Nigella Express as well as a lot of her holiday specials.  Unfortunately, British networks tend to make far fewer episodes of series than we do.  So we’ve already put everything on the air we could get our hands on, and, along with you, we eagerly await Nigella’s next series …. 

Meanwhile, Ina has been busy taping an entire new season which we’re just about to launch on Sat 10/18 at 1:30pm/12:30c.  She’s calling this season Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics, and I’ve watched quite a few of the new episodes. I think it’s her best season so far. 

At a lunch we had last spring, Ina was brimming over with new ideas to amp up her ever-popular series: it’s chock full of new ways to include more tips and takeaways on shopping, cooking techniques and “turning up the volume” of simple ingredients to make you a cooking superstar. 

ISN’T ASK AIDA THE SHOW ADAM PITCHED ONTHE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR?  Boy, would my life be easier if the development and production process happened that quickly.  On average it takes 8-12 months from initial show conception to premiere on our air.  We had this interactive cooking show in development for more than six months before we even met Adam.

IS GUY FIERI THE ONLY STAR TO HAVE COME FROM THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR? Au contraire, each of the 4 winners have found success.  Aaron McCargo’s show Big Daddy’s House is one of the most highly rated cooking series to have launched in recent years.  It was instantly renewed and new episodes will premiere in January.  Likewise, Amy Finley’s show The Gourmet Next Door was one of the highest rated cooking shows of last year.  It was solely Amy’s decision to not return.  I don’t usually beg our stars, but in this case I did.  Repeatedly. Humiliatingly.   But having moved on to a new life in France with her family, she simply did not want to tape any more episodes.   The first winners – Dan and Steve - were on the air for two seasons.  Given that the majority of most new tv shows never make it to season two, I’d say we’ve done did pretty well.

That’s it from where I sit.  I’ll be back shortly with more …

Bob

Carrot Tops

by in View All Posts, September 30th, 2008

How Sweet It Is

As long as I can remember, I’ve been crazy for carrot cake. Each year for my birthday, my mother would ask what kind of cake I wanted. Every year without fail, I’d reply “carrot cake,” and my mother would turn her classic carrot cake into a themed creation of my choosing. One year, slathered in aqua-blue cream cheese icing, it became a pool for my pool party. Another year it became a yellow studded pineapple for a luau party.

I never understood why, every time she sliced into the cake, we got a “carrot cake again?” moan from my birthday regulars. I was always thrilled to see the brilliant orange beneath the layers of icing and couldn’t imagine why anyone else wouldn’t be. Years later, I still haven’t quite accepted that carrot cake is a love-it or hate-it kind of cake, with not everyone residing firmly in my camp. For those that do, I want to share my latest carrot cake find — pale ivory carrot cake ice cream from Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream in Columbia, MO, with subtle flecks of sweet carrot and bite-size bits of walnut. Creamy, toothsome, and incredibly satisfying, it brought me right back to birthday bliss.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer, Test Kitchen

Summertime Cupcakes Anytime

by in View All Posts, September 29th, 2008

I recently discovered the meaning of the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” when I set out to use up the last of my watermelon by making homemade ices. A quick and easy way to enjoy fruit that is lingering on the overripe — just a little simple syrup, pureed fruit (strained) and perhaps a squeeze of lemon juice. My kids were motivated to help, since they love anything sweet and frozen. Only one snag: I realized after the watermelon mixture was made that not only did I not have proper Popsicle molds, but I also did not have any Popsicle sticks to stick into cups — what to do? As I rummaged through my miscellaneous cabinet of cookware (a bigger endeavor than making ices), I spotted my cupcake pan and quickly decided to make frozen watermelon cupcakes. I lined the pan with cupcake liners, poured in the mixture, froze it for about 6 hours and…presto: the cutest cupcakes and a perfect summertime treat anytime! Sometimes inspiration comes out of desperation.

Claudia Sidoti, Recipe Developer, Culinary Production

Bon Appetit Awards

by in View All Posts, View Video Only, September 28th, 2008

Go behind-the-scenes at the Bon Appétit Awards in New York, where Bobby Flay was honored as Cooking Teacher of the Year,and Mario Batali whipped up a feast.

CONTEST ENDED – CHECK BACK FOR A WINNERS’ LIST!
To WIN a copy of the newly released, “Bon Appetit: Fast, Easy, Fresh” cookbook by Barbara Fairchild, which comes with a year subscription to Bon Appetit Magazine. Post in the comments below what award you would give to your favorite Food Network host and why!

Winners will be contacted via email, so be sure to enter a valid email adress.

Be on Food Network

by in View All Posts, View Video Only, September 28th, 2008

Before sending in your application for the new season of The Next Food Network Star, hear from the casting director about what it takes to make the cut.

Check out open call dates, download the application, and apply now!

[poll id="2"]

What's for lunch

by in View All Posts, September 25th, 2008

Charlie and the fish 1

You may be wondering: just what do a bunch of chefs, culinary producers and recipe developers eat for lunch?

Well, the truth is, we don’t know until we get to work and rummage through the walk-in fridge to see what we have to hurry up and eat before it’s only good for compost.

Actually, the truth is, we take our staff meal here seriously and everyone pitches in so that our ”family meals” are not just delicious, but something to write home about. Thanks to Charlie Granquist, one of our food stylists, today the meal was so special, it was even worthy of a pic.

Now that’s some nice looking fish…stay tuned for more family meal pics from the Behind the Scenes Team.

Claudia Sidoti, Recipe Developer, Culinary Production

The visiting team

by in View All Posts, September 25th, 2008

What’s it like to work a photo shoot on location for the Food Network?  Here’s a taste.

It’s mid-morning and no longer raining, now that the canopy over our work tables is finally in place, and I am across the street–half on the sidewalk, half in the gutter–from all of the action. Sports Illustrated is on the action side, shooting their annual Football Gridiron Tailgate special.  Bobby Flay is grilling in front of a Brooklyn brownstone with two of the New York Giants, and many hungry “neighborhood extras” are about to consume a lot of food in just an hour and a half.  I am part of the Food Network kitchen production crew, providing and styling the food for this photo shoot.Bobby’s having a great time.  Beside himself, cooking with the Super Bowl champions! The food looks great…that is, when I can see it.  When the stoplight on the street turns red, taxis and FedEx trucks idle and block my view.  That’s okay; I don’t need to see to know what is going on. If something’s wrong, I’m sure I will hear it first.  I focus on cooking more food on uneven tables with portable burners that the wind keeps blowing out.

People roll down the windows of their cars and ask what is being filmed.  Some love Bobby Flay and the Food Network, and want to chat, holding up traffic.  Others are Giants fans, and some are disappointed, their myopic illusions of an all-star Law and Order with Brad and Angelina dashed.

Vince Camillo, Food Stylist, FN Kitchens