Certain culinary tactics are required when it comes to working with an ingredient that’s not so desirable. That’s when chefs — especially Chopped competitors — pull out all the stops in the kitchen. But success isn’t guaranteed. It takes a lot of skill and creativity to transform an unwanted ingredient, whether by elevating it or disguising it. That’s exactly what the judges accomplished with the appetizer baskets from the special Chopped: Redemption episode. Marcus, Amanda and Aarón took up spots in the Chopped kitchen for an After Hours competition where they faced cooking with vegan lobster, chop suey, hot mustard and winter melon.
On the show, the competitors all made dishes that incorporated the basket ingredients rather well, whether it was a salad, soup or stir-fry. Ultimately the chef whose preparation didn’t disguise the unwanted flavor of one of the basket ingredients was chopped. The judges attacked the basket ingredients with the same fervor, knowing what mistakes not to make. Marcus and Aaron both made dishes that disguised the vegan lobster and incorporated all the basket ingredients. Amanda decided to highlight the vegan lobster with flavors that brought it up to nearly the level of actual lobster, which proved to be very successful.
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When you’re chopping garlic, onion or other vegetables in a food processor, keep the motor running and drop the ingredients through the feed tube. The food will bounce around and won’t get stuck in the blade or along the edge of the bowl, so you’ll end up with nice, even pieces.
You’ve seen Chopped judges dish out unapologetically honest criticism to chefs and even take their places in the kitchen while cooking on After Hours, but they’ve never before had a say in what mandatory ingredients land in the mystery baskets. While there’s no plans just yet to let the panel exercise this would-be-new power, you can be sure that some judges’ picks would be more ordinary than others, while some would likely be too demanding to ever assign to competitors.
FN Dish caught up with longtime Chopped judge Aarón Sánchez at an event hosted by Ortega, where he was celebrating the start of tailgating season and his partnership with the Mexican food company, and he told FN Dish the four ingredients he’d include in the baskets if there were to be a tailgating-themed episode of Chopped. “I would definitely put some sort of jam, like a marmalade or some sort of preserves, so you could make a barbecue sauce,” he said before adding, “I would do chicken necks for sure,” in a creative twist on the classic chicken wing. “I would do some sort of spicy [ingredient], maybe chipotles in adobo ‘cause … they’d be awesome with the marmalade,” he added. “Then I would do a blue cheese, then I would make a sauce.”
Dried dates are portable treats that satisfy any sweet tooth, but who knew the gems were crammed with nutrients? And I mean crammed, boasting loads of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Here’s a sampling of what they deliver:
You’ve seen every episode of Restaurant: Impossible and have even ventured to try for yourself some of the overhauled eateries featured on the show. You’re eagerly tuning in to the latest premieres of Robert’s all-new show, Restaurant Express, and you’ve already cast your Fan Vote for the contestant you think should win the final prize. But when it comes to the host of these game-changing series, how much do you know about Robert Irvine? This British-born chef and restaurateur has been cooking since he was a boy, and he is perhaps as famous for his signature muscled physique as he is his no-nonsense attitude and fearless approach to any mission on television. Take the quiz below to test your knowledge of all things Chef Robert, and find out if you’re the ultimate fan.
Are You the Ultimate Robert Irvine Fan?
Are you worthy of the title Robert Irvine Superfan? Answer these questions to find out.
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Robert has deemed what classic comfort food his all-time favorite food?
Spaghetti and meatballs
Cheeseburger and french fries
Roast chicken and mashed potatoes
Chocolate cake and ice cream
On which of the following shows has Robert not appeared?
The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs
In 2012 Robert married Gail Kim, a professional wrestler. Which of the below Food Network stars was Robert's best man at his wedding?
Robert and Gail vacationed in which country on their honeymoon?
Which common construction tool is Robert famous for wielding on Restaurant: Impossible?
How many days a year does Robert spend traveling away from home?
On Restaurant: Impossible, Robert and his construction and design teams have how much money to spend on renovations?
Robert typically wears jeans and what color shirts while filming his shows, Restaurant: Impossible and Restaurant Express?
Black or white
Gray or red
Blue or black
Black or gray
How old was Robert when he became a member of the British Royal Navy?
Which famous public figure did Robert welcome to an episode of Holiday: Impossible?
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While some vegetarian lasagnas consist of little more than pasta with everyday tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, there are indeed ways to dress up the family-friendly casserole to take advantage of bold flavors and seasonal ingredients. Instead of traditional marinara sauce, for example, experiment with no-cook pesto or a creamy cheese sauce, and incorporate fresh produce like good-for-you cauliflower, earthy mushrooms or bell peppers for added taste and texture. Food Network Magazine follows suit in its top-rated recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna (pictured above), a hearty pasta bake made with in-season squash and comforting bechamel sauce.
The trick to making this lasagna lies in its assembly. After roasting butternut squash with onions until it’s sweet and tender, begin building the layers of ingredients: first, a sage-laced cream sauce, then noodles, more sauce, a trio of Italian cheeses and finally the prepared veggies. This pattern will continue until the casserole dish is nearly overflowing with fall-fresh flavors and rich cheesiness, at which point you can bake the lasagna until it’s warm, bubbly and browned on top. Once the lasagna is cooked, it’s best to let it rest for about 15 minutes before serving; this will help the sauce thicken and ensures that the pasta keeps its shape instead of oozing out when sliced.