The mood was festive on Ultimate Recipe Showdown Sunday as four competitors showed off their best party recipes. This week’s personalities were as fun as the food—we had a black-belt Grandma, a young clothing designer who poured himself a cocktail during the competition, a TV news reporter and a former rocker. Throwing a party with the four of them—plus fun-loving URS host Guy Fieri, of course—would surely be a good time.
Like last week, we sat down with Katherine Alford, Vice President of Food Network Test Kitchen, to get her take on the Party Food theme.
FN Dish: What makes party food a little more special than everyday meals?
Katherine Alford: This is when you pull out all the stops. You want a little wow and are willing to go the extra mile to make your friends feel special. Cooking for friends is such a generous act.
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Take a cue from these busy chefs and search your kitchen for makeshift beauty products.
Kelly English, Chef/owner, Restaurant Iris, Memphis
- BEER – “As a broke college student who had to choose between beer and shampoo, I found you can wash your hair with beer—it strips away impurities built up on your scalp. Just pour the beer on in the shower. But be sure to rinse it out well or you might smell less than appropriate.”
Sue Zemanick, Executive chef, Gautreau’s, New Orleans
- NUTS – “Nuts are a key ingredient in lots of our desserts, and I’ve noticed they do wonders for my skin. I soak some almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts or hazelnuts in water overnight to soften. Then I puree them in a blender with a little bit of water and strain them. I use the nut milk as a body and face scrub: It makes my skin really shiny.”
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Ultimate Recipe Showdown Season 3 kicked off with the Comfort Food round on Sunday, and we’re already quite jealous of the judges. While host Guy Fieri runs the show and checks in with the competitors, these three folks with esteemed palates get to sit back, watch the live cooking action and taste eight dishes perfected by home cooks. Who wouldn’t want that job?
After each episode this season, we’re sitting down with Katherine Alford—Vice President of Food Network Test Kitchen and URS judge—and asking three questions about the week’s theme. Today she shares her insights on comfort food.
FN Dish: What makes a dish “comfort food”?
Katherine Alford: Something that hits an emotional cord, soothing, nurturing and generous. Comfort also can be inspired by who cooks for you, like a favorite friend or relative. Comfort food can come in a myriad of forms… but most likely at its base it’s got a serious carb thing happening, like mac and cheese, grilled cheese, or my favorite, a buttery baked potato. Read more »
Recently I’ve become obsessed with The Best Thing I Ever Ate—the problem is, this show makes me way too hungry. While I usually just salivate in front of the TV, after watching the “Meat-Fest” episode I got proactive.
When Michael Symon professed his love for the Large Format Feast at Resto in New York City, a lightbulb went off in my head: “That’s how I’m celebrating my birthday this year!” At the feast Michael described, the restaurant would procure a whole animal of your choosing and prepare it every which way for a three-course feast.
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Hey, Sarah Copeland here from Food Network Kitchens. Last weekend, we spent 48 hours in a little land of green. Our latest Good Food Garden was a part of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Miami. It was an absolute pleasure to bring another garden to South Florida since the one we built there last year is now a thriving force that has inspired the kids of the South Beach Boys & Girls Club and their family food co-op that the community has come to depend on.
For two days, our garden sat smack in the sunny center of Jungle Island Fun Park, greeting kids and parents with lush patches of strawberries, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, squash and fruiting temple orange trees among a dozen other varieties of fresh foods. As always, wherever our gardens go, they invite the little ones to taste, touch, smell and learn.
Whenever I talk with someone who has not experienced the Good Food Gardens through the eyes of a child, I talk about the magic that happens there—the lure of the plants that are a world of wonderment to a child who may or may not know that the food they see on their plate started as a tiny seed. The magic was at work full force this weekend as kids tucked their noses into the orange blossoms, felt the furry sage leaves and tasted spicy, vibrant arugula.
But the real magic happens in the homes and lives of the families the garden will touch now that it has been relocated to its permanent home, the Naoma Donnelley Haggin Boys & Girls Club in Delray Beach. We hope the things they will grow, taste and cook because of their exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables in their own backyard will inspire generations of healthy eating. It’s the magic of a movement that believes Good Food is for everyone.
- Sarah Copeland
Spokesperson, Good Food Gardens
Burgers, beaches, bubbly, BBQ, Bobby Flay—what more could you want in a weekend? All of the Food Network stars came out for the 2010 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and we caught some of them on camera during the whirlwind of parties, seminars and grand tastings.
Check out our favorite video highlights from the festivities as recorded by FN ClipChick.
Brian Boitano was in Vancouver this week re-living his Olympic glory. Long before he became a Food Network star, Brian won figure skating gold in the 1988 Calgary games. We’re guessing he had a pretty good seat for some of this year’s figure skating competitions, but he also went up to Canada to do some cooking.
Check out Brian’s Vlog from Vancouver and try some of the fun Olympic-themed recipes he prepared for the Today Show, where Meredith Vieira helped whip up his super-easy bean dip. If you’ve got five minutes and a food processor, you can too! It would be excellent to snack on with some pita chips or raw veggies while watching the Women’s Free Skate tonight.
And for more Brian, catch the new season of What Would Brian Boitano Make, premiering March 7 at 1 pm.
Garlicky White Bean Dip
Crab and Avocado Crostini
Mini Pastrami Sandwiches
The Gold Medal Cocktail
I recently befriended a pastry chef, who inspired me to try my hand at baking. While her idea of baking includes creating pastel-colored French macaroons from scratch to perfection, I thought I would start simple. My husband’s favorite: Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes for Valentine’s Day! I have always loved Paula’s butter-filled recipes.
But who knew it would be next to impossible to find real red food dye in New York City? After searching in below-freezing temperatures I finally found red natural food dye. I seriously thought if Mr. Ace of Cakes Duff could find vibrant colors for Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, my NYC search would be a breeze. Whole Foods to the rescue. Not exactly the bright red I was hoping for, but perhaps a more romantic crimson? I started combining the ingredients for the batter, which surprisingly include cocoa, white vinegar and buttermilk. How appropriate for Paula: buttermilk. She’d have it no other way.
Lastly, I added the 2 full tablespoons of dye the recipe called for, which made the batter not red but…FUCHSIA! I was mystified, and when my husband entered the kitchen he wondered aloud what inspired me to make hot-pink food for him on Valentine’s Day. He knows I am absurdly girly but this was taking things to the next level. I still decided to pop them in the oven, hoping for a 20-minute miracle of luscious red deliciousness.
The cupcakes came out more maroonish than red (think Jersey Shore tan, a la Snookie). Once they cooled, amid a few bumps in the otherwise creamy cream cheese icing, I smoothed on the frosting and voila! Next time maybe I’ll use regular food coloring. Paula Deen’s Red Velvet cupcakes had gone slightly south but my loving husband ate them with his eyes closed, promising they tasted not only delicious but red.
I may not be that much of a sports fan, but I do love any excuse to cook something special. This year I’ve been invited to a Super Bowl party at the home of my Indiana-raised friend Katie, who is beside herself with excitement that her beloved Colts have made it to the big game. Since I love to bake, I’m usually the person tasked with bringing a dessert to a gathering. But since another party attendee has already signed up to bring brownies, I had to think of another snack to contribute. Because our party hostess is a vegetarian, the Indiana-themed Fried Pork Potato Skins from Food Network Magazine are unfortunately out of the question. And she’s already making chili and corn bread and will have pretzels and chips and dip, so what could I bring that wouldn’t be redundant? Luckily I found some delicious inspiration on FoodNetwork.com’s “Big Game Menus” section. Browsing through there I found the perfect snack: Alton Brown’s recipe for Slacker Jacks, his version of the classic stadium treat with a name that happens to rhyme. It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit salty, and a lot crunchy. This should perfectly fill the void between potato chips and dessert.
As a loyal Midwesterner, I’ll be rooting for Indiana this Super Bowl Sunday. Go Colts! My menu picks? Hearty, Midwestern comfort food favorites, including Indiana pork cutlets, beef and, yes, corn. This Indiana-inspired menu is hard to beat.
Indiana’s Fried Pork Potato Skins: Pork cutlets are an Indiana favorite. Topped with a little mayo, mustard and hot sauce, they’ll make amazing game-day noshes.
Buffalo Wings: If you (like me) make hot wings once a year, this is the easiest, most straight-forward recipe you can find. It’s a sure crowd-pleaser!
Slow-Cooker Chili: Warm up with steaming bowls of beefy chili. You can throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker mid-morning and forget about them until game time.
Sweet-and-Spicy Kettle Corn: A nod to never-ending fields of corn, this popcorn gets dressed up for the big game with sugar and spice, an irresistible flavor combo.
Chocolate Malt Cupcakes: A classic, down-home dessert, you really can’t go wrong with chocolate cupcakes. Set a plate out and watch them disappear.
Saints Fans: Check out our New Orleans-inspired menu from earlier this week.
For more menu ideas, from Quick and Easy to Budget Friendly, browse all of our Super Bowl menus.
- Kirsten, Web Editor