NYChilifest 2012: The Many Mugs of Chili

by in Events, January 31st, 2012

serving chili
After trying countless spoonfuls of chili, the subtleties can really start to evade your palate. Notes of nutmeg and tamarind, at first fresh and fragrant, are soon lost amidst the whirlwind of flavors; hints of coffee and chocolate no longer round off each bite, but instead take refuge behind the lingering heat of poblanos and other hot peppers of the like. Appreciating the nuances of chili can prove a pretty tricky task, but wrapping one’s palate around the subtle differences between competing bowls of the hearty stew, eaten one after another? Nearly impossible. Unless, that is, the entries are as varied as they were at this past weekend’s chili showdown in New York City.

Held in Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, NYChilifest 2012 featured an eclectic list of competitors, including fine-dining establishments like Gramercy Tavern, younger, trendier spots like Roberta’s and even popular Mexican destinations Tacombi and La Palapa. No less eclectic were the competing chilis, which ranged from straightforward ground beef and bean-stocked vats, to short rib-studded, spicy green varieties. We rounded up some of our favorite spoonfuls, as well as a few sights and sounds from Sunday’s chili cook-off.

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5 Ways to Clean Your Cutting Board

by in How-to, January 31st, 2012

cutting board
Feel like your cutting board just isn’t clean enough? Not to worry — you can get the board extra clean with some products likely found in your home.

1. Rinse immediately after use. Studies show that a prewash rinse eliminates enough bacteria so that levels are safe, while submerging the board in dishwater immediately after use transfers pathogens to the wash water. Since wood is a porous surface that absorbs water, submerging a dirtied board could also cause it to split and warp.

2. Disinfect using 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Pour it over the board and spread it around using a clean sponge. Let it stand for a few minutes as it fizzes to kill germs. Wipe off with the clean sponge and repeat as needed.

Remove stains with coarse salt or baking soda »

Guacamole for the Big Game — Simple Soirées

by in Holidays, January 31st, 2012

alton's guacamole
Wait — Super Bowl Sunday is about a football game? Not in my world. Super Bowl Sunday is all about the food. And drinks. OK, and maybe the awesome commercials on TV. But mostly it’s about the food. And you can’t just whip up anything for this very special Sunday that happens once a year — no, you’ve got to go big with the best appetizers and finger foods out there.

Each year we throw a big Super Bowl Sunday fiesta. I think some people actually watch the game, but most come to eat and have someone else cook for them. For those people that truly understand football (I’m clearly not included in that group), I’m a big believer in having tons of appetizer and finger food options for people to grab while they sit in front of the TV. There has to be an assortment of wings, potato skins, chips, dips, desserts and, most importantly, guacamole. Oh yes, it’s not a party without guacamole.

I mean, in my mind it wouldn’t be a football party without a big bowl of guac. Something about it just screams to be eaten while watching football and lounging around on a lazy weekend. This year I’ll be whipping up a guacamole from Alton Brown.

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Skillet Lasagna — Meatless Monday

by in Recipes, January 30th, 2012


While some lasagna recipes require Bolognese and bechamel sauces, multiple pots and pans and a few hours in the oven, this one calls for just a single sauce and only 20-25 minutes on the stove. No-bake lasagna noodles are nestled between layers of fresh tomato sauce, sliced vegetables and creamy ricotta cheese, becoming soft as they cook in the skillet and absorb moisture.

Continue with the Italian-inspired dishes and round out your dinner with Giada’s Mixed Green Salad With Sherry Vinaigrette and Rachael’s easy, cheesy Garlic Bread, ready in fewer than 10 minutes.

Get the recipe: Skillet Lasagna from Food Network Magazine

Meatless Monday, an international movement, encourages people everywhere to cut meat one day a week for personal and planetary health. Browse more Meatless Monday recipes.

Iron Chef America — Tailgating in Hawaii

by in Shows, January 29th, 2012

iron chef america hawaii
As a very recent immigrant to the United States, I have to hold my hand up and say that most American sports remain a complete mystery to me. Until recently, I thought the term “all net” referred to fishing and that a “power play” was something you found at a Van Halen concert. But, even in my ignorance, I still knew all about the Super Bowl, one of the greatest sport events on earth.

So, when Food Network got in touch and asked me if I would like to judge a very special Iron Chef America episode to air just before Super Bowl XLVI, I jumped at the chance. When I found out it was going to be filmed in Hawaii, I was even more determined to take part and, when I was told that my fellow judges were going to be the irrepressible Sunny Anderson and the current Miss Hawaii, Brandie Cazimero, I almost offered to pay for my own ticket. Almost.

What made it more exciting for everyone involved was that this episode was also going to have a very, very special audience selected from the extraordinary men and women of the United States armed forces. It made all of us even more determined to put on a great show, particularly Sunny, who is a veteran of the United States Air Force.

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Pollo Frito — The Weekender

by in Recipes, January 27th, 2012

pollo frito
Until last weekend, I’d never made fried chicken at home. This is primarily because I grew up in a household that did not deep-fry. My mother preferred the kind of cooking that employed a nonstick skillet and the barest coating of heart-friendly olive oil. When we’d go out to eat, she would expound on the many dangers of fried foods and point my sister and me toward lighter, more healthful options. French fries were a very rare treat and chicken fingers came only in baked varieties.

It wasn’t until high school that I had my first piece of fried chicken. A dear friend’s mother prided herself on her perfectly cooked, crisp, tender drumsticks and delighted in making it for us. I gobbled it down hungrily and didn’t tell my family.

In recent years, fried chicken has gotten increasingly trendy. It’s got a pleasantly retro-kitsch appeal, so higher-end restaurants have begun to add it to their menus. I’ve taken advantage of those offerings on occasion, all the while believing that it was still something best left to professionals or those families with a serious fried chicken tradition.

Before you start heating your oil, read these tips »

Chinese Takeout at Home

by in Recipes, January 27th, 2012

Though it’s easy to pick up the phone and order Chinese food takeout, it can be just as simple to cook up those white-box favorites in your own kitchen — often without the extra cost and unnecessary calories and fat. Prep your pantry for traditional Chinese recipes by picking up a few Asian-food staples, such as soy and chili sauces, rice wine vinegar and fresh ginger, and you’ll be ready to serve up classic appetizers and main dishes in a flash. Find a menu of our favorite Chinese foods below, including stir-fried chicken, fried rice, dumpling soup and more.

Though they’re far more heart-healthy than their deep-fried counterparts, Baked Spring Rolls are every bit as light, golden and perfectly crisp. Those pictured above from Food Network Magazine are filled with delicate lump crab, green cabbage and fresh ginger and served with a salty, sweet soy-mirin sauce.

More Chinese takeout recipes »

Flank Steak — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, January 26th, 2012

balsamic pepper flank steak
So you think you know steaks? Maybe you do.

But truth is, you probably only really know the particular cuts you buy over and over again. That’s good, but there’s a world of great beef out there to explore.

And many of those cuts (and by the way, butchers are creating new ones all the time) are far more versatile than you think.

You could spend ages learning the different cuts of beef and the various names for each (there isn’t nearly as much naming standardization as you would think). But I think it’s better to simply pick a cut you haven’t often prepared at home and start playing around with it. That’s how I learned to love flank steak.

First, the basics. Flank steaks are lean cuts from the rear side of the cow and are characterized by rich, deep, beefy flavor and a slightly chewy texture. Traditionally, London broils were made using flank steaks, though today any of the leaner, less tender cuts often are substituted.

Get the recipe for Balsamic-Pepper Flank Steak »

Best 5 Meatloaf Recipes

by in Recipes, January 26th, 2012

meatloaf recipe
A go-to comfort food favorite that the whole family will enjoy, meatloaf is a foolproof dish that is as quick to prepare as it is easy on the wallet. Whether you prefer turkey or beef varieties, adding fresh vegetables, spices and a tasty glaze to your meatloaf promises that it will be rich in texture and bold flavors. Check out Food Network’s top five meatloaf recipes below and cook up one for dinner tonight.

5. New Classic Meatloaf — Quick-cooking oats and molasses are “new” ingredients Ellie adds to her traditional meatloaf recipe, featuring ground beef, button mushrooms and herbs.

4. Turkey Meatloaf With Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes — Chewy herb-marinated sun-dried tomatoes and tangy feta cheese offer texture and a Mediterranean flair to Giada’s easy weeknight meatloaf.

Get the top three recipes for meatloaf »

Does a $10,000 Bottle of Wine Taste Like $10,000?

by in Drinks, January 25th, 2012

expensive wine bottle
When you write about wine, you sometimes get to taste the really expensive stuff. I’m not talking filet mignon or even white-truffle expensive. I’m talking splurging like Diddy-in-a-diamond-hoodie-on-a-yacht expensive.

When a collector shares one of these bottles with me, friends later ask, “Does it taste like [insert obscenely expensive price]?”

The honest answer: It doesn’t, at least not to the untrained palate, and probably not even to most trained palates.

The lesson here is that while the price is often reflective of a wine’s quality, it is so only up to a point. And even when a wine is of high quality — from the best grapes handled by the most talented hands — it doesn’t mean that you are going to automatically taste its full price. In fact, some of the most-prized bottles can evoke qualities — think soy sauce or pencil lead or even a barnyard in August — that are off-putting to the uninitiated.

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