A Holiday Surprise Cake

by in Holidays, How-to, December 22nd, 2011


I don’t know about you, but I love to make people happy. I strive for that moment in presentation when you hear an audible gasp of delight and surprise.

If I could, I would spend hours in the kitchen slaving away over a special dessert, but I can’t. And I am betting your time is valuable as well.

So that is why I could not be more excited to share this cake with you. It takes less than an hour to assemble, including prep. This stunning cake is so easy to make, but it can make a huge impact on your family and friends. They will be talking about it for years to come.

Let’s put it this way, if you can play with Play-Doh, you can make this cake.

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The Evolution of Christmas Cookies — Food Network Kitchens

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Magazine, December 22nd, 2011

sugar cookies
People are, understandably, very particular about their Christmas cookies. For many, the baking of holiday cookies is a ritual and tradition passed on from generation to generation.

For the December 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine, the editors at the magazine decided on a red-and-green cookie story. We in the test kitchens immediately got excited and started spurting out cookie-coloring ideas (doing our best to avoid the expected royal icing with food coloring): “green tea,” “dried cranberries” and “pistachios.”

By the next day, we were churning out colorful, delicious cookies. We made green mint-swirled meringues, lime buttons, dried cranberry butter cookies, green tea shortbreads and pistachio sables. But as the days progressed, we began to notice the cookies, although beautiful on their own, were not beautiful as a collection.

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Hominy — Off the Beaten Aisle

by in How-to, Recipes, December 22nd, 2011


Hominy is one of those foods you might think you’ve never tried, yet almost certainly have. Or at least a close relative of it.

That’s because the ingredient that starts as hominy can end as many different dishes across many cultures, from Mexican pozole to Southern grits to the corn nuts down at your neighborhood bar.

But first, the basics.

Hominy is the name given to whole corn kernels, usually white, that have been cooked in a lye or lime solution to remove their thick hulls. The result is a tender, somewhat bulbous kernel with a chewy texture and a clean, corn flavor.

In Latin America, these kernels are used most often in soups and stews such as pozole, a highly seasoned stew of hominy, pork and chili peppers.

The Southern staple known as grits follows a similar path. In this case, the hominy is dried after processing, then coarsely ground. The resulting meal then is cooked with water or milk to a porridge-like consistency similar to polenta.

Get the recipe for Pulled Chicken and Hominy Stew »

Alex Makes: Chilled Beet Soup for the Holidays

by in Food Network Chef, December 22nd, 2011


This soup is really simple to make. It’s really a matter of cooking the beets and garlic together and allowing the flavors to meld. Once that part is done, it’s simply a matter of adding the tangy element of the creme fraiche and the pleasing crunch of the cucumber. I find a chilled soup so refreshing and wonderful when paired with something like a braised meat. The other great thing is that you can make this entirely in advance and simply ladle it into the bowls when ready. For me, when I’m having people over, I love serving the appetizer effortlessly and getting the main course done. The goal is to make great food but to get out of the kitchen and have fun with my friends.

Get Alex’s Chilled Beet Soup recipe »

How to Successfully Slow-Cook

by in Behind the Scenes, Food Network Magazine, December 21st, 2011


The slow cooker is our friend in the test kitchen, and we’ve discovered some helpful tips to create the perfect dish every time:

1.    Pick the Right Cut of Meat: Use cuts of meat that are best for slow braising, like pork shoulder, and try to avoid leaner cuts, like pork tenderloin, that don’t hold up as well.

2.    Spend Some Time Up Front: All you need is 30 minutes or less to brown your meat. Make a quick pan sauce or reduce wine before adding to your slow cooker — it makes a big difference in flavor.

3.    Choose Your Alliums Wisely: Onion, garlic and shallot all belong to the same genus and when they’re added raw to a slow cooker, sometimes they create a metallically after-taste. We prefer to use leeks (also in same genus), which are milder. We also love to toast thinly sliced garlic in butter or oil and stir in at the end (like in Food Network Magazine’s Vegetable and Lentil Slow Cooker Soup, pictured above).

Get quick add-ins and recipes »

Chinese Beef With Broccoli — Fall Fest

by in View All Posts, December 21st, 2011

Chinese Beef and Broccoli from Food Network Magazine
fall festBroccoli isn’t just an easy summer side: This versatile ingredient is the perfect addition to a hearty winter meal. The holiday season calls for hours in the kitchen cooking up elaborate dishes for family and friends. Understandably, sometimes you just need a break.

Instead of reaching for the nearest takeout menu, try Food Network Magazine‘s Chinese Beef With Broccoli. Stir-frying in sections allows each ingredient to really shine without muddling the flavors. Flank steak will boost your energy, while broccoli brings both color and fresh flavor. In 30 minutes you’ll have a tasty meal and guaranteed smiles all around.

Talk to us: What’s your favorite way to eat broccoli? Tell us in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter at #cookingwith.

More broccoli recipes from family and friends:

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Broccoli Salad Recipe
What’s Gaby Cooking: Spicy Broccolini Pizza
Cooking With Elise: Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
FN Dish: Chinese Beef With Broccoli

Alex Makes: Skillet Potato Cake

by in Holidays, Recipes, December 21st, 2011


The skillet potato cake is a lot like a potato gratin and, in my opinion, easier than making a lot of individual latkes. It has tremendous flavor and goes really well with other lighter dishes that adorn your holiday table. Let’s face it: Who doesn’t love a scoop of some kind of potatoes this time of year? I love to give people what they want. Last week, while I was cooking at my restaurant, we were making various sauces for pasta and all I could think of was a simple tomato sauce. This potato cake serves the same purpose.

Get Alex’s Skillet Potato Cake recipe »

Simon Majumdar’s Top 10 Tastes of the Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs

by in Shows, December 20th, 2011


There is little doubt among the judges that Chef Zakarian (or Iron Chef Zakarian, as he should now rightfully be called) will make a mighty fine addition to the roster in Kitchen Stadium. Throughout the competition, he offered not only consistently the best technique on the show, but also some of the tastiest food placed before us and, of course, Alton Brown.

He was not alone, however. If my calculations are correct, I believe that I worked my way through nearly 100 dishes during the series and, while we were there to judge and offer criticism of their dishes, the truth is that the majority of what the chefs offered up would have received a definite thumbs up in any restaurant.

There were a few clunkers, of course, but I will get to that later. For the moment, let me just share with you the dishes I consider the very best of this season of The Next Iron Chef.

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Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off: Celebrities Compete for Charity

by in Shows, December 20th, 2011

Rachael vs. GuyOn Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off, eight celebrities will be competing for a chance to win $50,000 for their favorite charity. Meet the celebrities and find out which organization each is playing for. And don’t forget to tune in for the season premiere on Sunday, January 1 at 9pm/8c.

Find out who’s competing

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Chatting With the Runner-Up on Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs

by in Shows, December 20th, 2011


The fourth season of The Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs has come to a close and Geoffrey Zakarian has been crowned the prize so many would-be chefs covet: joining the ranks of Iron Chefs Marc Forgione, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Cat Cora, Jose Garces and Michael Symon.

While Geoffrey has won the final battle, we can’t forget his worthy and very talented opponent, Elizabeth Falkner, who fought to the very end. Each week, she’s proven herself more than a pastry chef; in fact, she can do it all. However, we still had to say goodbye to her.

FN Dish: You mentioned in this last challenge that you’ve really stayed away from the pastry side and haven’t called upon it until the finale. Why?

EF: I wanted to show people that I cook everything and actually have been doing so from the beginning of my career. I focused on pastry for the first chunk of years because I love the artistic side to it and the discipline. It helped me become a better savory chef. I love all kinds of food, cooking and learning about it all.

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