Behind the All-Star Chopping Block With Alex Guarnaschelli

by in Shows, March 4th, 2011
On Chopped All-Stars, Alex is tasked with judging some good friends.

There’s never been an episode of Chopped that wasn’t intense, but starting this Sunday night, things are about to get crazy. Alex Guarnaschelli is a fixture on the judges’ panel for Chopped All-Stars, where she’ll taste the mystery basket creations of Food Network heavyweights (Robert Irvine, Claire Robinson, Anne Burrell, Duff Goldman), some of The Next Food Network Star’s most memorable finalists (Brad Sorenson, Michael Proietti, Lisa Garza, Debbie Lee), celebrity chefs (Beau MacMillan, Nate Appleman, Jacques Torres, Anita Lo) and even fellow Chopped judges (Geoffrey Zakarian, Aarón Sanchez, Amanda Freitag, Maneet Chauhan).

The chefs will compete in four rounds, tournament-style, and the winner of each will go on to the finale battle on April 3. Before the five-week mini-series kicks off this Sunday at 9pm/8c, we chatted with Alex about what it was like to critique the food of her peers and friends, whether she’d ever throw her own hat in the ring, and the difficulty of Chopped vs. Iron Chef America.

Were these Chopped All-Star battles more intense than “regular” rounds? Or did the chefs come to have fun and play for charity?
Honestly, every episode of Chopped is insanely stressful. When people are colleagues and know each other and then engage in a competition like this, it adds a whole other layer. People are amped up. They want to get along and they also want to win. That really added more complexity and tension, which is cool.

Did you have to judge chefs you know well?
Many. I didn’t enjoy it at all. It’s very painful to factor in. Anyone who competes on Chopped, you end up developing a personal relationship because you go through the whole thing with them. When you add knowing them personally on top of that, it makes decisions much more complicated.

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Pass the Peas Please

by in View All Posts, March 3rd, 2011
Spring for Peas

Spring is almost here, which means longer days, chirping birds, blooming flowers and, of course, the start of pea season. Pea plants do best in cool-weather environments, making the fair months of March and April the ideal time to grow these teeny green veggies. Whether you like them pureed in soup, scooped alongside meat or mixed in a salad, peas are sure to liven up any spring dish.

At your next get-together, trade in the carrots and ranch for Giada’s Sun-dried Tomatoes and Peas on Endive Spears from cookingchanneltv.com. When pureed, the peas and sun-dried tomatoes take on a light dip texture, making this appetizer a classy starter to any meal.

For a vibrant green dish to match the blooming plants outside, try this Pea, Feta and Mint Salad With Pistachios from food.com. Sweet sautéed onions, tangy crumbled feta cheese and crisp peas combine for light-yet-satisfying salad, perfect for a simple lunch or dinner.

Dress up those drab frozen peas with Bobby Flay’s classic recipe for Peas With Shallots and Pancetta from foodnetwork.com. Salty and robust, pancetta adds a perfect contrast to the delicate flavors of sweet shallots and the crunch of green peas.

Michael Chiarello’s Spring Pea Soup from food2.com is a cinch to make and filled with fresh garden ingredients, like leeks, celery, English peas and thyme. Whip up a batch of this creamy soup any night of the week.

Justin Bieber Ice Sculpture: Pretty Cool, Right?

by in Behind the Scenes, News, March 3rd, 2011

Justin Bieber ice sculpture by Ice Brigades
Ice Brigade ice sculptor extraordinaire Randy Finch chills out with his Justin Bieber ice sculpture.

Baby, baby oh: Ice sculptor Randy Finch, star of Ice Brigade, chips away at massive blocks of ice with cool tools and an artist’s hand. His latest subject? Pop star rock star teen star everywhere Justin Bieber. Happy 17th Birthday, Justin! Nice haircut, Biebs. Up next: Selena Gomez. Maybe. Never Say Never.

Tonight at 10 pm ET, watch as Randy and his crew head to Michigan to design an entire lounge–complete with a working bar, sushi station and pool table. Cool stuff.

What celebrity would you most like to see as an ice sculpture?


Food Obsessed: Mac ‘N’ Cheese

by in View All Posts, March 3rd, 2011
Alton

I don’t clearly remember the first time I had macaroni and cheese. It’s just always been there. The first time I made mac ‘n’ cheese, my friends and I made it out of a box and we added Bac-O’s for flavor. It wasn’t very good, but it wasn’t bad either. Lesson learned: even bad mac ‘n’ cheese can be delicious.

It wasn’t until I was an adult and eating in restaurants that I realized how good a real baked shells and cheese could be. I became obsessed with finding down-home cheesy perfection.

Chat ‘N’ Chew, a downtown NYC staple, has one of my favorite basic baked versions. It’s not fancy, but you get a lot of it, and it hits that perfect blend of crispy topping, warm cheese and noodle-y goodness.

When I’m craving a taste of my Bac-O’s disaster, I indulge in Tipsy Parson‘s Mac ‘N’ Cheese with slab bacon. The smoky flavor perfectly slices through the sharp Vermont cheddar and delivers an extra protein punch.

More recently, the newly opened Little Cheese Pub has set my obsession on its head with rotating versions of the comfort classic. The Dutch Kas Mac has all the traditional elements, but the cheese is Gouda and it’s topped with beer pretzels. It’s exactly what mac ‘n’ cheese should taste like, but somehow better. They also have versions with Manchego and mozzarella cheese. It’s practically criminal.

Hungry yet? Try one of our chefs’ versions at home or tell us where the best mac ‘n’ cheese is in your town.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

by in News, March 2nd, 2011

Dr. Suess Cupcakes From Cupcakes Take the Cake

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, would be 107 today. We’re celebrating this beloved author with recipes that match up with some of his best-known books. Oh, the dishes we’ll cook!

Sweet and savory Seussical fare »

Side Dish: More Food on the Web

by in View All Posts, March 1st, 2011
Consider Yourself Fueled - Image Courtesy Food Network Magazine

Tacos With a Side of Gasoline: The Wall Street Journal highlights a new trend: the gas station taqueria. From California to Maine, you can fuel up on both tacos and gas at these five spots – so chose your route accordingly. [wsj.com]

New Mexico Chilly On Other Chiles: The state’s chile industry has taken a financial hit from foreign produce exporters to its south. Thus the New Mexico Chile Advertising Act has been proposed, which would make it illegal to advertise any of this heated product as local when it’s not. “This is not so much an issue of policing,” Jaye Hawkins, executive director of the New Mexico Chile Association told the Times. “[It’s about] making sure consumers can be sure they are getting New Mexico chile when that’s what they think they’re buying.” [nytimes.com]

Ben & Jerry’s Newest Flavor: The newest ice cream to be produced by Vermont’s finest is called Late Night Snack, and it’s inspired by comedian Jimmy Fallon. If you’ve ever considered removing your couch cushions and dropping their underlying crumbs into ice cream, then this might be your new favorite flavor. It boasts a creamy vanilla base which is swirled with salted caramel, but the real selling point is the fudge-covered potato chip clusters. [newyork.grubstreet.com]

How to Pose Like a Chef: In more Saturday Night Live-alum news, Portlandia’s Fred Armisen’s stars in this hysterical attempt to pose like a chef for a photo shoot. See what happens when a gallon of milk gets involved. [eater.com]

Here’s our round-up of food news, trends and happenings across the web. Check back for more, and tell us what else you’re loving in the comments

Bake Peanut Butter Cookies Today

by in Recipes, March 1st, 2011
Sunny's Peanut Butter Cookies
Happy National Peanut Butter Day! Follow Sunny's lead and add a fun strawberry jam center to your peanut butter cookies.

When you think of the perfect peanut butter cookie what do you see, taste and smell? Sugary criss-crosses, the crunch of peanuts, warm baked goodness, grandma’s kitchen, City Bakery in New York City (where the most intensely peanut butter-y cookie in the world is baked)? These nostalgic, everyday cookies are true favorites appropriate for any occasion, any season, anytime whatsoever. But today they’re especially appropriate — celebrate March 1st, National Peanut Butter Day, by baking a batch of perfect peanut butter cookies.

Start by picking out a new favorite peanut butter cookie recipe from Food Network Chefs.

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Scene at South Beach: Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach

by in News, February 28th, 2011
The Ace of Cakes Duff Goldman
The Ace of Cakes himself, Duff Goldman, hosted The Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach party at SOBE.

Saturday night at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival food celebs and fans attended a party inspired by the popular FN show Best Thing I Ever Ate, with a little South Beach twist — “Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach” hosted by Duff Goldman. Food Network and Cooking Channel chefs didn’t cook but instead picked their favorite beach foods to be served up at the event and then mixed and mingled with hungry fans.

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Chopped All-Stars: Celebrity Chefs Compete for Charity

by in Shows, February 27th, 2011

Chopped All-StarsOn Chopped All-Stars, 16 chefs you know and love are competing to win $50,000 for their favorite charity. Check out which organization each chef is playing for.

Read about the chefs’ charities

Scene at South Beach: Bobby Flay Hosts Bubble Q

by in View All Posts, February 26th, 2011
Host Bobby Flay and Iron Chef Michael Symon Sample Barbecue

What’s better than a beachside barbecue? One sparkling with celebrity chefs and lots and lots of champagne. The stars came out last night for South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Bubble Q to meet up with host Bobby Flay and sample smoky wares from Giada De Laurentiis, Todd English, Al Roker, Chris Lilly, Iron Chef Cat Cora and more. We also spied Guy Fieri and Michael Symon at the event — take a peek at the action!

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