The great thing about bacon is that everyone loves it and a little goes a long way to enhance a dish. You don’t need to pile it on to get huge flavor. I mean, look at the calories and fat in this feast — it proves that you can enjoy baco...
It’s that time of the year again when eating massive amounts of guacamole and enjoying a margarita is 100 percent acceptable. Yes, that’s right: Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner.
This year’s Cinco festival is even more exciting than usual because my first cookbook, Absolutely Avocados, is out and about, and being sold all across the country. It has a little bit of everything from breakfast to dessert — and it’s all about avocados.
If you’re set to make the ultimate guacamole this upcoming weekend, keep my five rules, or guidelines, in mind:
1. Avocados: There’s nothing worse than spending a few bucks on avocados at the market and then getting home only to realize they are overripe and brown on the inside, right? The trick to buying perfect avocados each and every time is looking for an avocado that is just the slightest bit tender. It shouldn’t be mushy, and it shouldn’t be rock hard. Rather, give it a gentle squeeze; if it gives the slightest bit, then you’re good to go.
While there were indeed substantial problems with the food as well as the interior design at Smitty’s Restaurant in Clearwater, Fla., the gravest issue came in the form of bugs — an entire infestation of cockroaches, in fact. Overrun with these crawly creatures, husband-and-wife owners Gus and Evi Gialelis’ business faced certain closure if Robert Irvine and his Restaurant: Impossible team couldn’t locate the source of the swarm. But to do so they’d have to rely on a professional exterminator, something that would significantly drain the overall renovation budget.
“I have never come across a restaurant this bad in my whole career,” Robert told Gus and Evi, who felt personally defeated in the wake of their struggling business. He initially questioned whether “this may be the one restaurant that’s too far gone,” but Robert’s not one to walk away from a mission, of course. And in just two days, he reopened the doors at Smitty’s to a welcoming, clean restaurant that was dishing out quality food. FN Dish checked in with Evi a few weeks after the reopening to find out how the restaurant is doing today.
Smitty’s has seen an increase in business since the show taped, and Evi says she’s noticing many first-time customers at the restaurant.
What do these four celebrities with different backgrounds have in common? Judy Gold, Johnny Weir, Joey Fatone and Laila Ali all share a love of cooking, and they proved that in the Chopped Kitchen tonight. Only one advanced to compete in the fourth and final spot in the finale, however, and is one step closer to winning $50,000 for his or her charity.
If you missed the show and recorded it, don’t read any further — FN Dish is about to break down the episode and chat with the runner-up.
Earlier this week, FN Dish caught up with Aarón Sánchez for a Facebook chat about Season 3 of Chopped All-Stars. Aarón answered questions about the current season and what it was like competing in Season 1. He also chatted about some of his favorite foods and gave some tips on cooking the classic Mexican dish of mole.
Every bit as impressive as towering cakes, chocolate tarts and fruity pies, this week’s Most Popular Pin of the Week is a far-simpler-to-make dessert that’s refreshingly light and zesty. Giada’s top-rated Lemon Ricotta Cookies With Lemon Glaze (pictured above) are buttery bites laced with creamy ricotta cheese and fresh lemon juice, plus they’re easy enough to bake for your family but elegant enough that you can serve to guests at a party.
For more recipe inspiration for sweet-tooth-satisfying desserts, visit Food Network’s Let’s Bake Board on Pinterest.
Get the recipe: Giada’s Lemon Ricotta Cookies With Lemon Glaze
When it comes to critiquing Chopped competitors’ unusual dishes, the judges aren’t shy about sharing their reactions to the meal; they’re quick to offer opportunities for improvement and suggestions for better offerings. If battles suddenly were to be flipped, however, and the judges faced off with the same mystery baskets as the contestants, would they be able to succeed where others have been chopped?
Last month FN Dish broke the news that for the first time, the judges will be taking over the kitchen in online-only After Hours battles, and on Tuesday, April 30, members of the panel will go head-to-head-to-head with the same ingredients that will be featured on that night’s show. After watching the competition unfold, it will be up to them to take what they’ve learned from the chefs — both successes and missteps — and try their hands at creating plates within the same set of rules and time constraints.
Take a look at the sneak-peek photo above from Tuesday’s judges’ battle. As Chris is concentrating on plating his dish, Aarón and Marc drop by for an early look at what he’s made. Are they there to distract Chris in the final few minutes of cooking, or do you think they’re asking to taste what he’s made? Will the judges prove to competitors everywhere that cooking against the Chopped clock isn’t so difficult after all, or will they struggle like seasons’ worth of competitors have before them?
A quick history lesson: Cinco de Mayo was born on the fifth day of the fifth month of the year 1862, when General Ignacio Zaragoza, with the support of local civilians and Zacapoaxtla Indians, led 2,000 poorly equipped Mexican soldiers to victory over 6,000 French cavalry and infantrymen at the Battle of Puebla. Though Zaragoza’s success was short-lived — the following year, French forces swept through Puebla en route to Mexico City, where they managed to overthrow the still-young Mexican Republic — his victory lives on in Mexico, where Cinco de Mayo is a minor national holiday, primarily observed in Puebla and Mexico City. And also more obscurely but perhaps more passionately, in the United States, where in recent decades Cinco de Mayo has morphed into a major festival of Chicano culture.
It’s with this latter, domestic incarnation in mind that, for this month’s cookbook recommendations, I have plucked some choice morsels detailing the remarkable contributions of Mexican-Americans to regional cooking in the United States. So, just in time for Cinco de Mayo, here is a virtual tour of Mexican-influenced border cooking — from Tex-Mex to Cal-Mex, with a stop along the way in Santa Fe, N.M. — in four cookbooks that beautifully sketch the cultural wellsprings from which these regional cuisines were born.