by Melissa d’Arabian
It’s the finale, so I’m tempted to give myself longer than 30 seconds to pick my menu. But I won’t. So here go the final Chopped Champions baskets:
Appetizer basket: pig ears, ramps, pine nuts and apple strudel
Two tricky ingredients in this one – pig ears and ramps. Just kidding. Apple strudel? Yikes. My mind races first to April Bloomfield’s gorgeous cookbook A Girl and Her Pig, and I am inspired to fry up the pig ears. How will they get tender so quickly? By boiling, slicing very thinly, dipping in batter and frying. I get the ears into the boiling water, which I salt. And then I turn my attention to the strudel. I make a quick decision to separate the phyllo from the apple filling and turn it into two ingredients. I crisp up the phyllo in the oven and make strips for a panzanella (bread salad). I caramelize the ramps, toast the pine nuts and blend up the apple filling with apple cider vinegar and olive oil for a vinaigrette. Chop up bitter greens, toss with the pine nuts, ramps, dressing and maybe some sweet yellow tomato if available. Top with my strudel strips and fried ear “cracklings.” Simple.
by Melissa d’Arabian
You know my rules: 30 seconds to decide. Longer to write (but not much).
Appetizer basket: sour-apple martini mix, mortadella, white asparagus and fennel
I love this basket and don’t want to overthink it. The asparagus and mortadella make me think of a chopped salad and I stick to the idea. I peel the tough outer part of the asparagus and poach it in salty water, brown sugar and white wine. I get the fennel sliced up with some cubed onion and tart apple (which will bring play against the sour-apple martini mix that I plan to use in the dressing), tossed with a little olive oil and get them roasting to bring out its earthy sweetness. I fry up the mortadella and chop, making my own take on bacon bits. I chop up some greens from the pantry (arugula or watercress). I make a reduction from the apple cider vinegar and sour-apple martini mix. I assemble the salad: chop all the prepped ingredients, toss with olive oil and a bit of cider vinegar. Top with a bit of goat cheese and drizzle with the apple martini reduction.
by Melissa d’Arabian
Last week was fun. So now I’m back, this time playing virtual Chopped 30,000 feet in the sky (I forgot my headset and how many times can I see Arbitrage anyway?), so here goes. My 30 seconds to plan starts now!
Appetizer basket: smoked eel, cream cheese spread, quince paste and haricot verts
Smoky eel, cream cheese and sweet quince all work well together, but how to get the green beans in on the act? I first think of my daughters’ favorite, “crunchy green beans,” which is a nice way of saying batter-dipped and fried. A fritto misto it is. First I’ll get the oil heating. Then I take inspiration from crab puffs and create a little dumpling out of wonton skins (I’m pretty sure they have those in the pantry, but if not, then some other kind of dough or bread rolled super thin) filled with the eel and cream cheese, a little onion and a touch of smoked paprika.
by Melissa d’Arabian
I have to admit that watching Chopped actually stresses me out so much that if I watch when it airs late in the evening, I find that I can’t sleep. My husband thinks it’s “fun” to press pause and spit out quickly what he would do if he were getting the basket. Clearly he has never been in the Chopped kitchen himself. I can’t watch Chopped without feeling like I’m the one who actually has to pull off a culinary miracle in minutes, but for you, dear readers, I will take one for the team. I will give myself 30 seconds for each round to come up with a menu. Thirty seconds; that’s it (I’m on the honor system here, I realize). Time starts — now.
Appetizer basket: Fruitcake, shad roe sack, vodka and Tokyo scallions
I imagine opening the basket on that first course and pulling out fruit cake, my mind racing to the brandy-soaked monstrosity that my mom used to make for months leading up to the holidays. (Is this the Chopped basket where all fruitcakes go to die?) My mind would be spinning in despair, but not for long because the rest of the basket has potential — shad roe sack is amazing when simply sauteed, vodka and Tokyo scallions for the most part fit into the flavor profile. Even our (fr)enemy the fruitcake can play along nicely, adding some sweetness to play off the richness of the roe sack (think seared fois gras with berry compote). The biggest challenge for me is getting the onion not to overpower the rich roe sack.
We caught up with Ten Dollar Dinners hostess, Melissa d’Arabian, to chat about her holiday plans. We asked her 10 rapid-fire questions to help us get to know her holiday personality.
For a holiday drink, eggnog, apple cider or hot chocolate?
Hot chocolate! I love to serve it with homemade flavored marshmallows.
Christmas breakfast or Christmas dinner?
Dinner. I love a long dinner at the holidays, relaxing and catching up with family while the kids are playing with their presents.
Ham, beef or lamb?
Beef. There’s nothing like a perfectly done beef roast. I’ve perfected the art of cooking even an inexpensive cut of roast (the recipe’s in my cookbook, Ten Dollar Dinners).
Find out if Melissa eats fruitcake
Melissa d’Arabian can now add another title to her long list of accomplishments: cookbook author. Her first cookbook, Ten Dollar Dinners, is officially available today and it’s packed with fresh meals — more specifically, 140 mouthwatering recipes, like Caprese Tartlets, Slow-Cooker Tortilla Soup, Grilled Two-Cheese Burgers and a Classic Apple Tart, for any night of the week.
She also includes tips to save you time and money like using leftover wine (see photo below, too). According to Melissa, “If you have a little leftover wine in a bottle, fill an ice cube tray half-full with wine and then freeze (don’t fill it all the way, it won’t freeze). The next time you need to deglaze a pan or make a quick pan sauce, toss in a few cubes for an extra layer of flavor that didn’t cost you an extra dime.”
You can order a copy right now, but we’d like to give you a chance to win one that Melissa has autographed. All you have to do is comment on this post by telling us which one of Melissa d’Arabian’s recipes is your favorite and why. We’re giving away five signed copies of her cookbook to randomly selected and very lucky commenters.
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We have a star-studded cast available to answer your questions this week on Food Network’s Facebook page.
Join us Monday at 3:30pm EST on the Food Network Facebook page to chat with past Food Network Star winner Melissa d’Arabian about the release of her first cookbook, Ten Dollar Dinners.
And on Tuesday we’ll be hosting a chat with Robert Irvine on the Food Network Facebook page to talk about the 50th Restaurant: Impossible episode, which will premiere August 22 at 9p/8c. We’ll also be chatting about Wedding: Impossible, a special presentation that airs Saturday August 18 at 10p/11c and features Robert’s wedding to professional wrestler Gail Kim.
Mark your calendars and get your questions ready for Melissa and Robert.
In just two weeks, Melissa d’Arabian’s first cookbook will officially be available — Ten Dollar Dinners the book is packed with tips to elevate simple, fresh meals any night of the week along with 140 mouthwatering recipes. We caught up with Melissa on the set of her show to talk about what makes her book stand out, several key takeaways and the home cook’s best friend — the pantry.
Towards the beginning of the book, you talk about strategies for saving and list your top 10 commandments of Ten Dollar Dinners. If you had to pick just three strategies for saving money, what would they be?
1. Incorporate bean night once a week: Contrary to the title, that doesn’t mean just beans, it’s any sort of inexpensive protein. If you have a few recipes in your pocket that you know are very inexpensive and are driven by an inexpensive protein you will automatically see savings in your grocery bill every month. Think about beans, eggs, pizza or a meatless meal.
2. Try clear-the-pantry week: This is a week when you really don’t buy any other groceries — you dig into your pantry and you really try to stick to the food you already have. You’d be amazed what you can get away with. It’s a great opportunity to see what you have lurking in the pantry — and who doesn’t have frozen meats tucked away in the freezer? Let’s face it, if you don’t use it, it’s going to go bad and that’s wasting money.
Find out what Melissa uses the most in her pantry
Before tuning into the much-anticipated finale of Food Network Star tonight at 9/8c to find out which contestant — Ivan, Michele, Martie or Justin — will finally have their culinary dreams realized, watch a special episode of Chopped airing at 8/7c. Watch as past FN Star winners Jeff Mauro, Melissa d’Arabian, Aarti Sequeira and Amy Finley face the dreaded chopping block, judged by this year’s Star mentors Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Alton Brown. With unusual ingredients, you can certainly expect the unexpected from this showdown.
While Aarti has competed on Chopped once before, this will be Melissa’s and Jeff’s first time each on the show. “Food Network Star was still pretty fresh in my mind and I was anxious about doing another food competition,” Jeff says of being a contestant on Chopped. Jeff and Melissa both agree their first experience on the show was extremely stressful. “No matter who you’re up against in the Chopped kitchen, chances are you’re most likely battling yourself,” Jeff says. “We had a ton of fun and laughs during the process, though!” Aarti says that being on Chopped once before helped shape her mentality going into the show the second time around: “The last time I competed on Chopped, frankly I was so terrified of the whole thing that I couldn’t focus! This time, I decided to leave my ego at the door.”
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This Saturday marks France’s answer to the Fourth of July, Bastille Day. If you can’t make it to Paris to catch the fireworks over the Seine, unleash your inner Francophile at home with a French-inspired feast. Some of our favorite classics — like cheesy onion soup and rich beef bourguignon — don’t exactly lend themselves to balmy July temperatures, but our Food Network stars have plenty of summer-appropriate recipes with French flair.
Ina Garten, who has an apartment in Paris, loves to put her own spin on the dishes she enjoys there, like this Zucchini Gratin from her Barefoot in Paris cookbook. Melissa d’Arabian, whose husband is French, creates lots of recipes inspired by France that always have her no-fuss, affordable touch. Bobby Flay trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York, so even though he’s the king of all-American burgers and anything grilled, many of his recipes are rooted in France.
Mix and match some of their French-inspired favorites