by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, November 1st, 2014
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, October 18th, 2014
Turning the clocks back an hour feels like an unofficial start of winter, ever since the pumpkin spice latte decided to start making appearance since approximately August. (Technically I realize this is not true, but it sure feels that way.) Suddenly, the days will whiz by, as we speed our way to 2015, cooking and eating every step of the way, and sitting down to a dinner table with the windows newly darkened by night.
Which means: Turn on the ovens and braise some meat! So, in that spirit, let me give you a quick primer on this fantastic wintertime technique.
What is braising?
Braising is a method of cooking meat slowly in moist heat, usually with part of the meat submerged in an aromatic liquid. Often a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven is used – the meat, vegetables and liquid are put into the Dutch oven, covered and then cooked over gentle, even, low heat for several hours.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, In Season, October 4th, 2014
I was chatting with one of my girlfriends on the phone a few days ago. She’s expecting her first baby in a few months and is balancing that with a full-time career — two big tasks that I know from experience can exhaust even the most-energetic person. I had a sense of wanting to jump through the telephone line (and across the 2,500 miles that separate us) to bring her dinner. Yes, it would take a task off her plate, but more than that, preparing food for someone sends a message of love. Food nourishes both body and soul, which is why a shared meal comforts when we grieve, celebrates when we are joyful and is the catalyst for getting acquainted (think how many marriages began with a dinner date). Food connects us.
Why not connect with someone this week?
We’ve all heard the timesaving advice to “cook once, eat twice” before, which refers to making double dinner and freezing half for a future meal. But what if this week you cooked once, ate once and gave the other half to someone whose day could use a little lift? Maybe you happen to know of a new mom who would rather get an extra hour of sleep than cook, or perhaps you read about a neighbor who just lost a loved one and would appreciate the thoughtfulness. But more likely, you don’t have someone top-of-mind who you know needs a meal. Think a little harder. Because almost everyone is going through something, and everyone loves to feel connected, even if it’s just on a stressful day when the kids are out of control, or traffic was extra-awful or the electricity bill was through the roof.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, September 20th, 2014
It’s officially apple-picking season (truly officially, as October is National Apple Month), so it seems only right to share some ideas for apples. Everywhere I turn I see photos of friends plucking juicy fruit from trees, placing it in woodsy-looking mini barrels or baskets, destined for cinnamon-y pies or fragrant cobblers. This time of year, I crave the chill of autumn and the warming sip of hot cider. I crave Vermont. I spent four years in Burlington for college and the state has never left my soul. And in Vermont in fall, we picked apples. Now that I live in Southern California, I admit that I feel a bit nostalgic for the postcard-worthy foliage scenes, the smell of fresh maple syrup and the plethora of apples that had us cooking all season long.
If you’ve been apple picking, or even to the grocery store lately (I saw Granny Smiths the other day for .49 cents a pound!), you might well have an apple stock you are looking to use. What to do with ‘dem apples?
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, September 6th, 2014
We all want more time. And we all want to be healthy. So when I develop a strategy that meets both goals, I get excited about sharing it with you. Today I’m sharing my roasted veggie strategy. It’s really quite simple: Bake up a tray or two of veggies on the weekend to stick in the fridge and use for recipes all week. Roasting the veggies brings out the vegetables’ natural earthy sweetness, and it makes them last for days in the refrigerator, which means you can make up a batch of veggies on Monday to use all week for recipes. You can combine veggies freely, making pretty color combinations or simply leveraging whatever happens to be in your crisper drawer. This is my favorite kind of convenience food — one I make myself.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, August 21st, 2014
My kids have been in school for exactly four days. Which is about how long it took to remind me that the summer routine of winging it for dinner won’t work anymore. Gone are the afternoons of lazily brainstorming dinner ideas at 5 p.m. from the comfort of a pool lounge chair (“grilled salmon or chicken, sweetie?”). In September, 5 p.m. without a dinner plan wreaks havoc on the delicate soccer-school-homework-ballet ecosphere of our home.
Anyone out there relate? What do you do?
Some common strategies: Race around like a madwoman cobbling together something – anything – that will feed the hungry bellies around the table, letting nutrition take a break for one tiny night. (Anyone?) Go to the drive-thru, or order delivery. Serve cereal (again).
by Melissa d'Arabian in How-to, Recipes, July 26th, 2014
My littlest daughter was always complaining that she was too short, whining about being the shrimp of the family, until the day came when she could brush her teeth without a stool. Suddenly, she realized how much taller she was, and how the tiny bits of daily growth had sneakily added up to something quite significant. That is the nature of slow-but-steady change. We had a similar experience on vacation this summer, except that it was about the tremendous growth we’ve witnessed in our picky eaters.
I’ll back up. I have four daughters, and two and half of them are picky eaters. While I’d had some success in improving their eating with a few strategies here and there, I wanted to see a more fundamental shift, not just an occasional willingness to eat a vegetable. About a year and a half ago, I started researching picky eating. I suspected the story was bigger than finding a magical recipe that would make my kids like spinach. My research confirmed my suspicions: Picky eating was a complex issue with many causes. And each one of my kids probably identified with several of the root causes to varying degrees. So I decided to create a program that focused on root causes, something beyond tips and recipes. I invited Food Network viewers into my home to watch and learn along with us. The result was the unique Food Network Web series called The Picky Eaters Project. By the time we completed the program ourselves and the cameras came down from our family dining room (we called it “carrot cam” because it spied on us all throughout dinner!), my girls were eating foods I never dreamed they would (Margaux liked peas?!) and had started making their own wise choices about healthy eating (Charlotte was reading cereal labels before choosing a box). The response from fellow parents of picky eaters was tremendous, and we were thrilled that The Picky Eaters Project was included as a Webby honoree last year.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, Recipes, July 19th, 2014
ICYMI — I am sharing the joy of using a slow cooker as a companion to your outdoor barbecue. This is part two of a three-part series, but don’t worry, you can catch up quickly by reading here. We’ll wait. You back? Good. Wasn’t that cool? Baking in your slow cooker? Who knew, right? But let’s set the cobbler aside for a moment and get to our next function of the handy slow cooker in the world of summer barbecues. When I think of outdoor grilling, I think of MEAT. So for my next benefit:
You can precook bone-in or tougher meats for better (and easier!) results on the grill.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Food Network Chef, Holidays, June 28th, 2014
Who doesn’t love coming home to the aromas of a slow cooker filled with bubbling chili, steaming chicken and dumplings, or hearty beef stew on a cold day? The slow cooker is a staple for the busy person’s winter menu rotation. But come Memorial Day, many of us tuck the slow cooker away in the garage on top of a carton of wool mittens and mothballs, not to be seen before the first chill of Halloween.
I want to change that, one household at a time. I’d like to make the case for slow-cooking in summer. In fact, I think it is the most-underused companion to your summer outdoor barbecue.
by Melissa d'Arabian in Family, Food Network Chef, June 13th, 2014
Fourth of July is coming up soon, which reminds me of that time we almost set the house on fire. No, not the time my little brother got into the fireworks when we were vacationing in Nags Head in the early ’80s. I mean last year.
I’ll back up and remind us all: No one is perfect. Even a Food Network star will hit a snag in the kitchen every so often. But the savvy cook knows how to deal with these mistakes and smooth over a tiny hiccup so that no one will even notice. Overcook a roast and I’ll show you how to turn it into French dip sandwiches with lots of au jus.
But what about the bigger blunders? The ones that can’t be covered up with an extra ladle of sauce? I invite you to think about your biggest culinary mistake, ever. And now, prepare to feel better about yourself in the kitchen.
Saturday evening was meant to be our anniversary celebration. Philippe and I were planning on grilling outside with our four daughters, ending the evening with s’mores around the firepit and an exchange of traditionally themed gifts (steel for year 11; I went with beverage bins). The kids were upstairs showering after our (sandy) beach afternoon. I hummed along to the music the girls had put on the stereo, grabbed the long, skinny lighter and headed outside to start the barbecue. I opened the (steel!) hood and placed the lighter on the ignition burner, and through the grates small, beady eyes looked up at me. I froze. A grayish-brown puff starting running wild around the inside of the grill, searching for an exit, making tiny scratching sounds that gave me the chills and basically made me want to scream. I didn’t, but only because I now I have kids and I can’t scare them. (This never-let-them-see-you-sweat instinct to put their needs before my own comes from parenting.)
I hollered upstairs to Philippe, doing my best to convey a sense of calm and confidence while infusing just enough controlled urgency so that he would run downstairs and catch the mouse before it ran into the house. (I think it’s understood that I didn’t close the back doors when I raced into the house?) But kids are smart and know when something’s up. They raced downstairs even faster than Philippe, screaming in half-fear, half-delight at the possibility of a mouse-in-house crisis. There was talk of keeping him and naming him Snowflake. (Did I mention he was dingy brownish gray?) Or maybe Cuddles. The girls jumped up on the couch, squealing out of fear that the mouse would run over their feet.