Alton Brown has been serving up Food Network fare for years. (Jeremiah Alley)
Celebrity chef Alton Brown, making a stop at the Fox Theatre Saturday as part of his “Edible Inevitable Tour,” is known for whipping together culinary curiosity with food science and a little humor.
An alumnus of the New England Culinary Institute, Brown says he ditched his career as a commercial and music video director to make food TV more interesting and educational.
His first show, “Good Eats,” ran for more than a decade on the Food Network. The show blended history of food, the science of cooking and some goofy characters, and aired on Food Network 1999-2011 before Brown ended the run after nearly 250 episodes. He also brought Japanese cooking competition “Iron Chef” to American audiences and is a host/mentor on “Next Food Network Star.”
His latest show, which debuted this summer, is a more intense reality-style game show called “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
For the home cook, the premise of “Iron Chef America” — to prepare several well-plated dishes in just 60 minutes using an ingredient that you just found out about — can seem daunting and stressful. But here’s some insider insight: Brown says chefs are given a list of possible secret ingredients about 10 days before the show is taped.
“We do that because you can’t completely broadside somebody,” he says. “You could, but it wouldn’t be as interesting. If you don’t give them some direction then they don’t bring anything (to cook with), or they attempt to bring everything. But they don’t know beyond that.”
Brown says people also ask how the chefs start to cook right away. Just like cooking at home, there’s always something to get started on, he said.
“No matter what is under that (secret ingredient) dome, somebody’s going to boil water, somebody’s going to cut up some onions ... those are things that are going to happen.”
Plus, there’s a bit of editing involved, he explained.
“It’s a one-hour battle and it’s a one-hour TV show with about 18 minutes of commercials,” Brown said. “We cut out the part where they’re all standing around talking to each other.”
Without the pressure of judges or time limits, take your time and enjoy making two fall recipes from Brown: the refreshing apple and Brussels sprout salad here, or his Whole Pumpkin Pie Soup, baked right in the gourd (Page 2D).
Apple, Cranberry and Brussels Sprouts Salad
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, 2013
1 pound Brussels sprouts, rinsed and trimmed
3 ounces pecans, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
4 ounces dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
2 large fuji apples
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
Slice the Brussels sprouts using the thinnest slicing disc of a food processor. If you do not have a food processor, you may slice thinly with a knife or a mandoline.
Set a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium high heat and add the pecans. Cook, stirring continually, until the pecans darken in color and begin to give off a toasted aroma, approximately 2 minutes. Add the butter to the pan and stir to combine. Once the butter has melted, add the Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper and cook, stirring continually, until the color brightens and the sprouts are just tender, approximately 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cranberries, toss and cool slightly while preparing the apples.
Chop the apples into fine matchsticks using either a knife or the julienne blade on a mandoline. Toss the apples with the apple cider and nutmeg.
Add the apple mixture to the Brussels sprouts, toss to combine well and serve.
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving: 282 calories; 16 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 51 percent calories from fat); 35 g carbohydrates; 16 mg cholesterol; 340 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 7 g fiber.