Food Network’s Alex Guarnaschelli is gearing up for the release of her next big project — Cook It Up — a cookbook written with her daughter, Ava Clark! The chef shared exclusive details with Closer about working with her talented child in the kitchen as well as preparing for the upcoming Flavors Of The Open. The event will be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens on August 24 and will showcase dishes from esteemed culinary icons.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Flavors Of The Open event and why you decided to return this year? What dishes will you be serving up?
“I am serving up one of my signature dishes from my restaurant menu at fair. Very excited about it. This event, in general, is a chance for the public and press to familiarize themselves with all the wonderful things that will be served up at the U.S. Open! ”
Tickets and more information for the Flavors Of The Open event can be found here.
What are some of your favorite hassle-free dishes to make during the summer months?
“With tomatoes and corn, being at the center of the table, roasted corn, salads or oven-dried tomatoes make wonderful side dishes. A stuffed tomato with ground meat or street corn on the cob rolled in cheese can also be sublime creations. I like dishes that are easy to make ahead for the summer months. Be on the lookout for a beautiful watermelon and cantaloupe as well. You can purée them to make cocktails or use them for a variety of dishes ranging from first course to dessert.”
What are three staple ingredients that you think everyone should have in their pantry?
“A can of chickpeas makes a great stew or spread for a high protein boost to any meal. Canned tuna or canned anchovies are also a wonderful addition to the table, making anything from salads to sandwiches to little snacks. I keep the container of shelf, stable, chicken or beef broth to make a quick soup or to slow-cook greens and add vegetables to for a quick vegetable stew. ”
You recently wrote a cookbook with your daughter, Ava, called Cook It Up.
“It will come out this September.”
What inspired the project? What was it like working together to come up with recipes?
“Ava and I do a lot of ‘parallel play.’ She’ll cook something and then I’ll cook something and then we’ll meet and enjoy a meal together. We don’t directly collaborate a lot. It’s more like we enjoy working side-by-side in the kitchen together. You will see some recipes are all Ava and some are all me. We ate each other’s creations as the book was being created, which was really eye-opening for both of us. It also made us aware of all the family tradition past and present that found its way into the pages of this book. ”
Has Ava expressed an interest in having her own show on Food Network someday?
“She doesn’t seem to be headed in that direction, and I’m certainly not forcing anything. She just loves food and cooking and for me, that’s good enough!”
How often do you and Ava experiment with new dishes in the kitchen?
“We don’t experiment too much honestly. We get in the mood for something, or we buy certain seasonal ingredients and all of a sudden dinner is ready. I think she really enjoys the seasonality of ingredients and the number of diverse ingredients that can make up a meal. ”
What’s the most rewarding part of being a mom?
“Watching my daughter do something with confidence because she has practiced and has faith in her own abilities.”
Do you have any fun travel plans for the future? Any upcoming projects that you are excited about?
“We hope to go to Vienna for Christmas. Somewhere we’ve both wanted to go to see the holiday traditions at the highest level. Hoping to get to Texas for some great barbecue also.”
What is one piece of advice you would give aspiring chefs who are hoping to launch successful culinary careers?
“Start cooking and then when you’re done, cook some more. And then when you’re done with that, cook more.”
Can you share an additional summer recipe that would be perfect to make for guests on Labor Day?
“Sure, see below!”
My Mother’s Chicken with Barbeque Sauce and Simple Corn on the Cob
My mother would combine everything into a pot and the sauce would just sit and simmer on the stove forever. I remember the smell would be somewhat acrid at first, like vinegar. Then the ginger, spices and lemon would take over and create this wonderful aroma. She would often make a double batch and keep some in the fridge.
Cooking recommendation: This is not an “everywhere” barbecue sauce; it’s really best for chicken and pork but sometimes I make barbecue vegetable steaks or glaze shrimp with it too. This dinner, including the corn, serves 4-6 people although I have known people to eat more than one ear of corn so beware of the deliciousness and simplicity of this dinner. It sneaks up on people.
Shopping tip: Pull back the “silk” of the corn cobs and check the kernels to make sure the ear of corn is fresh and good. It should have plump, firm kernels.
3 cups ketchup
2 cups apple cider vinegar
½ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ cup chili powder
1 large “knob” fresh ginger, cut into ¼ inch round
6 large cloves garlic, sliced thin or “pressed” into the sauce
1 large lemon, cut into ½-inch thick slices
4 pounds chicken parts, a mixture of light and dark meat, all relatively the same size
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour (inactive)
Yield: 4-6 servings
- Make the sauce: In a large pot, combine the ketchup, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, dry mustard, Dijon mustard and chili powder. Whisk to blend. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic and lemon slices. Simmer on the stove for 20-25 minutes until the vinegar mellows slightly. Cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Prepare the chicken: Position two oven racks in the lower 1/3rd and in middle of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Season the chicken parts with salt. Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the barbeque sauce into a medium bowl. Reserve the remaining sauce on the side. Submerge the chicken pieces, 1 by 1, in the sauce and place them on the baking sheets. Reserve any remaining sauce in the bowl.
- Cook and serve the chicken: Place the tray in the oven and bake, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn the pieces on their second side. Use a pastry brush to coat the second side of the chicken with the remaining barbeque sauce from the bowl. Do not reuse the bowl or brush here as it has touched uncooked chicken. Return the tray to the oven and cook 15-20 more minutes. Poke the dark meat with the tip of a small knife; the chicken juices should run “clear” and not pink. (Or cook to 165F) Serve with the remaining reserved sauce, warmed up, on the side.
Simple Corn on the Cob
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 medium ears corn, shucked, inner “silk” completely removed
1 stick unsalted butter
- Get ready: In a medium pot, bring 2 quarts of water with the sugar and salt to a simmer over medium heat.
- Cook the corn: Bring the corn liquid to a boil. Drop the corn into the boiling water, cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes to tenderize and remove starchiness. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water. Drain excess moisture on a kitchen towel. Serve on a platter with the butter on the side.