With only a month or so of summer weather left, now is the time to start planning that backyard get-together you’ve been meaning to have. Who better to provide tips for a stellar shindig than your favorite Food Network personalities? We went straight to the sources at the Food Network’s Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival to learn how to throw the ultimate summer soiree.
Get grilling (even if you don’t have a grill)
“You can grill in the oven,” says Pat Neely, host of “Down Home with the Neelys.” One secret ingredient for Neely-approved ribs you can make in your own home? Hickory chips. “As the chips get really warm they will create a smoke that will flavor the ribs,” he says. For the perfect side dish, “just roast some veggies,” adds Gina Neely, Pat’s wife and co-host.
Have a killer soundtrack
“You have to have Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, ‘Summertime,’” says former radio DJ Sunny Anderson, host of “Cooking for Real.” “Honestly, every radio station I ever worked at, I would wait for the first hit of summer, not the official day, to go to my program director and say, ‘Can I play?’ It just feels to me like the beginning of summer. Then I would say something like the Beach Boys [begins to sing "Kokomo"] — you need some background, outdoorsy stuff. And then Billy Ocean [begins to sing "Caribbean Queen"]. I love The Weeknd, this group outside of Canada, they sound like ‘90s R&B but slick and smooth. Of course I like Jay [Z] and Rihanna and Drake and stuff like that.”
Prepare a simple dish
“I think seafood is the easiest for people to cook because it’s fast,” says Robert Irvine, the host of “Dinner: Impossible.” “It takes three minutes to cook fish, no matter how thick it is, either side. You leave it to rest for five minutes after that. One of the biggest misconceptions about fish is you gotta cook it ‘til that white gummy stuff comes out. You don’t need to. When you cook fish, you literally take a piece of fish, a hot pan — I only use grapeseed oil because it gets a higher burning point — get it smoking, put the fish in, leave it three minutes, turn it over, three minutes, take it out, remove the pan from the heat and leave it. It’s not getting cold and it will continue to cook — it’s called carryover cooking, and that’s what we always forget.”
And here’s an easy recipe straight from Irvine: “I would take [wild] salmon, season it with salt and pepper. Take crabmeat in its purest form, a little bit of mayonnaise, a hard boiled egg and chopped parsley, mix [everything] together, top the salmon and put it in the oven. With that, I would take vegetables such as any type of mushrooms, slice them, broccoli, thinly sliced, cauliflower in florets. I would then saute them with butter, a little red onion [and] lemon juice. Once that’s done, add a little bit of butter to it. [Put] the vegetables on the bottom, then the fish. That’s it. Serve with half a lemon.”
Don’t stress about it
Allow Guy Fieri, host of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” to explain how. “To me, it’s releasing yourself of this bind, this tie, that you have to perform at this superstar chef level,” he says. “Cooking is experimenting, and learning, and realizing, and adapting, and considering, and it’s calculated risks, it's all these pieces. We get ourselves into these pent-up situations, like ‘I got the mother-in-law coming over, I gotta cook for her’ — Relax. Realize that every chef standing in front of you has made ridiculous mistakes.”