Foodie star Alton Brown is taking his act on the road
By Candy Williams
Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 7:27 p.m.
Food Network host Alton Brown has proven he's a rock star in and out of the kitchen.
His popular “Good Eats” cooking show — which he created, writes and presents — has attracted a following of foodies that includes nearly 600,000 on Twitter and more than 350,000 on his Facebook page.
Brown has won a Peabody Award for broadcast excellence, the James Beard Award for top food show, and recently was honored as best food TV personality at The Munchies, the culinary equivalent of Hollywood's People's Choice Awards.
In “Good Eats,” Brown not only offers dishes that are easy to prepare, but he explores the science and technique behind them, the best tools used to make them and sometimes their history. “Good Eats” ended production in 2012 after 249 episodes and can still be viewed on Cooking Channel.
Described as “one part Monty Python and one part Julia Child, with a dash of Mr. Wizard,” Brown has dedicated his career to teaching people how to cook while entertaining and astounding them with knowledge along the way.
“My mantra was to educate people and to actually give them the know-how they could use — and to do it in a very subversive kind of way,” Brown says.
And now, after contemplating the notion for a decade, he's taking his show on the road.
“Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour” kicks off Oct. 18, visiting more than 30 cities before his Pittsburgh appearance on Feb. 23 at the Benedum Center. (Tickets are on sale at TrustArts.org and 412-456-6666.)
“I finally came to the conclusion that if I didn't make a hole in my schedule, it was never going to happen,” he says.
His wife, DeAnna, co-executive producer for “Good Eats,” is president of their production company in Atlanta, where they make their home with their daughter, Zoe, 13.
Brown promises plenty of madness and mayhem in his touring appearances, which will include audience participation, puppets, comedy, “strange food demos” that prompt the need for a poncho zone in the first few rows of the theater, and musical performances with his four-piece band.
His vocal renditions of tunes such as “Airport Shrimp Blues,” “TV Cookin'Ain't like No Other Cookin'” and “Pork Chop Blues” will be part of his playlist for a future CD, he says.
But Pittsburgh fans won't have to wait until next year to see him. Brown will visit two Market District stores on June 22 for a tamer appearance and food demo.
“It'll be stuff that's actually within reason,” he says, “although it might be a little twisted, because everything I do is not quite normal.”
Brown, who worked as a cinematographer and video director before attending New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt., makes regular appearances on Food Network's “Iron Chef America,” which will begin filming its ninth season in July. He is host and judge on the reality series, “Next Iron Chef” and was a team mentor along with chefs Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis in Season 8 of “Food Network Star” in 2012.
He's working on a new project, “Foods That Made America,” a four-part mini-series that will air next year, and he has written seven books.
Brown plans to offer one video a week this summer, demonstrating his favorite recipes on his YouTube channel. He says he has embraced new technology and hopes to explore more digital opportunities.
“Now that I have an audience that grew with me, I want to continue to entertain them not restricted by a higher network power,” he says.
So, does he consider cooking a science or an art?
“Cooking is a science that can be expressed in an artful manner,” he says.
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Blueberry Pound Cake
“This cake is a July Fourth tradition in our house,” Alton Brown writes.
Coating the pan with butter and sugar gives the cake a thick, crunchy crust.
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon for the pan
15 ounces (2 cups) sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for the pan
15 ounces (3 cups) flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 dry pint (10 ounces or about 2 cups) fresh blueberries
Strawberries, optional for serving
Whipped cream, optional for serving
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Heavily coat a tube bundt pan with 1 tablespoon butter and 3 tablespoons sugar.
Whisk together 10 ounces (2 cups) flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
Cream the remaining butter and sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. After all 4 eggs are in, add the vanilla extract and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine on low speed. Do not overbeat.
Combine the blueberries with the remaining 5 ounces (1 cup) of flour in a zip-top bag and shake. Fold the berry mixture into the batter. Pour into a prepared pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a probe thermometer comes out clean and registers 210 degrees. Cool it in the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before depanning and cooling completely.
Serve with strawberries and whipped cream.
Makes 12 servings.
Cucumber Lemonade Gin Punch
“The CLGP, as I like to call it, is my favorite summer cocktail,” Alton Brown writes. “On a warm day out on the porch, I just can't imagine anything better. And because the cucumber lemonade is assembled before adding the gin, the base can be served without the booze for anyone not imbibing.
“The cucumbers become a sort of fresh pickle in the lemonade and should be devoured, not discarded.”
4 whole lemons, halved
1⁄2 cup sugar
1 quart water
1 large (9-10 ounces) cucumber, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds on a mandoline
24 ounces (3 cups) gin
Juice the lemons into a large pot and throw the bodies in there, too. Add the sugar to the pot and muddle (or mash with a masher or rolling pin) with the lemon bodies and juice for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the water and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Strain into a 3-quart pitcher and add the cucumber. Steep for 1 hour.
For a punch-bowl quantity: Add 24 ounces of gin and stir to combine. Serve over ice.
For a single cocktail: Place 4 to 5 ice cubes in a rocks glass. Add 11⁄2 ounces of gin and 21⁄2 ounces of lemonade. Stir to combine. Serve immediately.
Makes 16 4-ounce servings.
Grilled Focaccia with Peach and Thyme
Georgia had such a mild winter, the peach crop started early, Alton Brown says. Ripe juicy peaches are best eaten over your kitchen sink or on the back porch where you can let the nectar drip without remorse. When peaches hit their peak in your region, get your fix with this bread without heating up your kitchen.
16 ounces (4 cups) flour
1 envelope instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
10 ounces warm water (about 105 degrees)
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided, not extra virgin
1 tablespoon malted barley syrup
1 large peach, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Combine the flour and yeast in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Add the salt, water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and malted barley syrup.
Start the mixer on low and mix, using the hook attachment, until the dough just comes together. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead for 15 to 20 minutes.
Tear off a small piece of dough, flatten into a disc, and stretch until thin. Hold it up to the light and look to see if the baker's windowpane, or see-though membrane, has formed. If the dough tears before it forms, knead the dough for an additional 5 to 10 minutes on medium speed.
Remove the dough from the mixer and fold onto itself a few times to form a smooth ball.
Coat the stand mixer's work bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
Oil a 12-inch cast-iron pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gently flatten the dough into a disk, place in the prepared pan and cover with a tea towel. Set aside until doubled in volume again, for about 1 hour.
Heat a gas grill to medium.
When the dough has doubled, remove the tea towel and dimple the top of the dough with your fingertips. Brush the top of the dough with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange the peach slices on top of the dough and sprinkle with the thyme and sea salt.
Turn off the grill's middle burner. Place the pan in the center of the grill, over indirect heat, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the focaccia is golden brown and reaches 210 degrees.
Remove the focaccia from the pan with a metal spatula and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool for 5 minutes before slicing.
Makes 16 servings.
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