"The show is very much how I cook at home, the method and style that I really believe will help home cooks," she said. "When we were brainstorming, Bobby Flay told me how important it was for every recipe to be authentic, and every scene in the show to be authentic. All the recipes are mine, these are what I cook at home on a regular basis. I'm teaching people the things that work for me, and that will probably work for them."
A preview screening of two episodes featured a lesson on roasting and a primer on homemade pasta-making.
"It goes one step beyond the basics," she said. "One episode is dedicated to the cast iron skillet, and why I think everyone should own one."
It may look effortless to viewers, but cooking shows are hard work, she said.
"It's not just showing up and talking about how much you love food. There's so much work that goes into it. We take a couple of weeks and film all the episodes together, two shows a day. And they are very long days. It takes hours and hours to get that 30 minutes of an episode."
The show is filmed in a loft apartment in New York City. "We wanted it to look like I was inviting people into my own home," she said. "Unfortunately, I don't live in that apartment, but maybe someday."
Nixon said her LDS faith hasn't been an issue.
"I'm so proud of where I came from, and I find that my religion is as much a part of my culture as it is my faith," she said. "It's very easy to live my faith here. Obviously there are times when everyone else is drinking alcohol and you're not, but nobody cares. I work with people who are Jewish, Catholic or Protestant, and everyone has a great respect and tolerance for what you choose to believe in."
She noted that when a person's beliefs are challenged, it can strengthen those beliefs. "You have to say, 'Do I believe in this or not?' Being in New York is very good for me in that regard."
Nixon has kept in touch with some of the other finalists from season four of "The Next Food Network." Aaron McCargo Jr. invited her to appear on an episode of his show, "Big Daddy's House." She and Adam Gertler appeared together on another Food Network show, "After Party."
As for Nixon's goals, "I'd like for this show to have a very long life," she said. "In the future, I hope to have more than one show, and become a food personality that is very approachable and genuine, and is able to reach people to help them with their daily problems in the kitchen."
* * * *
SKILLET BACON MAC & CHEESE
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup flour
3 cups whole milk, hot
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound dry pasta (elbow macaroni, shells, penne, etc.)
1 recipe béchamel sauce, recipe follows
1 teaspoon dry mustard, or to taste
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar
1 cup grated Gruyere
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus ½ cup for topping
1 cup milk
1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
6 slices bacon with 3 tablespoons rendered bacon fat set aside
Make the béchamel sauce in a large (12-inch) oven-safe skillet or saucepan. Melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit; avoiding browning, about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil.
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