Lunch is a pretty big deal for the TODAY anchors and co-hosts. After their extremely busy mornings, Al Roker, Carson Daly, Hoda Kotb and Craig Melvin all like to refuel with their favorite midday meals, but which lunch recipe is truly the best?
To judge the anchors' dishes on their complexity, appearance and all-around tastiness, the Mayor of Flavortown made a pitstop at TODAY Tuesday.
Guy Fieri, the host of Food Network's long-running series "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and "Guy's Grocery Games," became a household name for chowing down on and critiquing casual fare like burgers and hearty sandwiches. While his over-the-top restaurants serve even more over-the-top foods (who could ever forget the heaping appetizer dubbed Trash Can Nachos?), Fieri knows his stuff when it comes to healthy bites, too. He's even disclosed that he usually starts every day with a green juice.
That being said, the California native loves to spice up any dish he's given the chance to elevate. In addition to judging the anchors' lunches, Fieri also left Al, Hoda, Craig and Carson with a few tidbits on how to take their lunches to the next level.
Al's go-to is a classic recipe. Since he adds bacon to almost everything — from his Thanksgiving turkey to his morning waffles (yes, the bacon is cooked into the waffles) — he also adds it to grilled cheese. Al's secret to perfectly crispy bread? Use mayonnaise — not butter! — on the outside. It's a trick Martha Stewart loves, too.
Fieri loved Al's addition of grilled onions. To amp up Al's lunch, Fieri showed him how to get the sandwich even more crisp by using a handheld sandwich press (though any sandwich press works well). He also recommended adding shredded cheese to the bottom of a nonstick pan, then cooking the sandwich right on top of it to give it a cheesy "skirt." Alternatively, Al can up the ante on his love of bacon by cooking the sandwich right in its grease.
Carson doesn't mess around with a good sandwich. He piles on all the usual suspects, like deli meat and cheese, plus some peppery arugula and heart-healthy avocado. So how do you amp up a sandwich that's well on its way to Flavortown? Give it some heat!
"You gotta julienne the salami and then fry it up in a pan for crispy shreds and texture," Fieri advised. "Then toast the bread in the salami fat and, of course, you gotta melt the cheese!"
Hoda's Mango and Avocado Salad
When it's time to have lunch, Hoda often opts for a fresh option with a little tropical flair. She mixes chunks of mango, avocado and crunchy croutons together, then tosses them in a simple balsamic dressing. It only takes a few seconds to put together, which is great for anyone on the go, so Fieri kept his additions simple.
"You got the crunch, you got the freshness and creaminess," Fieri said, approving Hoda's salad. "Now, you need some spice and brightness. Add some cubed jicama, shaved red onion, red pepper flakes and either a little lime juice or zest to perk it up."
Craig, a South Carolina native, loves classic comfort foods and his favorite sandwich, which is filled with smoked turkey and cheese, is a hearty lunchtime dish. To get the cheese perfectly melted, Craig steams it on top of the turkey before piling the meat and cheese on a brioche bun.
To make Craig's comforting sandwich even more exciting, Fieri recommended adding some real heat in the form of spice. He adds jalapeños, red onion, lime juice and a splash of tequila to the pan while melting the cheese. This makes a quick pan sauce that will reduce and can be used to baste the turkey for a sensational trip to Flavortown.
Fieri's latest cooking competition show, "Tournament of Champions," premieres March 4 on Food Network.