Tastemakers: ‘Halloween Baking Championship’s Carla Hall Offers Home Cooking Advice
Since then, the Nashville native has done tons of TV, including cohosting ABC’s The Chew for seven seasons and voicing herself in an episode of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman. Her current gig: judging Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship. (The finale will air right before the holiday.)
The Howard University grad and onetime accountant, runway model, and, as she calls herself, “recovering caterer” shares her food philosophy.
On Top Chef you touted “cooking with love.” How do you define that?
Carla Hall: It starts out with the intention of making really great food for someone you care about. It sounds kind of ethereal, but you have to want to do it. Sometimes you don’t want to cook, so you dig deep and find a reason. It’s the way I nurture people.
Who taught you to cook?
I didn’t start cooking until my mid-20s. I was in Paris [modeling]. The models would go to Sunday brunch at the home of a woman from Memphis, Tennessee. It reminded me of Sunday suppers at my grandmother’s. But I realized I had no idea how the food was made! I started buying cookbooks. Cooking became a way for me to thank the people who allowed me to couch surf.
What’s always in your fridge?
Chowchow, a pickled relish in the South. It’s chopped-up vegetables like cabbage, green tomatoes, and peppers. I eat it on everything: eggs, a hot dog, pimento cheese on a cracker.
How do you change what you cook at home in the fall?
I love sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin. I just ordered a disposable smoker bag, this cheap thing from Amazon. It was so freaking awesome. I smoked sweet potatoes, then charred them on the griddle. I roasted corn, threw some onion on my griddle pan, and then had this beautiful salad with romaine lettuce, lemon juice, olive oil, a little apple cider vinegar.
If you could give a home cook one piece of advice, what would it be?
Find your yummy! People [often] don’t know how to season. Learn how to use salt and spices. Understand sweet, sour, and salty better.
Is there a kitchen tool that’s worth a splurge?
Spend $130 to $150 on a heavy-duty multi-ply stainless steel four-to-five-quart pan that you can make almost everything in: soups, stews, roast meat, and you can do a shallow fry. Use it with or without the lid.
On Halloween Baking Championship you and fellow judges Katie Lee and Zac Young dress up — what’s one costume you’ll wear?
One of the themes is The Addams Family. You have to guess who’s going to be Wednesday and who’s going to be Morticia.
Halloween Baking Championship, Mondays, 9/8c, Food Network
Shortcut Deviled Eggs with Bread-and-Butter Pickles
“A party’s not a party in the South without deviled eggs!” says Hall. “With this technique, I’ve streamlined the steps while keeping the soul of the dish intact.” For Halloween, she suggests turning the eggs into spooky creatures. Use cut pimento-stuffed olives to make googly eyes, red or green peppers for cat or devil ears and teeth, and a shaved piece of eggplant skin or purple carrot for the tail.
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bread-and-butter pickle slices, diced
Snipped chives, for garnish
Put the eggs in a small saucepan in a single layer and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice and cold water. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel. Carefully cut each egg in half lengthwise (the yolks should be a little runny) and place on a serving plate, cut sides up. Mix the mayonnaise and mustard with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Dollop the mixture over the yolks, then top with the pickles and chives. Serve immediately.