There's a new trail in town...
Friday, February 27, 2009
There's a new trail in town...
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I was excited, because I was very disappointed to see Jamie go home a couple of weeks ago. I think she's definitely talented enough to be in the top five. However, Jeff and Leah came with their game faces on as well. Jeff especially seemed very confident. The challenge was pretty straight-forward: come up with a dish using one of the signature ingredients of New Orleans, crawfish. YUM! Jeff did something really simple - Crawfish and grits - but it looked pretty tasty. Jamie made a corn cake topped with a poached egg and crawfish cream sauce that looked pretty amazing. She had me at crawfish cream sauce. Leah made gumbo, even though she admitted she'd never made it before. Seemed like a weird decision to me.
Stefan, who treated the whole challenge with a rather disinterested attitude, also made a gumbo, although his featured rabbit and duck. He didn't seem to have the gumbo chops of Hosea, but knowing Stefan, it was probably pretty tasty anyway. He also made an apple beignet and a black cherry rum cocktail. The rest of the chefs were unimpressed with his attitude, and I started to get the feeling that although his food sounded pretty good, his 'tude might get him tossed.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Speaking of breakfast, are you an a.m. eater, or does the morning meal totally turn you off? Has it always been that way, or do you go through phases?
Thursday, February 19, 2009
In an interview posted on the New York Times' Well Blog today, celebrity chef and restaurateur Tom Colicchio shares some interesting opinions about how kids should eat and how parents should be cooking.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
As soon as I saw Wylie Dufresne, I figured the challenge would be all about molecular gastronomy. He's been on the show before, and is apparently quite the big-wig in the field. However, when they talked about the challenge, those words were never mentioned. Wiley simply spoke of his love of eggs, and the chefs were then instructed to come up with an egg dish that would "surprise and delight" Wiley.
The chefs went about this in very different ways. Stefan did something that looked incredibly cool, making a panna cotta with a mango puree inside that looked exactly like a soft-boiled egg when you cut it open. That blew my hair back a little bit, I must admit. Hosea did a sushi roll, but instead of wrapping it in seaweed, he wrapped it in a thin sheet of egg white. It looked cool, but it didn't sound particularly tasty. Leah made a fancy quail egg thing that involved bacon hollandaise (I'll take it), but didn't seem particularly inventive. Fabio did an over-wrought three component dish that was very dessert-like, but didn't impress like Stefan's dish.
And then there was Carla. She admitted up front that she didn't know jack about molecular gastronomy, so she was going to go completely the other way and just try to do something clever. What she came up with was green eggs (eggs with spinach) and ham with a salsa verde. I thought that idea was a little hackneyed, but I guess it must have been quite tasty, because she was named the winner. No, seriously, she was. I thought for sure that Stefan had it in the bag, but I guess Wiley was hypnotized by Carla's crazy eyes or something.
And then it was time to talk Elimination Challenge. Padma had the chefs draw knives, and they were each paired with a famous chef. They were then told that they would be cooking these chefs their "last meal" and that they had all selected their favorite dish. The match-ups were as follows:
- Carla: Jacques Pepin, roast squab and fresh peas (I actually have never tried squab, and I know this is totally ugly American of me, but pigeon? Ew.)
- Fabio: Lidia Bastianich, roast chicken with potatoes and a leafy salad (Seriously? Salad for your last meal?)
- Stefan: Marcus Samuelsson, roasted salmon with spinach (How very Nordic of him to pick Salmon)
- Hosea: Susan Ungaro, shrimp scampi and tomato provencale (My favorite pick. Yum.)
- Leah: Wiley Dufresne, eggs Benedict (Pretty darn good choice too.)
Okay, I have to admit, Carla is growing on me. She was so cute and excited that she's be cooking for Jacques Pepin. I believe she referred to them as "two peas in a pod" because they both like pees. Then she cracked herself up. Adorable, even if she looks like a cross between Sideshow Bob and Beaker from the muppets (in a good way). Once again, I assumed erroneously that Carla would have trouble with her dish. She knocked it out of the park again, and although her squab was a little over-cooked to some (not at all to others) everyone agreed that her peas were the best dish of the night. Seriously, how good must these peas have been to get that kind of praise?
Hosea went out on a limb a bit by not doing a traditional shrimp scampi and tomato provencale. I think this was actually smart of him, because it didn't allow the judges to compare it to "the way they would have made it". They could only compare it to whether or not he executed what he was trying to do.
Leah seemed kind of scattered in the kitchen (as usual), and the judges were fairly unimpressed with her dish. The main complaint was that the egg was pretty watery (gross) and that the hollandaise was too runny. Dufresne was also offended that she added a salad to his meal. Now that's a man after my own heart.Stefan scared me this week in the kitchen by proclaiming that he could "make this dish in his sleep." Uh oh. When chefs start bragging like that, it's never a good sign. He also mentions that since he didn't know how Chef Samuelsson would like his spinach, he would serve the salmon both with cream and without. Huh? When it was served to the judges, the feedback was not good at all. The salmon was apparently over-cooked, and the spinach was pretty boring. Yikes. I am sweating a little now after what happened to Jamie last week.
Fabio had a major mishap in the kitchen, breaking his finger (ow!) while preparing his meal. He had to finish with his hand all taped up awkwardly, and you just felt terrible for the guy. Of course, he handled it with his usual good humor - I heart this guy. And I was so excited when his dish was served and he got such high praise for his chicken and potatoes, even though the judges pretty much hated his salad. Since that was such a small component, I figured he's still be okay.
Not only was Fabio okay this week, he was named the winner - I believe for the first time. Yay! Carla was pretty much declared "second place" and they both left the judges room jumping up and down and getting super-excited.
I honestly thought for awhile that Stefan would go home (there was basically nothing about the dish that people liked, other than the "flavors" that Tom Colicchio kept mentioning), but fortunately, Leah's dish must have sucked just enough for them to justify sending her home instead. Thank goodness. A finale without Stefan would have seemed cheap. I was glad Leah was sent home. She has definitely worn out her welcome with me, in case you hadn't figured that out already :)
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
In case you had trouble getting past the Clive Owen cover of this month's Esquire Magazine (not saying that I personally had a problem...), here's recommending you go ahead and flip to page 107 and drink in the heady food porn that is Esquire's All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
So, after a lame quickfire last week, we got a doozy this week. Since Ripert is a seafood chef, the challenge was a fish filleting tournament. Yikes. Hosea is both nervous and excited, since - as he has mentioned about 1,000 times this season - he is a seafood chef. The first fish is a sardine. Yikes. So tiny, so many bones. Carla knows she is screwed from the get-go, and won't even show Ripert her fish. He is obviously amused, which was pretty cute. Jamie also got the boot in this first round. Leah pouts and talks about what a horrible job she did (like she does on every QuickFire) but then is named as the best in round one. Hosea, Stefan, and Fabio also advance to round 2.
The fish in round 2 is an arctic char. Pretty different from the sardines, as they are pretty ginormous. Hosea takes this round, and is pretty proud of himself. Leah pouts again about how she's doing such an awful job, only this time she just freakin' quits in the middle of the challenge and refuses to do her second fillet. She is officially my least favorite contestant this season. What a chump. Stefan also advances and Fabio is eliminated. Darn. Anytime we can get Fabio screen time, I am happy.
In the third round, they upped the 'ick' factor significantly an gave the contestants "recently killed" eels to fillet. Apparently nobody told the eels they were dead, because they were squirming and squiggling around all over the place. GROSS. Apparently Stefan is an eel master, and it is clear that he has this round in the bag from the beginning when he grabs the eels and nails its head to the cutting board. No I am not kidding. he then peels it like a banana and fillets it in what seems like about 30 seconds. Hosea, on the other hand, basically just has to watch Stefan and copy what he does. To his credit, it looks like he did a pretty decent job for his first time working with eel. To Stefan's credit, he totally kicked Hosea's ass and won the QuickFire, once again earning "a significant advantage in the elimination challenge".
The next day, the chefs are invited by Chef Ripert to have a six-course lunch. Hmmmm, interesting, six courses...six contestants...I wonder if there's a connection there. Anyway, the food looks rockin' and deceptively simple. Jamie says something totally obnoxious about how she isn't inspired by this kind of food, and even though I usually like her, this sounds so bratty that I pretty much want to slap her. At that point, I start to get worried about her, because they seem to be focusing on her a lot in this episode.
After lunch, Padma tells the contestants that they will be recreating the six dishes that they sampled at lunch. Stefan gets to choose his dish, as a reward for winning the QuickFire. He chooses the Baked Lobster with Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce, which does appear to be the easiest dish (and also looks so good that I want to eat my TV - but that might just be because I'm 8 months pregnant).
The other chefs draw knives, and their fates are revealed to be:
- Carla: Oil Poached Escolar with Potato Chips in a Bearnaise Sauce
- Hosea: Spiced Monk Fish with Black Garlic
- Jamie: Sauteed Black Bass and Braised Celery with Serrano Ham Peppercorn Sauce
- Fabio: Sourdough Encrusted Red Snapper with Tomato Basil Consomme
- Leah: Baked Mahi-Mahi with Miso and Matsutake Mushroom Sauce
Once the chefs get in the kitchen, it became pretty clear that this was not an easy challenge. Other than Stefan, who basically sailed through preparing his dish (the only issue was that the hollandaise was a little thick), and Carla, who apparently is a classically trained French chef (huh?), the contestants really struggled. The good news for the chefs was that before they prepared their final dish to serve to the judges, they would have a chance to do a trial run for Chef Ripert who would give them a short critique.
Hosea was totally unfamiliar with the spice used in his dish, and apparently used way too much of it, according to Chef Ripert. Fabio had too much crust on his fish, but the flavors were spot on and the fish itself was well-cooked. Leah's dish was a mess, apparently. She couldn't figure out how the sauce was made, so apparently she mixed the miso with butter, which Chef Ripert said was all wrong. Poor Jamie was so in the weeds that she didn't even have time to get a dish together for Chef Ripert to taste. Apparently she hates celery, and had never braised it before, and was really struggling with the concept. Doesn't seem like it would be that difficult, but she was hating it.
At the judges table, Stefan, Carla (two weeks in a row!), and Fabio were the top three. I thought Carla should have won (never thought I would be saying those words), since her dish seemed to be much harder, and she pretty much nailed it, but they named Stefan the winner instead. His price was pretty bad ass - not only did he win Chef Ripert's new book, he also got a chance to work with him in his kitchen and accompany him to a food and wine festival. Not too shabby.
The bottom three were Hosea, Leah and Jamie. Hosea's monkfish didn't have time to rest, so the texture was off. His spicing was also still too strong. He quickly admitted he knew the fish needed to rest but just didn't have time, and it was pretty clear that he wasn't really in trouble. Leah, on the other hand, did not impress the judges at all with her half-hearted explanations and total lack of understanding of the dish. I am so ready to see her go already, but I guess it wasn't in the cards this week, although Colicchio did give her a talking to about quitting during the QuickFire.
Unfortunately, Jamie was the chef to get the boot this week. I guess she totally over-salted the celery in her dish to the point of it being almost inedible. What a shame, because I think she was definitely one of the most talented contestants on the show this year. I would have sent Leah home over her in a heartbeat, as at least Jamie seemed to understand what she did wrong, but alas, I am not the one making these decisions.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
This month's Body + Soul Magazine features a mini-interview with Mark Bittman, everyone's favorite Minimalist. Below is a thought-provoking quote from that piece. I highly recommend picking up the March issue of Body + Soul to read the rest - along with lots of other good-for-you stuff. It also inspired me to look into Bittman's latest book, Food Matters...
Monday, February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Shockingly, this episode was kicked off with a QuickFire that was product placement-tastic. The Chefs were asked to create a dish with either nuts and grains (Carla), poultry (Jeff), meat (Hosea), fruits (Leah), seafood (Jamie), dairy (Stefan) or veggies (Fabio). The catch was that they had to use oats - Quaker Oats! - in the dish as well. Yawn. I'm not going to get into too much detail, as this QuickFire was pretty lame and I have a lot to cover in this post. Basically, pretty much every chef used the oats in the same way, as a crust of some sort for their dish. Some turned out better than others, and Stefan was declared the winner with his banana mousse with oat sugar crisp (yum).
The Elimination Challenge on this episode was much more interesting. The Chefs were each given a city that corresponded with an NFL franchise and told that they would have to create a dish that could be cooked in twenty minutes (yikes!) from a mystery basket full of ingredients associated with each city. Sound confusing? I'm not even done yet. The chefs then had to battle with a Top Chef All Star from a past season to see who could come up with the best dish. The match-ups were as follows:
- Dallas Cowboys: Stefan and Andrea, Season 1 (Stefan got to choose his city and competitor because he won the QuickFire)
- New Orleans: Carla vs. Andrew, Season 4 (speaker of my favorite Top Chef line of all time - "I've got a culinary boner right now.")
- Miami Dolphins: Jeff vs. Josie, Season 2 (and owner of one of the most famous faux-hawks in Top Chef history)
- Seattle: Hosea vs. Miguel, Season 1
- Green Bay: Fabio vs. Spike, Season 4 (I was never impressed with Spike, and always found him decidedly creepy)
- New York: Leah vs. Nikki, Season 4
- San Francisco: Jamie vs. Camille, Season 3
We could certainly have a lively debate about whether or not these are truly "All Stars", but that is really neither here nor there. Stefan clearly didn't respect Andrea when he picked her, which made it even greater when she beat his Euro-ass in the challenge. What about salad said "Dallas" to Stefan? Not sure, but he was pretty clearly not taking the whole thing very seriously and it burned him.I thought Hosea's dish, a crispy salmon roll with ginger blackberry sauce, sounded and looked really yummy. Carla's gumbo also looked tasty, and I was certainly impressed that she made a freakin' gumbo in 20 minutes.
In the biggest surprise of the week, Carla won the challenge. I thought for sure she was done for this week (and still think she is the weakest chef on the show), but I guess her gumbo was really as good as it looked.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
This week's Appetite for Instruction features a delectable hummus recipe from Cosmic Cafe. I can personally attest that it is one of the best versions of this classic Mediterranean dish that you'll ever dip a pita in - thanks to not one but two secret ingredients.
While flipping through the latest issue of Rachael Ray Magazine (uh-huh, I read it - but I've already confessed), I came upon a very interesting stat. In a recent survey of some 13,000 of their readers, 40% reported that their vacations "revolve around food". Wow.