Thursday, April 3, 2008

Top Chef - From Wasabi And White Chocolate To Potstickers and Meryl Streep

I just saw last week’s episode quickly. Erik’s soggy corndogs did him in. Too bad.

During this week’s elimination challenge the remaining chefs are introduced to Daniel Boulud. Padma, in a rather snarky way, I thought, told them that if they didn’t know who their guest judge was, they might as well go home right now. I knew. (I’m such a show-off). Of course, they all knew of him. 2 of them (Richard and Ryan) had actually worked in his kitchen.

They had to make a vegetable plate in 30 minutes using 3 techniques that they thought would impress Daniel.

Not a good sign that Nikki didn’t know how to pronounce Quinoa. She said something like Queen El. Isn’t it “Keen-Wah”? Let’s hope she’s just going to cook it and not say it.

Oh wait, no, she was trying to say Quenelle and my closed captioning went wild with her pronunciation. Well, she didn’t say that right either. It’s Keh-Nell. (I’m insufferable.)

Spike hopes to impress with his scallion curler.

Here’s the run-down.
Zoi (when I see her name, I want to say ZOY) – Shaved asparagus, poached egg, batons of green beans, a chiffonade of radicchio and frisée. Daniel: “The chiffonade is well done.”

Dale – Daikon marinated in toabanian (?) - he may have said that was some kind of rice wine vinegar - and tournée of avocado and cucumber. He was aiming for a vegan sashimi platter. D: “Very impressed.”

Lisa - Poached egg, blanched asparagus, batonettes of bell peppers and grilled zucchini. Daniel is not happy. This is “back to basic”.

Richard – blanched mushrooms, pickled beets, sliced radishes with lime juice and scallions. Daniel: “It’s nice…the different tastes and textures.”

Spike – Carpaccio of cucumber, tagliatelle of asparagus, cucumber cup and tournée of mushroom. Daniel thought he showed his cutting skills.

Manuel – Blanched asparagus, brunois of yellow pepper, supremes of lemon and endive fennel frond. Let’s see if Daniel appreciates his supremes. Not exactly. He said his fennel frond was part of a pleasant composition, not a technique.

Nikki – Blanched green beans and asparagus quenelle, (this time she said Kweh-Nell), shaved fennel and radish salad. Daniel was unimpressed with her complete lack of seasoning on her grilled vegetables.

Here are the losers: Nikki, because her dish was not well thought out and Lisa and Manuel.

Favorites – Zoe with her perfect poached egg, Dale for his amazing knife skills (Go Dale!!! He’s my man and chef.) Richard, amazing presentation. Winner is DALE! YAY!!!

This week’s challenge is to prepare a movie-themed dish. They draw knives to see who they are partnered with and which course they’ll be making. Dale gets to work with any team he wishes. The special guest for the 12 person dinner they are catering is Richard Roeper.

I don’t think this is a horrible idea. It does provide a vehicle for some creativity. Forget the meal, for the moment, think of your top three favorite movies of all time. I’ll tell you mine at the end of the post…

Richard's nifty little electric smoker went bye bye as they were cooking.

Richard, Dale and Andrew - 1st course Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Smoked salmon with faux caviar and white chocolate wasabi sauce

Tom: “Surprisingly good”. Daniel: “All the combinations are so creative”. RR liked the explanation that went along with the dish.

Spike and Manuel 2nd course Good Morning, Vietnam.
Summer roll with black vermicelli, green apple, Chilean sea bass and Swiss chard.

They didn’t like the turd-like (my words) pile of Swiss chard in the corner of the plate. They thought the summer roll wrapping was tough. Uh-oh. Daniel didn’t like that they used fish. Ted thought with the inexpensiveness of the rest of the ingredients, they could have used lobster or crab.

Jen and Nikki
3rd Course Il Postino. Fresh tortellini with cavalo nero, ricotta, pecorino, squash and peppercorn.

Listen, anytime you include a Roman emperor in the name of a dish, I think that’s pretty impressive. Tom wasn't impressed: “It’s good, not great…It’s good.” Ted LOVES the rustic nature of the shape of the pasta. Richard also loves the rusticness of the dish and thinks the judges should give them a break. He thought it was wonderful. Better than just good. So there!

Mark and Ryan 4th course A Christmas Story. (Is this the movie they are talking about?) Quail breast with carrot purée, cranberry chutney and quail spring rolls.

Padma: “Really delicious”. Ted loved it. Richard liked that they took a specific scene of the movie and brought it into the dish. Aisha liked the carrot purée. Well, these guys must be the winners.

Antonia and Zoe
5th course Talk To Her. Rack of lamb with saffron cauliflower purée, romesco gramalata.

They kept talking about vibrant colors, which were not on the plates. Bad move. Tom and Daniel were disappointed.

Stephanie and Lisa 6th course Top Secret! NY strip steak, braised short rib and apple potstickers with caramel sauce.

They went around pouring the caramel sauce on and everyone thought that was going to be huge mistake. Me included. It turned out to balance the flavors wonderfully, and they all loved it. Daniel: “Very Asian, very well-seasoned.” Tom likes it.

The contestants were waiting to hear the results. I still don’t know half these people. They showed one of them and I was thinking…who is she? I’ve never seen her before.

Padma called in the Willy Wonka and Top Secret! teams. The judges found out it was Richard’s idea to add white chocolate to the wasabi.

Ted asked which hydrocolloid was used in the faux caviar. And he asked that with a straight face. What a frickin’ show-off! I really have to remember that. “Tell me, Ted, about the hydrocolloid that’s straight up your…...lamb shank.” I’m sorry…if someone knows the term hydrocolloid, then he would darn well know that it was tapioca pearls, in this case.

Oh, Lisa is the one I didn’t know who she was. The judges like every aspect of her dish. Daniel announces the winner - Richard. HEY! Didn’t Daniel say at the beginning that his former employees wouldn’t have an advantage?

The other chef contestants diss Richard’s dish and say that’s just not how they cook.

The teams, Good Morning Vietnam and Talk To Her are brought in. The gals explain the reason for the dish better now than at the dinner. The judges wish they had given such a good explanation before.

Tom gives Manual and Spike a really hard time. The judges hated the food, hated the explanation, and it was clear one of them was going home.

They couldn’t decide if Spike should go home because the dish was all his idea; or Manuel because it wasn’t. Spike refused to say that Manuel should go home, when the judges asked. I like that loyalty. In the end, they chose Manuel. I liked him. At least, I kinda knew his name. Ah well. Such is the heart break of Top Chef.

Okay, your top three movies?

Mine are
1) Day for Night, a François Truffaut movie, (La Nuit américaine in French) I loved it. It's the story of French film makers with Truffaut playing the director. It is a charming behind the scenes look at movie making.
2) Out Of Africa. Who doesn’t love Robert Redford and the luminous Meryl Streep? I also loved, loved, loved Klaus Maria Brandauer.
3) Airbud. Totally self-explanatory, of course. I did hate the part when the kid let the hero (Airbud) go.


Emiline said...

Ha- you pointed out things I didn't even notice.

Padma was rather snarky, wasn't she? I knew it was Daniel, but I'm sure there were a lot of people watching that didn't.

I'm searching for KEEN-WAH at the natural foods store tomorrow.

Zoi always looks angry.

At least nobody's dishes were terrible.

Richard is starting to stretch his legs. I feel like he's been holding back in the past. Oh, wait-he said that in the show, didn't he?

AH! You're making me pick my favorite movies?! For some reason, I've always liked What's Eating Gilbert Grape. It's comforting to me. I like Little Miss Sunshine and Amelie. I also like Pieces of April, Garden State, and Girl Interrupted.

Sue said...

THAT is a very interesting list of movies, Emiline. Do you see what they all have in common, except Gilbert Grape? They all have slightly off (in a good way) young women heroines, searching for their place in life...for their next move. HMMM, what other lovely young woman (who happens to be a great cook) is doing that?

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I haven't been keeping up with all episodes, I get the reruns when I can, so I'm happy to have your recaps.

I eagerly await your assessment of the new FN show - just to let you know and put some pressure on you. ;-)

My favorite movies are (ultimate top ones) are The Fisher King, The Princess Bride, Harold and Maude, and A Room with a View. I'm afraid I can't tie food to any of that. Oh wait. I can. Oat straw tea and ginger pie!

Tracy said...

Welcome back to the states! (I'm assuming you're back).

I didn't know who Daniel Boulud was, but I did recognize Ming Tsai at the end. Cool!

"A Christmas Story" is adorable. I just don't know how they got away with serving quail instead of duck. And hey, I want to make that carrot puree dish but I can't figure out the recipe. How do you roast something in a saute pan?

I fell asleep during "Out of Africa!" I think I was pretty young when I came out but I remember it being terribly boring. Maybe I should watch it again.

If you define favorite movies as the ones you've watched most often in your life, mine would be:
- The Sound of Music
- When Harry Met Sally
- Crossing Delancy
... although I love almost every movie that Tom Hanks has done...

I was thinking that it would be easy to make great dishes -- although perhaps not gourmet -- from my faves. The Sound of Music would include "crisp apple strudels" and "schnitzel with noodles." When Harry Met Sally would be something from a deli (Katz's?) that would inspire Meg Ryan to have an orgasm in the middle of the place. And Crossing Delancy would definitely include pickles (because she falls in love with a pickle man).

Cynthia said...

I know that you may not have the time but are you going to be doing Hell's Kitchen?

Sue said...

Hi Rachel,
Which FN show are you talking about? The Cooking for Serious or real, or whatever it is? I am going to try to tune in.

I knew you would have a slightly esoteric list of movies. It really is interesting to see what people say.

You’re better than I am. I didn’t suggest a dish for each of my movies. But here goes:
Champagne with a classic Omelette au fromage for Day For Night.
Roasted Springbok for Out of Africa.
Hot Dogs for Airbud.

Thanks Tracy,
Ming IS cute. I have to see A Christmas Story. Definitely see Out Of Africa.

I LOVED Crossing Delancy. Excellent choice of movie related food items!

Hi Cyn,
Someone just asked me about Hell’s Kitchen. I will check it out.