Friday, December 19, 2008

The Top Chefs Get Into The Christmas Spirit

We see Ariane making her bed. Isn’t it a bit ridiculous for grownups (she’s 41 years old) to sleep in bunk beds? I might be persuaded to sleep in a bunk bed for a million dollars, but for a bunch of baggies and a magazine spread? I’m not so sure.

Eww, we see Eugene, who is a favorite of mine, in shorts. He has tattoos in places where most people don’t even have skin.

Fabio and Stefan chat. Stefan is gross and talking about putting shoes in places that I don’t want to think about. I’m losing my appetite.

WHY do we care that Hosea is calling his sister Robin? Oh, I see…so we can see the PROMINENTLY featured Sidekick LX that he’s holding. He’s pointing it right at the camera. That is so obvious as to be almost insulting.

Oh no, THERE I GO AGAIN…making mean comments about people. He’s asking how his father is doing fighting a bout of cancer. Sorry, Hosea, carry on and I’ll just skulk out of the room.

They go into the Top Chef kitchen and are greeted by Padma telling them they have to make a holiday meal in one pot. What’s so hard about that? Paella comes to me instantly as the perfect example of a one pot festive meal. Radhika says she’s used to using TEN pots for one dish….maybe for one MEAL, but one dish, c’mon!

The best part is that Martha is the judge. Her advice: Make it simple, but not too simple. They have 45 minutes. That’s about how long Paella would take.

Uh-oh, what does this mean? Hosea has MY idea. I really wouldn’t mind him if he either grew a moustache or deep-sixed the beard all together.

A lot of the food sounds really good and interesting.

Spicy Korean Stew with Pork and Mushrooms, Cilantro Sour Cream and Won Ton Chips
He did THAT in 45 minutes. Okay, I’m forgetting about the gross tattoos, he’s my man.
Martha: “The broth is thickened? With what?” He had to use cornstarch because of the time restraints. I hope that’s not a problem.

Veal Celtic Goulash with Potatoes and Chanterelle Mushrooms.
He and Martha bond over picking chanterelle mushrooms. Martha looks really tanned.

Paella with Seafood, Chicken and Chorizo
Martha: It’s good!

Pork Tenderloin with Braised Cabbage, Apple, Bacon, Orange and Fennel
Does that dish sound just overly obvious to you? (Not that Paella is the most revolutionary thing out there, but you don’t want Martha yawning. Let’s see what happens.)
Martha: Good and apple.

Potato Risotto with Crispy Pork and Sautéed Brussels Sprouts
Eh! It looks not so great, kind of overcooked.
Martha: Unusual! Pungent! Padma: is there VINEGAR in that?
That may bode ill for Jeff.

Potato and Kale Stew with Scallops and Fried Sage
THAT looks good.
Martha remarks on the really large scallop. She says they come from Maine in January, when “WE” go diving for them. And I have no doubt that Martha HERSELF goes diving for the most perfect scallops.

Cauliflower Purée with Herb-Rubbed Filet Mignon.
Does Ariane EVER cook anything except meat?
Martha: Lots of butter. Ariane replies, No, no butter, just a little cream.
Martha: It’s excellent.

Brined Turkey Breast with Apple and Dried Cherry Stuffing
In the time limit, she must have brined the thing for only about 3 minutes.
Martha: Tasty. Excellent.

Roasted Mushroom Polenta with Seared Duck Breast
Again, not the most unusual thing in the world, but it sounds YUM!
Martha is seriously too tanned. She says Thank You to Fabio as she gazes into his eyes and he takes her hand.

Jeff – Martha “did not like the taste of the potato risotto.
Eugene – Oy, she hated the cornstarch.
Fabio – Hmmm, she liked his eyes, but not his cooking. Fabio (to the camera after) MARTHA, what is wrong with you? My grandma would be so ashamed of you.”

Hosea – Martha “liked the paella very much”. It WAS a great idea. Martha continues,” You chose a dish that IS meant to be cooked in one pot.” Thank you, my thinking exactly.
Jamie – She loved the scallop, it was perfectly cooked.
Ariane - She liked “the beautiful beef on top of the cauliflower. The purée was smooth as silk and you fooled me…no butter.”

The overall winner is…Ariane and she gets an autographed copy of Martha’s latest book. Jamie is not happy…again.

The elimination challenge is catering a party for amfAR for 300 people.

Help arrives in the form of the Harlem Gospel Choir; I sure hope they can peel potatoes in their fancy get-ups. Oh, they’re just there to sing. Hosea thinks they are part of some elaborate scheme. He’s right. As the chefs draw knives the choir sings clues about the themes of their dishes – using the twelve days of Christmas.

Hey, we never saw Leah’s dish, did we? I’m not rewinding. OR Radhika’s. I guess I should thank them.

They have 45 minutes to shop and $800. Is that all together?

Jamie is making giant scallops…again. They prep.

Next morning, they arrive back at the kitchen. Some of the fridges are warm. Hosea’s and Radhika’s food has all gone bad. The rest of the chefs help them. All the chefs work together. It’s actually very nice how they all make sure that Radhika and Hosea are ok.

They arrive at the Prince George Ballroom. They have to create 300 plates each dish. Wow, that’s alot. Michelle Bernstein is the guest judge along with the stunning Natasha Richardson, who gives a nice speech about AmfAR. Each guest is given a red Aids ribbon and asked to pin it next to the dish they liked the most.

Creamy Chicken Pot Pie with English Peas, White Asparagus, Thyme and Parsley
Natasha and Padma think it’s delicious.

Braised Duck Leg on Toasted Brioche with Pear Chutney and Toasted Pistachios
Michelle likes it.

Braised Chicken with Duxelles and Mushroom Cap
It doesn’t look that attractive. The mushroom cap looks steamed. Tom: Decent mushroom flavor. Natasha: A little too salty. Tom: Very one note.

Poisson Cru with Pineapple Ring and Gold Yukon Potato Chip
That looks good and he tells an entertaining story to go along with it. The guests seem to like it. Natasha says it’s sweet and Michelle says with an edge to her voice, “Could he have tasted this? Because, if he did, he would have understood.” Understood what? That you’re about to vote him off the island.

I do have a feeling it may be him. They showed him in the beginning – the number one clue as to who is going home. Plus, he was in the bottom three in the Quickfire and now this. I should be outraged, but we’re only 49 minutes in, so I don’t have time to be.

Sweet Corn and Roasted pepper Crab Cake with Chipotle, Lime Aioli and Coleslaw
Padma: This is not one of my favorites. It’s a bit dense. Tom: Greasy.

Crudo of Sea Scallop in Vichyssoise with Lemon Agrumato, Leeks and Micro Greens.
Wow, that sounds snazzy. Agrumato is made from pressing the lemon (or other citrus fruit) and the olives together at the same time for a fantastically flavored oil. It goes beyond just lemon flavored. It’s like tasting the essence of the fruit oil at the same time as the olive oil. It comes in small bottles and is really expensive. I think of it almost like truffle oil, where you use just a small amount to finish a dish.

Michelle finds lots of things wrong with Jamie’s dish. It’s not cold enough, it just tastes raw and nothing else. Padma looks like she’s going to hurl. An actor guest says it was too slimy.

Gorgonzola and NY Strip steak on Sourdough Crostini with Cranberry Vinaigrette
Tom and Michelle taste no beef in there at all.

Braised Guinea Hen with Butternut Squash Purée over Puff Pastry
THAT could be good.
Natasha thinks it doesn’t need the brioche and that dulls it down. Tom says he never understands why someone would put something really dry at the bottom of the dish.


Deviled Eggs Six Ways
This could probably go either way. How can they taste all 6 eggs?
Natasha really likes the egg she tasted. Tom thinks this is not exciting enough.

Smoked Pork Loin with Chipotle Mashed Potatoes and Apple Brandy Jus
Tom: Nice job cooking the pork. Michelle really likes it and so do various guests.

Seared Halloumi and Kasseri Cheese with Roasted Beets, Pears, Mint and Spices
He’s so full of himself, but I like the sound of that dish. Girls gather round his station.
Michelle: It had a nice roundness to it.

The night is over. They open the Korbel. TC couldn’t spring for the good stuff?

At this point, I think Ariane will win and they could pull a shocker and sent Jamie home, but I don’t think they will. Maybe Eugene.

I love how they’re pretending it’s Christmas time as they greet each other.

Padma calls in Hosea, Stefan, Radhika and Jeff.
Obviously, those are the winners and, obviously, I’m a loser when it comes to picking them, since Ariane isn’t in that group.

Natasha smiles, the others grimace.

They start with Radhika. Natasha, in her gorgeously deep, English, Vanessa Redgrave-like voice, says she much prefers duck legs to breasts anyway and, considering the pressure she was under, “it was pretty terrific”. Michelle Bernstein says (in a backhanded compliment) “THANK GOODNESS your duck legs were juicy”, because when you have that dried out thing underneath you need good flavor on top. (That last part was paraphrased, you might say.)

Michelle is kind of a prickly character, but I guess she’s allowed to be, because when a male chef is like that, we just say he’s strong. Still... she scares me a little bit.

They loved Stefan. Michelle BEAMS at him, although she does say he should have added something a little “fun or funky”. Hmmm, to me, “funky” means something smells bad, so I’m not adding anything like that to MY food, no matter who tells me to.

Padma tells Jeff that the crowd really responded to his dish. Yeah, and his flowing blond hair didn’t hurt either.
Michelle says his salad was memorable, even though she didn’t think it even needed the 2 cheeses. Natasha agrees about the 2 cheeses being unnecessary and that it was like serving Brie and Camembert on top of each other. She could make reciting the alphabet sound enthralling with her voice and accent.

Tom tells Hosea the pork was cooked nicely…no other comments are shown.

Natasha announces the winner: Hosea, who also won the most red ribbons. And his prize is…?!! Michelle’s first book, Cuisine a la Latina (available, used, on Amazon for twelve dollars and fifty cents)! Wow, could they spare it? All the other chefs get her book too. Wait, are you kidding me? I was being funny. THAT’S his only prize??? That’s pretty rotten.

Eugene, Melissa and Jamie are sent in. It should be Melissa who goes, it’ll probably be Eugene.

Jamie looks MAD! Michelle said her scallops were lukewarm. That could be nasty AND dangerous. And she said the texture was slimy. Jamie actually argues and says everything was iced. Tom’s issue was that it was served raw at all.

Tom said all you got was cheese in Melissa’s dish. Michelle said the blue cheese was too overwhelming and intense. Melissa counters and says she got a lot of good feedback and people came back for more. Padma says she had one of the lowest totals of ribbons.

Michelle said to Eugene that she has made Poisson cru many times and that his just tasted of sweetness and coconut and nothing else. He says it had no sugar in it. Natasha asks if he tasted it. He says the ceviche tasted tart to him. Tom says REALLY? He says the fish never had a chance with the combination of pineapple and sweet coconut.

Oy, he gets into a debate with Michelle, ending with her saying you’re only as good as your last dish. Well, that should apply to Jamie too. That fight will get him booted. I suspected it, now I’m sure.

Michelle’s least favorite was Jamie’s scallop dish. Natasha says Eugene thinks he has all the answers. No one likes Melissa. Tom says the food was universally poor. They all agree and Tom says they’re all freezing up somehow and it could have been any 3 or 4 of them who were called in. Oh, wait a sec! Are they preparing us for NOONE going home? Mebbe.

Tom comes out and sits down with the chefs. (That’s a really nice royal blue suit, he’s wearing.) He says the food was not very inspiring. He tells them to cook the food that they think is going to make them win.

He asks them if they’re happy with what they did. Leah says, “I don’t think anyone’s food was amazing, but I don’t think anyone’s food sucked.” Tom says, “We’re looking for AMAZING food.” He looks at Ariane and says, “You don’t win with a devilled egg.” That’s really a life lesson, isn’t it?

He says because they pulled together and, in the spirit of the holidays, no one is going home tonight. He leaves rather quickly. They’re all relieved.

It’s interesting that the dishes for the Quickfire were a lot better than in the actual Elimination Challenge. Maybe they were over thinking everything.

The best line of the night? It was in the preview for the next episode, where they can cook whatever they want and Jamie is cooking scallops. Fabio says, “This is Top Chef, it’s not Top Scallops.”


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Excellent recap as always. Yet again I missed this weeks' episode and haven't seen the reruns yet. The no one wins with deviled eggs and top scallops quotes were great.

Peppercorn Press said...

Although I already watched the Top Chef this week, reading through your recap was fun. It is good to know you have this, just in case my Tivo fails me! I agree that the quick fires seem to be better creatively than the elimination challenges. They are definitely over-thinking. I think the pressure is much higher on the quick fires, making them cook more from the heart.

Anonymous said...

I LOVED how Martha gave Padma a subtle smackdown, when she questioned whether Jamie's scallop dish was really a winter dish, and Martha came back with how she goes diving for them every January. Ha! I'm not really a fan of Padma. And Jeff is a fake attractive person. He seems like he should be attractive, but he's really just whatever.

DebCarol said...

Great recap ~ I liked the look of Stefan's Chicken Pot Pies .... Did anyone see the ones Ina made yesterday? Now they were perfection. Anyway, I felt cheated by this episode of Top Chef. I mean REALLY someone should have been booted off - that is the whole point isn't it? Oh and here is something scary - the morose pretty boy Jeff - I think he is starting to grow on me.

Tracy said...

Nice recap. I wonder if the QuickFire food was better than the elimination food because they had 45 minutes to make 2 servings in the QuickFire ... and 5 or so hours to make 300 or so for the elimination challenge. Don't know.

Amy was right, Martha's smackdown of Padma was funny.

And I still don't like Jeff.

Sue said...

Hi Rachel,
You missed a good one (in part). The deviled eggs were definitely the wrong way to go.

Hi PP,
That is an excellent point about the Quick Fire challenge. It really makes sense in explaining why those dishes are so much better than the Elimination least this week.

Hey Amy,
I think Martha could make King Kong feel insecure. You are so right about Jeff. He's just not that cute and it's annoying that he thinks he is.

I just wonder, does this mean there's a week where TWO people go? ...which I wouldn't mind at all. But wouldn't they have had to plan that from the beginning.

Say it isn't so that you like Jeff! Maybe you just appreciate his lack of patchy facial hair.

Ditto for absolutely everything you said.