Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Top Chef 9/23/09--"Penn & Teller" summary

Previously on Top Chef: For some reason viewers at home wanted to see the contestants cook with cactus. I think the other two choices were proteins so I’m all for cactus. Sadly Mike is the only one who knows what he’s doing so he wins. Then everyone has to go for a camping trip, and cook “a high-end lunch for cowboys”. I would argue that people did high-end, but not so much with the lunch for cowboys part. Poor Mattin had no idea what he was doing, possibly giving everyone food poisoning with uncooked fish. Outside. In the desert. In the summertime. Yeah…that wasn’t the best plan. He went home, and the show is a little bit less pretty. Bryan won, as is becoming par for the course. At least he made pork tenderloin, and not dashi with cod as his brother did. Dashi, while delicious, is not exactly food for cowboys. Obviously the brothers have some skills, and their food must be delicious, but I don’t covet their food as I have with other chefs in the past. (click for more)

Aww! Mattin left his neckerchief on his pillow! Boy never took it off while he was there…oh dear Lord. Somehow Mike got his hands on a whole pile of red scarves and all the boys are wearing one. He says Robin should have gone home. Jen agrees. Whatever, why are we all wearing scarves, you look like morons.

Padma laughs at them and then introduces Michelle Bernstein. Kevin says she’s been at his restaurant before. Sweet. Padma says something about angels and devils, and then demands that each person make a duo about one of their personal battles. Like, being healthy vs. delicious bacon. As readers of this blog know, I am not a duo fan. This time, however, I’ll allow it as the point of the challenge is basically to make two dishes. It’s not like someone knows two ways to make duck and wants to put them both on one plate. 1 hour, and immunity to the winner.

Ash is making custard. In one hour. Eli says he’s the best, which we haven’t exactly seen, but he‘s not on the bottom all the time, so that‘s something. I guess. Robin says she had cancer and had to cut out unhealthy foods and her duo will show her struggle for balance. Bryan tries to freeze something and his brother is like, do you need some help? Hmm? Bryan tells him where to go. Ash’s coffee custard doesn’t set at all.

Michael: so they’re even listing these in the chyrons as “angel” and “devil”. That bugs me for some reason. Anyways, the “angel” is rillettes of salmon (like a pate), and the “devil” is confit of salmon and ice cream. Except that he says the devil is smoked salmon and the ice cream is not mentioned. This is supposed to be modern (confit) vs. traditional. Eh…I’m not thrilled about it. Kevin: halibut and seasonal vegetables, and deviled egg puree and bacon. Kevin always brings the bacon. Ron: Chilean sea bass, one with yucca and one with corn hash. Huh? I don’t get it. And he didn’t get all the bones out. Ashley: scallop crudo and seared scallop puttanesca. Eli: scallop with radish top pesto, and scallop with brown butter risotto. Bryan: frozen coconut, lychee, and vanilla. The devil is dark chocolate mousse. Jen: scallop crudo with olive oil, and seared scallop with butter. Ash: his “angel” custard didn’t set, so he only serves his spicy asparagus custard with pink peppercorn shortbread. Robin: arugula, apple and fennel salad, and a cardamom apple ginger crisp. I have to say, out of all the possible desserts you could pick to represent the “bad” foods you were supposed to cut out, apple crisp is kind of healthy. It does sound delicious, though. Laurine: chicken and vegetable consommĂ©, and chicken saltimbocca (chicken wrapped in prosciutto). Mike: cucumber yogurt soup, and rack of lamb kabob style. Ha, Michelle says it’s too salty.

You know, Padma gave them the example of “healthy” vs. “not healthy” and pretty much everyone went for that. Except Bryan. Michelle says that Ash failed with his one custard, Bryan had not the best execution, and Laurine’s was not exciting. Michael had perfect food, Eli made great risotto, and Robin had simple food done very well. The editors cut in shots of everyone looking pissed off. Has her food really been that bad? Did I miss something? She’s only been in the bottom for elimination one time. So Robin wins, of course. Eli interviews that telling people you had cancer is a great way to win a Quickfire, which only makes him look like an insensitive jerk. Way to go, Eli.

For the Elimination challenge, Penn and Teller stroll in like they own the place. Oh I love them. And then they start setting up the cup-and-ball trick, first with those red solo cups, and then with clear cups so you can see what is going on. This means they have to deconstruct classic dishes! Man, that’s going to be hard to do. Generally I think deconstruction is in a class with molecular gastronomy: pretty cool but not something for all the time. And I’ve seen it go very, very, wrong on this show. They draw knives for dishes, which I’ll get later. The one that worries me is Kevin gets chicken mole negro, and knowing what Rick Bayless puts in his mole? Damn. Kevin made that last challenge and didn’t do so well. Also Toby Young is back. Bleh. I would be more worried about Penn.

Shopping time: 30 minutes and $125. Bryan is going to make tuna instead of pastrami for his Ruben. How is that “deconstructed”? Isn’t that “new twist on a classic”? (Kmanpat: “I would make a corned beef and sauerkraut salad with Thousand island dressing and a rye roll on the side.”)

2 hours for prep today. Ash and Mike call each other “sunshine” and Mike admits he has no clue what eggs Florentine is. Basically, it’s eggs Benedict with spinach instead of ham. He tries to make a joke but it fails, and then he complains about not being able to get online to figure out what he‘s supposed to be deconstructing. Um…there are 10 other chefs there. Do all of them find you as irritating as I do so they won’t help you? At least he knows there’s spinach in it. Mike has the immersion circulator going and is making bread. Bryan says he’s showing off, but…it’s bread. Kevin is confident. Jen has no idea what she’s going to do. She has meat lasagna, which to me seems easier. Get some noodles, meat, tomatoes, and cheese. This is why I’m not a chef, I guess. There are a lot of shots of people doing things, but I can’t figure out what anyone is doing. Eli brought a pressure cooker with him, but the luggage handlers banged it up. Hey, maybe he can write a song about it! It’s being held together with tape, and it appears to be blue painter’s tape, so that’s not a good sign. Ashley has to deconstruct pot roast. Isn’t pot roast just meat and flavors? How do you deconstruct that? Eli’s pressure cooker explodes. Ash points out that the Top Chef kitchen has pressure cookers that work. Robin talks to herself as Laurine shoots her dirty looks. Robin asks her pull her pancetta from the oven, which Laurine does for some reason. I mean, she was complaining a lot about Robin so it sounded like there might be a blow-up but only the pressure cooker blows up.

Tom time! Ash talks about shepherd’s pie while Tom makes faces and eventually calls him on having no idea about what he‘s doing. Jen interviews that she has no time to talk to Tom so she’s running away from him. Ron tries to ask questions but gets nothing out of Tom. He eventually catches Jen and she admits she’s out of her comfort zone. He just kind of leaves her.

Back at the house Ron complains about paella, because they think Michelle makes it in her
restaurant, and Eli tells him about how the bottom of paella gets crispy if you make it right. Ron is very confused. Kevin warns him that his dish might be too close to actual paella. Eli and Kevin give him advice. Laurine complains about how Robin winning sent her over the edge and she won’t shut up and whatever. At least she says that tomorrow she needs to concentrate on her own food.

Commercial interlude: apparently Mike did go ask people what his dish was made of. Mostly people laugh at him. But Ron and Laurine are more helpful.

Everyone gets one hour to get their food ready, and they’ll serve two at a time. Mike and Michael are up first. Michael: deconstructed Caesar salad. Chicken wing, parmesan jelly, and brioche. The jelly is in a blob on top of a cylinder of lettuce, I think. The plate looks cool. Oh, the dressing is the blob and the jelly is spread on top of the brioche? Something like that. Mike: eggs Florentine. Braised kale roll, which is a little cylinder of dark green, and egg emulsion, and some phyllo. Toby doesn’t like the eggs, calling it a reinvention instead of a deconstruction. No one really likes it that much. Of course they like Michael’s salad. Penn makes fun of Michael’s description of the dressing (Michael said it would explode onto the lettuce) by saying that if he and Teller said something would explode, by golly it’s going to explode. Hee.

Laurine’s chips are soggy, so she put them in the oven and now they’re burnt. Bryan worries about his small plate, as he thinks Penn will smash him. He had a deconstructed Ruben. Tuna, warm mayo, Thousand island “flavors”, rye, and gruyere cheese. The quotes are mine. Laurine: fish and chips. Halibut poached in oil, zucchini relish, tomato confit, and potato chips with parsley inside. Laurine overcooked her fish and she made chips and not fries, which is not the same. Padma asks Teller if he liked the fish, and he makes a face. Of course Bryan’s dish is well liked, except by Penn and Teller. Penn does point out that he ate it all anyway.

Ash leaves out his parsnip puree, because it’s gummy. Jen thinks she might go home. Ash is especially nervous to serve shepherd’s pie to Toby. He serves lamb chops, leeks, glazed carrots, pea puree and Madeira jus. I have to say it looks delicious and not overly fancy. You know when dishes are pretty but you can tell there isn’t much food there? Yeah. Jen: meat lasagna. Flatiron steak, mascarpone bĂ©chamel, tomato sauce, and a parmesan crisp. Yum. Jen actually did match her flavors up well. Ash’s lamb is inconsistent, and the lack of potatoes is going to hurt him. Too much “reinterpreting”.

Ron is kind of flailing. He serves what looks like actual paella: rice with meat on top. The chyron doesn’t know what to do either. It just reads “seafood paella--lemon and herb oil, chayote, and peas”. Eli: sweet and sour pork. Pork rillettes, broccoli puree, raw broccoli salad, and sweet and sour sauce. Supposedly the rillette (remember that’s like pate) is a tempura-style fritter. However it just looks like two sad meatballs. They don’t look crispy, they don’t have that golden brown coating of batter…they look like Swedish meatballs with no sauce. Also I have never once had broccoli in my sweet and sour pork. The paella is dry without being crispy, and isn’t really deconstructed. Tom likes the “pork balls” as he calls them, but Toby feels the presentation is lacking. He thinks they look like bull’s testicles. Padma has to chime in with “Believe it or not I’ve had bull’s testicles” and Penn interrupts to say “I’ll bet.” Tom tries desperately not to laugh. She finishes by saying these are too big. Hee. Penn thinks the unhealthiness of sweet and sour pork comes through.

Kevin says he and Ashley are plating together because they both have heavier foods. It seems they could choose their order. Ashley says something about plating and how important it is. She had to deconstruct pot roast. Seared strip loin, potato puree, crispy shallots, a little celery salad, and carrot foam. Kevin: chicken mole negro. Chicken croquette, Mexican coffee fig jam, and pumpkin seen romesco, and crushed unsweetened cocoa beans. It sounds fantastic but looks like several brown lumps (which, to be fair, Kevin is well aware of). Penn doesn’t want to eat any other mole ever again. Tom jokes that Teller might actually talk about it. Ashley nailed her dish too. It did look tasty except for the part where there was foam.

Robin has to serve by herself. She had clam chowder. Fennel flan with potato crusted clams and crushed bacon. Cool. However Padma is reminded of cream of celery soup, and Toby says the texture reminds him of soup that’s congealed from being left out all night. Teller works some slight of hand pretending to eat some of the poor food. Sad, that sounded fantastic.

No one is really happy in the Stew Room. Padma collects Ashley, Michael, Kevin, and Jen for the top group. Michael used his chemicals well. Ashley had wonderful pot roast. Kevin’s dish made perfect sense. Jen had confidence to keep it simple. This sounds short because they said one sentence about everyone, except Jen, who gets an extra sentence about how she seemed frantic yesterday. Michelle gives Kevin the win. Yay! He also wins a set of nonstick cookware. He thinks that the times he has been in the bottom were the times he didn’t trust his instincts.

Ash says that from now on he’s making salads and crisps, because that’s what got Robin her Quickfire win. Thankfully it sounds like he’s joking, not like he’s bitter. Laurine, Ron, and Ash are greeted by the Loser Gong. Ash explains about his potato parsnip puree. Then he admits he’s only eaten his own shepherd’s pie so he wasn’t confident about the flavors. Tom asks him about the uneven cooking on the chops, and Ash kind of flails before admitting he thought they were all even. Oh, not good. He resorts to begging for his life, saying how he’s a good cook and all. Laurine knows her fish was probably overcooked, and Tom tells her it was tentative. She deconstructed her dish so much the diners couldn’t put the dish back together. Toby wanted more potato, and Laurine explains how she burnt a lot of her chips. Ron has never deconstructed anything, and he thinks he had the most difficult dish because everyone does paella in a different way. Tom thinks he got stuck in his head and that made him overcook everything. Toby thinks it was somehow soggy and dry. Padma doesn’t think he deconstructed it enough.

First thing, Toby starts talking about paella and Tom dryly tells him that they can’t even agree on how to pronounce it. Toby pronounces the “L” instead of making a “Y” sound. “Pie-ELLA” instead of “pie-AY-ah”. I’m pretty sure Gordon Ramsay pronounces the L also so maybe it’s a British thing. Toby accuses everyone of pretending to be Spanish. Tom gets back on topic to point out that whatever he made, it was overcooked and poorly done. Michelle feels that if he had made a really good paella that wasn’t deconstructed at all, at least that would be something. They move on to Ash. There was some tomato? Or something? And no potato. Toby doesn’t want to eat it again. But at least he knew it was poor. Laurine’s fish was dry and her dish was unrecognizable, and she was obviously uncomfortable with the challenge.

Tom says all the things we already know, and in the end, Ron goes home. He says he was trying for the American Dream, but he knows there’s more to come.

Next time: everyone runs to the house for some reason. I think they’re making dinner at the house. Mike bitches that he has to cook with Robin. He says he’s going home but you know we’re not that lucky.

1 comment:

TROLL Y2K said...

Good review. I saw a dark sub-text to the episode.