Sunday, November 27, 2011

Top Chef 11/23/11--"Red Hot Chili Cookoff" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the chefs divided into two teams, to cook for some poor girl’s quincianera. Although, she seemed to enjoy the food so maybe this is like a dream come true for her? I know if Top Chef contacted me and said “Hey, can we come film you and cook for your birthday?” I wouldn’t hesitate to agree. Keith bought pre-cooked shrimp, and then made enchiladas with flour tortillas. I always get flour tortillas with my enchiladas, but then again, I’m not eating at any fine dining establishments when I do. Sarah and Lindsay tried to run the show, and they tried to throw Keith under the bus (as they knew he shouldn’t do that but let him anyway) but the shrimp thing proves too much for him to overcome and he is eliminated. (click for more)

But Keith won his Last Chance Kitchen challenge so hopefully he’ll last a while.

Everyone relaxes on the patio while Sarah and Lindsay try to defend themselves. Not that people are really going after them, but they are adamant that they did not turn on Keith. Sarah especially says Keith didn’t go home for the shrimp, which is maybe not the best defense since she got in more trouble for not telling him not to use flour tortillas. Well, maybe not “trouble” per se. Sarah says in confessional that in group challenges she’s looking out for herself. Wonderful. Ty-Lor says something to the effect of “put something good on the plate or shut the fuck up” which is hysterical since he almost went home just now for not putting anything good on the plate.

For the Quickfire, all are greeted by baskets of chilies and thermometers. I would assume the thermometers are there to determine hotness, but there are also dollar amounts for some reason. Hotter chilies have higher dollar amounts. Padma introduces the guest judges: Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. Nice. Padma tells them risk will be rewarded. Damn, there are ghost chilies on that table. You must create a dish highlighting one chili pepper. The pepper you choose determines how much money you can win. Obviously a milder chili is easier to work with, but then if you win, you get less prize money.

30 minutes to cook. Beverly is just picking up chilies and eating them raw. She’s going for a mild chili because that will make the best tasting dish. Richie is not going much past jalapeno. MotoChris (I don’t remember his last name and that’s how I tell the two Chris’s apart anyway) looks like he’s going for manzano chilies, which I’ve never heard of but they look like Scotch Bonnets. Heather takes Thai chilies to pickle. Chuy only goes for habaneros, but he makes them all the time. Actually, I think several people are working with them. Paul wants to impress the judges, so he takes the ghost chili. Good luck with that, dude. Beverly actually has not cooked her chilies.

Beverly: Anaheim chili crudite with ssamjiang paste. Ssamjiang is a spicy Korean paste. Sarah: salmon belly seared with Fresno chili relish. Richie: Fresno slaw with pineapple curd and seared bay scallops. MotoChris: seared chicken with manzano vinaigrette. Chris C: coconut soup with Thai chili. Heather: date and pistachio cous cous, pickled cucumbers, red onions, and Thai chilies. Chuy: sautéed scallop with achiote and habaneros. Grayson: habanero popper with cheddar cheese and cream cheese lime sauce. Nyesha: baby fennel and rock shrimp with orange and habanero vinaigrette. Paul: chilled coconut soup with kaffir lime, and ghost pepper relish.

Beverly didn’t do enough with her chilies. Richie had great presentation but everything was sweet and not hot enough. Chuy had a dish that spoke to the two women but he used canned tomato and it overpowered the chilies. Good dishes were Heather, who had good punch with the Thai chilies; Grayson, who made poppers and so obviously showcased the pepper; and finally Paul, the risk taker. Paul ends up as the winner, with $20,000 and immunity.

For the Elimination challenge, we are having a chili cook-off. Interesting. Everyone gets a pot, because of course there are teams. WHY?!?! I don’t want to have team challenges all the damn time. I mean, none would be boring, and I won’t pretend I don’t like the drama, but if you’re going to have a team challenge every week then it’s obvious you’re only doing it in hopes of a fight. And it does get really boring. There are teams of three, but at least they aren’t restricted in what kind of chili they have to make. Like, beans, no beans, whatever. Chris C. is worried to be on Sarah’s team, because even though he was the first one to throw Keith under the bus, which he did when Sarah asked him about things, he is nervous she might do the same to him. Also a good thing for them, they have all night to cook. At the Top Chef house. Service is at 7pm tomorrow at the Tejas Rodeo. They have to serve 200 cowboys, and they will pick the winner. Interesting.

Everyone runs to Whole Foods to buy brisket. Somehow Paul and Dakota get out shouted and Dakota (uh…possibly it’s Whitney) complains that she was the first one up there. It’s hard to tell, but possible. She has to buy short ribs. Sarah buys a bunch of stuff and tells Chris C. it’s for cornbread. He tells her they haven’t bought all the things for the chili (and it seems they’ve overspent) and she gets bitchy and says she’s just putting it on the conveyor belt. Sarah, that’s where you put things you want to buy. You can’t buy any of your cornbread stuff. She completely ignores him and says she wants to see what it costs. Edward worries they might not have enough food.

It’s just before 4pm. Everyone rushes the kitchen. Nyesha’s team has a plan: Richie grabs pots, Beverly takes produce, and Nyesha, clever girl, takes all the beer. MotoChris sets up in the fireplace outside, and Ed claims space there too. Negotiations begin for fireplace space, equipment, whatever people want. Sarah, Chris C., and Chuy are the Green Team. She says they are making chili con carne with roasted corn. So I guess she didn’t get her cornbread. Red Team (Whitney, MotoChris, Dakota) are braising brisket and short ribs. Nyesha, Richie, and Beverly (Black Team) are making mole chili with cornbread. Oh, man, if I saw that on a menu I would order it in a heartbeat. Don’t disappoint me, you guys. Blue Team (Ed, Heather, Paul) celebrates because they got the grill to close.

Everyone is working away when Tom appears out of nowhere. Nyesha says she has “minimal” experience with chili, even though earlier she was complaining about carrying her team. Ty-Lor, Grayson, and Lindsay (White Team) also have short ribs and brisket, which they are grilling in the fireplace. Heather knows that even though cowboys will be choosing the winner, it’s the judges who will be choosing the loser. For some reason she is pickling peaches. Tom is skeptical.

Round about 11pm everyone is just watching pots, so there is a fair amount of horsing around. Also dazed working. Ed opens a bottle of wine by slamming the base of the wine bottle on a pillar until the cork flies out. Interesting. Chuy is drinking beer and babbling. At 1am people are still working, transferring mixtures into different pots, and whatnot. If I have to simmer things longer than 10 minutes I get bored and don’t cook that recipe anymore so this is foreign to me. At 3am Nyesha declares the Black Team finished. Sarah gives up at 5 and goes to shower and get some sleep.

Everyone is dragging in the morning. However when they get ready to go there is a lot of fake hooting and hollering. They seem to pile into cars, so is this rodeo far out of town? I’m not sure what the schedule for today is. The conversation in the cars involves both screaming cowboys and Armor-all on steers.

Everyone gets a cowboy hat! They’ve only got one hour to prep, but they can still heat the chili slowly so it doesn’t burn. Someone also has to stir it. Ty-Lor says he loves people. There is a ton of last minute tasting and adjusting of flavors and secret sauces being poured into pots and so forth.

As people line up, there is a shot of a very small child, all dressed up in his cowboy hat and jeans, with a competitor number pinned to his shirt. And he is running up the hill to get in line. So cute! There are some serious people, and then there’s the girl in the shiny dress with the colors. Honey, that is not your dress. Everyone schmoozes and tries to get votes. Chuy is pleased to be able to promise everyone they did not put beans in their chili so it’s proper Texas chili.

Gail is here today. I like Gail. She asks Tom to open her beer (due to a loss of feeling in her finger caused by a bagel accident) but Tom fails. However Padma succeeds which should surprise no one. Green Team: chili con carne, no beans, and roasted corn, onion, and avocado garnish. Tom says it grows on you the more you eat it. Gail wishes it was thicker, and Mary Sue thinks there should have been tortillas or chips. Or possibly cornbread? Damn Sarah for being right. Red Team: braised brisket and short rib chili. It appears to have cheddar cheese. It’s smoky and spicy, but a little stringy.

Blue Team: smoked brisket chili with summer pickles (peaches, radishes, haricot vert). And pork rinds. Gail raves about the peaches, but Tom thinks the chili itself isn’t that great. Black Team: “chili mole” with cornbread. They have fantastic cornbread, and maybe the chili didn’t get to where it could have been, but it reminds everyone of mole. White Team: three bean and beef chili, with poblano cornbread. They put pickled vegetables in the chili, and the judges are torn.
Tom says it would be hard to choose a winner, but they still have to choose a loser. Tom picks Black Team, because mole is not chili. The Red Team also had stringy meat, however their flavor was better than the White Team.

Everyone gets to stay and watch some of the rodeo which is cool. In the middle of the whole thing Beverly loses it because she misses her husband so much. Nyesha tries for “I feel for her but man up” and mostly succeeds. Padma gets to ride a horse, which she does fairly well. Chris C. likens her to Fabio for some reason. Because she is “pure beauty”. The winner is the Green Team. Padma then calls out the Black Team as the worst. Oo, harsh. Then she says they’re going to get one last chance to prove they belong, which is to transform the losing chili into a winning dish, in 30 minutes. The three of them bust out of the stands to cook.

Everyone is tired and I think they’re all really worried. This is an interesting twist. I think all of them are using the sauce/broth from the chili to coat something else. Beverly: seared tuna with habanero creamed corn. Nyesha: Frito-encrusted black tiger shrimp with roasted corn salsa. Richie: Frito-encrusted pork tenderloin, potato hash, ricotta cheese chili puree. Everyone used the chili as a sauce.

Richie’s dish lacked seasoning and brightness. Nyesha did a great job, but didn’t put enough sauce on the plate. Beverly used the mole really well, and they think the other two were embarrassed by the sauce.

Commercial interlude: Gail says they’re assholes for making the losing team cook again. Tom agrees. That was cute.

Beverly fixed the flaws in the chili, while at the same time making a new dish, so she is safe. Nyesha’s dish didn’t go far enough, while Richie’s dish never came together. Richie is out. Aww. By the time they get back to the other chefs he’s in tears. He apologizes to MotoChris because he feels he failed Moto. MotoChris is super supportive and it’s so sad.

Next week: everyone goes to Dallas, where John Besh greets them in a field and Chris C. talks about how John Besh is hot.

Last Chance Kitchen: Richie and Keith must make a dish from Thanksgiving leftovers. Nice. They have to use at least three dishes that are currently on the table. Richie freaks out a little bit, since he just got sent home on a “repurposing” challenge. Keith serves turkey and sweet corn hash, ham fritter with stuffing and blue cheese, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie smear. Richie: turkey, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese fritter, and cornbread puree. Something…is pink. There is a pink puree that is an unfortunate Pepto Bismol color. It seems to be cranberry mousse frozen in liquid nitrogen. In the end, Richie’s dish looks out there, but is actually not that inventive. So Keith remains to battle again.

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