Thursday, January 5, 2017

Top Chef 12/29/16--"Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the Quickfire was basically an episode of “Chopped”, where everyone was supposed to use weird things and also a pressure cooker and melon baller. Casey won, and immediately screwed up the Elimination challenge so she was lucky she had immunity. The Elimination challenge was to do the Feast of Seven Fishes, only using trash fish. Also pairs for everyone except Casey. Everyone appeared to get along, even though Katsuji and Tesar bickered at each other. Emily suddenly was humble and let Brooke make all the decisions. Katsuji won, because his sauce was the best. BJ over-reduced the sauce for his dish, and was sent home. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen, Sam and BJ had to make leftovers. BJ basically deep fried a turkey leg and slapped a fried egg on top, so since Sam actually made a new dish he won.

A quick drink back in the Stew Room where Katsuji celebrates his win. Emily cries about how she hopes Brooke doesn't blame her. She says now she wanted to make her ex-boss proud. Brooke says it sucks to be up there when you deserve to be. Emily sulks about how the veterans consoling Brooke and not her, because it was a team challenge. OK first of all you just were crying to Brooke about how you hoped she forgave you for putting you in the bottom. Second, you spent most of the first episode refusing to even speak to the veterans because you thought they shouldn't be there, and sneering at people who did. So you can't refuse to even speak to them and then be pissed they won't comfort you. You can't have it both ways.

Silvia gets a phone call home because it's her birthday. She's nervous because there's a birthday curse. Everyone goes home on their birthday. Sheldon can barely get out of bed because his back and leg are killing him. He had a herniated disk about ten years ago, and it's acting up. That sucks.

In the Top Chef kitchen, it's pretty dark and no one is there. Like, most of the lights are off, but the clock has 40 minutes on it. Everyone stands at their stations. Katsuji jokes around, acting like Padma and saying it's a cleaning day. In the control room Padma and the producers watch everyone and wonder if they'll stand there forever. They were waiting for Amanda to notice that the garage door thing is closed, which it usually isn't. So now they start the clock with an alarm. You'll notice no one knows what is going on yet. The garage door opens to a table with a ton of flour. Someone finds buttermilk and butter in the freezer. Sylva says it's biscuits. Can they decide their own challenge? No one knows, but they all seem to agree they're going to make biscuits.

In the control room apparently that was the answer. Brooke doesn't know but she's not going to be the only one not making biscuits. Sheldon is pretty lost, as he's never made biscuits, so he's going to copy Brooke and do whatever she does. Padma announces the time left over the speakers but doesn't confirm to them that they're on the right track. Jim cooks some scallops to go with his biscuits. Padma thinks they should do this all the time. On the one hand, I don't mind, but then again, why can't you just tell them to make biscuits? Jamie owns a restaurant in the South so Casey doesn't get why he's flustered. Shirley usually tries to avoid baking. Somehow she's making Italian biscuits, which is hilarious because Silvia hasn't made biscuits before either. There is avocado cream cheese. There is some weird stuff happening. Sheldon's biscuits didn't turn out like Brooke's so he's cut them in half. But then he forgets to put the tops on.

Padma finally shows up with guest judge John Currence. She says chefs have to think on their feet so this was the best test of that. Sure. Sylva: grated corn biscuit with pan-seared scallop, jalapeno, balsamic vinegar, peach & sage butter. It's a good take on a vol-au-vent, which is not a biscuit and which Tesar was sneering about. Tesar: cheddar jalapeno drop biscuit with country beef gravy. Katsuji: biscuit with jalapeno honey butter and sweet corn relish. Silvia: salmon biscuit with avocado, crème fraiche & roasted mushrooms. That sounds kind of good, actually. Jamie: breakfast biscuit with truffle honey, sunny-side up egg, mushroom & asparagus ragout. Shirley: biscuit with black pepper mascarpone & roasted blackberry compote. Jim: cream cheese and butter biscuit with creamed corn and seared scallop. Brooke: black pepper and poppy seed biscuit with smoked salmon salad & avocado mousse. Sheldon: buttermilk biscuit bottom with country ham, soft-boiled egg, parsley & fennel. Padma asks him if he feels well, which is nice.

The bottom three are Shirley, for dense biscuits and over-salted mascarpone, Sheldon for undercooked biscuits, and Jim for overcooked scallops and overworked biscuits. The top: Brooke (immaculate), Katsuji (also perfect biscuits), and Jamie (did a great spin on biscuits and gravy). The winner is Brooke. She's doing really well. She has immunity. I guess Sheldon should have copied her more closely.

Elimination Challenge. Rodney Scott comes out, who is a pitmaster because it's BBQ time. Three teams, to prepare a whole hog with either vinegar or mustard-based sauce. Sheldon says his dad cooks whole hogs so this is his challenge, but his back is killing him. Also make three sides, enough for 150 people. Including Darius Rucker. I know his name isn't Hootie, but I'm sure when I go over this recap I'll have to edit at least one instance. The chefs split into teams of four, sort of, because Sylva gets poached by Katsuji's team, as they're short one. Katsuji interviews that he didn't want to work with Emily because she complains a lot. See, Emily, this is why no one comforted you yesterday. Emily ends up with Tesar, Sheldon, and Brooke. Was that team short because Brooke is safe so you have a higher chance of going home if you're on the bottom? It seems like a pretty solid team except for Emily. I think there was one team of five and two teams of three. They'll cook overnight for 14 hours and then serve tomorrow. I do enjoy overnight challenges. So the teams are: Sheldon, Tesar, Brooke, and Emily; Katsuji, Amanda, Silvia, and Sylva; Casey, Jim, Shirley, and Jamie. Right now, though, they're all going to go to two stops to eat BBQ to get inspired. But before they leave Sheldon goes to get an MRI on his back. He says the last time his back hurt this bad he was out of work for a year. That sucks a lot, but they lucked out that he can miss the eating and not actual cooking time, assuming he returns.

The stops are old-school, shacks in the middle of nowhere only open on the weekends and the whole bit. Everyone asks lots of questions (Katsuji getting in a dig about how old Tesar is). They taste, which is basically they bring out a shoulder and everyone picks pieces off and eats with their hands. Plenty of people have notebooks which is smart. Between stops Silvia tries to suggest roasted eggplant, but they seem to agree on “Italian-style potato salad”. Rodney's spot is a shed and it's very smokey. Sylva says he's not done BBQ before. Jim sniffs about how people who just grill things aren't really barbecuing. Silvia's potato salad doesn't have mayo, but I guess they're going to risk it. Sheldon meets them and says he's got a herniated disk, but they injected painkillers directly into his spine so he's good. They've assigned him finishing the pig and doing pig skin, while everyone else does sides.

Back at the house Brooke is super excited about the power tools to cut up the pig. Everyone has a metal barrel to make coals, so you have to keep the fire going in there to replace coals. Tesar starts name-dropping and Brooke is barely staying awake. Her team ditched her! She has to get up and leave. S'mores happen, as Silvia has never had one. Hee. She's getting a lot of interview time, plus it's her birthday. Casey and Emily lament that they aren't drunk.

So they aren't out at the house, they're in the middle of nowhere. Sheldon's painkillers are kicking in and he's pretending to take selfies. Everyone starts working on sides. Tesar goes to get flour to make a roux for his mac and cheese and there isn't any. No one has flour so I'm not sure what he's going to do. Katsuji offers him xanthan gum in exchange for garlic. He didn't really need garlic, but he didn't feel like peeling it. Xanthan gum should work to thicken the milk the same way a roux would. Interesting. It seems to be working. I think the better question is, why did Katsuji randomly have xanthan gum laying around? Shirley says she has baby pig on her menu so she's familiar with this. Katsuji's team has their smoker up pretty high so they may overcook things. Sylva has decided to have a sauce with both vinegar and mustard, plus hoisin and ketchup. What? Amanda says it's not bad, even though it's not traditional, so she's not saying anything. Plus Sylva is bossing her around. I mean to the point of telling her to watch her fingers using the mandolin. Plus this is Katsuji's team where the smoker is probably too hot so the pork might not be great anyway. Silvia is making potato salad with salsa verde. Katsuji jokes why is he making beans? Is it because he's Mexican? Racist. Hee. He makes beans all the time but not with pork because his restaurant is kosher.

Tom Time! Casey is making pickles, Shirley is making braised cabbage. Their sauce is hot but it's good and they seem on top of everything. Tom asks after Sheldon. Tesar has his mac and cheese in the smoker with the pig. Interesting. Tom is skeptical about the xanthan gum. Katsuji admits they kept the smoker hot overnight. Tom smells Katsuji's beans and says they smell sour. He knows there's something weird going on but he has no idea what it is.

Everyone takes the pigs out of the smokers because it's going to take that 45 minutes to break down the meat. Emily says her beans aren't even close to being done. Katsuji wants to taste them and he's his typical jerk self about it. But seriously, your beans should be done. Everyone comes to serve and there's free beer and live music and I wish I could get in on this shit.

Yellow team (Emily, Tesar, Brooke, Sheldon): BBQ pork with chile citrus vinegar sauce, pineapple slaw, smoked mac and cheese, pinto beans. The slaw is Brooke's, beans are Emily and mac and cheese is Tesar. I think Sheldon ended up in charge of the pig. The sauce is great, but the beans are still underdone. Tom cleaned his plate. The pork ended up perfect and the slaw was great. They even enjoyed Tesar's xanthan gum and smoke.

Red team (Jim, Casey, Shirley, Jamie): BBQ pork with citrus vinegar sauce, trotter and pig head hash, braised cabbage, pickles. They don't say who did what, but Jim does say people have come back for seconds. The hash is fantastic, although the sauce is not as good as the first team. The cabbage was also great, so it looks like their sides are better.

Green team (Katsuji, Amanda, Silvia, Sylva): BBQ pork with hoisin vinegar sauce, kale and apricot slaw, Italian potato salad, beans. You'll remember this sauce also has ketchup and mustard in it. Sylva did the sauce, Katsuji the beans, Silvia the potato salad, and Amanda did slaw. The potato salad looks weird. Like I can't see that there are potatoes in it? The beans are sour and the potato salad is terrible because it's not what everyone is expecting. The slaw is tasteless. Tom says the meat is mushy and it tastes like they pulled the meat and then cooked it in sauce. You can't taste the pork. The potato salad is slimy and overcooked, says Gail. Ouch. Tom thinks Katsuji used some gland he shouldn't have in the beans and that made them sour.

Everyone is exhausted , and Katsuji is pissed about being in the bottom. Time for Judges' Table. The clear winner is the yellow team. Clearly. They took the traditions and elevated them. The meat didn't burn. They don't mention any other dishes before announcing Tesar is the winner. Nice.

Green team is obviously the losing team. Katsuji's beans were cooked, but they tasted terrible. He's about to cry. Every dish went for sweet acidity, which meant there was no break. Sylva liked the thickness of the mustard sauce, but then everyone wanted to do vinegar, so he tried to combine them. Padma tries to ask Silvia if she meant to give them what she did, I guess to offer her an out to say that she screwed up somewhere. But that's what she wanted to do. But she is falling to the secret requirements of potato salad having mayo.

Katsuji tells his team that people came to get food and were saying they didn't want sauce, so they knew. The pork was not cooked properly. Silvia's potato salad didn't look appetizing and it was weird. Katsuji's beans were terrible, and he put in whatever gland that made it sour because he didn't know any better. But then he put in more sugar and acid to make it better but it didn't work at all.

Tom says there is a purpose to everything in the meal. Silvia is eliminated. Aww. She's sad, because she thought she could do better. She knows how everyone cares about her and it moves her to tears. Now she feels grown-up. Birthday curse.

Next time: lots of running, and Sheldon eats it. Hugh is here. Jamie didn't make enough plates.

Last Chance Kitchen: Silvia wants to get back to the competition. She says Sam has been a mentor and this will be tough. Tom tries to stir up shit by saying she was upset when Sam was eliminated. Anyway, her potato salad was weirdly brown and warm. Also the birthday curse. The peanut gallery rolls out with balloons and a table with stuff. On the table are things that are lucky. Luck? Why? Whatever. Pork, sage, garlic, etc. Tom says to make a dish using at least seven of these ingredients. Plus there's a birthday cake, but that's just for eating.

20 minutes to make something. Silvia grabs branzino, while Sam gets pork loin. BJ cuts some cake and leaves it on Silvia's station. They offer Sam some cake too but he just ignores them. Sam appears to be more frantic, as the peanut gallery laughs at how Sam has to duck under the sign every time he runs around. Silvia asks if Sam can't let her win for her birthday.

Tom Time. It's chaotic and messy at Sam's station. Silvia is much calmer, or at least not running around as much. She tries to make an aioli but the blender isn't working. Sam is confident he's used all seven ingredients. Tom pops a balloon to call time.

Sam: chicken-fried pork chop, crunchy kale, brown butter, sage & pomegranate vinaigrette. Tom has no comments except for asking Sam if he's good with this. Silvia: pan-seared branzino with kale, red onion & a light vinaigrette. Sam burnt his kale a little bit, but the rest of the dish was great. Silvia's dish was nicely cooked, but the onions were maybe a little raw. They used a lot of the same ingredients, but Silvia is the winner! Nice. Sam says there are good vibes here and he seems pretty OK with it. She broke the curse!

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