Thursday, January 5, 2017

Top Chef 1/5/17--"A Southern Legend" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: there was a weird Quickfire where no one knew what was going on, and the contestants had to guess they would be making biscuits. Brooke won, because she's doing really well and if this was “Project Runway” I'd suspect they brought her back because they thought she should have won her season. Then there was all night BBQ pork. Sheldon has a herniated disk, but he got some painkillers and is going to power through. Tesar made mac and cheese with xanthan gum and won. Silvia made “Italian potato salad” and everyone wanted regular potato salad so she was sent home. Birthday curse in effect. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen, Sam and Silvia cooked with “lucky” foods. To my surprise, Silvia won! I thought they would let Sam move through. But let me point out that Sam so far is the only Veteran who has been eliminated.

Tesar accepts praise for winning. Katsuji is sore because he lent Tesar that xanthan gum and Tesar didn't acknowledge him. They will miss Silvia.

Back at the house in the morning, Jim talks about his wife. OH you were shocked, weren't you. I was a little bit. Sheldon is ready to go even with his herniated disk. So foreshadowing for those two.

Padma actually showed up today, along with the US Surgeon General. Padma talks about using food to get healthy, specifically eating healthy, maintaining emotional well-being, and getting physical. The Quickfire involves making healthy comfort foods. Sigh. Shirley says comfort food should be the fattier the better. I love Shirley. They draw knives to get assigned dishes. You know, like meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken pot pie. Sheldon gets tuna casserole and he has no idea what that is. Hee. Then Padma says this is too easy and now there's another layer: all of your dishes must be vegetarian. No one seems that upset about this. Now the next layer: you can only get your ingredients one at a time. That's bullshit. You know Sheldon is hurt. Winner gets immunity.

30 minutes to cook. Jim claims he spent extra hours on the treadmill to get ready for this show. Sheldon just eats Hawaiian comfort food which is not healthy. Katsuji loves to put a million things in his dishes, so now he has to cut down. Emily says this is working in her favor because she's got like 20 seconds to think about what to get next as she runs back to the pantry. Sheldon totally bites it, and they slow-mo the whole thing like he's going to writhe on the ground in agony, but he just gets back up and keeps going. Jamie is going vegan, or almost vegan. Jim used to be a vegetarian so he's all over it. Katsuji spiralizes zucchini. He doesn't want to use meat substitutes. Tesar says if anything good comes out of this he owes Blais. I guess? Casey makes a crust but it doesn't cook, so she takes a blowtorch to it.

Amanda: vegetarian stroganoff with eggplant, tomato & yogurt sauce. Katsuji: squash spaghetti and meatballs. Brooke: vegetarian lasagna with grilled zucchini, bechamel & tomato sauce. Tesar: mushroom burger with dried cranberries, almonds & curry powder. Padma asks him if he put curry powder in because they're both Indian. Ha! Sylva: seitan and masa dumplings. Casey: vegetable pot pie with with silken tofu & farro crust. Casey claims her crumbly crust is on purpose. Jamie: tofu sloppy joe with bell peppers, onions & side salad. Jim: eggplant steak with mushroom gravy & tomato salad. Emily: vegetarian meatloaf with almonds, charred tomato & herb salad. They never mention Sheldon which is too bad because I wanted to see a vegetarian tuna casserole made by someone who doesn't know what tuna casserole is.

The bottom three: Sylva (chewy), Casey (grainy topping), and Katsuji (soggy noodles). The top three: Emily (resembled meatloaf), Jamie (texture was on point), and Brooke (creamy lasagna and it looked right). The winner is Jamie. Well I guess Brooke can't win everything.

The Elimination Challenge will honor Edna Lewis, who is a famous Southern chef. Sheldon and Emily are confused, and Tesar looks confused too. Jim is smug about how more people should know about her because she's so great. Jim gets smug about Southern things a lot. Padma brings out two people to talk about her. She says what Julia Child did for French cooking, Edna did for Southern cooking. That's a good analogy. The task is to create a dish to pay homage to her legacy. They'll have two hours today and one hour tomorrow to cook and prep for a table full of chefs and writers who were influenced by Edna. So no pressure. The two experts are going to hang around to answer questions.

The chefs look over a cookbook and discover it's full of stories and also in seasonal order. It's simple but sophisticated. You want to bring out the best of your ingredients. Sheldon is reminded of his grandmother. Jamie's going to get to the store and see what's fresh.

Two hours to cook today. Sylva is making fish but with a ton of vegetables. Shirley has wings. Jim is making consomme, but with Southern ingredients. Emily is making chicken livers and she says she's comfortable making them. Katsuji has decided on fried chicken and pickled watermelon rind. Sylva complains that it's very stereotypical, and Edna was trying to elevate Southern cuisine. So he may have missed the mark. That's all for today's cooking.

At the house Sylva and Jim talk about Edna and how Sylva doesn't have a lot of African-American chefs to look up to. He won a scholarship to cooking school but his dad said “no son of mine will be a domestic” and they had a falling out. Wow.

Cooking time. Jim has to clarify his consomme. Out in the garden they've set up a table outside and it's beautiful. I guess we're serving in pairs? Jim and Katsuji come out together. Jim: seared shrimp with smoked turkey wing & pork consomme, squash & English pea salad. It's excellent and seasonal. Katsuji: fried chicken with pickled watermelon rind salad. Somehow he gets praise because normal people wouldn't put watermelon with fried chicken because it's such a stereotype, but he did a good job elevating it? I think that's what happened.

Brooke seems to be in a good place, but Emily suddenly says “I can't do this right now” and flails a little bit. She was going to pan fry her chicken livers in a cast iron skillet, but she abandons that plan and just deep fries them instead. Brooke: chicken with Swiss chard, sunchokes, lemon pudding & blackberry vinaigrette. It's like a warm salad. Hugh thinks it's confused because the pudding is sweet but then there's salad. Emily: semolina-dusted chicken livers with corn puree, dandelion green salad & blackberry sauce. She admits she deep fried the livers. They aren't seasoned. Hugh didn't think either dish was interesting.

Tesar is trying a new technique today that he read about in Edna's cookbook. Shirley: confit chicken wings with collard greens & rice, watercress salad. It's very good. Tesar: pan-broiled chicken thigh with watercress, roasted sunchokes and peas. This also ended up getting praise.

Sheldon says his dish reminds him of his grandmother. Sylva says there were times he was the only African-American in the kitchen so he hopes he honors Edna today. Sylva: skillet-fried snapper with garden vegetables & vegetable broth. The fish was perfectly crispy. Sheldon: pork belly and cabbage with cabbage jus & potato. Tom says something weird about how it was good that he didn't copy a dish, he was just inspired, and it's one of those comments that sounds like it might be good or bad, depending. But Sheldon talks about his mom and grandmother and no one says anything else so I think it was good today.

Casey is very confident. Amanda is being her usual whirlwind self. Amanda: roast duck with sweet potatoes, dandelion greens, spiced pecans & balsamic onions. The duck's a little chewy and the sweet potatoes are maybe underdone. She used Southern ingredients but maybe the final result isn't Southern? Casey: chicken and chicken-stuffed dumplings with ham. It has great flavor that everyone raves about.

Jamie is cooking beef in the sous vide. Sure, I guess. He finds a blank plate that he forgot, but doesn't have time to put anything on it so he's a plate short. It's edited like this is the end of the world but he won the Quickfire and has immunity. Of course they give the empty plate to Padma. Jamie: roasted New York strip steak with sunchokes, spring onion and corn soubise. The meat is not the best part of the dish.

Sheldon's dish was gentle and simple but it really worked. Sylva's fish had a great texture and wasn't greasy. Jim's dish fit the challenge. Jamie was on the bottom, obviously, but also Brooke , because her dish was confused. Emily's chicken livers were simple but not good. Amanda's dish wasn't good to begin with, and wasn't that Southern.

Judges' Table. The top three are Jim, Sylva, and Sheldon. Jim made something simple but the flavors were fantastic. Sylva paid reverence to the vegetables and the fish was perfect and not burnt. Sheldon put his heart into the bowl and Tom says this is the best of his cooking. The winner is Sylva. He's so sweetly pleased with himself.

The bottom three are Amanda, Emily, and Brooke. Amanda quickly says she stands behind her dish. It just wasn't interesting. Plus the duck was kind of boring. Emily starts crying and says everything had intent and she's surprised she's standing here. Her blackberry puree was too sweet. Tom's liver was overcooked too. She cries some more and says it's tough being up there. We all know. No one has sympathy. Brooke made her presentation too modern, and Tom thinks the swirls and whatever of a modern presentation kept her flavors from blending somehow.

There is no break for everyone to discuss. We're doing this right now. Tom says they just didn't get that Southern feeling from one of the dishes, and that's from Amanda. She's proud of herself, since she wasn't sure if she could be a chef again until she was on the show. So now she feels like a chef again. Aww.

Next time: some pushing, smoking chilis, some Amazing Race shit in a thunderstorm. There's a map and running. Emily takes on Tesar.

Last Chance Kitchen: Amanda has never even watched Last Chance Kitchen. She's glad to see her friend Silvia. She seems like she wouldn't care if she lost, which is weird. Tom reminds her she tried to make duck and failed. They talk about what cooking with soul means, and then Tom says the challenge is to make a new dish using Amanda's ingredients from the last challenge.

30 minutes. Amanda has a slight advantage because she already knows what's in the box. Silvia is slightly nervous because she's not familiar with all these ingredients. Amanda can't really do the same dish even if she wanted to because she doesn't have time. The peanut gallery asks Silvia if she's making dessert. Hee. She's cooking one duck breast in the oven and one on the stove, just in case. Amanda's duck skillet is smoking a lot.

Tom Time. He barely talks to Silvia, then goes to ask Amanda if she meant to burn her pecans. Silvia admits she doesn't like duck and Tom pretends to be offended. Silvia never cooks duck, she says she's made maybe two in her life. Amanda is kind of a sleeper. I think everyone is impressed because they know she hasn't been in a kitchen for a while so she's out of practice. Tom is causing trouble doing things like saying “Silvia, Amanda made a sauce, are you making sauce?” and then staring at her. So she says he should at least give her some advice.

Silvia: duck with spicy red onion & balsamic puree, dandelion greens & sweet potato chips. Amanda: duck with sweet potato & brown butter puree, dandelion salad with sherry gastrique & balsamic duck jus. Also duck fat roasted pecans. Both dishes were good, they both cooked the duck well. Silvia's greens were almost too salty. Amanda's red onion was raw and too strong. Silvia is the winner. Amanda is not sorry because she's learned she can still cook. Silvia is ready to kick some ass.

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