Friday, December 15, 2017

Top Chef 12/14/17--"Smile and Say Mise" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: We welcomed a new batch of contestants to Denver. The first Quickfire was to make a dish for a potluck. Actually not a bad idea. Also we didn't sit around and listen to everyone talk about their James Beard awards. The winner of the Quickfire, and immunity (as chosen by contestants) was Tu. Tu promptly helped out his competitors during the Elimination challenge so much that he screwed himself. The Elimination challenge was to make a play on “meat and potatoes” for a street fair. A double row of tents down each side of a random street you closed downtown is not a “block party”, Bravo. Tyler won because he had the best potatoes. Melissa lost because her dish was too boring and the meat was dry. (click for more)

In Last Chance Kitchen, Marcel, Kwame, Lee Anne, and Melissa had to make potato dishes. Marcel made fries and mayo and won, and showed himself to have maybe matured? Melissa was still too boring and was eliminated for good.

Everyone applauds Tyler for winning. Aww. He's pretty pleased with himself. Carrie, meanwhile, is pissed she served terrible food on a street she worked on for four years. Yeah, first burnt potato chips and then someone got a raw one. She was going to depend on tried-and-true dishes, but now seems to be vowing to make new things or challenge herself or something. I'm not sure, this whole interview smells heavily of foreshadowing.

The next day Tyler, Bruce, and non-mustached Joseph hang out in their room. They have all bonded on account of being three big guys and have labeled their room “The Bear Den”. Someone found them bear paw mittens so they could all sit in confessional together and growl. Or bark, in Tyler's case. Hee.

In the kitchen Padma is about with chef Troy Guard. It's the mise en place relay race! I do like this Quickfire. Also there's some product placement but whatever. Padma splits them down the middle into two teams, and all the Bear Den are together. First, peel and brunoise (cut into tiny cubes) one quart of shallots. Second, peel, destem, and slice one quart of mushrooms. Third, clean and portion 20 seven- to eight-ounce portions of meat. You can put more than one person on each task, but each person can only do one task. So you can't all 7 of you brunoise shallots and then all 7 slice mushrooms. Troy will judge if you're done. The team that finishes first will then cook against each other for immunity, $5000, and a year of dinner from Blue Apron. Gee, do you think they will have to make something with steak, mushrooms, and shallots?

One minute to decide who does what. I'm not sure who is on which team, but I guess we'll figure it out when they're cooking for immunity. Tanya says she never does mise en place in her restaurant. Jeez. No one seems to argue too much about who does what. The shallot people are kind of taking their time? Laura especially is not moving very fast. Meanwhile Adrienne and Claudette are doing things much faster. Ah, I can't tell. Blue team finishes shallots first. That is not Laura's team. Joseph is having a hard time peeling mushrooms, but they finish and keep their lead. There's a time limit? I guess you have to do the mise en place AND cook in half an hour? That seems needlessly obnoxious. Green team catches up, and they have two people cutting meat instead of one. Which lets them make up for Laura being slow. However, they're eyeballing their meat cuts and some of them are not the right size. Actually a lot of them. Meanwhile Bruce is weighing all of his portions. It pays off when Blue team wins. Green team is pissed and throwing things.

Eight minutes and 20 seconds to cook something with those ingredients. There is a ton of frantic running around and producer-encouraged yelling. Someone asks Joseph how long he marinated his steak for, and he says 45 seconds. Hee. Claudette is making Mexican. These plates look like shit. But I guess it's a miracle anything is cooked.

Rogelio: roasted filet with mushrooms, cream, shallots and Dijon mustard. Tyler: bourbon grilled steak with sauteed mushrooms, shallots, and glazed carrots. Claudette: baja inspired steak with al ajillo, shallots, mushrooms, and red miso paste. Al ajillo I think is garlic and guajillo chiles. Adrienne: seared filet with golden cauliflower couscous, mushrooms and shallots. Joseph: shallot, mushroom and ginger marinated tenderloin with peppers. Brother Luck: pan seared steak, mushroom and goat cheese crème, hibiscus and tarragon mignonette. Listen, everyone is calling him Brother, but Brother Luck sounds better. Bruce: seared filet with mushroom, shallot, fennel and cauliflower ragu.

Padma tells everyone that was awesome. The bottom were Rogelio (meat didn't rest long enough and broken sauce) and Tyler (too much focus on carrots). Tops were Brother Luck, for making something comforting, and Joseph, who had good umami and flavors. The winner is Joseph. Nice. He's ecstatic. Plus they'll put the recipe in a Blue Apron menu, although I assume with more time than eight minutes.

Elimination Challenge. Padma ditches Troy and brings out Alex Seidel. Tyler lusts after him for whatever reason. Alex is one of the chefs who has a farm that supplies his restaurants. You'll stay in the same teams to make a four course “progressive” menu. Each course must incorporate one ingredient. But Padma won't say what that is, so I'm going to go ahead and assume this is Rocky Mountain oyster week. 2.5 hours to prep and cook tomorrow for 20 people. Now it's time for a field trip to the farm! Adrienne is freaking out because she needs to plan.

OK so Blue team is Rogelio, Tyler, Claudette, Adrienne, Joseph, Brother Luck, and Bruce. Green team is Fatima, Carrie, Laura, Tanya, Tu, Hipster Joe, and Chris. On the drive everyone enjoys the scenery. In the cars people try to discuss what dishes they might do, without knowing what they're going to find at the farm. Claudette talks about her astrologer and her son who is almost in high school.

The farm is pretty (of course) but it looks a little cold and rainy. Tyler continues to lust after people, because he compared Alex to a Greek god and now the cheesemaker at the farm is a classic bearded hipster lumberjack and Tyler can't handle it. They are an “artisanal sheep dairy and creamery”. They're going to use their cheeses in the dishes. Nice! Rocky Mountain oysters are saved for another day. Joseph gets to help cut cheese curds and there is tasting outside. Ricotta, then a raw cheese? A feta, and I think a soft cheese like a brie. “Shepherd's Halo”. One cheese per course.

Menu planning. Adrienne thinks the first course should be raw fish, and she insists she's worked with fish and cheese before. Yeah, but...crudo and cheese? Claudette maybe will cold-smoke the fish. That might work. Bruce will do pasta with the feta. Hipster Joe doesn't want to do a soup because it won't look nice. That's stupid. You can make it look nice. Instead he wants to do grits and lamb. How are grits that much different from soup? Whatever. He also suggests beignets for dessert, which actually don't sound terrible. Someone asks who is doing dessert, and I think looks to Laura, who suddenly is like “no no no I just want to get this all out” and is now not doing dessert. She really wanted to, but Joe got bossy and instead of talking about her own ideas (granted, all the ones from the car ride involved carrots) she is now sulking. I mean, Hipster Joe is very bossy, but still. She's complaining about feeling isolated.

Shopping, and I guess when the farm is a dairy farm you have to buy everything else at Whole Foods. Tyler lets us know he dressed up as Julia Child for Halloween when he was 10, and then wore the outfit every Friday after that. Chris and Tanya are making the beignet that Hipster Joe told everyone about, which involves feta ice cream. I was going to roll my eyes about it, but to be fair, if I saw beignets with feta ice cream on a menu I would order it, no question. I WILL order the weirdest thing on the menu just because it's weird. We went out over the summer and the waiter said my dinner was going to come in a mason jar and I actually thought “I have made the correct choice”. Like, I got MORE excited. I have consumed Maytag blue cheese ice cream with pistachios. This is not that odd. Plus the beignets are going to come with chocolate ganache. Chris says he was just like Hipster Joe when he was in his twenties, and now he respects people. Instead of Hipster Joe having a say in every single dish their team is making. Green team comes in under budget.

Back in the house everyone hangs out and Laura decides to lecture her team their menu isn't progressive? Cohesive? I'm not sure what she was trying to prove. Chris calls out Hipster Joe for meddling and says please let go of some things. But then Hipster Joe says he isn't at the point where he can trust people so he won't be letting things go? But this sentence is followed by “if the majority of people feel a certain way we should follow that.” Why can't I follow this conversation? If the majority of people don't agree with Hipster Joe then he should be quiet, but he doesn't trust anyone? I have no idea. Seven people is too many on a team. Hipster Joe says in confessional that he has great input.

Rogelio talks about succeeding in America as a chef and immigrant. Time for cooking. Adrienne and Claudette are working together and making a smoked trout dish. Claudette feels Adrienne is great and is planning to let her take the lead. Any time one chef says “my partner is so great I'm going to let them take over” it's never good. Fatima is making essentially cheese and crackers, but fancier. Tu tries to french a rack of lamb, and Hipster Joe does NOT approve of the frenched bones, because he can see Rogelio did a much better job. No one put Hipster Joe in charge but he certainly is acting like someone did.

Tom Time! Hipster Joe sees him and orders everyone to tighten up their station. He is working the cheese into the grits. He claims they're all working really well together and it'll look like one person did the whole thing. Yeah, because that one person is you. Tom bails and gives Tu shit for how he's tying his knots on the rack of lamb. Tu kind of laughs about it, and I think has the attitude of “If Tom Colicchio wants to show me how to tie knots then I'm going to let him.” Hipster Joe is mortified, of course. Laura is making some pasta and talking about using the rind of the cheese in the crackers. She's never made crackers before. Rogelio is doing something new.

People start to smell something burning, and it's determined that Tu has a pot of stock and vegetables that smells burnt. He and Hipster Joe argue about it, because I don't think it's actually burnt, or it doesn't look burnt anyway, but Hipster Joe seems to feel that if it smells burnt, then it IS burnt. Tu's a little pissed. Adrienne is explaining to Claudette how to cold smoke the trout, and she's confused because the cold smoking was Claudette's idea. And she doesn't know how to cold smoke? I'm not sure if Claudette doesn't know how to cold smoke anything, or if she's asking Adrienne how to do it because she thinks Adrienne is the greatest. On the third hand, I think I have a vague idea how to cold smoke from watching “Good Eats”. The judges arrive and discuss sheep. The trout is bitter and barely smoked. Oops.

Time for the first course. Adrienne and Claudette: smoked trout with cacio pecora, trout skin chips and zucchini. Cacio pecora is a semi-hard cheese aged about six months. When you Google the name the first hit is a description of this exact farm. So I think like a Parmesan maybe. Padma demands to know who did what. Claudette did everything with the trout except the skin, and Adrienne did the rest. Fatima and Laura: Shepherd's Halo cheese with rind terrines. There is also a cracker with the rind. Shepherd's Halo is a semi-soft cheese with a rind, like brie. They like that Fatima and Laura used the rind. No one likes fish and cheese, but this is OK because there isn't much cheese flavor and the fish isn't very smoked either.

Joseph and Bruce: sheep's milk feta and beet agnolotti with scallions and fonduta. Fonduta is just cheese sauce. It's basically fondue. Agnolotti is a filled pasta. Laura and Hipster Joe: potato and ricotta dumpling with butter sauce and hazelnut relish. The dumplings are only sauteed on one side, which Tom likes. Everyone likes how they did it. Joseph and Bruce did a great job too. Both dishes showcased the cheese.

Tu is grilling lamb and it's falling apart and everything is different temperatures. Hipster Joe immidately is like, I totally know how to grill lamb, I just wish Tu had told me he didn't know what he was doing. Rogelio and Tyler: lamb loin with spring vegetables and Shepherd's Halo cheese. Tu and Hipster Joe: seared lamb and corn grits with cacio pecora. It is one lamb chop and a dollop of grits on a very big plate. Tyler and Rogelio have inconsistent lamb, some of which is raw. The cheese is an afterthought. However Tu and Hipster Joe have grits that are too sweet, and the lamb is an afterthought and not done properly to boot.

Brother Luck: blueberry tart with whipped ricotta, grated almond and grapefruit zest. Chris and Tanya: fried dough with sheep's milk feta ice cream, chocolate ganache, and orange cream. I must point out, it's white chocolate ganache. Padma declares the fried dough the best dessert she's ever had on the show. OK that might be going too far. Tom says he loved the feta ice cream even though it was grainy. The blueberry tart is slightly underbaked but not a total disaster. The judges discuss who sucked and Tom makes a bad cheese joke.

Judges' Table. The judges' favorite team had the worst dish of the day. Winning team is the Green team, which means Hipster Joe suffers nothing. Fatima and Laura had a great attention to detail, and everyone loved that they used the rind. Carrie had made those dumplings before, but she made sure the ricotta shone. It was simple and delicious. The ricotta beignets were perfect and everyone seemed to be impressed they made ice cream. Tu and Hipster Joe made a terrible lamb dish. Tu tries to explain by saying he and Hipster Joe wanted to tell everyone to eat the lamb chops with their hands. Oh and the grits are a dip? Well, no, it's like a nostalgia thing. So does eating with your hands make the dish better? Uh, it would be fun...? All of this is Tu. Hipster Joe has not said one word. Anyway, the winner is Carrie. She hopes everyone will respect her more.

Loser Gong. At least in my head. The dessert and the agnolotti were fine. Claudette hadn't worked with this cheese before, but she likes this flavor profile and she didn't oversmoke the trout. She claims to be happy with the dish, but then Padma says she didn't taste any smoke at all. Part of why they picked out that cheese was they were using it to season the fish, which was a fine idea but they didn't do it properly and it was underseasoned. Tom says they didn't embrace the cheese, and Claudette goes on a rambling explanation about how she had a different idea but she didn't present it because of reasons, mainly it was a 50/50 partnership. Adrienne already agreed to smoking it, but...something. It's late and I'm apparently too tired to follow these conversations. Tom asks why it needed to be raw and Adrienne says they didn't want to alter it. Rogelio admits to cooking the lamb, which was the weakest part of the dish. Plus they just crumbled the cheese over the top of the dish. The judges move on to Tyler and Rogelio. Tyler says he put the rind in the stock and other places. Some lamb was raw and some was medium-rare. As the contestants leave it's clear they don't think any of the lamb was raw.

Neither losing dish showcased the cheese. The lamb was raw, and Rogelio had 2.5 hours to cook lamb. The smoked trout didn't feel like the farm, and no one liked the smoke flavor. The crispy skin was the best part of that dish.

Tom says everyone loves the farm. Sure, Tom. Padma tells Claudette she's out. The trout was poorly smoked. She's very upset that she was eliminated for a dish that wasn't really hers. Yeah, but she WAS the one who suggested cold smoking.

Next week: a Sudden Death Quickfire, stupid Hosea, food trucks. Some idiot dabbing.

Last Chance Kitchen: Claudette is surprised to see everyone but to her credit she immediately knows she has to battle them. But she's also very cocky about how great she is. Today's challenge scares Tom a little bit. They'll use the curds and whey to make something. Oh and also canned dried tarantulas. “Little Miss Muffet”, you see. Tom, you smartass. Kwame doesn't like bugs and he looks like he might lose it. He's also rolling his eyes a little at this gimmick. Claudette just laughs and says she's cooked weirder shit. That's hardcore.

20 minutes. Kwame is really not happy. These tarantulas are big. Big enough that when you look at them they look like spiders. He says they're really earthy, like a dried mushroom. Marcel is kind of into this, until he tastes the tarantula. Lee Anne plans to disguise the tarantula because “Tom is not looking to eat tarantula today.” Probably not. She's making fried cheese curds and tarantula over “grime time”. “Grime Time” is like movie theater nacho cheese. Somehow. Claudette refuses to answer questions from the peanut gallery which is no fun. She's doing some roasted vegetables and interviews that she was eliminated for not doing her food. I don't know if that's exactly right. I mean, I guess her point is that she was eliminated on a dish she didn't have total control over. Marcel makes fresh mozzarella, for caprese salad. Kwame wants to drown the tarantulas in cheese also on a flatbread.

Tom Time! Marcel fails at blending something as Tom is talking to him. Kwame is overcoming his fear of spiders. Claudette wants her tarantula to come through, not hide it under cheese. She tells Tom this proudly, and Tom is like what did I ever do to you? And Claudette immediately says “kicked me out.” You deserved that, Tom. Kwame puts his flatbread in the oven, so it'll be nice and crispy. Lee Anne hopes her cheese sauce will hide the tarantula flavor. With one minute left everyone is frantically plating. Behind everyone Tom pours liquid nitrogen over a beer so it'll be cold. Ha!

Claudette: ha sikil pak, fried sweet potato skins and tarantula. Ha sikil pak is a roasted vegetable dip that is Mayan in origin. Claudette described it as guacamole but with roasted veggies and not avocado. Kwame: grilled flatbread with whey sauce and cheese curds, with crispy tarantula. Tom is joking about how he has to eat tarantula, so I guess he doesn't have complete control over Last Chance Kitchen like I thought. Or he wouldn't be eating dried tarantula. Marcel: fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomato, whey emulsion, prosciutto, tarantula gremolata. Gremolata is a condiment that is mostly parsley and garlic and lemon. Lee Anne: crispy tarantula over “grime time” of fried curds and piquillo pepper compote, whey honey vinaigrette.

Tom says he may have nightmares from spicy tarantula dishes. His two favorites were Kwame and Claudette. Really. They both had great flavors, but the winner is Claudette. Marcel did a classic caprese, but he maybe should have soaked the tarantula to soften it a little bit. Lee Anne tried. But Marcel's cheese was a little rough, and Tom makes a face. It was dense and hard and therefore Marcel has lost. Aww. I'm kind of sad to see him go, weirdly. Claudette is now very cocky about beating Marcel.

No comments: