Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Top Chef - 11.26.08

It's a Thanksgiving Episode! I always think the Holiday themed episodes of any previously-taped reality show are a bit weird, but I like to see what Top Chef has to say about Thanksgiving, so I guess it's ok.

Richard revealed some of the other Cheftestant's nicknames in the house - Jeff is Don Johnson, Fabio is the Cute Italian, Leah is the Fun Flirty One with "the nice rack," and Richard and Jamie are living on with Team Rainbow.

Time for the Quickfire! The Guest Judge this week is Grant Atkins, a molecular gastronomist, and the challenge is about "rolling with the punches."

Everyone pulled knives, with seemingly random numbers on them.

The numbers refer to page numbers in a Top Chef cookbook filled with recipes from chefs from previous seasons, and they have 60 minutes to put their own spin on them.

Jeff has Howie's Fennel Crusted Pork Chops with a three apple salad and is feeling pretty cocky about it, calling it basic and claiming he can bang it out in 15 minutes.

Melissa has CJ and Trey's Black Truffle and Parmesan Linguine with Kale, Tomato Confit, and Grilled Chicken.

Leah has Hung's Tuna Tartar with Nicoise Olives, asparagus, and egg vinaigrette.

The challenge comes to a screeching halt when a few minutes in, Padma and Grant come in, and tell everyone to STOP and declare that they now have 50 minutes to use their ingredients to make a soup (using Swanson broth, since there is a time crunch, and the segment is obviously sponsored by Swanson).

Daniel's inspiration dish is Black forest ham and egg bundle.

Carla's inspiration is Poached Shrimp from Leah. She claims to be a soup McGuyver.

Jamie declares her love for soup, and her inspiration is a deconstructed falafel by Miguel.

Richard's inspiration is Sara M's Chile Relleno with roasted red pepper sauce. He missed his final garnishing with lime juice.

And it's time for judging.

Stefan's original recipe was a scallop and shrimp burger, and he has done a thai green curry bisque with shrimp and scallop dumplings. The judges like his broth.

Ariane had a Colorado rack of lamb with ratatoille by Dale, and ended up making Diced Lamb, eggplant, red pepper and couscous soup. The judges thought it might be overcooked. Ariane couldn't hind her wince. She has the confidence of a mouse, apparently.

Daniel has ended up making a hama nd egg soup with sauteed mushrooms, corn, and cheese. It looks really delicious. Padma said "I don't think I've ever had ham and egg soup. I like ham and egg soup!" This made me want to go try making ham and egg soup. Ideas are floating around in my head.

Richard did a black bean and roasted pasilla pepper soup with rice cooked with broth. The judges bemoaned the lack of acid. Guess the lime juice would have helped. To his credit (or at least the editors), he did not jump in with excuses, just took the criticism. Thanks for that.

Melissa's linguine has morphed into a version of Italian Wedding Soup. This did not go over well. "We blurred the line here, and not necessarily in a good way." Ouch.

Fabio was working from a recipe of Michael's, a trout and salmon duo. He made it into a mushroom and asparagus soup with seared trout and salmon belly. The flavor is called flat, to which Fabio said "fair enough." More salt? Isn't that the call of many-a-judge's table?

Carla ended up with Shrimp, tomato, and coriander soup with cucumber and avocado salad. It got good marks.

Leah seemed apologetic about her chilled asparagus soup, with brioche, and tapanade with tuna tar tar (she mentioned while cooking that she didn't really like white asparagus, but didn't think there was anything else to do to play off the tuna tartar.) Still, the judges liked it, and even said that white asparagus is not an easy thing to work with. Leah admitted to them that she doesn't like the flavor, but even so, she seemed to do it well,

Jamie's falafel inspired soup is a chickpea soup with pickled chilis, yogurt, and crispy shallots. They really enjoyed it.

Again, we did not see everyone's soup. That is disappointing. I want to know if Jeff pulled something delicous out of his cockiness. I haven't seen Hosea all episode. Did Radhika make a curry soup? I don't like this selectivity. I want to see what everyone is cooking!

Jamie, Leah, and Daniel got top marks. Leah won, and I think deservingly so, for making a yummy soup with something that she didn't personally like. Being able to make something delicious out of something you personally don't care for is truly an art.

No bottom tier is mentioned. Humph. I know it doesn't matter in a quickfire, but I like to know.

For their Elimination Challenge, the Foo Fighters show up via video tape. They have to make Thanksgiving dinner for them, working in two teams.

Because she won the Quickfire, Leah got to choose her team, and she chose Jamie, Hosea, Melissa, Stefan, Fabio, and Radhika. They end up calling themselves "Team Sexy Pants."

The other team is Daniel, Richard, Jeff, Alex, Carla, Ariane, Eugene. They end up calling themselves "Team Cougar." They say that Ariane is their Cougar Mascot.

They have to cook a Thanksgiving Feast for the Foo Fighters and their entourage, including vegetarians, and plan according to their Rider, which is full of their likes and dislikes. The winning team will get to watch the gig, and the losing team has to clean up. They have to cook in microwaves, no fridge, no freezer, one burner, toaster ovens, cooking outside. This could get really tricky.

They have an hour and $1200 to shop.

Back at the venue, the chefs got to cutting up turkeys and other prep. They have 3 hours to cook. Eugene decided to build a grill using a chafing dish rack and some charcoal. That could be very clever.

Team Cougar's menu is Butterball (think they're a sponsor??) turkey, stuffing, roasted potatos, sweet potatoes, pork roast, macaroni and cheese, pumpkin parfait, peach cobbler, and banana s'mores.

Team Sexy Pants' Menu is Butterball turkey, stuffing, mashed potatos, sweet potatoes, gravy, side salads, pumpkin tiramisu, and fruit crisp.

Mother Nature decided to throw a curve ball at the cheftestants, and it started to rain. They managed to get it done.

The Foo Fighters came in to eat, and Richard spent some time mooning over Tom Colichio again, which was cute.

Team Cougar served first. The Foo Fighters were really funny. The stuffing did not get good marks, with figs in it. The mac and cheese with Bacon went over really well, as did the pork roast with the makeshift grill and the turkey.

Team Sexy Pants served next (they waited for desserts), and Jamie's Vegan Stuffing got really high marks, as did the yams with marshmallows. Ariane's turkey won in that battle, though.

And it's dessert time. The banana s'mores looked fantastic. I want to make them. Team Sexy Pants' Pumpkin Tiramisu went over very well. The crumble was also given high marks. Team Cougar's Pumpkin Parfait got very low marks. The S'mores amazingly did not get high marks.

The winning team (and the team going to the Foo Fighters concert) is Team Sexy Pants. Team Cougar was grumpy about losing and having to clean up and also be up for elimination. The concert looked like fun, and the cleaning looked like hell.

Team Cougar went before the Judge's Table. Jeff complained about the curveballs and the rain, and Tom basically told him to stop complaining, because it was nothing the other team had to deal with. Jeff was put forth as a leader or an organizer or what have you. Ariane's turkey got very good marks, and that was good for her. The potatoes were al dente, and that is not good, Daniel. Carla's cobbler was not executed well. The pumpkin mousse with berries made by Jeff was not good. The S'mores were not gooey and had no warm chocolate, so that's a problem. The vanilla cream on top ended up looking like spit, and that's really bad. The desserts are the worst, though Daniel's undercooked potatoes are in the mix for the worst. Carla's seems to be "fine" and "least offensive." Jeff's spoonbread and pumpkin berry parfait were both executed badly. Grant's least favorite dish was the S'mores.

In the Stew room, Daniel made himself a sandwich, and dripped some on the floor and got snipped at by Jamie as being the reason why there are flies all over the place. He decided it must be "her time of month." Ugh.

Back to the business at hand, Eugene, Alex, and Carla are sent to safety, and so was Ariane, who redeemed herself with good turkey. The person going home is Richard, and I am very sad. I liked him. Team Rainbow is shattered! I wanted to see Jeff gone. I think it was a bad decision for him, but I sure do wish he hadn't gone home because of badly executed s'mores.

And there is no winner this week. Next week they are doing The Today Show. Ought to be fun.

What do you think? Did the right person go home? Would you have been able to better execute Banana S'mores? (I think I could). What dishes do you want to make right now (I want to try making Ham and Egg soup!).

Happy Thanksgiving!

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