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Top Chef


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This is my first post on eGullet. I am not a chef. I am not even a cook. I am a humble lawyer who LOVES food and everything food represents. In other words, I am a lawyer in a chef's body. (shameless plug www.thebarristersbistro.wordpress.com}.

I know there is a thread on Top Chef, but I thought a more specific thread would be appropriate. I just finished last week's episode RE Latin American cooking. Being from San Diego, Latin American flavors are near and dear to my heart., especially, the flavors of Baja California With that in mind, I was especially disappointed in the product from tlast week's episode. Specifically:

1. Colicchio saying that Howe should have roasted the pork shoulder rather than braise. This is an outrage. A roasted pork shoulder will never, ever taste as good as a perfectly braised, fall off the bone delight (please see the Carnitas thread on eGullet).

2. Crevice with guacamole puree on tortillas? Is this Spanish meets Mexican street tacos? I'm sorry but this is an abomination

3. Arroz Con Pollo? I have traveled extensively in Mexico, eaten in local homes and have yet to be served "Arroz con Pollo." This is a generic bastardization of regional variations that would blow your mind. Just because you can say it in Spanish doesn't mean it's authentic.

4. Brian, being from San Diego and actually serving wonderful food at (the MN chain) Oceanaire saying his Latin technique is not that good.

Well, as you can see, this subject lit a fire under my "you-know-where." While I admit (1) I don't understand half the words they use in their dish descriptions and (2) I couldn't dice one onion in the time it takes Hung to do 20, how hard can it be to take a perfect piece of meat (fish etc,,)) and through a reduction over it.

So, lets have some fun. Armchair Chef, if you will There are some very talented chefs, and some people who just don't realize how talented they are, on eGullet.

WHAT WOULD YOU MAKE IN THESE CHALLENGES?

There is plenty of time left in the season and I think it will be really exciting to see how people's flavor profiles rock!!!

Lets start with Episode 5: What would be your "upscale" Latin dish? (Please no cutting a circle out of a pre-made dough, cooking it, putting something on top and calling it a "tart")..

Maybe we can get a little competition going and, at best, make some people realize that, you too, can cook your ass off!!!!!!

BTW, I just realized that I missed an episode halfway through this post. Sorry. Just humor me.

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Tough one. My first thought would be some kind of variation of Menudo. Done properly I understand that takes about two days so that's out.

Not knowing the cast of that show well I think they are more Caribbean Latin than North, Central and South American Latin.

I think I would of shot for a 2.5 ounce of shredded Cuban pork nestled inside or on top of what ever the hell they call South American yams, possibly carmelized with onion and a little sugar.

Place that on some kind of lightly seasoned (celery salt & pepper?) Veloute with roasted red pepper and hope it comes out dark red?

Probably figured out some bastardization of Cajun peanut slaw using those freaking hard Brazilian nuts. Probably roast them or something and hope they get little softer. Probably add some Jamaican black beans and a little corn and hope they not catch on.

As you can see I too am clearly not a chef but I play one on the internet.

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

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This is my first post on eGullet.  I am not a chef.  I am not even a cook.  I am a humble lawyer who LOVES food and everything food represents.  In other words, I am a lawyer in a chef's body.  (shameless plug www.thebarristersbistro.wordpress.com}. 

I know there is a thread on Top Chef, but I thought a more specific thread would be appropriate.  I just finished last week's episode RE Latin American cooking.  Being from San Diego, Latin American flavors are near and dear to my heart., especially, the flavors of Baja California With that in mind, I was especially disappointed in the product from tlast week's episode.  Specifically:

1. Colicchio saying that Howe should have roasted the pork shoulder rather than braise.  This is an outrage.  A roasted pork shoulder will never, ever taste as good as a perfectly braised, fall off the bone delight (please see the Carnitas thread on eGullet).

2. Crevice with guacamole puree on tortillas? Is this Spanish meets Mexican street tacos? I'm sorry but this is an abomination 

3. Arroz Con Pollo?  I have traveled extensively in Mexico, eaten in local homes and have yet to be served "Arroz con Pollo."  This is a generic bastardization of regional variations that would blow your mind. Just because you can say it in Spanish doesn't mean it's authentic.

4. Brian, being from San Diego  and actually serving wonderful food at (the MN chain) Oceanaire saying his Latin technique is not that good.

Well, as you can see, this subject lit a fire under my "you-know-where."  While I admit (1) I don't understand half the words they use in their dish descriptions and (2) I couldn't dice one onion in the time it takes Hung to do 20, how hard can it be to take a perfect piece of meat (fish etc,,)) and through a reduction over it.

So, lets have some fun.  Armchair Chef, if you will  There are some very talented chefs, and some people who just don't realize how talented they are, on eGullet. 

WHAT WOULD YOU MAKE IN THESE CHALLENGES?

There is plenty of time left in the season and I think it will be really exciting to see how people's flavor profiles rock!!!

Lets start with Episode 5:  What would be your "upscale" Latin dish?  (Please no cutting a circle out of a pre-made dough, cooking it, putting something on top and calling it a "tart")..

Maybe we can get a little competition going and, at best, make some people realize that, you too, can cook your ass off!!!!!!

BTW, I just realized that I missed an episode halfway through this post.  Sorry.  Just humor me.

Mole, what else? The show was called "something or other chocolate". Right?

Plus it can be done so many ways and feeds a lot of people. I'd add tortillas, maybe borracha beans, maybe a mixed green thing?????

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3. Arroz Con Pollo?  I have traveled extensively in Mexico, eaten in local homes and have yet to be served "Arroz con Pollo."  This is a generic bastardization of regional variations that would blow your mind. Just because you can say it in Spanish doesn't mean it's authentic.

Wait. You're saying that Arroz con Pollo is not a "traditional Mexican" dish, or is not a "latin cuisine" dish? This is something that can be found in many variations in many different Spanish-speaking cultures. I've had Cuban versions, Dominican versions, Puerto Rican versions, etc. Okay... I haven't had a Mexican version. But this was a "latin" episode, not a Mexican episode, right?

Edited by slkinsey (log)

--

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But this was a "latin" episode, not a Mexican episode, right?

It was indeed a "Latin" episode, not a Mexican one. I haven't had a Mexican arroz con pollo either (the last one was a pretty rough dish in Costa Rica - can still remember the crunchy bits).

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Isn't mole another one that takes two days to do correctly?

There are multiple versions of mole, not just one definitive version. Oaxaca has it's famous 7 moles, and every region and little town has it's version as well.

Many of them don't take 132 ingredients or 2 or 3 days to make. Reasonably good versions of mole verde and mole amarillo can be made in 90 mintues to 2 hours. What they might lack in depth of flavor from a shortened simmering time can be compensated for by using a rich chicken stock. The pressure cooker is widely used all over Latin America and it's possible to achieve a rich stock using a whoel chicken, lots of back pieces and some feet.

* Mole verde is something I would have considered, along with --

* Emapanadas w/lime crema and a salsa cruda

* Huachinango (Red Snapper) Veracruzana

* Or - a whole fish in the palapa style that's common on the West Coast of Mex.

* Fish Tacos

* And Brian being an Oregonian living in SD, should have thought about Lobster Puerto Nuevo style, PN being a little seaside enclave between Tijuana and Ensenada famous for their griddled :shock: lobster dinners

* Salipcon from Nicaragua would have been doable in that time frame

* Picadillo

* Chilequilas, who doesn't like a good plate of chilequilas, add protein and it's a meal

* Chicken or steak ranchero

* A Ceasar with a chile enhanced dressing + protein, very CA though

* Chiclen livers lightly dredged in seasoned flour, deep fried and served with a chile casabel or chile chipotle sauce. Don't want to deep fry, saute the chicken livers instead and toss in sauce and serve over rice.

* Sopa de fideo (which is really not a soup at all), many versions abound, add a side salad and it's a meal with or without protein

* With a pressurer cooker you can do pozole, and the nixtamalized corn for pozole is often available at latin markets so you don't have to used canned hominy.

* Moros y Cristos, which is really nothing more than rice and black beans, serve some plantain totopos along side with some smoked ham and a good salsa cruda or hot sauce to be added to taste

* Sopa siete mares, any latin country with a coast line has some version of seafood soup

* Antichuchos using beef heart rather than the typcial American substitute of beef

* Lomo Saleado from Peru

Come on, the list is endless. What this challenge really demonstrated is that the none of the chefs had really had much knowlege or background in latin cooking styles.

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  • 1 month later...

I would have done a cross of ropa vieja and carne asada. Not enough time to really slow cook the flank steak, so grill and then top with a thick tomato/pepper sauce Maybe serve on a real thin cornbread instead of tortilla.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hmm, this past week I would have been faced with a Chicken, a Russet Potato and a Sweet Onion.

I wish that the viewer was given information on what other items are in the pantry for the chefs to use. For example, are they given access to things like wild mushrooms, foie gras or pre-made stocks and sauces ala Iron Chef? It's always been a badly kept secret on Iron Chef going back to the days of the show in Japan that the chefs had a large pantry full of stuff to cook with other than the 'secret ingredient.'

So hoping that the pantry would give me a few additional items, last week I would have probably done this dish for the "Classic French" Elimination Challenge:

Foie Gras stuffed Chicken Breast on Truffled Potato Puree, Chicken Jus, Fried Onion Ring.

I would have cut the chicken breast to leave the wing drummette attached. I would have made a stuffing out of the chicken innards along with some foie gras mousse and fresh bread crumbs. I'd follow Robuchon's recipe for pureed potatoes and added some fresh black truffle. If I had time, and it wasn't in the pantry pre-made, I would have roasted some chicken bones and made a chicken jus and then finally, for a bit of crunch, a nice, thick slice of sweet onion coated in panko and deep fried. Just one onion ring.

Now I'm not a chef, nor do I have the skills of the Top Chef contestants, but I think if one of the contestants had done this type of dish, they would have scored up in the realm of where Hung was with his dish, much classier and 'French' than some of the other chefs dishes.

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Hmm, this past week I would have been faced with a Chicken, a Russet Potato and a Sweet Onion.

I wish that the viewer was given information on what other items are in the pantry for the chefs to use.  For example, are they given access to things like wild mushrooms, foie gras or pre-made stocks and sauces ala Iron Chef?  It's always been a badly kept secret on Iron Chef going back to the days of the show in Japan that the chefs had a large pantry full of stuff to cook with other than the 'secret ingredient.'

So hoping that the pantry would give me a few additional items, last week I would have probably done this dish for the "Classic French" Elimination Challenge:

Foie Gras stuffed Chicken Breast on Truffled Potato Puree, Chicken Jus, Fried Onion Ring. 

I would have cut the chicken breast to leave the wing drummette attached.  I would have made a stuffing out of the chicken innards along with some foie gras mousse and fresh bread crumbs.  I'd follow Robuchon's recipe for pureed potatoes and added some fresh black truffle.  If I had time, and it wasn't in the pantry pre-made, I would have roasted some chicken bones and made a chicken jus and then finally, for a bit of crunch, a nice, thick slice of sweet onion coated in panko and deep fried.  Just one onion ring.

Now I'm not a chef, nor do I have the skills of the Top Chef contestants, but I think if one of the contestants had done this type of dish, they would have scored up in the realm of where Hung was with his dish, much classier and 'French' than some of the other chefs dishes.

I believe they went shopping with $200 each. When I was watching Iron chef (japanese version) religously, it seemed to me that the chefs would pull out Fois gras, Truffles or Caviar to add to dishes when they were at a loss of what to do with the main theme ingredient. I personally see these ingredients as embellishments that can add another $20-$50 to the menu price. But you are right, they are considered classic french, so is Coq au Vin.

In the other Top Chef post I had said that I would probably do a chicken stuffed potato dumpling (kartofelklosse) with an onion puree.

Edited by RAHiggins1 (log)
Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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And I also have this funny sense that if I had done a perfectly roast chicken with pan juices, roast potatoes and onion jam that just maybe Chef Soltner would have been quite pleased with some good rustic French food.

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And I also have this funny sense that if I had done a perfectly roast chicken with pan juices, roast potatoes and onion jam that just maybe Chef Soltner would have been quite pleased with some good rustic French food.

I thought exactly the same thing, but with carmelized onions. I think a good roast chicken is a masterpiece.

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I have to admit I would have gone for something very basic, because of the audience... A herb crusted baked chicken, a potato onion gratin and a haricot vert beans. I also have to admit because of the fact that Jacques Torres was on the panel I would have had to offer a dessert of tartlettes - chocolate ganache in a butter pastry crust. All do-able in the alloted time.

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."
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And I also have this funny sense that if I had done a perfectly roast chicken with pan juices, roast potatoes and onion jam that just maybe Chef Soltner would have been quite pleased with some good rustic French food.

Saw the thread while scouting the recaps.

I'm with ya on choosing a KISS recipe. I was pretty surprised with who chose what to make and how to cook actually. Those guys were in a room LIT UP by some amazing chefs - cooking for Soltner? Holy cow!

But nobody went with French Onion soup?!?!?

Wonder why :rhetorically of course:

My menu -

1 - Chicken - roasted - except I would opt to quarter it ahead of cooking. Salt it enough to crisp the skin. Daniel Boulud's "Gramma's Chicken" recipe would be a good source to riff on. I don't have his method handy to quote but I would change it up by adding a different palette of spices; paprika and dill maybe. Cut the strained jus with a little corn starch to build a bit of viscosity and call it done.

2 - Potatoes - whatever is quick - just not whipped, scalloped, smashed. Maybe a gratin with good cheese. Manchego instead of Beaufort.

Both would require the simplest no hassle methods just so I could free up time for...

3 - Onion - Soupe a l'Oignon - Trad French style* with a good white wine and not beef stock. Note: this is where I'd spend the most money.

Are all are very doable in the time alotted? I think so. The trick would have been to reduce the soup portion just enough to make chicken the centerpiece.

ETA: I misidentifed the cooking time earlier and corrected. Thanks RK.

* = LCB method

Edited by C_Ruark (log)
"There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic." - Bourdain; interviewed on dcist.com
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Are all are very doable in 20 minutes?

I think they had two hours for this one -- and Hung had an additional 30 minutes from winning the 20-minute quickfire.

Och! Edited out the wrong time. You're right.

Still. With the chicken and potatoes happily cooking in the oven, there would have been plenty of time to get soup made.

"There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic." - Bourdain; interviewed on dcist.com
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3 - Onion - Soupe a l'Oignon - Trad French style* with a good white wine and not beef stock. Note: this is where I'd spend the most money.

I love French Onion soup done right. But I'm with you on the beef stock--it gives it a very rough edge that I don't always like. The other key, I think, is the cheese. I've eaten lovely French Onion soups with creamy melty cheese. Others I've had, though, have a melted gob of rubber bobbing up and down in them---yuck. What's the difference, cheese quality or cheese variety?

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"Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn." ~Garrison Keillor

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I love French Onion soup done right.  But I'm with you on the beef stock--it gives it a very rough edge that I don't always like.  The other key, I think, is the cheese.  I've eaten lovely French Onion soups with creamy melty cheese.  Others I've had, though, have a melted gob of rubber bobbing up and down in them---yuck.  What's the difference, cheese quality or cheese variety?

I was trained at LCB on the method which is held as a longstanding riff on the original Parisian Les Halles-mongers version. Basically it's all about seasoning a white wine stock and properly caramelizing a variety of onions to get the deepest mahogany color you can without scorching. Another essential is very dehydrated bread. Hint: no oven-baked croutons here.

Gruyere's the cheese of choice IMHO but - given the unit cost - a lot of restaurants will trade it out for provolone, swiss, parmesan, emmenthaler (or combination there of) which I think is verging on sacriledge.

How much plating time I have at a given moment determines if I drape and broil, mix in, or leave on the side. There is no authentic specification that I know of but if you have time drape and broi with a brulee torch, oven, or salamander (if you've got one... not used enough over here).

Edited by C_Ruark (log)
"There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic." - Bourdain; interviewed on dcist.com
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1. Colicchio saying that Howe should have roasted the pork shoulder rather than braise. This is an outrage. A roasted pork shoulder will never, ever taste as good as a perfectly braised, fall off the bone delight (please see the Carnitas thread on eGullet).

Got to disagree with you here. BBQ experts would probably agree with me as well...slow roasting is a perfect way to cook a pork shoulder. You might be amazed at the amount of flavor, juiciness and tenderness you get form a slow roasted pork butt.

What do you think all those BBQ guys are doing to the pork when they cook it? Certainly not braising it.

I suggest you try roasting a pork butt if you don't believe me.

By the way, you state that you aren't a chef yet you think that Colicchio doesn't know what he's talking about?

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Fresh River Trout- to find out where to get it read my wikihow article! How to fish for river trout.

I would probably pan fry a seasoned filet section in clarified butter, then deglaze with a non oaky white wine and thicken with a pecan butter. Served on top of a fresh spring mix of various local weeds (dandelion, etc..)

I've a friend that delivers to me fresh Venison tenderloin. I like coating game meat like this in a course or a creole mustard and wrap in bacon. I would imagine coating in crushed in pepercorn and serving it au poirve would be good to. Mushrooms would accompany it nicely, maybe a parsnip puree too. Really the more earthy the better. Dry red wine and truffles would sauce it good too.

Edited by RAHiggins1 (log)
Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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Elk?!?! I just watched the ostrich iron chef, and it seems to be a similar meat, fat-wise. I think if product was very fresh, I'd do a tartar with nice capers, mustard, onions etc to set off the gaminess and highlight the bright meaty taste. Then serve with horse-fat fries and mezuna with a traditional dijon vinegrette (we do it wiht germafiber brought home form france, makes it magical.)

But if i felt so-so about it, I might wrap it in bacon, grill it and serve with microgreens and a root veg mixture... carrots and salsify, perhaps. the berry sauce makes super sense, gotta say that's the way to finish the grilled elk.

That said, I can't say I know elk...

"Gourmandise is not unbecoming to women: it suits the delicacy of their organs and recompenses them for some pleasures they cannot enjoy, and for some evils to which they are doomed." Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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Elk?!?! I just watched the ostrich iron chef, and it seems to be a similar meat, fat-wise. I think if product was very fresh, I'd do a tartar with nice capers, mustard, onions etc to set off the gaminess and highlight the bright meaty taste. Then serve with horse-fat fries and mezuna with a traditional dijon vinegrette (we do it wiht germafiber brought home form france, makes it magical.)

But if i felt so-so about it, I might wrap it in bacon, grill it and serve with microgreens and a root veg mixture... carrots and salsify, perhaps. the berry sauce makes super sense, gotta say that's the way to finish the grilled elk.

That said, I can't say I know elk...

Actual horse fat as in fat from a horse? I'm having difficulty with that one. I think it exceeds my limitations of thing I actually desire to ever taste. I'm no Anthony Bourdain.

As a side note, it reminds me of a line from Bob Hope's "They call me bwana" involving zebra fried in monkey's fat.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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