Welcome, chefs, to Season 6 of Top Chef with Teanna.
For those of you who have been following my "show", you may say to yourself, "But she hasn't even finished cooking through Season 1!" And you are right, my perceptive friend. You are very right.
I mentioned in my first post that I would pause at the point in which the new season aired and would start cooking the winning dishes of the current season. I will continue my posts and finish out Season 1, but for now, the new season will take up this Wednesday slot.
So let's get started, shall we? We are introduced to a whole new crop of tattooed, faux-hawked culinary wonders who all get to live in a gorgeous Vegas mansion complete with swimming pool and slide (we later get to see a somewhat zaftig (I'm trying to be nice here) cheftestant slide down head first into the pool). We meet the chefs, which include a several chefs from Atlanta, one from Philly who has studied under my favorite Frenchman, Eric Ripert, a New Yorker (only one???), a chef from Jersey, and a chef from France who has a penchant for wearing red napkins as a neck accessory, to name a few. Note: I have googled this and it is called a "neckerchief". The frenchman will now be my new obsession of the season, a la Stephen Aspirino of Season 1. Lets hope his sound bites are as catchy as his neckerchief is trendy.
The chefs are introduced to Padma Lakshimi, the stunning goddess of Bravo TV and Burger King and Tom Colicchio, god of gorgeous blue eyes and skeptical smiles that speak a thousand words. The chefs are told that their first quickfire challenge will be a relay that consists of four stages: shuck 15 clams, peel 30 prawns, clean five lobsters, and butcher two chops from a prime rib. In true Vegas fashion, the contestants draw chips from a bag, and their corresponding chip will determine their teams (except for the gold chip, chosen by Robin, which not only allowed her to sit out of the challenge, but also gave her immunity for the first elimination). The blue team, consisting of Mattin and his neckerchief, Bryan, Jennifer, and Jesse eked out a win against the black team, despite Mike from New Jersey's apparent confusion in which he must have thought that he was at a NJ Devil's game and not in the Top Chef kitchen, which would be the only excuse for his excessive battle shouts. Unfortunately, the red team finished dead last. I think Preeti may still be trying to shuck her first clam.
But the quickfire does not stop there. The chefs of the winning team are then told that they must make a dish out of their corresponding leg of the relay. The winner of the challenge would win $15,000. Jen, the chef from Eric Ripert's restaurant in Philadelphia, wins not only the respect of her peers, but $15,000. And she probably has touched Eric Ripert, so I am jealous of her on so many levels.
But the real challenge excites the chefs: pick a personal vice and cook a dish that represents that vice. We have some truly creative dishes, like Mike from the Devil's game dish of a piece of fish that looks like a bar of soap because he curses too much and a rack of lamb represented a a different Mike's attraction to unnatural female enhancements. The losing dish was Jennifer Z's dish of Chile Relleno stuffed with Seitan. But the winning dish was by Kevin Gillespe (the slide-surfer) which represented procrastination: Arctic char which was slowly poached to medium rare in garlic olive oil.
This was a knock-out dish, and I have to say, I had more fun making this dish than I did any other Top Chef creation. An UNBELIEVABLE marinade of cider vinegar, star anise, sugar, cinnamon, and whole peppercorns flavor diced shallots and turnips for a long period of time. Smashed garlic and thyme flavors olive oil cooked at a very low temperature for 45 minutes. Basil, parsley, and tarragon are mixed to make a stellar herb puree. A juiced cucumber is mixed with a buerre fondue (water-butter emulsion) and used to braise romaine lettuce. Cucumber and fennel bulb brunoise is them mixed with the shallot and turnip mix, then mixed with caramelized celery, and finally tossed in a bit of the herb puree. Finally, the char (I actually used turbot, as I could not find char), which is simply flavored with fennel pollen (which I did not do because I am fresh out of fennel pollen) and salt is slow-cooked in the warmed garlic and olive oil mixture and basted continually until cooked to a fine medium rare.
Like I said, I had so. much. fun. making this dish. Honestly. And it is outstanding. But my favorite, favorite part is the turnip salsa verde. I hate turnips and I could not stop eating this. I made two dishes - one with pork and one with turbot, and this dish worked fantastically with the pork as well.
This is going to be a great season.
Oh, and all of you cooks out there - you'll all be happy to know that the Top Chef website actually posts comprehensive recipes now.
So click here and give this recipe a shot. It is totally worth it.