OK, so I've decided to change up my approach to this weekly Top Chef portion of my blog. I normally would write a recap of the episode and then comment briefly on the dish. But my boyfriend, Jack, pointed something out to me:
"You can read a recap anywhere," he stated. "I'd want to know what your experience was like. Was it hard to find the ingredients? Was the recipe easy to follow? Things like that."
I've got a smart one on my hands, people.
And I must say that I agree. In his week one blog, Tom Colicchio asked:
Recently an article written about the lack of time that people are spending cooking hinted at Top Chef as being part of the reason. With the feedback I’ve received from viewers, including countless nine- and ten-year old boys and girls who watch devotedly and are now in the kitchen cooking away, I have to believe it’s quite the opposite. Your thoughts?
Well, Tom, I'm glad you asked me personally. I think that Top Chef has been a huge contributor to the explosion of interest in food, restaurants, chefs, ingredients, etc. I often use the Top Chef recipe database as my go-to source for new recipes. I know that many of the recipes seem daunting, with countless ingredients and foreign (to home-cooks) techniques. But I hope that this little part of my humble blog will show readers that it is, in fact, not scary to cook Top Chef recipes.
Unless they are Marcel's. I'm still nervous for when I hit one of his recipes up. I think I'll be all geleed and foamed out by that point.
So, I will no longer be writing recaps, but will let all of you, my friends, know what it is like to cook this dish. Maybe I'll even assign a "Scary?" factor.
This week's winning dish was by Michael Voltaggio - one of the brothers who seem to be two of the strongest competitors in the competition. Michael won last week's challenge with his strange-but-delicious play on chips and guacamole: a guacamole filled lime meringue served with a corn puree. This week, he won with another innovative dish.
The dish consisted of some fairly common ingredients: your usual celery, carrots, and onions for a mirepoix for the slab bacon. Then you've got your soy sauce, powdered ginger, and mustard (both yellow and whole grain). Throw some mango chutney into the mix for a sweet and spicy combination that smelled like heaven when reducing on the stove.
I thought I would have some problems finding some slab bacon. I don't normally shop for slab bacon, so I thought it would be like asking for something crazy like goat leg. Surprisingly (or stupid of me to have thought it), it was actually very easy to find slab bacon. I headed to the neighborhood supermarket and waited patiently while the butcher scolded a worker when he found blood in the sea salt. I politely asked if they had slab bacon, he directed me towards a different section of the store, and I quietly made a note to myself never to shop there again. Luckily, my slab bacon was tightly wrapped, and I was able to get all of the remaining ingredients in one trip.
I returned to my kitchen, prepared my mise en place, and scored my bacon. I was excited because it was my first time scoring bacon and I felt super-professional.
It's the little things, people.
I browned the bacon, skin side down, in a bit of sesame oil, flipped it over, filled the pan with some water and my aromatics, covered it with a bit of aluminum foil and popped it in a 275 F oven for 2 hours. Easy enough.
I then prepared the glaze. It went a little something like this:
Put all of the ingredients in a pan. Reduce.
HOLLA! I'm, like, SO good at this.
The recipe called for a significant amount of cornstarch, but I am not sure why, because my sauce was beautifully thick within 15 minutes. No need for cornstarch when there is... well... no need for cornstarch.
Two hours later, I grabbed my bacon, slathered on some sauce, sliced it up, placed it in some romaine hearts, added some chopped peanuts, snapped some photos and took a bite.
The dish was delicious. Moist, juicy, and tender, with a great smoky flavor, and topped with a sweet and spicy chutney. The added texture of the crisp romaine hearts and crunchy peanuts were a great addition. I removed the bottom layer of skin when I ate it because, frankly, there is enough fat in bacon that I don't have to eat the ACTUAL fat of the bacon, lest I would like to put on 20 pounds and feel my arteries clog with each and every chew.
You can watch beloved contestant Fabio Viviani's video on BravoTV.com, which is a great tutorial piece each week. However, he does make the dish a little differently than directed in the recipe. I know Italian men like to do things their way (I'm Italian, there is nothing wrong with that) or the way of their grand-a-ma-ma, so I won't be one to argue.
I give this dish a Scary factor of 2 (on a scale of 1-10), mainly because of the blood in the sea salt at the grocery, which has nothing to do with this dish, but really, come on, that's a little scary.
Click here for the recipe.