The Best Top Chef Dishes to Beat the Heat
From Marcel's watermelon salad to Richard's vegetarian sashimi, our fave summer dishes.
Summer is about to come to a close—but there are still a few gorgeous days left to whip up some seasonally appropriate meals for family and friends. We've compiled some of our favorite dishes from Top Chefs over the years—both simple and experimental ones that can help you beat the heat, from Richard Blais' inventive vegetarian sashimi to Marcel Vigneron's gorgeous Watermelon and Tomato trio. Enjoy!
Lee Anne's Deep-Fried Oysters with Lemon Cream
Season 1, Episode 6
The Chef crafted this dish using the limited ingredients selected by Ted Allen. Successful? Definitely. "It's a classic but you've given it a nice twist," he told Lee Anne. "Are you trying to seduce me?"
18 fresh oysters, 2 cups heavy cream, 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice, or to taste, 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest, 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese, Salt and freshly ground white pepper, 4 slices bacon, 1 plum tomato, peeled, cored, and finely diced, ½ shallot, finely minced, 3 tablespoons diced sea beans, 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, Vegetable oil for frying, ¾ cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup club soda, Coarse salt for serving.
45 minutes. Serves 6.
1. Shuck the oysters, removing them completely from their shells into a bowl, along with their juices. Reserve the bottom halves of the oyster shells and rinse under hot water to clean. Dry the shells and set aside. Strain the oyster liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside. Refrigerate the oysters, covered, until ready to fry.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the cream is reduced by about two-thirds, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat, strain if a skin forms on the surface of the cream, and return to the pan. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and cheese. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Cover and set aside until ready to serve. Gently reheat before serving if needed.
3. Put the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook until crisp on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain and cool slightly, then crumble the bacon. Set aside until ready to serve.
4. In a small bowl, combine the tomato, shallot, sea beans, and parsley. Add the extra-virgin oil and stir to coat.
5. In a medium, heavy pot, heat 2 to 3 inches of vegetable oil over medium-high heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the flour in a medium bowl and whisk in just enough club soda to make a fairly smooth paste (a few lumps are OK), then add the remaining club soda.
6. One at a time, dip the oysters into the batter, letting excess drip off. Then, working in small batches, gently place the oysters in the oil. Fry until the oysters are puffed and golden brown, about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt.
7. To Serve, form 3 small mounds of coarse salt on each of 6 serving plates to make little platforms for the oysters. Moisten with a little water and place the reserved oyster shells on the mounds. Place a fried oyster in each shell and spoon a teaspoon of the warm lemon cream over each one. Top with the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the crumbled bacon. Serve immediately.
Marcel's Watermelon and Tomato Trio: Watermelon Steak, Tomato Salad, and Watermelon Refresher
Season 2, Episode 7
This Quickfire Challenge dish was crafted after Cheftestants were told to create an uncooked entree out of farmers' market produce. Said Marcel: "If you buy the right ingredients, you don't really need to cook them; they taste really good as they are."
1 small seedless watermelon, Salt, 1 large heirloom tomato, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, Pinch of sugar, or more to taste, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, Freshly ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, or more to taste, 2 large sprigs opal basil, cut into chiffonade, plus small sprigs for garnish, Nasturium leaves for garnish, Bee pollen for garnish, Fleur de sel.
30 minutes. Serves 4.
1. Using a sharp knife, cut the ends off the watermelon and stand it upright. Cut all of the rind off the watermelon, leaving the flesh in one piece. Cut crosswise into four 1 1/2 –inch-thick rounds. Using a biscuit cutter or another 1 1/2 – to 2-inch diameter round cutter, cut a “steak” from the center of each slice. Season the steaks with salt and put one on each of 4 serving plates; set aside in the refrigerator to chill.
2. Cut the ends off the large tomato and save. Cut the tomato into 4 slices. Place 1 tomato round on top of each watermelon steak.
3. In a blender, puree 2 cups of the remaining watermelon flesh from the heirloom tomato trimmings and ¾ cup of the cherry tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and sugar, then pour the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-cup measure.
4. Return half of the liquid to the blender and add the oil and salt and pepper to taste. (Put the other half in the refrigerator to chill.) Blend to combine, then add the vinegar and blend again. Taste the dressing and add more salt or vinegar as necessary.
5. Cut the remaining cherry tomatoes in half and put them in a medium bowl with the chiffonade of basil and enough of the dressing to coat the tomatoes. Toss together well, then divide the cherry tomato salad among the 4 serving plates. Garnish with nasturtium leaves, opal basil sprigs, and bee pollen. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.
6. Pour the reserved watermelon-tomato puree into 4 small glasses or cups and serve alongside the watermelon steaks and salad.
Harold's Ecuadorian Ceviche with Popcorn Cakes
Season 1, Episode 9
Harold served up this dish for a Quickfire Challenge that asked Cheftestants to recreate a classic junk-food item. "The fact of the matter is, I'm not here to cook junk food," he said. "I'm going to take the healthiest thing up there and make something with it." The dish takes 30 minutes to prepare and serves 6-8 people.
Ecuadorian Ceviche: 3 large tomatoes, quartered, 1/3 cup fresh orange juice, ½ cup fresh lime juice, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 red onion, diced, Salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, 1 poudn squid, cleaned, tentacles separated and chopped, bodies cut into ¼-inch rings, ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish.
Popcorn Cakes: ½ cup seltzer, 1 large egg, ½ teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons minced fresh chives, ½ cup all-purpose flour, 1 bag salted microwave popcorn, popped, cooled, and roughly broken up with your hands, Vegetable oil for frying.
30 minutes, plus straining overnight and marinating 3 hours. Serves 6 to 8.
For the Ecuadorian Ceviche:
1. Put the tomatoes in a food processor and puree until smooth. Line a fresh-mesh sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and place over a bowl large enough to hold the liquid from the tomatoes without letting the sieve tough the liquid. Place the sieve on top of the bowl, our in the tomato puree, cover, and refrigerate overnight without stirring or pressing down on the solids.
2. Discard the tomato puree and transfer the tomato liquid to a measuring cup. Measure out 1 cup liquid and save the rest for another use.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the tomato liquid, orange juice, lime juice, sugar, onion, and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Add the shrimp and cook until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Add the squid and cook until just tender, about 40 seconds.
5. Drain the shrimp and squid well and add to the marinade. Place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours to marinate, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.
For the Popcorn Cakes:
1. Whisk the seltzer water, egg, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until frothy. Whisk in the chives, then whisk in the flour. Stir in the popcorn until just coated with the batter.
2. In a large skillet, heat ½ inch of oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. In batches, drop the batter by tablespoons into the oil and fry until nicely browned on both sides, about 2 minutes.
3. Remove the popcorn cakes with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
To Serve: Using a slotted spoon, place the ceviche in small bowls, then spoon the marinade on top. Garnish with cilantro. Place the popcorn alongside and serve.
Andrea's Quinoa Pilaf with Curried Sweet Potato Mash
Season 1, Episode 4
Andrea whipped up this dish when the Cheftestants were asked to create a gourmet entree that can be reheated in the microwave. It takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to prepare and serves 4 people.
Curried Sweet Potato Mash: 2 large sweet potatoes, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan, 1 teaspoon mild curry powder, Salt, 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste.
Quinoa Pilaf: 1 1/3 cups quinoa, Salt, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 medium yellow onion, diced, 1 medium leek, cleaned and diced, 1 garlic clove, minced, 2 vegetarian sausage links, diced, 4 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced, 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage, plus sage leaves for garnish, Freshly ground black pepper, ½ cup dried cranberries.
1 hour, 15 minutes. Serves 4.
For the Curried Sweet Potato Mash:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Put the sweet potato cubes in a large bowl and coat with the oil. Add the curry powder and salt to taste. Place in a greased baking pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 50 minutes, or until softened. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
2. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and transfer to a food processor. Add the butter and lemon juice and process until smooth.
For the Quinoa Pilaf:
1. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, rinse the quinoa until he water runs clear. Put the quinoa in a medium pot over medium heat and add 2 cups of boiling water. Add salt to taste, then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and cook for about 18 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the spiral germ separates from the grain. Set aside for 5 minutes, then fluff the quinoa with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. In a medium sauté pan or skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the sausage, mushrooms, sage, and salt and pepper to taste and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through and the mushrooms have softened.
3. Add the cooked vegetables and dried cranberries to the quinoa and stir to combine.
To Serve: Spoon the quinoa onto serving plates, along with the mashed sweet potatoes, and garnish with the sage leaves.
Howie’s Shellfish Ceviche With Avocado and Crispy Plantains
Season 3, Episode 3
Howie's dish was created during a Quickfire where the Cheftestants had to catch and cook a shellfish dish in 30 minutes for Chef Alfred Portale. It takes 45 minutes (plus marinating) to prepare.
6 mussels, rinsed and debearded, 6 crayfish or Gulf shrimp, rinsed (shells on), 8 scallops, rinsed and trimmed, 4 small conch, cleaned and shelled (optional), 6 Kumamoto oysters, shelled, Juice of 2 limes (1/4 cup), Juice of 2 lemons (1 ¼ cup), Juice if 1 tangerine (about ¼ cub), 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped, 4 cups canola oil for frying, 1 green plantain, very thinly sliced, 6 grape tomatoes, halved, 1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced, 1 jalapeno chile, seeded and diced, 4 scallions, white part only, thinly sliced, 2 tablespoons olive oil, Salt and pepper.
45 Minutes. Serves 4.
1. Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the mussels and crayfish and poach for about 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice-water bath to cool. Remove the shells from the mussels and crayfish or shrimp. Combine all the seafood in a bowl. Add the citrus juices and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
2. Smash the avocado with a fork and season with salt to taste. Set aside.
3. In a large sauté pan over high heat, heat the canola oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the plantain slices to the hot oil in batches and fry until crispy, about 1 minute. Remove the plantain slices from the with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and season with salt.
4. Drain the seafood, pouring off the juices. Toss the seafood with the tomatoes, bell pepper, chile, scallions, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, spoon the shellfish into martini glasses. Spoon the avocado on top. Garnish with the fried plantains.
Richard B.’s Vegetarian “Sashimi”
Season 4, Episode 14
Richard crafted this dish during a Quickfire Challenge that asked the Cheftestants to create a vegetable platter that showcases three techniques for Chef Daniel Bouloud. "Richard impressed me all season long with his avant-garde technique, whimsical style, creativity, and grace under pressure," Gail Simmons recalled.
A few drops olive oil, 4 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced, Salt and pepper, A few drops yuzu juice, A few drops truffle oil, 1 English cucumber, sliced lengthwise, A few drops kecap manis, Juice of 2 limes (1/4 cup), 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar, 1 small red beet, peeled, 1 small yellow beet, peeled, 4 slices radish, 1 scallion, very thinly sliced, Honey for drizzling.
30 minutes. Serves 2-4.
1. In a small saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sear for about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, yuzu and truffle oil.
2. Cut the cucumber slices into very thin, long strips that resemble capellini noodles. Toss the strips with the kecap manis and ½ of the lime juice.
3. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add the vinegar. Boil the beets until just tender, about 15 minutes. Rinse immediately with cold water.
4. Dress the radish with the scallion, remaining lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Position all vegetables on plate as a sashimi tasting. Cut the beets into sashimi shapes and drizzle with honey. Present the cucumber strips as a “pasta” in a spoon.