Cast Blog: #TCMASTERS

It's Flamethrower Time

Was Patricia's duck problem really Kerry's fault? Bravotv.com's Senior Editor doesn't seem to think so.

Thank you to Francis Lam for providing me with the perfect title for this week's recap.

Welcome back my little Pad See Ew. In case you were wondering, that's my go-to Thai food order. But before we get to the spicy (in more ways than one) Elmination Challenge, let's start with the Quickfire Challenge with guest judge Dita Von Teese. How appropriate for Dita to judge a challenge all about aphrodisiacs. While there isn't a whole lot of proof that aphrodisiacs do what we think they do -- besides, you know, Love Potion No. 9 -- it's inevitable that if you're eating an oyster, you're wondering what it might, um, help with. While doing some research for this week's interactive episode (hope you guys are watching those!) i discovered that oysters are a good source of zinc, which apparently does help control progesterone levels, so there's that. This may be blasphemous to say but I only starting enjoying oysters recently, and I would have been all over Takashi's winning Quickfire dish. Truffle and yuzu? I'm there. For the challenge, the chefs were provided with the "aphrodisiac" ingredients, but that doesn't mean their dishes stiil didn't have to bring the sexy. I really can't think of a "sexy" dish off the top of my head, but I would say there's something sexy about a dish with a lot of technique in it. Y'know, something that requires micro this or that to be placed gently on top of it with tweezers. Just knowing that a lot of thought went into a dish is sexy to me. But, y'know, I'm a dork. This same theory applies to cocktails for me, by the way. And without my odd predilections for over-thought food in their minds, the chefs put their best erotic feet forward, but Takashi came out victorious with his oysters and uni. Uni is probably one of the most luscious and luxurious ingredients out there, so it all makes sense. Meanwhile, just tried the spaghetti at Marea with uni -- wow. Before I wrap up this TMI recap of the Quickfire Challenge, can we just talk a moment about Curtis' fumbling around Dita? He got so flustered! I mean, he gets like that around me too, but I'm me! Hope Lindsay wasn't watching!

On to the real beef -- again, in more ways than one -- of this episode, the Elimination Challenge. The chefs had to put together a Thai restaurant in a day. They were hauled to Lotus of Siam to see how it should be done. I've heard of Lotus of Siam and Curtis teased it when he visited Bravo HQ earlier this season, but i have to say, looking at all that Thaui food was making me drool. Unfortunately, I don't love the Thai food offerings in my area and my favorite place doesn't deliver to me! I will take this opportunity to make a small plug for a small restaurant owned by one of my best friends -- White Orchids in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. Tell them Monica sent you! Or don't because they might say, "Monica who?!" Also, be sure to order the money bags. They're not only my favorite, but they're fun to say. But I digress.

Anyway, some of the chefs were really worried because Thai food was so far out of their comfort zones, but they all rose to the challenge. Whlie Art and Lorena were sent to front of house, which honestly, was a good decision -- they are the most personable -- the other chefs were "line cooks." But before the guests even got there, the drama started. Although the tension between Lorena and Patricia had been brewing for awhile, it came to a head when Patricia yelled at Lorena for taking up too much stove space. "Please, Patricia, chill!" I've literally been saying that to everyone that will listen. "Please, Charlie, chill!" "Please, Stacy, chill!" Aren't you glad you don't work with me?! I have to say I could see this argument happening in any kitchen, but Patricia did seem kind of condescending. She's obviously just reached the end of her rope. But Lorena put on a happy face and greeted her guests with a smile, including the judges who were not only joined by Lotus of Siam chef, Saipin, but also her daughter/interpreter, and Alan Sytsma of Grub Street.   First, Lorena's dish. I honestly thought it looked ilke chicken/matzah ball soup before the fat's been skinned off the top. Too harsh? But, it was Pisco chicken! And honestly it just made me want a Pisco Punch from Pegu Club, one of my favorite drinks. So for that alone, Lorena gets my kudos. Chris attempted a larb tartare and won! Way to go, Chris! He was truly inspired by Saipin's food and you could tell... unless he calls everything he eats "intoxicting," which is entirely possible. I don't know him. Takashi was safe with curry and crispy noodles. Kerry made a a braised pork belly which was praised by Saipin for seemingly being the most authentic of all the dishes. And although Patricia's dish apparently would have been great had she cooked her duck long enough, she didn't. In fact, her duck was sent back by James. There are actually few things grosser than duck fat that hasn't been rendered correctly. Yuck. But it was Kerry's fault -- according to Patricia. I don't totaly buy that. Communication is a two-way street, or something less cliche. Then there was Art, who just didn't step outside his comfort zone enough to provide a truly Thai dish, and so he went home. We'll miss you, Art! And your Speedo! I hope you're serious about opening a restaurant with Lorena because I can't imagine a restaurant with bolder flavors or personalities!

Next week, Sugar Ray (the boxer not the band!) visits Top Chef Masters. Until then, Have a Nosh, and Learn to Fly.

 

Curtis Stone's Lemon Creams with Poached Cherries

Curtis describes cooking for the finalists. Recipe included!

Well done, Doug! He put in a cracking effort this season. Were you happy to see him go all the way to being crowned the Top Chef Masters Season 5 winner? It’s great that he won 100K for his charity, Green Dog Rescue, Inc. Congrats, mate. 

The finale is the most exciting time in the entire competition, and it was a seriously great night for the critics and me. Each dish that was served up to us was absolutely bloody delicious. Jen, Bryan, and Doug should be so proud of themselves. 

These chefs are truly at the top of their culinary game, which makes it even more exciting and daunting for me to cook for them. Chefs love cooking for other chefs, but it’s also pretty nerve-wracking. We cook for critics, customers, and celebrities all the time, and that’s par for the course, but no one can break your food down like another chef. We only got to see the spot prawns and lemon cream on tonight’s episode, but I also got busy in the kitchen and hand-made some beautiful ravioli and chilled soup too. (My lemon cream recipe can be found below). I’ve put these three chefs through the ringer for 10 weeks, thrown a bunch of crazy challenges at them, and have said some not-so-great things once or twice while critiquing their meals, so it’s safe to say I was a little nervous awaiting their reactions. They seemed to enjoy the dishes a lot, and it was great to just sit down, reflect, and celebrate their accomplishments.  

Bryan is a total superstar and has elevated his career more than anyone could have imagined going from Top Chef finalist to Top Chef Masters finalist. It’s just unbelievable. It’s kind of like going from playing local football to suddenly being in the premier league. 

It was also amazing to watch Jen come back fighting like a champion in this competition. She really fought hard and deserved a place in the final after going from being eliminated to winning her way back in, and then winning a handful of challenges. 

I think Doug had that winning edge in the end due to a number of key factors. He’s an accomplished chef with years of experience and has a vast amount of knowledge to draw on from his travels and training. Doug’s spent a lot of time behind the stoves and has never turned his back on them (well, only when he is working and playing with his beloved dogs). He’s got an admirable roll-up-the-sleeves, resilient attitude and gave each challenge a good crack. And we can talk about him facing his fears of skydiving? A lot can change in 10 weeks, huh? I had a ball filming this season, and it was a pleasure to work with such a talented group of chefs, critics, celebrities and the crew. I’m already thinking about next year and the chefs on my wish list to lure into the Top Chef Masters kitchen. I’d love to see April Bloomfield from NYC’s The Spotted Pig, husband and wife team Karen and Quinn Hatfield from Hatfield’s Restaurant and The Sycamore Kitchen, Josef Centeno from Bäco Mercat, Christopher Elbow from Kansas City (his chocolates look insane), and I’d also love to see Missy Robbins come back to us. 

Thanks for a great season, everyone!

Cheers,

Curtis

Lemon Creams with Poached Cherries

This dessert is a bit of a calorie killer, but hey, what the hell. It’s dead easy, but you’ll need a thermometer. Use two lemons if you like a subtle lemon flavor, or three for more of a zing. I like using frozen sour cherries to cook with -- fresh cherries should be eaten fresh. 

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

Lemon creams:

3 1/2 cups 35% whipping cream
Finely grated rind and juice of 2-3 lemons
6 oz instant dissolving sugar

Poached cherries:

Finely grated rind of 1/2 orange

7 fl oz red wine (Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon)

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 whole clove

1 tsp instant dissolving sugar plus extra, if needed

7 oz frozen sour black cherries, defrosted 

 

Method

To prepare the lemon creams: 

In a saucepan, heat the cream to 160°F. Remove from the heat and cool to 150°F.

Add the lemon rind, juice and sugar to the cream mixture, and mix well. Allow to cool, then pour into six 6-inch dariole moulds (cups, ramekins, or glasses will do if you don’t have molds*). Place on a tray and put in the refrigerator to set, about fur hours.

To poach the cherries:

Place the rind, wine, cinnamon, clove and sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Add the cherries, bring to the boil, and taste for sweetness. If necessary, add a little more sugar to neutralize the tannin of the wine, while retaining some zing. Simmer for five minutes, then cool.

When ready to serve, carefully up-end the moulds over serving plates and give them a shake; the creams should just slip out. If this proves difficult, run a small knife around the edge of the mould to release the cream and try again. 

Serve each lemon cream accompanied by 5-6 cherries. Drizzle a little of the syrup over each one. 

*You can also make molds from 3-inch diameter PVC pipe from a hardware store cut to depths of 1 1/4-inches. Sand the edges and then seal the bottoms with plastic wrap.