Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Of Gas Stations And Microwaves

Gail Has No Problem With Blood

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

Make Doug's Winning Mussels

Tom Colicchio Answers Your Restaurant Wars Qs

Gail: It Wasn't Keriann's Day

Make Doug's Winning Braised Pork!

Gail: We Had a Tough Job This Week

Make Katsuji's Authentically Delicious Stuffing

Hugh: The Demise of Cornwallis and Aaron

Make Gregory's Winning Dumplings

Richard: Chefs Please Follow Instructions

Richard Tries Money Ball Soup

Make a Home Run-Worthy Popcorn Crème Brule

Hugh: Where There's a Will There's a Fenway

Gail: Keriann and Aaron Were Being ---holes

Make the Winning Surf and Turf

Gail: We're Taking No Prisoners

Richard Goes From Player to Announcer

Tom Talks Boston

Gail: There Was No Season 11 Underdog

Hugh Wants Nick to Be Kind to Himself

Gail: It Was Difficult to Let Go of Shirley

Big Easy to Ocean Breezy

Gail: The Final Four Are Like Our Children

Emeril Is Proud to Serve Shirley's Dish

Hugh: Enough With the Mexican Food Hate

Gail on Favreau, Choi, and Finding Yourself

Hugh on Poor Boys, Swingers and Food Trucks

Emeril: Nick's Choice Is Part of the Game

Nick's License to Immune

Hugh's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Hugh Decides Eight Is Enough

Gail Talks OvenGate

Dookie Chase Makes Everybody Cry

Fin, Found, Floundering

What Danny Meyer Taught Gail Simmons

'Top Chef' Goes to Hog Heaven

Gris Gris Boucherie Ya Ya

Brian and Travis' Dud Spuds

Of Gas Stations And Microwaves

Tom Colicchio talks about making food on the fly.

First of all - a bit of disclosure: I wasn't around for this week's Quickfire Challenge. The first I learned of it was while watching the episode like everyone else. I have to say that I was, for the most part, impressed by the dishes that our chefs came up with using convenience-store ingredients. With the exception of Dave, whom I felt simply heated existing items (burrito, cinnamon bun) and placed them on a plate into a coy "morning after" presentation. The dishes were creative and smart, and our chefs tackled the challenge with a sense of humor. Who would ever have imagined Stephen cutting into a block of Spam? Certainly not yours truly...

Another staple of convenience stores is an appliance found in most home kitchens, and the focus of this week's Elimination Challenge - the microwave. You could feel the inner recoil from the 'pros' in the group - Harold, Tiffani, Stephen - even Andrea - when they learned they had to prepare a microwavable dish for a group of Junior Leaguers. The microwave, they've been taught, is declasse, strictly for amateurs, right up there with the George Foreman Grill. But I don't necessarily agree. The microwave has its place. Recently I was on a Qantas flight to Sydney where my friend and colleague Neil Perry - Australia's own Top Chef - provides menu consultation for the first-class cabin. I ordered the fish, and it was delicious; Light, delicately seasoned, not remotely overcooked or rubbery. The fish had been prepped, cryovaced (sealed in an air-tight package,) and microwaved just before serving. Clearly Chef Perry - a superstar -- had faced his own version of this very same challenge, and nailed it. So, ridiculous as it may have seemed to some of our contestants, the idea of a microwaveable meal has real, professional application beyond reality TV. And - on a side note -- silly as any of these challenges may seem, at the end of the day I'd rather watch C-span than tune in to watch a bunch of chefs in an optimal environment cook "perfect" food each week. Our chefs face their challenges - the silly and the serious -- on an even playing field; the rest is up to them. The chefs who did well this week understood (as many of our chefs did not) that this was not so much a cooking challenge as a reheating challenge. The task was to prepare a dish that would survive refrigeration and reheat well in a microwave.

Harold was a case in point - he decided on a dish that would actually improve due to refrigeration (turning that obstacle into an advantage) and wouldn't suffer from reheating. His Thai soup was delicious. And by choosing Escolar, a fish with a nice, high fat content, Tiffani made sure her dish would reheat well without drying out. Despite suffering from the flu and a high fever, she threw herself into the challenge with characteristic focus and intelligence, and even managed to charm her guests, so I guess my words to her last week actually had an effect. Others didn't fare so well. I was genuinely surprised at Lisa's dried-out, overly-herbaceous chicken breast. Chicken breast is quick to cross that line between cooked well and over-cooked, so reheating it can be a disaster. Its mild flavor requires judicious seasoning and a light hand with dried herbs, which can taste medicinal if overused. And Lisa's timidity in the kitchen (she complained of not being able to get to the equipment she needed) was a poor excuse. While I really like and admire Lisa, I expected better. Stephen correctly assumed that the microwave would steam his dish nicely in its banana-leaf wrapper, but the proportions were off -- too much masa left his "fusion tamale" dry, and there was waaaay too much fusion fusing in that one little dish (Japanese shiso leaf with Mexican seasoning?). And once again, his typical condescension didn't go over well with his audience. Stephen seems to be missing a crucial bit of emotional intuitiveness, which could ultimately cost him despite his talent.

And Candice...where to begin? Eggs, the main ingredient in a quiche, overcook in an instant on the stove. In a microwave? Forget it. But the biggest problem was that of the crust. Baked goods don't hold up to microwaving, as even most novices know. Candice tried to say she was "taking a chance" with her quiche, as though it was an act of culinary daring. But she wasn't taking a chance with microwaveable quiche - she was simply making a bad choice. Candice wants to be taken seriously as a chef, but she is often the first person to point out her own youth and inexperience, unconsciously begging a 'pass' from her diners. Sorry, Candice...you can't have it both ways. Thanks to our readers for their patience with punctuation and other typographical errors; While our blogs have been carefully edited for errors, transferring to HTML can cause character changes or lost punctuation. Bravo is working to correct the problem.

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

George decided the best way to satisfy New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski  was with a hearty breakfast. Make it for yourself at home.

Pork and Veal Sausage Patty With Sunny-Side Up Egg and Potato Hash

 

Ingredients
3 lbs pork butt
1 lbs veal
4 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 bunch chives
1 bunch parsley
1 Tbsp fennel seed
Pepper (to taste)

 

Directions
1. Grind prok and veal using medium dye, reserve and keep cold

2. Toast cumin, coriander, and fennel seed in a sauté pan until aroma is released. Grind in spice grinder, reserve

3. Chop parsley and chives fine, reserved

4. Chop garlic super fine, reserve

5. Mix meat with spices, smoked paprika, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper

6. Test a small batch in fryer. Taste and adjust seasoning

7. Form into patties, place on grill, then finish in oven