Today is Boxing Day. Nobody knows what Boxing Day actually means so I am going to randomly challenge people to old skool pugilism contests while taking out the cardboard box mess from yesterday’s consumerist extravaganza called Christmas. I love tradition.
Last week saw CJ reign supreme in Sandwich Battle 2012 on Last Chance Kitchen where the chefs can eventually re-enter the competition of Top Chef right before the final few shows. CJ is looming tall above the rest right now, but when a Redwood falls it’s quite the sight.
In the main competition, we begin in the condo of shame. Josie may be getting on some people’s nerves with her endless chatter and screams of “Rockin’ Raspberry.” In some rare instances, waterboarding may be preferred, if the other choice is to live with Josie at the ego den for weeks on end.
Speaking of Finnish egoists, Stefan breaks down the way the restaurant world works: we are all assholes to each other but that’s OK because we forgive and forget and tomorrow is a new day. This sounds like the repeated excuse of someone up to no good. Due to his Finnish ancestry, Stefan has a new enemy each week, along with new alliances. The one constant is his bald head and his quest to win this battle of culinary wisdom. I would like to thank Finland for giving us the the Mobira mobile telephone, Teemu Selanne, Santa Claus, and Stefan. The world is a more interesting place with them.
Off to Taylor Swift’s Mollusk Farm, I mean Taylor Shellfish Farms. There will be bivalves. I am cranking up Ween’s "The Mollusk" and settling in to the show. The Toyota trip is smooth with a Micah chat about eating kosher.
They plod through mud, Josie gets stuck, Micah gets wet, they all have nice lines about oysters through their family histories. Back to the kitchen. Oyster challenge is on the go using the Sammish Bay oysters from Taylor Shellfish. Half the presentations will be cold and the other half will be hot. Brooke wants some gas money for her car that she has parked in the bedroom of the condo. Micah wants to impress Emeril, by claiming that he is Moses and Emeril is God. Both get struck by lightning.
What is that floating in the fryer when Micah is talking? Is that a piece of the Pacific Trash Vortex? Google that people, the safety of planet Earth depends on it.
Tesar wants to win by showing respect for the New Orleans institution that is Drago’s. I am always thinking that the last thing you want is for people to compare your creation with a revered icon of the food world, cause you’ll probably lose. We’ll see what happens. He’s foaming though, and Drago’s don’t speak foam.
Josie is doing a Spanish Rockin’ Rockefeller. Lizzie is doing oysters with carrots or currants. I can’t quite decipher her accent, but it looks like currants. Stefan is smoking oysters which he will later hand-feed to Kristen. Sheldon is eyeing the smoking machine and internally wondering what other culinary inventions have been based on weed-smoking technology.
Josie interlude: “This tree right here? You don’t want to bark up.”
Shellpieces abound in the tasting. Emeril calls out three bottoms: Bart, Tesar and Josie. Lizzie, Micah, and Brooke are tops. When given a choice, make sure you make cold oysters for Emeril. Micah wins and takes that coin. He will take care of his kids with the money. I look at Micah and see a really honest, good guy, trying to play it cool a little too hard. Just be yourself, young Jedi. You good people.
Roller derby fun. Teams are formed. Awkward jokey lines with the roller derby monikers. This recurs throughout the show. Bart/Josie, Brooke/Tesar, Lizzie/Micah, Josh/ Sheldon and the Axis of Evil, Stefan/Kristen are our teams and they get to go watch some blood sport. They all get drunk, but Josie gets particularly pickled. The stress of the competition goes back to the condo and they all get fighting. Tesar tucks Josie in for the night but, no no no, that girl ain’t sleeping. She’s all riled up and takes it straight to Micah. Things get all weird and Micah is blasphemed. Panties are all bunched on all sides. Sleep, people, sleep. This type of behavior only makes Stefan stronger. But the tree statement is a keeper. They cook. It’s a pretty confining kiosk kitchen to work in. Brooke and Tesar are cooking well together, and we get to see the softer side of Jimmy Sears (Google that too). Josh says the never-to-be-repeated term, “hefty muffstaches.” Kristen is reminding Stefan that he is old. Pound for pound, they are all getting it done pretty efficiently.
The real hurdle in this was coming up with a dish reflective of the skater’s name. Not easy doing tempura in a tiny fryer in a cold (it was pretty chilly that day) roller rink warehouse. Nor is it a given that teriyaki anywhere will be anything but boring, humdrum teriyaki. Sometimes it’s hard to win a hand when dealt cards like that.
John and Brooke have made “fun in a bowl” and that is Thai Beef with Lobster Jasmine Rice & Thai Slaw. It was a great dish with layered flavors and spice. I love coconut milk and lime jousting with the richness of beef and lobster. It really rocked for roller rink food.
Bart and Josie put up a Teriyaki Steak with Forbidden Rice, Beet Bllod and Green Papaya Salad. It was just a very strange dish with nothing really working together, and then it was all under the sticky spell of teriyaki sauce. Just not thought-through food.
Lizzie and Micah put up what could have been an easy loser, but was a total winner. I really had my doubts, but the pepper was impeccably fried and just had great flavor. Plus, I have a soft spot for stuffed peppers, mostly jalapenos.
Stefan and Kristen have made the most vile-sounding idea, which I am giving Stefan credit for: “Chicken Inside-Out.” The chicken eats corn, so there you have the corn puree. The chicken has liver. Then, the chicken has an egg inside her. Corn Puree with Chicken Liver and Fried Egg. It was fine. The corn puree was good, but the whole thing was just odd. As Tom said, it would have been nice to have some actual chicken on there. Sometimes dishes like this work (Paul’s bloody hand dish from last season), and sometimes they fail miserably. This one was in the middle between those extremes.
Sheldon and Josh have taken massive risks in frying a frozen blob of yuzu curd in tempura batter. Kind of like the go-to tempura fried Snickers at all the fine dining sushi spots by the mall. To gussie this plate up they have channeled Michel Bras and an army of thickening agents to make fluid-gel city. It’s a really strange plate that would be a homerun if you could really pull it off…. I just don’t think the roller rink was the spot to do that.
I was not checking out Padma. It’s just made to look that way. But I also was not wearing pants, so whatevs.
Winners are Brooke and Tesar. They win some stuff and realize that they will always have each other. They are the culinary wind beneath each other's cooking wings.
Bottom rung are Sheldon/John and also Bart/Josie. Tom goes after Team Bart/Josie for underseasoning. Please do not anger Tom with lack of salt. He rubs salt in this underseasoning wound… lots of it. There was no cohesion to the dish at all.
Josh was creative and bold, but the problem was that the tempura was just not good. It was soft. It was bland. It was a boring centerpiece on a beautiful backdrop. Josh takes a move from CJ and questions why a dish (the jalapeno), that isn’t on the chopping block, was deemed better than his. The state of Oklahoma is getting feisty with all this newfound basketball glory.
The Bart Knight goes home. Truly Bart, you are a great guy with a heart of gold. May you succeed in all things.