Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Potato Latkes And Chicken Soup

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

Potato Latkes And Chicken Soup

A comforting holiday recipe from judge Gail Simmons.

Potato Latkes with Gravlax, creme freche and Caviar http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/potato-latkes-with-gravlax-creme-fraiche-and-caviar MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN 1 1/2-INCH LATKES Ingredients Large baking potato (1 pound), peeled Small onion (4 ounces), peeled 1/4-cup all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon matzo meal 1 large egg, lightly beaten 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper Vegetable oil, for frying 1/2-cup creme fraiche 6 ounces thinly sliced gravlax, cut into 2-by-1/2-inch strips 2 ounces paddlefish roe (see Note)

DIRECTIONS 1. In a food processor or on a box grater, coarsely shred the potato and onion. Transfer to a colander and squeeze dry. Let stand for 2 minutes, then squeeze dry again. Transfer the potato mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour, matzo meal, egg, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

2. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until shimmering. Drop packed teaspoons of the potato mixture into the skillet and flatten them with the back of a spoon. Cook the latkes over moderately high heat until the edges are golden, about 1 1/2 minutes; flip and cook until golden on the bottom, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the skillet as needed.

3. Arrange the latkes on a platter and top each one with creme fraiche, gravlax and roe. Serve warm.

MAKE AHEAD The fried latkes can be kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours. Reheat them on a dark baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until warmed through and crisp. NOTES Paddlefish is a relative of sturgeon. Its roe is available at specialty food stores. AND Chicken Soup with Rosemary Matzo Balls http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/chicken-soup-with-rosemary-matzo-balls At Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, chef Dan Barber prepares this soup with seasonal chicken (raised in late spring, summer and fall), using wings, backs, necks and feet. His recipe yields almost eight quarts of broth, so there's plenty to freeze. He likes serving the soup with fluffy matzo balls laced with rosemary.

Ingredients STOCK: Pounds chicken wings 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 4 large onions, finely chopped 7 pounds chicken backs, necks and feet 6 carrots finely diced, 2 sliced 1/2 inch thick 2 celery ribs, finely diced 5 bay leaves 2 heads of garlic, halved crosswise 5 large thyme sprigs 2 rosemary sprigs 2 teaspoons black peppercorns Water 1/4-cup sherry vinegar Salt

MATZO BALLS 4 large eggs 1/4-cup reserved chicken fat or unsalted butter 1/4-cup club soda 2 scallions, white and tender green parts only, sliced paper-thin 1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary 1/2-teaspoon salt 1/2 cup plus 4 teaspoons matzo meal

SOUP Leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced 2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4-inch dice (about 1 1/4 pounds) 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into 3/4-inch dice (about 10 ounces)

Directions

1. MAKE THE STOCK: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the chicken wings in a large roasting pan and roast for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.

2. Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onions, cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer. Add the chicken backs, necks and feet, the diced carrots, celery, bay leaves, garlic, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns and 8 quarts of water and bring to a light boil, skimming any scum that rises to the surface.

3. Add the roasted chicken wings to the stockpot. Place the roasting pan over 2 burners, add the vinegar and 2 cups of water and simmer over high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Add the liquid to the pot and simmer gently over moderate heat for 2 1/2 hours. Carefully strain the stock into another large pot and discard the solids, including the wings. You should have about 8 quarts. Let the stock cool, then spoon off all of the chicken fat and reserve it for the matzo balls. Season the chicken stock lightly with salt.

4. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE MATZO BALLS: In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the chicken fat, club soda, scallions, rosemary and salt. Whisk in the matzo meal. Refrigerate for 1 hour, until slightly firm.

5. MAKE THE SOUP: Bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the sliced carrot and leeks and cook over high heat until tender, about 7 minutes; drain. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of the stock to a simmer. Add the diced chicken breast and thighs and cook over moderately low heat until just white throughout, about 6 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate; reserve the broth for another use (see Note). 6. Bring a large saucepan of the chicken stock to a simmer. Scoop rounded tablespoons of the matzo mixture into balls (about 2 dozen balls) and add them to the simmering stock. Cover and cook over very low heat until the matzo balls are tender, fluffed and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the matzo balls to a clean pot. Add the chicken, carrots and leeks and 8 cups of the stock and bring to a simmer. Ladle the soup and matzo balls into bowls and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The stock can be refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for 2 months; skim off the fat after it's chilled. The cooked matzo balls can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days

NOTES The stock gets cloudy from cooking the chicken and matzo balls, but it's perfectly delicious. Save it to use as the base for another soup.

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

So she's going to take more time shopping at Whole Foods -- and ask for the best of Melissa's basket and Adam's shrimp.

Bravotv.com: Let's dive right in. How did it feel to go shopping?
Gail Simmons: Shopping at Whole Foods was fantastic and hilarious. It made us realize that you need to be strategic, which was the point of the exercise for us. They gave us 30 minutes, but we took a little longer. We didn't let the producers push us around! We’re not contestants and we weren't going to stand for it! So, you realize how little time you have, and how big Whole Foods can be. You spend a lot of time running around.

 

My strategy with my pantry was to get a lot of fresh, delicious food that you can cook in lots of different ways. A good balance of proteins, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, fresh herbs, grains. But I didn't want to get too much. Everyone has different strategies; Padma got a ton of different ingredients. Tom's pantry was very pared down. Richard and I were somewhere in the middle.

 

Bravotv.com: Let's start by talking about the two dishes that came from your pantry?
GS: Katsuji and Melissa. They used the same protein, but their dishes were very different. They both used shrimp which one of the proteins that I bought. I bought something else too, something that I know has given people trouble in the past (which is why I specifically chose it) -- chicken wings. And I really wanted people to use them. Instead, they chose the easy way out because shrimps cook quickly.

Melissa's used a lot of fresh vegetables, which I was hoping she would: dill, mint, artichoke. I was so excited about all of it. I think it was beautifully done, a lovely salad with that little shrimp on top with spiced yogurt. But it was just a salad with a quick-cooking seafood. It was so similar to what she had done in Restaurant Wars when she made a scallop with grapefruit salad. I believe she could have done so much more. Melissa keeps saying she wanted to focus on her knife skills, and, of course, your knife skills have to be precise. But I need to see more than just knife skills. I want to see cooking skills, I want to see roasting skills, braising skills. I want to see her hands get a little dirtier and her dishes not be as superficial. It was a light, lovely dish. I was happy to eat it for lunch. But when you're competing against six other really talented chefs, we all want to see a little more depth. Katsuji on the other hand went big. He used his ingredients in a really powerful way. The potato salad, the poached shrimp had bold seasoning and I loved how they went together. It was a great dish. It may not have been the best of the day, but I was actually really happy with what he chose to make.

 

Bravotv.com: So for the rest, let's talk about who was on top and who was on bottom.

GS: At the top there was Gregory who really was going for Padma's heart there. He did great with his coconut milk curry. A really balanced, powerful dish. But it's something we’ve seen from Gregory many times in the past. In fact, in the first challenge he made a similar spicy curry dish with chicken. As much as we thought it was a delicious bowl of food, it was so typical of what we expect from Gregory. George's food was really exciting for us. This was my first time tasting his food and meeting him on Top Chef. He did a great job. The kebab was moist, seasoned really well, and the lentils were beautiful too. My only small issue with the dish is I couldn't understand why he separated the lentils from the kebab in two separate dishes. Why not put lentils on the plate and the kebab right on top, with a dollop of the yogurt? It seemed a little bit disconnected to me. But all-in-all, a really strong dish. Doug had the winning dish of the night. He used Richard's crazy pantry in a way that I thought was smart, clear-cut, and creative. The chorizo and mussels and peppers, just how Tom said, go together well, as do the cauliflower and the garlic. There was sweetness, there was spice, it was light and fresh but had a soulful, rustic flavor we all loved. You could see use of technique. On the bottom were dishes that tried to stretch and didn’t come through. Mei did a great job overall, except her lamb was undercooked. You want lamb medium, medium rare, but the center of that meat was raw to the point where the texture was chewy and almost cold. It would have been better if she had been able to cook it five minutes longer. We talked about Melissa's mistakes already, which also landed her on the bottom. I totally applaud Adam for trying to make a quick-flash marinade. He's been in the middle for so long and he thought "I gotta go big or I gotta go home." He tried to go big and unfortunately, he went home because of that technique. I get the idea of what he was doing, I don't doubt that it could've been successful if it were perhaps done in a different setting, with a little more control. But the flash marinade of his shrimp did not cook it as needed. It was still grey, it was still raw, and the texture of raw shrimp is not appealing. It's squeaky, it's squishy, and it becomes sort of mushy. We wanted it firm and cooked through. It's not like fish that you can eat sashimi-style Unfortunately Adam's hard work, his big risk sent him home.

I will miss him. I think he's an incredibly articulate, clever chef. I think he has an extraordinary career ahead of him. I'm excited to see him back in New York City. I can't wait to eat his food again. Also I want to say of this entire episode that was it was thrilling to see our superfans in the kitchen. We've never let people come into the kitchen in that way before, even though people ask us all the time. It brought so much good energy to have basically a live audience with us for the day. Everyone was so psyched. It was amazing to be around people who really love the show, to let them eat food from our talented chefs. SO much fun!