Yes, the chefs are all masters but it takes a challenge like cooking up something brilliant with “exotic” if not terrifying ingredients to stagger even a master chef.
Personally I have never had a black chicken that I loved enough to take home the leftovers for breakfast (one test of whether I love it or not). But I am very fond of monkfish liver since I don’t know hw many years ago when I first tasted it at Chanterelle – a surprising amuse from chef David Waltuck, a marine biologist. In a sense, Rick Moonen and Susur Lee had an advantage in both choosing monk fish liver and black chicken to work with -- the most appealing proteins -- even though Rick had no idea a black chicken could be so scrawny and Susur was an old hand at handling this familiar Chinese fetish. Actually, watching Rick improvise – diluting the testy texture impact of the scrawny bird by adding the tenderness of a regular chicken to his dish – showed Rick at his best.
Wow, Rick is a cranky, competitive guy and he doesn’t hold anything back, does he? Susur too, is right out there, naked aggression unsheathed as he commandeers most of Tony’s work space as well as “borrowing” Tony’s bacon fat. I was amazed to see how calmly Tony took both invasions. I imagine Rick would have smashed the table with a cleaver if he’d been the victim.
Clearly Jonathan was numbed by the challenge. As he makes clear again and again. Not only is he in a fog at Whole Foods, but he can’t get himself motivated to work with products he doesn’t love.
That must have been one tough old goat – both Tony and Jody suffered by failing to wrestle the meat into an edible state by either braising or roasting. I guess someone should have tossed it into the pressure cooker. Maybe that’s why not many chefs cook goat, and we love the chefs that do it well. But at least Tony and Jody were game. Buoyed by her earlier triumphs, Jody did her best with a geoduck clam chowder. Tony’s goat cheese ravioli were wonderful in their sadly spare ragu.
But poor Jonathan never quite recovered from the shock of having to work with duck tongues. I hardly blame him. I’ve never had a duck tongue I considered worth eating. It has that ugly and inconvenient little cartilage right in the middle. The passion for duck tongues is another of those untranslatable Chinese fixations, I’m afraid.
Some of the disparate items on Jonathan’s plate were good but I thought the parts were better than the sum … and I thought the mess would make him the loser. Actually I gave Jonathan, Jody and Marcus the same not-too-mean-not-too-generous score, a three. And it broke my heart to see Jody go. She had been so modest and assuming, so brave and resourceful … a real winner till this challenge. I must admit I almost wept to see her face … another woman sent to pack her knives.