Two Sides of Cooking

Two Sides of Cooking

Stephanie Izard contrasts the canned food and fresh food challenges.

Well tonight we got to see two sides of cooking. There are meals that are created from all canned and processed foods and those that are created with the most beautiful and freshest ingredients directly from the farm. Of course most people would prefer to cook and eat the latter, especially chefs, however this is not always possible for everyone. From time to time a home cook may be in a bind and have a short amount of time to make a meal with what they have in the pantry.

I was a bit surprised as I figured, as most of the chefs did, that Hung was there next to a big fish tank. Or at least a whole bunch of chickens for the chefs to try to break down as fast as his did during his culinary relay, a moment he will remain known for for quite some time. Of course the connection was a bit less obvious and the quickness that is represented by Hung will affect the time allotted for this Quickfire. I remember back to our rice challenge when we had only 15 minutes and it really is not much time. Especially once you push the others out of the way to find some ingredients to work with.

What hurt a couple of the chefs was making more of a snack than a full dish and not really creating but rather mixing cans of food. Rad was called out for making a basic dip of combined canned items while Jamie simply tossed some veggies together with some canned mussels and put it on some toast. Possible that these had decent flavor but they just lacked a little creativity. Leah just went a bit crunchy on her waffles. Even her man Hosea made a bit of a face when she got called out and said she had fried them. Who knows -- I kind of like my waffles on the crisp side but I guess Hung does not. I am not surprised and was quite happy to see that two of the chefs who used Spam were in the top. I have been a big fan ever since my trip to Hawaii some years back when I ate Spam at many meals. Served over fried rice for breakfast or even the Spam sashimi would turn anyone into a Spam fan. Hosea creates a split pea soup garnished with Spam and pork rinds ... who doesn't like pork rinds? Sounded like the soup was well balanced and I am sure the rinds added a nice texture. Seemed Hosea wanted to kick himself after sharing the Spam with his nemesis Stefan who wound up winning the challenge. I think that what put him on top was the other use of a seemingly unpleasant ingredient, Velveeta (it is a cheese that you buy unrefrigerated which may be a turn off). It really does just melt better than cheddar as we have all heard before and on a grilled cheese makes a great late night meal as Hung mentioned.

Out come the knives and I am immediately happy to see some tasty animals being drawn. I am always a sucker for pig but all of these proteins are great to work with. The teams divide up and I do feel a bit for Ariane as she is stuck with the two love birds, but she did do well with lamb once before so at least she has that. Group challenges are always difficult because everyone is just not going to agree and there will without a doubt be some butting heads. Jamie and Stefan are two of the stronger personalities on the show so having them in a group together was bound to be a bit rough; however, they are two of the stronger chefs left so chances are if they can put aside their differences they have the best chance.

After a late night of menu planning the chefs are up before sunrise which is never really all that pleasant, especially for chefs who are more likely going to bed at 5 then up to head to work. Off to the farm they go. I was quite envious watching them pull up at Stone Farms as I have not had the pleasure of visiting there and after a great meal at Blue Hill in the city I look forward to heading to the second location. The teams divide up with farmers and get to go around and pick ingredients to use. Even chefs that are very farm to table focused do not often get to pick the ingredients themselves. Plus they get to go play with the animals which I love (big fan of the petting zoo). It would have been pretty sweet to see the chefs butcher their animals for the challenge but I guess even Bravo can not go that far.

Back at the kitchen they have partially broken down animals and a wide variety of produce to choose from. It would be a bit of a challenge to redo the work that went into menu planning but with such fresh ingredients, it would be hard to go wrong.

Butchery seems to be a bit of a problem for the Lamb and Pig teams. Since Ariane won for knowing how to cook a lamb rack a few weeks ago, she was given reign over the lamb. It kind of seemed that she took butchery in the more literal sense of the word and butchered the crap out of the beautiful baby lamb. I respect that later in the episode she admitted that this was not her strong suit but she should have mentioned it a bit earlier and Hosea who seemed to be the strongest with butchery should have taken over. Was not a big fan of Leah making snide comments behind her back about not being able to tie the lamb properly ... well then show her how to do it and at least do it right yourself. Or just hang out and make a tomato salad. Whatever works. In the end some poor decisions were just made by all on this team it seemed.Over on the Pig team, it was not so much that Jeff did not know how to butcher pork as it was that he likes to take off the tastiest part. I thought the lamb looked nice on the plate but it looked like a fatless and therefore very low in flavor tenderloin. Pork fat is your friend. It is even tasty as lardo on its own. Aside from that Jeff did a nice job. He has consistently come across as a leader and I am a big fan of green tomatoes so it was nice to see them used. Fabio made raviolis ... again. I am actually looking forward to some day trying Fabio's pasta as I am sure it is great but it just seems so obvious for him to go in that direction. I am also just not a huge pesto fan. It is such a strong sauce that if it is used it needs to be used in moderation and not served with what was described as a delicately flavored ravioli filling. Rad seemed a bit slow this week. She has mentioned before that she does not always move that quickly (while cleaning duck was mentioned). When you are on a team you just have to step it up a bit and contribute as much as you can.

Team Chicken wound up getting past any disagreements and putting together a nice lunch. Chicken gets the shaft sometimes and is considered ordinary, but when done right I absolutely love it. Especially farm-raised chicken. The whole plate looked simple and delicious as chicken should be. I guess the chicken soup could have seemed a bit odd on a hot day, but if you have the bones to work with why not turn them into a delicious consomme. Looks like Carla is our star pastry chef this season. She just makes a damn tasty pastry crust and when served with farm fresh fruits and a little lemon cream you cannot go wrong. Again, simple but delicious.

Seemed that the issues with the butchery of the lamb were the standout mistakes in the judges' minds. Though Arianne was at fault as it was her work that went wrong, I thought the whole team was equally to blame for how it all went down. And after watching the previews for next week I am already sick of the Leah and Hosea game. Just hoping the producers do not bring us into the real world and that we can move past this little romance.

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