Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reactions to Rocco's Dinner Party Episode Three

It's Italian Week on Rocco's Dinner Party - two of the competing chefs are the Italian Carro brothers, Fabrizio and Nicola, once combatants on the Food Network's Iron Chef America. The third chefpetitor is Ninamarie Bojekian, a "couture" caterer from Joisey.

The chefs present their Signature Dishes to Rocco, and for once he doesn't belittle them. Too much. The winners of this first challenge are Fabrizio and Ninamarie. Surprise! Nicola goes home.

The Italian juices just keep on flowing when Rocco announces that the theme of the dinner party is...classic Italian. So Ninamarie, being Armenian, goes with the only Italian she knows - Little Italy. Fab, meanwhile, wants to take his guests to the Italian countryside with his decor.

The guests for this event are also all-Italian: 'N Sync'r Joey Fatone, NY television personality, Sara Gore, comedian Tammy Pescatelli, restaurateur Silvano Marchetto, and token Bravolebrities RHoNJ Caroline Manzo and her tolerant husband, Albert.

Ninamarie goes first, serving her guests a lovely spread of fancy antipasti, a chopped chicken scaparelli pasta dish, veal Milanese with the unusual addition of peaches, and a chilled fruit dessert. Fabrizio goes more traditional with a less-fancy and more store-bought selection of antipasti, a bland lasagna, branzino with potatoes, and a panna cotta. Fab also goes the extra mile and prepares special carb-free dishes for the dieting Sara Gore, while Ninamarie basically ignores that request.

While Fab's dishes aren't praised as highly as Ninamarie's, it's probably this thoughtfulness that ultimately won him the $20,000 prize.

Did you watch Rocco's Dinner Party this week? What did you think? Please leave a comment!

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rocco's Dinner Party Episode 3 Previews

Food brings family together, or so they say. This week, Rocco pits two brothers against each other to see who can create the most traditional Italian-themed dinner party. Can one of the brothers win the competition, or will they be so distracted by their sibling rivalry that a couture caterer from New Jersey wins over the guests’ appetites? And speaking of New Jersey, everyone’s favorite housewife and mom, Caroline Manzo, is one of the night’s guest. While she’s lovin’ her meal, another guest can’t seem to find anything to eat. It looks like one of the chefs forgot to prepare a meatless dish or two for Rocco’s vegetarian friend. Will the chef be forgiven, or did the slip-up cost them the prize? Find out tonight 6/29 @ 10/9c on BRAVO’s Rocco’s Dinner Party.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recap Roundup: Rocco's Dinner Party Episode 2

Minxeats on this week's chefs: "This week's chefpetitors are Joel, a high school culinary instructor (back in the day, we used to call them 'home-ec teachers'), Michelle, a private chef, and NY restaurant owner, the Thai/Filipino King. And before you start thinking that this guy is even more egotistical than the host of the show, "King" is his first name, not a title."

Reality Wanted on this week's guests: "This week, Rocco's dinner guests are: Mary Alice Stephenson (style and beauty expert), Bebel Gilberto (Brazilian singer/songwriter), Gilles Mendel (fashion designer), Cindi Leive (editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine), and D.L. Hughley (comedian/actor). His mystery guest is non other than Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi."

Come on...isn't anyone else recapping? Tons of fodder there!

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Monday, June 27, 2011

TC News and Information 6.27.11

I'm back from vacation, and our Top Chef contestants have been all kinds of busy!

Tre Wilcox's Marquee Grill has opened in Dallas, and you can drool over some fabulous photos of Tre's offerings here.

Mike Isabella opened his Jersey/Italian restaurant, Graffiato, last week, which will serve pizzas, pastas, charcuterie, and that pepperoni sauce from Top-Chef All-Stars that made Gail Simmons swoon. Photos from Eater DC here; menus and more from the Washington Post here.

Isabella is also working on a cookbook about New Jersey Italian food, with his wife honcho-ing the test kitchen and blogger Carol Blymire as writer. Blymire is an entertaining writer known for cooking her way through cookbooks by Thomas Keller, French Laundry at Home, and Grant Achatz, Alinea at Home, as well as some well played April Fool's jokes. But this is apparently the real deal.

Season 1’s Tiffani Faison has announced plans to open a new BBQ restaurant in Boston called “Sweet Cheeks” and is touring the South for inspiration.

All-Stars winner Richard Blais has all kinds of culinary irons in the fires, including expanding his Flip Burger Boutique chain to DC and Miami, opening a gourmet hot dog restaurant, HD or Haute Doggery, in Atlanta, and a yet-to-be-named restaurant in midtown Atlanta featuring “simple American food that tastes great.”

Another All-Stars contender, Dale Talde, will be head chef at a “New Asian” restaurant in Brooklyn’s Park Slope that hopes to open by September.

Season 3 winner Hung Huynh is slated to help open a Manhattan “seafood restaurant and lounge” called Catch.

Bryan Voltaggio is working on opening two new restaurants, in Frederick, Maryland, and Chevy Chase Plaza, as well as collaborating on a cookbook with brother Michael. His Frederick restaurant, tentatively called North Market Kitchen, is inspired by Mario Batali’s Eataly in NYC, or maybe not.

And don’t miss this fascinating piece from Ruth Reichl about her experience as judge on Top Chef Masters, from her new desk at Gilt Taste, about why she was surprised a woman didn't win and still loves Floyd Cardoz's food.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with "Rocco's Dinner Party" Week 2 Winner, Joel Gargano

Chef Joel Gargano talks about his experience on the Bravo Show.

Here is a highlight:

ATC: Did you tell your students that you would be on the show?

JG: I didn’t really tell them until the last couple of days of school. They were pretty excited about it.

ATC: Have you heard from them this morning?

JG: Yes, I must have answered about 50 or 60 e-mails this morning.

ATC: Where did you learn to cook?

JG: I grew up in the industry. My parents own a bakery in Connecticut. When I turned 18 I decided to go to Johnson and Wales University in Providence.

 I’ve been cooking professionally for about 9 years. In addition to working at the high school I also cook full time. I am working about 80 hours a week during the school year. I like to do both.

ATC: Do you work at a restaurant?

JG: I work at Bar Bouchee in Madison. It’s a French Bistro.

Click here to continue.

Click here for Joel's blog.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reactions to Rocco's Dinner Party Episode 2

This week, our three chefpetitors were Joel, a high school culinary instructor, Michelle, a private chef, and King, owner of two restaurants in New York. After Rocco instructs them to create a signature dish in 30 minutes, Joel sears duck breast and serves it with salsify, Michelle whips up a fast crawfish etouffée, and King makes a Filipino dish called pancit bihon, with scallops.

Only when time's up, he doesn't get a chance to plate the scallops. When Rocco asks him about it, he lies and says they were undercooked. Fortunately, his dish was lovely otherwise. Joel also fared well with his perfectly cooked duck. Michelle not so much because half an hour wasn't enough time to get the raw flour taste out of her roux. She doesn't go on to the next round.

Rocco then reveals that the theme for this party is "Mystery Guest" and gives Jeff and King a dossier with some salient facts about said guest for them to use while planning their menu and decor. After meeting with party planner Jes Gordon who will take care of the dining rooms, they shop and then start their food prep and cooking.

The Mystery guest loves Bali, Italy, spices, and clean tasting foods, so Joel is making steamed mussels and clams, a barlotti bean stew with homemade Dijon sausage, and a sourdough bread pudding with cardamom ice cream. King's menu seems to fit the theme better as he's taking things more exotic with an appetizer trio of ribs, papaya salad, and spring rolls, a seafood green curry, and a panna cotta dessert.

Padma Lakshmi turns out to be the Mystery Guest in this party which includes such luminaries as singer Bebel Gilberto, fashion designer Gilles Mendel, stylist Mary Alice Stephenson, Glamour Magazine editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, and, oddly, DL Hughley. Rocco takes Padma into the kitchen for introductions, and she hands the chefs a jar of her brand of Afro Caribbean spice mix, with which she wants them to make a cocktail five minutes. So the chefs stop what they're doing, grab some fish, and get to work.

Out in the living room, the guests are served King's salmon and Joel's tuna and prefer the latter because it's more aggressively seasoned.

On to Joel's dinner. The guests love the decor and the food, although they wish the Dijon sausage in the stew had more punch. Over on King's side of the loft, they seem to love the decor more, but think the food is perhaps a bit safe, since everyone is familiar with the dishes.

In the end, Rocco gives the win to Joel, who now has a cool $20,000 in his pocket.

What did you think about this episode? Please leave a comment!

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Traci Des Jardins

Top Chef Masters finalist, Traci Des Jardin, talks about her experience on the Bravo show.

Click here for the podcast.

Click here to learn more about Traci's charity, La Cocina.

Thank you Chef Traci!
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Previews for Rocco's Dinner Party Episode 2

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Poll - Rocco's Dinner Party

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Recap Roundup: Rocco's Dinner Party Episode 1

Minxeats on the Quickfire Signature Dish Challenge: "Three chefpetitors (can't call them 'cheftestants' now, can I?) - this week it's Geoff, Britt, and JJ - meet Rocco on an elaborate set that is supposed to be DiSpirito's loft. Not only does it have a huge kitchen, but also three separate dining rooms, each with a different theme. (Purina must pay well.) Rocco tells the three that he is having a dinner party and would like two of the chefs to create a multi-course meal for his guests, but first, an elimination challenge. Each chefpetitor must create a signature dish for Rocco's approval, one of which will not make the cut."

AV Club on party guests: "The festive party planning is only a slight distraction from the real focus of the show: what’s being delivered on the plate. That and the bizarre mish-mash of Rocco’s Bravo-curated “guests.” For this go-round, DiSpirito welcomes the lovely Bryan Batt of Mad Men, media critic Bill McCuddy, Broadway actress Christine Ebersole, Eat Out New York writer Kelly Choi, The Wire and Boardwalk Empire actor Michael Kenneth Williams and recent Top Chef Masters winner Marcus Samuelsson."

After Elton on the verdict: "Rocco stands up at the end of the dinner as if struck by divine insight, announces that he knows which dinner pleased his guests more and leaves the room with purpose to break the news to the anxiety-ridden chefs. In true reality competition style, Rocco spends an hour describing the missteps in the meals. Geoff has brought shame to the cooking community by not knowing the difference between Atlantic Cod and Black Cod, and J.J did not comfort the guests with his grits."

If anyone out there is recapping this show, or knows someone who is, please let us know!

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Recap Roundup - Top Chef Masters 3 Finale

Hit Fix introduces the premise of the episode: "Curtis Stone, James Oseland, Gael Greene and Ruth Riechl are waiting for the finalists. Their elimination challenge is to create a three course meal of a lifetime. The first course should be inspired by their first food memory. The second course should be the dish that inspired them to become a chef. The third course. For the third, they have to do a knife pull. Each critic is assigned to one of the chefs: James tells Floyd he wants an Indonesian dish called rendang. Ruth tells Mary Sue she wants lemon soufflé. Gael wants fried duck. Fried duck? That does not sound good to me, but she had it on her honeymoon in 1961, so maybe they fried ducks back then."

Oregon Live on the draw of the knife: "Milliken gets Ruth Reichl, who fell in love with food when she was 10 on a trip to Paris, and had a lemon soufflé that blew her mind. Cardoz gets to cook for James Oseland, who fell in love with spicy food during a trip to Indonesia, and beef rendang in particular. And Des Jardins gets to interpret Gael Greene's memories of fried duck with béarnaise sauce that she had on a French honeymoon in the early 1960s."

CNN's Marquee Blog on breakfast at Curtis': "The next morning, we get a brief interlude as the finalists are whisked away to a Hollywood home, and the panic starts to set in that they might be cooking in an unfamiliar environment. Nope. Turns out they’re going to Curtis Stone’s place so he can cook for them. One: I had almost forgotten that Curtis was a chef, since it SHOULD have come up regularly throughout the season but never really did. Two: All I could think about during this segment was whether the delay would impact the prepped food sitting back in the kitchen. (Buzzkill, party of one.)"

AV Club on foreshadowing: "The show, so absent of real narrative, showed its hand in the past few episodes when Floyd’s 'Always a Bridesmaid' narrative was oddly prevalent despite the fact that we likely would have never noticed it otherwise. It was the only story we were really being sold, and its prevalence early in the episode clearly foreshadowed a Floyd victory."

A Just Recompense on hugfest: "And now the best part: The third course starts with a hug. Before the chefs explain their dishes, Susan runs over and hugs Mary Sue. Mary Sue interviews that Susan was on TCM2; she tries things out, then Mary Sue does them. Like the husband; Susan tried him out, then Mary Sue married him. I love these two. Bring back Two Hot Tamales! But only Mary Sue gets a hug. Floyd complains! 'How about a hug for me?' Traci pipes up, 'Yeah' kind of weakly. Jonathan hugs them both. I love Jonathan. This was the best three minutes of the show."

TWOP on deliberations: "The cheftestants retire to the wine room so the critics can deliberate one last time. The consensus is that all three meals were phenomenal. What's more, the critics appreciated experiencing the cheftestants' individual voices and seeing skills they hadn't previously exhibited come to the fore. Witness, Mary Sue's Asian twist on a steak tartare. Floyd's constant spicing paid off in his upma. And Traci's shrimp Creole is contentious -- Oseland literally uses the term 'fightin' words' when Gael disparages it. Curtis appreciates Traci's mixture of textures and flavors." on the verdict: "Back from the break, Curtis does the slow reveal with the really freaky music and then announces that this year’s Top Chef Master is… Floyd Cardoz! Go Floyd. He’s been at the upper end of the middle all competition but in the end he did what was needed. He takes home 100k for the Young Scientist Cancer Research Society. It’s a great charity for a great cause."

Grub Street on The End: "And yet! Floyd wins! 'I’m shocked,' he remarks. We are, too. He basically won nothing this season. They pop open some bubbly and everyone hugs. They give Floyd a navy chef’s jacket bearing the show’s logo, probably so he can stop wearing his jacket from now-shuttered Tabla. We’re puzzled how Traci dropped the ball tonight, but who cares? Rocco’s Dinner Party is starting and Kelly Choi is on! Just kidding, you couldn’t pay us to watch that."

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Monday, June 20, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Mary Sue Milliken

Top Chef Masters finalist, Mary Sue Milliken, talks about her experience on the Bravo show.

Click here for the podcast.

Click here to learn more about "Share Our Strength."

Thank you Chef Mary Sue!
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Voltaggio Brothers on CBS' The Early Show

Did you happen to catch the Voltaggio Brothers cooking up a Father's Day feast yesterday morning? If not, here's the video.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with "Rocco's Dinner Party" Episode 1 Winner, JJ Johnson

All Top Chef spoke with J.J. Johnson about his appearance on the Bravo show. Thank you Chef JJ!

ATC: How did you learn to cook?

JJ: I started to cook at the age of 6 or 7 with my grandmother.

I learned to make beets and squash and other things that I didn’t like, but I had to eat and today these are among my favorite foods.

I saw a commercial for the CIA when I was little boy and I told my mom I was going to be a chef. She laughed.

I was always in the kitchen. I was peeling potatoes. It was a natural thing for me.

I began working as a dishwasher at the age of 14. I started working at a local country club. I was accepted into the CIA and then started working. I worked for Tribeca Grill, Tropica and other great restaurants.

ATC: Where are you working now?

JJ: I work at Executive Dining Facility.

It is inside of a financial institution. It’s for about 75 top executives and the clients that they want to schmooze.

There is really no food cost, it’s all about pleasing the clients. We change our menu every day. These executives are used to dining at Per Se and Oceana and other three and four-star restaurants and we have to match that.

ATC: After winning the competition last night, will you be asking your boss for a raise?

JJ: We'll see.

Click here to continue.

Click here for JJ's website and click here for his facebook page.
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Rocco Extras - Dinner Party Conversation

In a phone interview, Rocco let on that the conversation during his dinner parties was often more interesting than the food. Here's part of the convo during the first episode.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Floyd Cardoz

Top Chef Masters Season 3 Champion, Floyd Cardoz talks about his experience on the Bravo show.

Click here for the podcast.

Thank you Chef Floyd!

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Top Recipe - Floyd Cardoz's Rendang

Rendang 2 Ways: Oxtail & Short Ribs Tapioca Pilaf with Diced Potato & Peanuts

10 small pieces oxtail
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup sliced lemon grass
1 knob ginger, minced
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 Serrano chili
1 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoons coriander
One 2 inch piece of Pasilla de Oaxaca
1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 inches Indian cinnamon
5 cloves
4 lime leaves
1 cup sliced shallots
6 cloves garlic
1 inch galangal sliced into coins
2 sticks lemon grass cleaned and lightly crushed
2 pandan leaves
4 cups coconut milk
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
1 teaspoons tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 sprigs rosemary
1 Thai chili
1/2 cup fried minced shallots
1/2 cup ground cashews

Short Ribs:
10 pieces short ribs
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup sliced lemon grass
1 knob ginger, minced
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 Serrano chili
1 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoons coriander
One 2 inch piece of Pasilla de Oaxaca
1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1/8 teaspoons cayenne
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 inches Indian cinnamon
5 cloves
6 cups veal stock
6 cloves garlic
1 inch galangal sliced into coins
4 lime leaves
2 pandan leaves
4 cups coconut milk
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
1 teaspoons tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 sprigs rosemary
1 Thai chili
1/2 cup fried minced shallots 2 sticks lemon grass leaned and lightly crushed
1/2 cup ground cashews

Tapioca Polenta:
1 1/2 cups pearl tapioca
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
3/4 cup salted peanuts, coarsely crushed
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 Serrano chili, minced
1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped and peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sliced spinach
3 tablespoons thinly shredded cilantro
1 lime, juiced

1. Season the oxtail with salt and let stand for 10-15 minutes.
2. Combine the sliced lemon grass, minced ginger, sliced shallots and Serrano chili in a food processor and processor till finely chopped.
3. Grind the cumin, coriander and the Pasilla de Oaxaca in a spice grinder to a fine powder and combine with the turmeric and the cayenne.
4. In a large stew pot add the canola oil and the ground shallot mix and cook over moderate heat stirring for 15 minutes until paste get slightly colored and releases some oil.
5. Add the cinnamon, cloves and ground spice and cook for 2-4 minutes. Add oxtail and all the other ingredients (except cashews) and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer slowly until almost done. Test with fork. Stir occasionally.
6. Add the cashews and put into a 325 degree oven and cook. Letting the liquid reduce slowly. Baste the oxtail every 5 minutes.
7. The liquid will reduce and form a glaze on meat. At this time to the fat will start to separate.
8. Pull out the cinnamon, cloves, galangal and lemon grass.
9. Plate and top cashews.

Short Ribs:
1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees at convection setting.
2. Season the short ribs with salt and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Reduce heat in oven to 325.
3. Combine the sliced lemon grass, minced ginger, sliced shallots and Serrano chili in a food processor and processor till finely chopped.
4. Grind the cumin, coriander and the Pasilla de Oaxaca in a spice grinder to a fine powder and combine with the turmeric and the cayenne.
5. Place seasoned short ribs in oven and sear until golden brown. Approximately 15 minutes.
6. In a large stew pot add the canola oil and the ground shallot mix and cook over moderate heat stirring for 15 minutes until paste get slightly colored and releases some oil.
7. Add the cinnamon, cloves and ground spice and cook for 2-4 minutes. Add short ribs and all the other ingredients (except cashews) and bring up to a boil.
8. Place the pot with a lid in the oven and continue to cook until fork tender.
9. Cool down in liquid.
10. Next day remove form liquid and trim short ribs of any fat and gristle.
11. Reduce the brasage until thick.
12. Add the cashews stir. Place the short ribs in the pan and put into a 325 degree oven and cook. Letting the liquid reduce slowly. Baste the short ribs every 5 minutes.
13. The liquid will reduce and form a glaze on meat. At this time to the fat will start to separate.
14. Pull out the cinnamon, cloves, galangal and lemon grass.
15. Plate and top with cashews.

Tapioca Polenta:
1. Put the tapioca in a bowl and wash in several changes of cold water from the tap unless the water loses its murkiness and remains clear. Soak the tapioca in fresh cold water to cover 8 hours.
2. Drain the tapioca in a sieve and spread on a tray laid with a paper towel. Refrigerate the drained tapioca at least 1 hour.
3. Heat the oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately high heat until shimmering and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds being to pop, which will be almost immediately, add the cumin seeds and stir.
4. Add the peanuts, shallots, Serrano, ginger and increase the heat to high. Cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.
5. Stir in the butter and when melted, add the tapioca and salt to taste. Cook until the tapioca is heated through (3-4 minutes). Add the spinach and continue to cook until the tapioca turns transparent.
6. Turn off the heat.
Just before serving, stir the lime and cilantro into the pilaf and season with salt.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reactions to Rocco's Dinner Party, Episode 1

In this first episode of Bravo's new show, Rocco's Dinner Party, we learn that Rocco DiSpirito is...bitchy. Ok, maybe some people knew that already, but it was news to me. Sure, he was a bit of a harsh critic on Top Chef, but it seemed that in those cases criticism may have been warranted. On his own show, however, Rocco lets the snark fly, making sure that the contestants vying for the $20,000 prize are beneath him and his wondrous abilities.

Like Top Chef, RDP has two challenges per episode, however, the first challenge in this case is an elimination challenge. Each of three chefs - this week Geoff, JJ, and Britt - must create a "signature" dish by which Rocco can get to know them and their cooking style. Upon entering "Rocco's Loft," the three chefs are given their challenge and 30 minutes to cook. After some time, Rocco comes in to sneer. Unlike Tom Colicchio's usually helpful visits to the kitchen, it seems that Rocco's only there to undermine confidence.

When time's up, Rocco tastes the three dishes and makes unflattering commentary. Britt's made tartare with Arctic Char, not one of Rocco's favorite fishes to eat raw. After making mention of that, he grudgingly admits that the dish tastes fine, even if the accompanying avocado puree was not fit to be babyfood. Geoff's lobster and "poor man's lobster" - monkfish - included shells and nearly-raw monkfish. Another Rocco No-No. JJ's scallops with bacon and corn got a snide "oh, we've never seen these ingredients used together before" comment, but otherwise was fine.

The two remaining chefs were then told that they would be catering a dinner party for Rocco and six guests. The theme du jour was "speakeasy," and the chefs would not only be responsible for creating food but also for designing the decor of their chosen dining room. That's right, folks, "Rocco's Loft" has three dining rooms. Geoff chooses the Terrace Room, which while indoors evokes the outdoors, and JJ takes the Formal Dining Room. They meet with decor guru Jes Gordon who will create a Chicago gangster-inspired room for Geoff and a Harlem speakeasy for JJ.

After shopping and while Geoff is working on his 5 course dinner, Rocco comes in to deliver a twist. One guest is a vegetarian, and another eschews alcohol and pork. Geoff steps up to the plate and creates alternate versions of the meat dishes for guest Christine Ebersole and eliminates the use of alcohol from his other already pork-free recipes. His meal is met with mostly complimentary comments from the guests - who also include former Top Chef Masters host Kelly Choi and TCM2 winner Marcus Samuelsson. (See, this show does have enough connections to Top Chef to warrant being included here on All Top Chef!) Rocco's not pleased with the fish course though, saying that Geoff doesn't know the difference between Atlantic cod and Black cod.

Chef JJ's meal, apart from the overcooked grits in the very first course, fares just as well, if not better than Geoff's. Rocco has a tough decision to make. Ultimately, he chooses JJ's meal as the winner of the $20,000.

So...did you watch? What did you think? Please tell us in a comment. :)

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Congratulations, Chef Floyd Cardoz!

After being asked to create the meal of a lifetime, one which encompassed his first food memory, the dish that made him want to become a chef, and a dish chosen by critic James Oseland, Chef Floyd Cardoz pulled off the ultimate win. And this was despite losing time in LA traffic in order to source all of the ingredients he needed for his meal! His rendition of Rendang, an Indonesian dish, done two ways with short ribs and oxtails, was probably the clincher, since Oseland seemed fairly rapturous while eating.

Congratulations to Chef Floyd Cardoz and to his charity, Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund!

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Cardoz and his dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

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Reactions to the Top Chef Masters 3 Finale

This week's finale episode of Top Chef Masters season 3 had the three finalists - Floyd Cardoz, Mary Sue Milliken, and Traci DesJardins - creating a three course meal based on three criteria. The first course needed to draw from an early food memory. The second course needed to reference the meal that made each contestant want to be a chef. Finally, the third course had to be based on a specific memory from one of the Critics. After drawing knives, Mary Sue finds that Ruth Reichl would love a lemon soufflé, Traci needs to make a memorable duck and Bernaise dish for Gael Greene, and Floyd has to recreate a spicy Indonesian rendang for James Oseland.

To aid them in this task, the chefs are assigned sous chefs with whom they are very comfortable, namely their own chefs from their restaurants.

Off for shopping, which is not limited to Whole Foods.With only 8 hours combined to shop and prep, Mary Sue plays it safe and buys all of her ingredients from Whole Foods. Floyd, on the other hand, needs to rush all over LA to source his ingredients and gets stuck in traffic. So while Mary Sue and Traci are cooking away in the Top Chef Masters kitchen, Floyd is nowhere to be found. Eventually he shows up with a mere 3 hours to spare - and two types of meat to braise to tenderness in that short time.

The next day, they are taken by car to a mysterious location, which turns out to be a house near the Hollywood Hills where Curtis Stone is waiting to make them breakfast. Afterwards, fueled by mimosas, they head back to the TCM kitchen to cook for another two hours.

While it seems they all have some issues in the kitchen -  Traci is not happy with the quality of her duck, Mary Sue is forced to use liquid nitrogen to make her lemon ice cream, Floyd's fish was badly butchered - they somehow all make it work.

When the Critics arrive, we see they've brought Danyelle Freeman, Alan Sytsma, and Tom Colicchio, plus former TCM contestants Jonathan Waxman, Susan Feniger, Rick Moonen, Jody Adams, and Susur Lee along to dine with them.

For the first course, Floyd serves an upma (semolina) polenta with wild mushrooms, Mary Sue brings out an Asian-style steak tartare, and Traci does a shrimp creole, all based on early food memories.

For the second course, Floyd made a rice-flake coated snapper, Mary Sue has shrimp two ways, and Traci offers a quail salad with sweetbreads.

Finally, for the third course, Floyd offers his rendang two ways (shortribs and oxtail) with tapioca pilaf, Mary Sue brings her lemon soufflé, and Traci has a duo of duck.

While the critics nitpick most of the dishes, Mary Sue's soufflé is faultless, and Floyd's rendang is highly praised. Traci's duck dish doesn't evoke the proper memories for Gael Greene, however, so it looks like she's out of the competition at that point.

Just when it seems that Mary Sue has it in the bag, Curtis announces that the winner is Floyd! Perhaps a surprise, but a pleasant one.

So what did you all think about this episode? Please tell us in the comments!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rocco's Dinner Party Episode 1 Previews

On the premiere of Rocco’s Dinner Party, three chefs are given the chance to create an exquisite dinner for celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito and his equally famous friends; this week’s well-known guests including actor Bryan Batt and foodie Kelly Choi. Are the chefs clever enough to work with rare and elaborate food and turn it into a deliciously themed dish, or will they crack under the pressure of creating the perfect meal? Rocco and his friends must determine which chef cooked up the most fabulous feast, and ultimately, who will take home the $20,000 prize. Check it out on the *SERIES PREMIERE* of BRAVO’s Rocco’s Dinner Party this Wednesday 6/15 @ 11/10c.

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Top Chef Masters 3 Finale Previews

It’s the final challenge of the season, and nobody is holding back. The chefs are pulling out all of the tricks up their sleeves as they compete for the grand prize of $100,000 that’s to be donated to the charity of their choice. The judges are joined by some familiar faces to help dine on the chefs’ four-course meals inspired by memory and self-reflection. Unfortunately, one chef’s chance at winning is toyed with when stand-still traffic causes a loss of prep time. Will the chef be able to rebound from the major setback, or have the other two chefs been given a lucky advantage? Find out tonight 6/15 @ 10/9c on the *SEASON FINALE* of BRAVO’s Top Chef Masters 3.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Recap Roundup: Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 9

Monkeys as Critics on yelling: "But the real screamer is, of course, Naomi, who acts a little pissy, too. Floyd is horrified. I’m horrified. But Floyd may have needed to yell, because his sister calls her food yucky looking and she isn’t wrong. She didn’t cut the asparagus! Traci is appalled that Naomi’s been yelling at her dad. But when the dividers go up and everyone sees their partner, Naomi isn’t embarrassed at all. It turns out that Dad doesn’t mind, because she yells at him like that all the time. Well, if you need a reason not to go to their house for Thanksgiving, there you go."

Oregon Live on truth, dat: "The other chefs seems startled by Pomeroy's bossy approach, though that particular criticism has been an undercurrent through the whole competition, particularly among the male chefs who seem threatened by Pomeroy's youth and culinary prowess. If this where a male chef barking out orders, he would be characterized as forceful or dominant. But when Pomeroy does it, suddenly it's bossy and rude."

Reality TV Calendar on appearances: "Traci’s meal was appreciated by the servicemen but the meatloaf was salty according to James Oseland and the plate was messy. May I point out that for a man who has just spent months eating, as he said, goat of dubious origins, a slightly messy plate of meatloaf and superior mashed potatoes is probably the food of the gods."

AV Club on the future: "Instead, it appears we’ll get a dull but pleasant end to a dull and occasionally pleasant season — and if that’s all the momentum that this show could bring to the table, then I think the Magical Elves need to seriously re-evaluate the future of this franchise."

A Just Recompense has a rant: "It’s the obligatory Support Our Troops show, which means two things: it’s rife with sentimentality, and short on cooking. It’s going to be an off-site buffet which means reheated mediocre food at best. And it’s food for 'the masses' meaning stuff I can make. I’m sorry to be a curmudgeon about this, but if they want to support the troops, they should vote for increasing funding for the VA, vote to bring troops home, and donate to veteran’s-related organizations at least for this show. Otherwise it’s all for show. Some of it makes a pretty good show, I have to admit, but I’m tired of 'let’s drag out the firefighters and army guys and be really soulful.' I’d rather see really good cooking. Why not, make an extraordinary meal for these families, instead of catering to a hundred people in an American Legion hall? It’s cheap schlock."

Clean Plate Charlie on preferences: "When the cheftestants interview the families, they get answers they're not too happy about. Forget the pate and foie gras and molecular gastronomy - these people coming home want meatloaf and barbeque and cobbler."

Eater on food in Afghanistan: "My favorite dude was from Hawaii, he wanted poke (raw tuna salad) and SPAM. Reichl asked him, 'What was the food like in Afghanistan?' Oh, yes, Ruth, while sitting in a spacious concrete loft with telephone cords strewn across the floor, I dined with this gentleman wearing a potato sack on his head. We had a delicious field green salad with camel’s milk ricotta and confit bullet shells. Instead, he says stone cold, 'We had a lot of Kebabs.'"

Grub Street on the Elimination Challenge: "Curtis the Australian welcomes everyone home to “our country.” Floyd needs a victory because he’s won, like, $5 for his charity. But everyone votes and Mary Sue wins for her ribs with avocado-corn relish. Floyd is crushed, but there’s a silver lining for him, as he strikes up a bromance with military man Eric, who loved Floyd’s beef tenderloin and gives him a special coin as a token of his appreciation. They embrace, gently weeping."

Jordan Baker has given up on recapping this show and gives us a good rant instead.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Top Recipe - Mary Sue Milliken's Tomatillo Barbecue Ribs

Tomatillo Barbecue Ribs & Avocado Corn Relish with Potato & Rajas; Apple & Cream Cheese Bread Pudding with Crema

Dry Rub:
3 tablespoons Piment D’Esplette or hot paprika
3 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
4 pounds pork baby back ribs

Tomatillo Glaze:
2 small onions, diced
3 tablespoons pork or duck fat
10 cloves chopped garlic
3 Serrano chiles, sliced
10 tomatillos, husked, washed, and roughly chopped
1 large bunch roughly chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Avocado Corn Relish:
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 5 ears, canned corn can be substituted)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 avocados, peeled and seeded
4 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Potato Rajas:
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, halved and cut in 1/4-inch slices lengthwise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 medium red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded*, and julienned
4 medium poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded*, and julienned
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup grated Mexican manchego or Monterey Jack cheese
2/3 cup grated Cotija cheese
2 corn tortillas cut in fine julienne and fried until crispy for garnish

Apple Cream Cheese Bread Pudding with Vanilla Crema:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1/2 loaf French bread, with crust, cut into small cubes
1 pound brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and chopped Pink Lady apples
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 pound cream cheese, chilled and chopped
Vanilla Crema (see recipe below), for serving

Vanilla Crema:
1 vanilla bean split and scraped
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup crème fraiche

Dry Rub:
1. Combine paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Pat spice mixture all over ribs. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 250-300 degrees Fahrenheit in a convection oven.

3. Place ribs in a single layer in a baking pan and pour in water to a depth of about 1/4-inch. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes in the oven or on grill with the lid closed. Cover with foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes. If finishing the ribs in the oven, brush generously with the glaze and bake another 10 minutes per side, basting with the glaze every 5 minutes. To grill, generously glaze the ribs and grill 5 minutes per side, frequently brushing with additional glaze. Cut the ribs apart and serve hot.

Tomatillo Glaze:
1. In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, sauté onion in duck or pork fat until golden. Add garlic, Serrano chilies, and tomatillos and cook stirring frequently until mixture thickens, about 30 to 45 minutes. Add cilantro and cook an additional 10 minutes.

2. Puree with an immersion blender and add maple syrup. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly and being careful not to burn. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado Corn Relish:
1. Heat 1/2 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the corn with the salt and pepper, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool.

2. Cut the avocados into 1/4-inch dice. Add to the sautéed corn along with the scallions, cilantro, red wine vinegar, and remaining olive oil. Mix well and let sit 20 to 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Serve at room temperature.

Potato & Rajas:
1. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and cook potatoes until just tender, about 6 to 8 minutes, being careful not to overcook. Drain, pat dry, and spread in a single layer on a tray to cool.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions with salt and pepper until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in red bell peppers and chiles. Pour in heavy cream, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook 4 minutes or until cream begins to thicken. Add grated cheeses and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through.

3. Adjust seasoning with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately with crispy fried tortilla strips on top for garnish.

* Fresh chiles and peppers can be roasted over a gas flame or on a tray under the broiler. Keep turning so the skin is evenly charred, without burning and drying out the flesh. Transfer charred peppers to a plastic bag, tie the top closed, and let steam until cool to the touch, about 15 minutes. The best way to peel is just to pull off the charred skin by hand and then dip the peppers briefly in water to remove any blackened bits. Do not peel the peppers under running water since that will wash away flavorful juices. Once peeled, cut away stems, seeds and veins.

Apple Cream Cheese Bread Pudding with Vanilla Crema:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 13- x 9-inch glass casserole or lasagna pan.

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the bread cubes, and stir to coat evenly. Spread the cubes on a baking sheet and bake 15 minutes or until lightly brown and crisp. Remove the bread and turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cinnamon and set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped apples, walnuts, cream cheese, and toasted bread cubes. Drizzle with the reserved sugar syrup and mix to evenly distribute. Transfer the mixture to the buttered casserole or pan. Bake, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Then bake an additional 5 minutes, without stirring, until the top is golden brown and crusty and the liquid is almost gone. Serve warm with Vanilla Crema.

Vanilla Crema:
1. Bring water, sugar, and vanilla bean to a boil and simmer gently until well infused, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and chill. Mix syrup with crème fraiche (discarding bean pod) and serve immediately.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Naomi Pomeroy

ATC: Did you watch the episode last night?

NP: Yes. I waited until about 12:30 am my time, so I could watch it with my staff and a small group of friends at my house.

ATC: If you could go back, is there anything that you would do differently?

NP: No. I am really happy with everything...well, I guess if I could go back, I maybe wouldn't have yelled so much at my dad ;) .... But then again...Our dishes DID end up identical. !

ATC: Tell us about your charity

NP: Seed Savers Exchange.. Genetic diversity in food. It's really important. It's dying at an alarming rate. I really wanted to choose a charity where the mention of it might cause people to think about something they don't spend a lot of time thinking about... or had maybe even never heard of.. People are realizing of course, that tomatoes sometimes taste like tomatoes (and sometimes like cardboard) .. and everyone prefers the former.. Seed Savers is an organization that is working to protect those heritage foods- It's what makes me want to keep cooking- when things taste as amazing as they can.. and that is in the product itself... Not all carrots are created equal. If that dies, so does my love of cooking...and a HUGE part of our cultural heritage.

Click here to continue.

Thank you Chef Naomi!

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Bravo Exit Interview - Naomi Pomeroy

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

ATC Love to Chef Naomi Pomeroy

Chef Naomi Pomeroy had a very successful run on Top Chef Masters this season. After winning several Quickfire and Elimination Challenges, she managed to earn $25,000 for her charity, which is a nice chunk of change. Unfortunately, her success came to an end when her Hawaiian-inspired buffet menu fell short of the critics' expectations.

Chef Pomeroy - you are definitely one to watch in the future, and we're all excited to see what it holds for you and your talent.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef  Pomeroy and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here

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Congratulations, Chef Mary Sue Milliken!

In the penultimate episode of Top Chef Masters season 3, Chef Mary Sue Milliken created a buffet meal for a Guatamalan-born serviceman recently arrived home from active duty. Her pork ribs and potatoes rajas thrilled him and his family, and scored her the most points from all of the diners. And that earned Mary Sue her fourth win this season and a trip to the finale.

Can she win it all? Tune in next week!

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Milliken and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here

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Reactions to Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 9

Top Chef Masters is almost over, and to celebrate, I'm going to give you a short recap! Yay!

The Quickfire this week involved communication skills. Each of the four remaining chefs are given a mystery teammate, hidden behind a partition, that they must direct in creating the same dish he or she is creating with the small selection of ingredients provided at their stations. Little do they know their partners in crime are family members: Naomi's dad, Toby; Mary Sue's sister Chris; Floyd's sister Debra; and Traci's brother Mitch.

Apparently the partition is sound-proof, or noise was piped into the kitchen, because the chefs literally had to shout at their partners. In the case of Naomi, who was frustrated, she ended up yelling at her dad. And boy did she feel bad after the reveal!

Ultimately, the chefs did a good job of directing their family members, who each produced a pretty reasonable facsimile of their dishes. Curtis did the judging himself and chose Traci and her brother to be the winners.

For the Elimination Challenge, each chef was tasked to create a celebratory buffet for 100 people that included a main and two side dishes. The occasion? A homecoming for a US serviceman from each of the four armed forces. Each chef got paired with the relative of a serviceman who gave them the skinny on food preferences and bugaboos before they planned their menu and went shopping.

Used to lots of help in the kitchen, these Masters all had a bit of difficulty preparing so much food alone. Floyd in particular had a worrisome situation, as he chose to make beef tenderloin, which he would end up cooking in a toaster oven at the venue.

All went extremely well. The servicemen and their families seemed happy. The judges seemed happy. Happiest of all was Mary Sue, who was awarded her fourth win and a spot in the finale. At this point the judges split hairs with the remaining three chefs. Floyd's dish was safe and his salad was muddled, Naomi's didn't all quite go together and her shrimp was undercooked, and Traci's meatloaf was salty to James Oseland. The surprise eliminee was Naomi Pomeroy, who I think everyone was pretty sure would make it to the finale, if not win.

So what did you think about this episode? Please leave a comment!

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Recap Roundup - Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 8

Jordan Baker on the Reichl Effect: "Hugh says it’s a great honor to have been here for his charity, and a lot of fun. He says some other things, but I keep thinking about how much he must hate Ruth Reichl and her giant hair colony – in the 5 episodes where she was off writing annoying, gnomic tweets, he did really well. But in 2 of the 3 episodes where she was around, he got bounced."

SF Foodie on the Quickfire judging: "Like something out of a mad scientists wet dream, the guest judges were two comediennes fused together in the for Frangela (Francis and Angela). Even though everyone seemed to make the same dish -- zapped chanterelles and eggs together -- longtime microwaver Hugh was deemed the winner."

Oregon Live on wardrobe choices: "But it's only the judges' opinions that matter this week. Regular judge James Oseland shows up in a ridiculous black bow tie and pencil-thin suspenders (maybe he didn't think he'd have time to go home and change before heading to the barber shop quartet competition after the show), the latest in his sartorial weirdness this season."

Reality TV Calendar on teamwork: "And in the checkout line, the all good friends together thing is demonstrated again. Floyd needs more meat. Mary Sue offers to buy it for him. There’s no time to get it to her to meet the time constraint but Floyd gets the meat from the butcher and tosses it down the stairs into the waiting arms of Hugh who tosses it to Mary Sue who is in line and all is well. The Harlem Globetrotters would be proud."

Is Marquee Blog watching the same versions of Top Chef as we are? "The other thing is that this week’s guest critic is Padma Lakshmi. I’m THRILLED to have Padma liven up this show. You know who shouldn’t be thrilled? Curtis Stone. Because when you see what a good host can bring to the table, even in a guest appearance, it provides a stark contrast to just how wooden he is."

TWOP on shopping: "The chefs head to Whole Foods for the usual shop n' talk. Hugh is making an okra salad where the kids have to make their own mayonnaise. Yeah, THAT should be a big winner with the teens. He's going to have to sculpt those little okra in the shape of Justin Bieber if he wants the teens to even consider letting them past their lips. Naomi on the other hand is making pizza with three different types of flour to show how elasticity is affected. Traci dead pans that she is going to cook fish in acid a.k.a. ceviche. Ricotta was too boring. The end. It's too bad Traci can't buy some charisma at Whole Foods."

Celebrity Chefs Examiner on the scientists: "Curtis brings on the science as well as the chefs’ “lab assistants”, who are five scientists who have five ingredients representing scientific principles. Carlin is a Nanotechnologist who has pizza dough to represent Elasticity. Heidi is a chemist with milk and molasses representing Viscosity. Carolyn is an Evolutionary Biologist with citrus, representing Acidity. Augustine is a physicist with a vinaigrette representing Emulsion. Michael is a physicist with beef to represent the Maillard Reaction.

Monkeys as Critics on science: "There’s a lot of science talk that makes me think Alton Brown is soooo much more interesting than this and I now give him that much more credit for making science and food interesting. Hugh seems to agree with me, as he usually skipped science class growing up. Floyd, however, has a masters in biochemistry. Now, that’s an edge! No wonder his dad was disappointed he became a chef. No offense, it all turned out alright, but still, that’s a lot of education to only use during a reality competition challenge."

AV Club's stray observation of the week: "I love (read: hate) how Floyd’s reaction to a terrible joke about cooking bacon naked was to make an even worse joke about a meat grinder. Curtis was relieving some tension in an awkward moment with two generally unfunny comediennes; Floyd was just trying too hard."

Grub Street on funny business: "For no reason at all, the Quickfire judges are comedy duo Frangela, whom you might remember if you used to spend your Friday nights misguidedly watching Best Week Ever. Like many comedians, they say nothing funny at all, and the only good thing they do is ask Curtis to take his shirt off. (He does not oblige.) Curtis advises the ladies never to cook bacon naked. 'And never use a meat grinder naked, too!' Floyd adds. Let’s leave the dumb jokes to Hugh, shall we?"

A Just Recompense on Famous Microwave Users: "But here’s the thing, people: El Bulli is considered by most to be the best restaurant in the world, and chef Albert Adria prides himself on his 40-second microwave sponge cake (which Richard Blais has made a couple of times while sous-ing for Cat Cora on Iron Chef). See what you might’ve been able to do if you weren’t such microwave snobs?"

Eater on the Quickfire Judges: "I LOVED these judges. They had more swag than any other judge on the show, they were hilarious, happy, impressed by everything. It was like feeding homeless Oprahs, just delightful people trying to start book clubs. At one point they said that Tracy’s dish was reminiscent of the tropics and told Curt Stone to take his shirt off. Take notes Restaurant Girl, that’s game, he was up in the range man..."

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Monday, June 6, 2011

TC News & Information 6.6.2011

If you haven't been able to make it to any of the stops on the latest Top Chef tour, Angelo Sosa and Nikki Cascone share a taste of it in this video.

Cookbook news: According to the Hollywood Reporter, Antonio LoFaso is penning The Busy Moms Cookbook, slated for Fall 2012. Top Chef Masters "regular" judge Ruth Reichl is also writing a cookbook...based on her Tweets.

Rocco DiSpirito talks about the difference between his upcoming Rocco's Dinner Party and that trainwreck called The Restaurant. (Hint: he's not less-douchy in the new show.)

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rocco's Dinner Party

Some-time Top Chef judge Rocco DiSpirito has his own show on Bravo, debuting on June 15th at 11pm, after the finale of Top Chef Masters season 3. We'll be covering Rocco's Dinner Party here on All Top Chef.

I've seen the first episode, and Rocco is a bit...bitchy...which should please viewers who enjoy a bit of strife in their competitive cooking reality shows.

Stay tuned!

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Top Recipe - Mary Sue Milliken's Churros

Dulce de Leche Churros, Chocolate Mousse & Spiced Café de Olla

Churro Tots:
2 1/2 cups water
13 1/4 ounces unsalted butter
4 1/2 ounces (10 tablespoons) brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 cups all-purpose flour
10 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups homemade or store bought Dulce de Leche (see recipe below) or cajeta
Oil, for frying
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Dulce de Leche:
7 cups whole milk
3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Chocolate Mousse with Rum Soaked Raisins:
3 tablespoons rum
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 pound 2 ounces semisweet chocolate (58%)
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
10 eggs, separated

Crème Anglaise:
8 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Crema:
1 vanilla bean split and scraped
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup crème fraiche

Spiced Cafe de Olla:
2 cinnamon sticks
2 allspice berries
2 whole cloves
2 star anise
4 cups water
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar or 4 ounces piloncillo (Mexican raw sugar cones)
1 cup dark roast coffee beans, medium grind or 3/4 cup pre-ground beans
1 cup frothed, warm milk


Churro Tots:
Place water, butter, brown sugar and salt in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Add flour all at once and stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball and smells like toasted flour. Transfer to the bowl of a mixer and paddle dough while adding eggs one at a time allowing machine to incorporate each egg before the next addition. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl often and add vanilla. Lastly, add dulce de leche and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Transfer mixture to a container and refrigerate until ready to fry. Heat vegetable oil for frying in a pot. Place churro batter in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tube. When oil is 375 degrees Fahrenheit drop 2-inch long churros from the pastry bag into the oil and fry about 4 minutes or until well browned and floating. Centers will still be a tiny bit gooey because of the dulce de leche in the batter. Remove churros to a paper lined plate. Combine sugar and cinnamon and toss with hot churros. Serve immediately with chocolate mousse, crème anglaise, dulce de leche syrup, and vanilla crema.

Dulce de Leche:
Combine ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook stirring often for 45 minutes to an hour or until mixture becomes a caramel color and is thick enough that you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir. By volume it should be reduced to about 1 1/2 to 2 cups.Cool to room temperature and use immediately or store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Chocolate Mousse with Rum Soaked Raisins:
Line a 12 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch sharp-edged loaf pan with enough aluminum foil to hang over sides about 3 inches. Combine rum and raisins in a small saucepan and warm over low heat. Reserve.Chop chocolate into small pieces and melt with butter in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl over simmering water. Remove from heat and stir in reserved raisins and rum. Whisk in yolks until combined. Whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold whites into chocolate mixture in two stages.Pour into prepared pan, tap on counter to remove air pockets, smooth top, and cover with plastic wrap touching the top of the chocolate mixture. Chill 6 hours or overnight. To serve, remove plastic wrap and invert onto a serving platter. The chocolate should release easily. Remove aluminum foil. Can be served in slices or scoops with crème anglaise.

Crème Anglaise:
In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Place milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour hot milk into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return to saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and chill.

Vanilla Crema:
Bring water, sugar and vanilla bean to a boil and simmer gently until well infused, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and chill. Mix syrup with crème fraiche (discarding bean pod) and serve immediately.

Spiced Cafe de Olla:
Lightly crush spices in a mortar and pestle. In a saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and spices and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to melt the sugar. Stir in the coffee grounds, remove from heat, cover, and steep for 5 minutes.Strain the coffee through a fine sieve or a coffee filter into a pitcher. Serve the coffee in tall glasses with the frothed milk in a pitcher alongside.

To assemble:

Prepare each component of the dish per the recipes below. In a Petri dish place a ring of Dulce de Leche Syrup around edge followed by a squirt of Crème Anglaise. Place a small scoop of Chocolate Mousse in the center with a Churro Tot on top. Drizzle with Vanilla Crema and serve immediately with a test tube of Spiced Café de Olla.


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Friday, June 3, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Hugh Acheson

Master Chef Hugh Acheson talks about his experience on the show. It was great to get to know him a little better.

A highlight:: Hugh has written a cookbook called "A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen." The book will be available in October. Click here for more information.

Click here for the podcast.

Thank you Chef Hugh!

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Bravo Exit Interview - Hugh Acheson

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Congratulations, Chef Mary Sue Milliken!

Wow - this week we had yet another win from Chef Mary Sue Milliken! She's won so many Elimination Challenges so far, I've lost count (but I'll bet Floyd Cardoz remembers, since he was on the top with her every time).

Congrats Chef! Only 2 more episodes to go - will you win those, too?

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Milliken and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

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ATC Love to Chef Hugh Acheson

Doesn't it seem like we've already said good-bye to Chef Hugh Acheson? Oh yeah, we did - way back in episode 1. Hugh was brought back for a second chance and during his tenure in the competition, he won three Quickfire Challenges. Unfortunately, despite winning a Quickfire this week, his performance in the Elimination Challenge got him, well, eliminated, and this time he won't be back.

Chef Acheson - you are so entertaining to watch, and we're very sorry to see  you go. Again.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Acheson and his dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

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Reactions to Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 8

This week was full of gadgets and science. First, the five remaining Top Chef Masters cheftestants had to create a breakfast dish in 10 minutes using only a microwave oven. The contest was judged by two comedians who go by the collective name of "Frangela." They weren't so crazy about Traci's oeufs en cocotte or Mary Sue's avocado sandwich, but they loved Floyd's omelette and especially Hugh's "baked" egg, giving him his third Quickfire win in this competition.

Science comes into the Elimination Challenge, where the chefs are paired with scientists and must demonstrate a scientific property using food, for an "edible science fair." As the winner of the QF, Hugh gets first choice and picks emulsion. Traci then takes acidity, Mary Sue viscosity, Floyd Maillard reaction, and Naomi gets elasticity.

The real task here is not so much working with scientific principles, but working with scientific instruments. The chefs had to cook only with lab supplies - beakers, petri dishes, bunsen burners, and induction burners. After 30 minutes of planning and $300 of shopping, the chefs get 4 hours to prep.

Mary Sue sticks to what she knows and makes churros to serve with sauces that each possess a different thickness or viscosity. Floyd makes beef two ways, one seared to demonstrate the Maillard reaction, and one cooked shabu-shabu style in broth to demonstrate the lack of browning. Traci cooks ahi tuna with lemon juice to make a ceviche. Hugh makes a mayonnaise. And Naomi plays with pizza dough using different types of flour, plus mozzarella cheese.

Along with a gaggle of kids, the Critics attend the "science fair." This week we finally get to see Ruth Reichl again, along with Padma Lakshmi. After watching the chefs' demos and tasting the food, they decide that Mary Sue and Floyd both had the strongest dishes. The two of them have been on the top in this competition several times, and Mary Sue always wins. And guess what? Mary Sue wins this time, too.

Naomi gets complaints from Padma for the gelee she put in her calzones. Rather than melting and making a sauce, it only served to make the calzone soggy. And James said that the gelee "spurted in his mouth in a most unpleasant way."


James also had issues with Hugh's mayonnaise, which he considered to be "broken." Hugh disagreed. And Traci's dish was just too obvious a choice to demonstrate acid. Padma said she would have liked to see a different acid employed, like tamarind. [insert eyeroll here] Um, Pads, they only had 30 minutes to plan.

Anyhoo...Hugh's mayo was apparently the most egregious error du jour, and he was asked to pack his knives.

What did you think about this episode? Please tell us in the comments.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011