Top Chef Seattle: Episode 8 – Jalapeño Business

We start off with Stefan complaining about Josie, but it’s ok, that’s how it is in the restaurant business, no one cares if you call them an @**hole. That pretty much sets the tone for the episode. You thought last week was The Josie Show? Just wait.

Quickfire

The chefs find a note waiting for them, a la Tyra, directing them to Taylor Shellfish Farms where they have free range of the oyster beds. Micah reminisces: his father was a pastor in a church that kept kosher (maybe Seventh Day Adventist I stand corrected – his Bravo bio clearly identifies his father as “orthodox Catholic,” so I’m thinking it’s the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America) so he didn’t have shellfish until culinary school. Given how he’s pouring raw oyster down his gullet out there on the mud, ol’ Dad must be proud. josieJosie gets stuck in the mud. First Brooke tries to help, then Stefan and poor Micah, who gets kneed in the balls and knocked on his ass for his trouble, but Josie keeps getting stuck. Considering how things go later on, maybe they should’ve left her there. We also see some baby pics of Bart in his chef-father’s arms; Dad didn’t want him to be a chef because it’s such a hard life, but he knew by age 11 where he’d be. Sheldon’s got his own worries: they don’t have oysters in Hawaii unless they’re flown in.

Back in the kitchen, Padma and Emeril give them the details: five will make a hot oyster dish, five a cold. Emeril recites an Ode to the Delicate Oyster, Which Can’t Bear Overcooking. I think he had tears in his eyes. The prize is $5,000. Brooke wants it; sure, she has a car, but no cash. Hey, girl, don’t go getting greedy. Twenty-five minutes on the clock, and – go:

Micah is thrilled to be cooking for Emeril, his childhood hero: “This is how Moses felt meeting God.” (Hugh live-tweeted during the episode: “Micah is Moses, Emeril is God. Not my idea, that’s all Micah.“) He goes spicy: Crispy Fried Oysters with Arugula Salad, Hot Sauce and Lemon and a little slice of Serrano Chili on top. Emeril credits him with taking a risk, and a successful one: the seasoning was great, not overpowering, and made his mouth pop. Micah wins. He’s a single father with two daughters, money is good. And his first win is sweet, too.

Brooke makes Oysters with Salsa Verde, Cilantro, Horseradish, and Red Chili. She has some trouble shucking, blames the brittle shells. Emeril picks a few shells out of his mouth, but loves the beautiful flavors that don’t take away from the oyster. Top three. But no recipe.

Lizzie juices currants through a sieve, adds some red wine vinegar and calls it Oysters with Crushed Currant Juice and Crushed Pink Peppercorn. Emeril takes one look at the bright red color and freaks, but tastes it and changes his mind: he likes the final drizzle of olive oil, and Padma agrees the red currant worked. Top Three. But no recipe.

Bart uses champagne. “It’s risky in a short time, but I always push it.” Padma asks about the roasting: he put the Oysters with Champage, Butter and Cream under the broiler for a short while. Does that mean they’re over/undercooked? Emeril allows how champagne and oysters are a difficult match; the richness of the butter cut through the champagne and it got lost, the oyster didn’t come through. Bottom Three. There is a recipe, but the Finder is playing tricks again and it won’t display from the URL; search for “Bart.”

Josie is still Rockin’ Roll from last week, so she uses Spanish chorizo for a Spanish Rockefeller: Wood-Roasted Oysters with Chorizo and Cilantro Cream. Her sauce breaks. Emeril comments that the chorizo was not overpowering, but she should’ve strained the oysters because the liquor looked separated. She knows better than to say “Oh, no, it was my sauce that broke.” Bottom Three, either way.

John grew up on Long Island and his father was a bankr but he’s still got shellfish in his blood. He gives a lesson on tides (they go in, they go out), and decides to throw some names around: he’s going to combine NOLA legends Brennan’s and Drago’s, but instead of the heavy cheese they use, he’ll whip up a light parmesan and garlic foam. I know nothing about oysters – I think they’re disgusting – but his Oysters Poached in Garlic Butter with Swiss Chard and Garlic-Parmesan Foam sounds pretty good to me. Padma even approves of the foam. But Emeril isn’t that impressed: there’s no pop, nothing to wake up his mouth. Bottom Three. John’s surprised; he thought it was a good dish.

Josh raves on and on about how wonderful it is to harvest his own fresh seafood, but he’s an Oklahoma pig boy, and admits he doesn’t do a lot of shucking when Emeril starts picking shells out of his mouth. But his Oysters with Pickled Cucumbers, White Soy, Cilantro, and Red Chili can’t be too bad, since he’s in the safe zone. The Recipe Finder is playing tricks again, but it is there.

Sheldon wanted to do a hot dish but only cold aprons were left by the time he got to them. He does Oysters with Chilled Old Bay Broth and Ginger-Scallion Pesto; Emeril likes the ginger. You know the recipe drill by now.

Stefan smokes his oysters: no risk, no win. Emeril appreciates the crunch of his Smoked Oysters with Potato Vinaigrette and Flash Frozen Salt. I think he’s making up the Flash Frozen Salt thing. And I’m dubious about the Potato Vinaigrette. Emeril allows as it has a nice crunch, but that’s all. You didn’t want this recipe anyway, did you?

Kristen goes for Oysters with Caramelized Honey-Tomato Broth, Celery Leaves, and Chili; Emeril likes the celery leaf.

Elimination Challenge:

Enter The Rat City Roller Girls. Yes, there is a Roller Derby in Seattle, and yes, those are their names (with a couple of variations to keep the food theme going). Josie’s psyched; she used to be a professional football player, and she has the trading card to prove it. Lizzie, on the other hand, didn’t know people still roller skated. They do, they just don’t admit it in public. The chefs divide themselves into teams of two: Stefan grabs Kristen, duh. John asks “Brookie” to pair with him; she’s a little dubious but game (“our personalities don’t mesh, but I know to take him with a grain of salt”); Bart ends up stuck with Josie because no one else wants her: “I’m a team player so I go for it.” You know what happens to team players, right?

Each pair of chefs must cook for a Roller Derby Wrap Party the next day, making a dish that goes with the name of the skater they pick. Emeril tells them to go bold and brash; the skaters say they don’t want fussy food, but they don’t want concession stand stuff, either. And for a special treat, tonight they go to the Roller Derby for inspiration. Now, there are few things I’d rather do than go to a roller derby (like, say, stick pins under my fingernails). I’m guessing the chefs were supposed to skate, but visions of insurance claims kept that from happening. Lizzie was originally worried they were going to cook on roller skates; that would’ve been last season, may it burn in hell.

But we do get to watch Padma skate; apparently it’s something she did in her wild and foolish youth. Tom looks embarrassed and worried. Emeril’s enjoying himself thoroughly. Stefan drools. He admits, “I purchased Season 9 just to cut out clips of her.” That’s about all Season 9 was good for. By the way, Emeril’s skater name would be Bam Bam. You knew that was coming, right?

The overnight is one of the most bizarre non-food events in TC History. I usually skim over these, but this one was painful and hilarious all in one, and I think some of the interplay has an effect on the next day’s food. We have Josie playing Superfan. It’s a roller derby, why not? But with this crowd, who hates her to begin with, she’s more out of place than Julia Roberts at the polo match. “I feel like I’ve come to the roller derby with my parents.” I’m no Josie fan, but this is Groupthink, and it’s just mean. She responds with a little defensive teasing: “Boring, boring, you people are so boring,” as she leaves, knocking over a beer in the process. I’ve been on both sides: the enthusiastic participant surrounded by duds, and the embarrassed member of a group with one very loud member. But I don’t see anything inappropriate about her enthusiasm: it’s a sporting event, a rough-and-tumble sporting event at that, not a golf match or a harp recital.

Back at the farm, she flops on the couch and John puts a blanket over her, draping it primarily on her head. She says thank you anyway. Then everyone else sits in the adjoining room and complains about her. She insulted someone. Micah insists, “Nothing important came out of that mouth tonight.” That wakes the slumbering Josie, and she lets Micah have it (rough quotes):

“You’re insulted I called you a name? Boring isn’t a name. “Asshole” is a name. “Douchebag” is a name. This tree right here, you don’t want to bark up. This right here, she knows who she is. You’re hiding in a closet.” Exit Josie.

Josh: “What just happened?

Josie, to Bart (who has to cook with her tomorrow so has a vested interest in her sanity), in another room: “Namaste, bitches, Namaste.”

Ok, I’m no Josie fan, and she’s definitely gone around the bend, but 1) they brought that on themselves, and 2) that “Namaste, bitches” line is the finest thing I’ve ever heard. I want that on a t-shirt. Fortunately, I have lots of choices; apparently it’s something that’s been going around aggressive yoga types for a while, and even appeared in the remake of 90210 in February 2011. But I can’t find where it came from originally. Any ideas? It’s not even in the Urban Dictionary. If I weren’t planning on being disposed of in the nearest dumpster, I’d want that on my tombstone.

Back to cooking:

Who Were High Scorers:

Micah and Lizzie: Jalapeño Business

Micah, as QF winner, gets to pick his skater first, and he goes for the hot stuff, with his fingers paying the price. Lizzie worries that their Crab-Stuffed Jalapeño with Avocado Cream, Onion and Pepper Relish (sorry, no recipe, but Tom gives some pointers below) might be a little hot, but nope. Hugh finds it “better than I thought.” Tom’s also surprised that it’s “actually good,” nice and crispy, with great flavor. Japalpeno Business herself calls it elevated party food.

John and Brooke: Kutta Rump (aka Kutta Betch)

John’s first date was in a roller rink, which is kind of sad. Mine was in a bowling alley. That’s the way things were back then. Brooke reminds him of his daughter, whom his wife “took away” at one year of age. He kind of leaves out the whole drugs and booze thing that might’ve resulted in a judge awarding custody that way, but he claims to have overcome a lot of “self-inflicted ridiculousness” and still misses his daughter. If she’s Brooke’s age, can’t he contact her? Or has the damage been done? That’d make an interesting story. I wonder if she’s watching this show. In any event, they “kutta rump” of beef, for Thai Beef with Lobster Jasmine Rice and Thai Slaw; he tells the skaters, “It’s Thai cole slaw, it’s fun in a bowl.” Padma likes the smell of it; Hugh thinks the flavors meld well, with nice acid; it’s definitely bold.

Who Got Clocked:

Sheldon and Josh: Tempura Tantrum

Josh isn’t too happy when Sheldon picks Tempura Tantrum, but figures the Hawaiian must’ve made it a few thousand times so leaves him to handle the tempura and focuses on the other stuff. Sheldon advises the judges to use the skewer to have a little tantrum on the plate, messing up the sauces and garnishes. Tempura Tantrum herself likes their Tempura Yuzu Curd with Shiso, Fresno Chili, Sweet Potato and Vanilla just fine, but she’s the only one. Emeril sees a great idea that failed in the execution: the tempura isn’t fried enough, probably because they were using a small fryer that couldn’t maintain the oil temperature. Hugh thinks everything else like the fluid gels is fine, but the tempura itself failed.

Josie and Bart: Teriyaki Terror

Bart’s doing everything he can to keep Josie calm, which, well, you know that’s not gonna end well; look what happened to Josh and John in the Artisan challenge, when neither of them wanted to tell the other, “That’s a bad idea.” But Bart, he’s Belgian, you know, and “We don’t go head to head, we’re civilized.” Hence the thing about being conquered every other week. Josie’s Puerto Rican, Filipino, and Italian, so she’s a fan of aggressive spice; Bart’s interpretation of bold is a little different, and he’s worried about overspicing. Josie’s worried about the rice Bart’s making; the texture’s off, and it needs more seasoning, but for whatever reason, be it appearing cooperative of passive aggression, she says nothing while he can still do something about it (or she notes the deficiencies after the judges have had their say but in time for her interview). Their Steak Teriyaki with Forbidden Rice, Beet Blood and Green Papaya Salad strikes Teriyaki Terror as too “earthy.” Tom has some complaints about the skewering of the beef, Padma finds the rice overcooked, and Emeril hate the texture and the seasoning of the rice.

And Who Got Around The Rink In One Piece:

Stefan and Kristen:

I don’t understand their dish. They keep calling it “Inside Out Chicken” but it’s really Corn Puree, Chicken Liver, and a Sunny-Side Up Egg. I’m not sure what that has to do with inside out, or with shredding for that matter, but nobody else seems to notice. Emeril thinks that while the egg is a little overdone, the corn pudding is delicious, and Eddie Shredder likes the idea and the dish. Tom thinks they missed a couple of opportunities: it would’ve been nice if they’d shredded a roast chicken and added it to the dish.

Judges’ Table:

Brooke and John win. Brooke: “Winning doesn’t suck. At the end of the day our personalities really do mesh well.” John: “I finally won, but it would’ve been sweeter if I’d won alone.” I don’t suppose it occurs to you that maybe you won because of Brooke? Who, by the way, has now won for the second time?

And for the loss, we have:

Bart and Josie: Tom asks about the seasoning on the beets and rice. Josie thought the rice lacked flavor and was more like risotto in texture, but the beets were hot so maybe when combined they’d work. Tom flips into Angry Daddy: “How often do you have to hear it, if you have something bland and something seasoned, when you put them together it comes out bland.” Bart did add seasoning, but Josie didn’t taste it, so Tom scolds her for not following up, and points out Bart has been hit with underseasoning before. Hugh calls it “beet espuma syrup on top of really boring porridge.” Live tweet: Espuma syrup sounds like a weird term evoking both aspiration and failure. Nailed it. Did he use the word “aspiration” on purpose? On TCM3 he claimed he wasn’t good at science, but that’s some pretty high-level punning there, spanning areas of study.

Sheldon an Josh: Tom liked the concept, but the execution fell apart. Josh claims it was creative and bold, and Sheldon clings to the “risky” card. Tom ask, “Why do you think you’re here?” Josh: “It had to be the tempura,” which sounds pretty snide, but he’s right. Josh doesn’t know from tempura, so it was Sheldon’s bailiwick, but he throws in all the pressure they were under to get the food out, which never works. It’s interesting he’s fighting for it, since it isn’t his ass on the line; that’s kind of a positive thing. Then he steps in it. “This isn’t a CJ thing…” (Uh oh. Any time you preface something with “This isn’t,” that means it is) “…but isn’t a crab-stuffed jalapeño pretty much concession-style food?” Yeah, that was exactly like CJ, throwing someone who isn’t there under the bus, except this is even worse, since the crab-stuffed jalapeño was in the top. Tom explains how to elevate concession-style crab-stuffed jalapeño: 1) the used fresh, not canned, peppers, properly skinned and deseeded; 2) they used good cheese; 3) they fried it perfectly. Richard Blais live tweets: Never try to call out Colicchio. It’s like a heckler with a great comedian… It’s gonna backfire on you.

Back in the Stew Room, Sheldon knows it was his part of the dish that failed. And Josie, having missed the whole teamwork idea, doesn’t want to go home for someone else’s mistakes, because she’s perfectly capable of making terrible food all on her own, thank you. See? I still haven’t forgiven her for that turkey. But I’m sad, because the two team members I’d like to see stay, Sheldon and Bart, are the ones who are obviously on the line here.

Bart’s out. He’s a little perturbed. “I’ve had my own restaurant for years, mobody sends my food back for underseasoning, but Josie talks to the judges and this is it… Maybe I should’ve stepped out of my comfort zone a little.” No, Bart, I think your civilized Belgian comfort zone is just fine; you just cater to a different palate.

The Standings:

I’ve been assuming all along Bart knew what he was doing and would eventually get his bearings, but the numbers show a different story: he had one QF win, no EC wins or highs, and was Low twice. Where’d I get the idea he was good at this? I also was surprised to realize John hadn’t won any ECs before this. So I took a look at the numbers using the handy-dandy Wiki chart, to see if I’d misled myself about anyone else:

Standings
Chef QF Wins EC Wins EC High EC Low
Kristen 1 2 1 0
Brooke 1 2 1 2
John 2 1 2 2
Lizzie 0 0 4 0
Sheldon 2 0 3 2
Micah 1 0 1 2
Stefan 0 0 2 2
Joshua 0 0 1 4
Josie 1 0 0 4

I’ve been overlooking Lizzie; she hasn’t won anything, but she’s been strong. Sheldon’s been hanging in there, too. On the other hand, Stefan needs to get over himself. And Josie and Josh just need to get out of town.

Next Week:

Wylie Dufresne and Chris Cosentino show up; someone has to duplicate Carla Hall’s chicken pot pie. Good luck with that. And don’t forget the pea salt.

Last Chance Kitchen:

Bart vs CJ: for the first time, I have some hope that CJ might go down (that was before I checked the numbers).
cj ogling
Teriyaki Terror, Bart’s nemesis, skates in with a cloched platter. CJ ogles her, the camera following his leer: “I wasn’t expecting to see a woman with a platter and an amazing ass. Her buttocks were amazing. Like two parma hams fighting for control.” Tell me someone wrote that line for him. Because I’m already sick enough of CJ, I don’t need more reason to dislike him. Tyler keeps trying to say “Teriyaki Terror” and keeps actually saying “Teriyaki Terri.” He just can’t help it. Poor Tyler. First, he finds out he can’t cook, and now he finds out he can’t talk.

The challenge: seasoning. Bart’s sick of hearing about his underseasoning: “I know my job, I know how to season, I know how to run a restaurant, I underseasoned a little, ok, can we not keep going over it?” Oh, but Bart, it’s so much fun. The assignment is to cook a perfectly seasoned dish featuring… chicken breast. Tom: “Here’s your blank canvas. It’s your chance to be bold, and make it amazing.” Thirty minutes.

CJ: Marinated Chicken with Mushroom reduction, Greek Yogurt with Bonito Flakes, over Roasted Lettuce, Lemon and Tarragon. Tom likes the clean flavors, and the smokiness of the bonito flakes. The tarragon looked excessive, but wasn’t.

Bart: He puts out black salt to remind himself to salt everything. Carla keeps yelling “More salt, more salt,” then Tom warns him not to make it too salty. Thanks, guys. He’s thinking bold, so he adds a speculoos cookie. This makes me incredibly sad. Oh, Bart, it’s a culture thing. Maybe in Belgium, a speculoos cookie is bold. Here, bold means chili peppers, not cookies. He ends up with pan-roasted chicken over carrots, with Greek yogurt, tutti frutti tea, and speculoos dust. Tom says, “There’s a lot going on,” as he approaches, which makes me nervous.

Decision:

CJ wins. Damn. Tom likes Bart’s, but thinks the flavors would go better with venison; it was a little too much with chicken. Too much, Bart, not too bold.

I think it’s hilarious that Kuniko’s ahead of Danyele 86-14 in the Save A Chef poll. But kind of sad, too.

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5 responses to “Top Chef Seattle: Episode 8 – Jalapeño Business

  1. In the preview, in addition to Wylie Dufresne—I missed Cosentino—did I not also see Obi-Wan? I sure hope so, as he’s my all-time favorite. Perhaps someone can make him Kefta/IKofte, since chefs in two different competitions have charmed him with it.

    • Hi Mo – you’re right,I just watched the preview video, and Waxman is there, good pickup. It’s a Meeting of the Masters. I don’t remember the kofta, but I’m going to hunt it down.

  2. Pingback: Top Chef Seattle: Episode 13 – Chefs at Sea | A Just Recompense

  3. I thought the Inside-Out Chicken made sense? Corn puree – aka what chickens ingest for their food; the liver and the egg – literally found inside the chicken. Am I missing something – I ask genuinely since many bloggers have voiced confusion with the dish…

    • Hi Fiona – I haven’t seen the ep in a while, but I can try to reconstruct what I found confusing. 1) There’s no chicken. Chicken livers, sure, but if I ordered something called “inside out chicken” I’d expect it to have actual chicken. I noted someone suggested adding shredded chicken to it, since the skater’s nickname was “Shredder” – a better idea would’ve been to have stuffed a corn cake with liver and then, in the very center, chicken. 2) There’s no outside, which is pretty much the same as saying there’s no chicken. 3) It had nothing to do with the skater. Overall, it seemed to me like much of what Stefan did, what a lot of the chefs did – he made what he wanted to, then figured out some story to get it to fit.

      But hey, it was so long ago. If it makes sense to you, it’s all good. 😉

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