Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top Chef Food Bonanza

Our friends Mike and Laurie, fellow fans of food and Top Chef, had suggested a few weeks ago to get together for the night of the Top Chef Las Vegas premiere and the Top Chef Masters finale, complete with lots of good food and snarky comments about the cheftestants. Having experience with a get-together like this, and the need for pacing and small bites, I planned my contributions accordingly.

Cucumber, Mango, Several Aromatics

This is from the Alinea cookbook, from which I've been dying to try some recipes out. This one has lots of little components (like most Alinea recipes): thinly sliced English cucumber, mango leather (pureed mango & sugar, spread thin and dehydrated), coriander salt & clove salt (salt + ground spices), candied lemon zest, ginger slivers and saffron threads. It also called for juniper berries, which I could not get my hands on, so I just added a few drops of tasty Hendrick's gin. The cucumber takes a 1-minute bath in a vinegar-sugar solution, then gets rolled up with the mango leather, then topped with the aromatics.

To say that this was bursting with flavor is an understatement. When we ate it, we immediately got the tang from the vinegar, followed up by the cool and sweet, but then the aromatics did their thing, and it was amazing that each flavor kicked in distinctly and individually. It really was a wake-up to our taste buds, and an absolutely delicious bite. I'd make them again for sure.

Jicama Slaw

I'd only had jicama a few times before, and I was let down by those dishes. However, this dish provided a nice crunch and a tangy dressing. I liked the addition of the apples, but I still am not a fan of carrots. I'd make this as a side dish for BBQ.

Italian Meatballs with Sweet-Sour Sauce

Mike had found a recipe that had an interesting twist - along with the standard ingredients (meat, parsley, bread crumbs) this recipe contained minced olives. Steph and I are both pretty strong in our dislike for olives (not for a lack of trying, either) but I was not put off by them in this dish at all. I tried the meatball before saucing, and the olive contributed a subtle saltiness and flavor that really rounded out the flavor of the meat. With the sweet-sour sauce (which was good on its own but 10x better with the meat), this was a great course.

Oysters: Raw, then Deep-Fried with Lemon Cream, Tomato, Capers and Bacon

Wegmans loses again because they would not shuck my oysters, nor did they know when the oysters arrived at the store. However, a call to Wooley's allowed me to pick up a dozen oysters delivered that morning, and shucked 5 minutes before I arrived. Win. I only needed 8 for the fried oysters, so we were able to each devour one raw, much to Stephanie's delight. Mike and Laurie had never eaten a raw oyster before, and we were more than happy to open their eyes to this gastronomic delight. They all had a squeeze of lemon, and Mike added a little hot sauce to his at my suggestion. Note: there are only 3 oysters in the picture above because I got greedy and impatient and scarfed mine down almost immediately.

These oysters were deep-fried (not as crispy as I'd like - I blame the batter) then topped with a salad of tomatoes, capers and shallot, and some crumbled bacon. Again, lots of ingredients working together here: briny oyster, tangy lemon cream, smoky oyster - all added up to a delicious bite that exploded with flavor in the mouth. I'd make these again, but (oddly enough) I would not use as much bacon, as the flavor was a bit overwhelming at times.

Lamb "Lollipops" with Saffron Rice

Seared in the pan, then smeared with Dijon and coated with bread crumbs, rosemary and garlic (both from Mike's garden) then roasted to a perfect medium-rare. This preparation, while simple, provided lamb that was ideally cooked, and full of flavor. I've never really cooked lamb like this before, but I'm inspired to try seeing how easy the process was, and especially if it comes out this good when I make it!

Scallop, Potato-Chive Cake, Corn-Truffle Pudding

This was probably the tastiest thing I ate all night, and one of the easiest, too! The potato cake is nothing more than a fancy potato latke formed with a ring mold, then fried up crisp. The scallop is pan-seared until crusty on both sides & about "medium-rare". The sauce was 2 ears worth of juiced corn kernels, heated until thickened, then spiked with some black truffle butter. Sweet, crispy, earthy - great combination of flavors and textures. Did I mention this was also super-easy to make?

Dry Caramel

For whatever reason, I don't have pictures of the result of this Alinea recipe. Essentially, it's a liquid caramel base that gets dried out by mixing it with tapioca maltodextrin, which is a fat stabilizer. What results is small pellets of dry caramel that reliquify in your mouth. These were served in shot glasses with a little bit of salt. A familiar flavor, served in a unique and playful manner that is as surprising as it is tasty.

Dark Chocolate-Peanut Butter Molten Cakes

By the time we got to this course, it was SO late and both Steph and Laurie were fighting off a food coma. However, I was able to convince them to devour this last course. Unfortunately, I did not know where Steph's camera was, so I was not able to snap a picture of this. However, I really do believe that this is one of the best things I've ever baked, and I'm not much of a baker. The batter was very fudge-like, with a big scoop of peanut butter ganache in the middle that melted down in the oven. Served with vanilla ice cream and homemade whipped cream.

By the time we were all said and done, it was 10:30 and we were stuffed! This first Matassa-Rosenwald collaboration was a great success, and we can't wait until the next one to try out some new recipes.


Rob Timko said...

waaay jealous. We canceled cable all together a few weeks ago, thus did not get a chance to see our favorite show :(

We instea drowned our sorrows in French comfort food at Sophie's Bistro in New Bruns/Somerset.

Here's to hoping someone will pirate it on the net and we can watch it tonight.

Alex said...

Jealous of the food or the show? :)

My uncle is always raving about Sophie's, but it's way more convenient for him living in EB than for us.

Ms. Meg said...

I was so hoping you were going to write that up. Aaron and I were DYING over your texts.

And hooray for Uncle Rick!

Heather said...

Alex - I am drooling over that food - especially the scallops. You are quite the gourmet!

Mike said...

I ended up making the bacon wrapped shrimp with the chipolte-tomato butter sauce & cheesey grits for my family the next day. It was well received by all and quite possibly my fanciest plating ever! This happened as per the food and slumber that were enveloping Laurie & Steph from the inside out!