I'm spoiling this rightrightright now so go away and hide if you don't wanna a spoonful of spoiler.
Our dude Kevin Sbraga, the Willingboro native who we've been calling Jersey Kev on this blog since Day 1, took home Season 7 of Top Chef like a damn boss! And Brendan Fraser goes WILD! I'll be honest — as I touched on last week, I had this weird feeling that the sensationalized treatment of fellow finalist Angelo's freak ailment in the episode previews was something of a death knell for both Kev and New York-based chef Ed — what better storyline for the drama-guzzling sluts of the Bravo network than a lanky, peculiar half-Dominican chef rising from the dead on his Latino Lazarus grind to outcook two competitors not afflicted by unidentified Southeast Asian parasitic invasion?! I'm glad they didn't go there, I'm glad I was wrong, and most of all, I'm glad that this season's belt — unlike some otherrrrrr seasons — was scooped up not only by a chef who represented well in the final challenge, but did his thing throughout the span of the always-preposterous Top Chef season, as well. This final episode began with the transcendently beautiful Padma revealing that the remaining threesome would be randomly, knife-drawingly paired with three past Top Chef winners — Season 2's Ilan, Season 3's Hung (my dude! with the beast chicken game!) and last year's winner, Michael Voltaggio — who would serve as sous chefs. Ilan, who can be seen bitching at a Singaporean tailor about a suit in this video, ends up with Ed, Jersey Kev lands Michael V. (they're actually boys from back in the day) and Angelo, who as we know very well is a highly skilled Asiaphile who likes to talk about getting physically intimate with his ingredients (c'mere, you sexy geoduck, you!) is paired with mymanpotsandpans Hung. "I'm in Asia, I'm in the finals and I get Hung," he exclaims. "This is the trilogy." No, this is the trilogy, Ang (did he mean trinity?). Though I did like your chances a whole, whole lot at this point.
Tom C, who seems very relaxed and jovial in this hemisphere (perhaps the tropical climate feels nice on his chromedome?) and your mom's favorite Gallic silver fox, Eric Ripert, hit up some markets to supply ingredients for the chefs' final challenge — to cook the best four-course meal (dessert REQUIRED!) of their lives. Each must do a veggie, fish, meat and sweet course, using identical components. Singapore is the world's number one exporter of Boo Berry, so obviously that's a priority. They also pick up rouget, cuttlefish, pork belly, black cockles (so hot right now) and slipper lobster. For what it's worth, this picture came up when I Google-Image-searched slipper lobsters out of curiosity:
The three finalists kick with their sous (souses?) before the competition, and this is when Angelo first announces he's not feeling so hot. The next morning, Ed and Jersey Kev head to prep, but Angelo is so ill he can't even get up; he deathbed-whispers instructions to Hung over the phone, and then a doctor comes and visits him and sticks him with an antibiotic ass injection the physician informs him has about a "3 percent chance" of working. OK I'm not a doctor but I'm pretty sure that dude just made that up. Watch how easy: When I leave work today, I have a "100 percent chance" of drinking whiskey. Alright bad example, that's wholly accurate. Anyway, the shot seems to work on our dude, as he springs back up and dramatically re-enters the kitchen, Willis Reed-style, just in time for the big day. Silver living: The mystery ailment gave him a bit of time to catch up on all that reading he's been slacking on!
The chefs and their assistants (Kev/Mike and Ang/Hung work together great, while Ilan seems to want to stick his nose in Ed's bidness a bit) put out their food for a group of esteemed diners, including a bunch of prominent Asian restaurateurs/chefs and prominent Asian-American chef/malcontent David Chang. First course: Kev does a veg terrine (Chang thinks that it "takes a lot of balls" to start with that); Angelo puts out pickled mushrooms with homemade noodles and char siu bao pork belly; and Ed rocks a corn veloute that Ripert le loves (shocker!). Second: Kev with the seared rouget/cuttlefish noodles/pork belly; Ang with an Asian-style bouillabaise; and Ed with a bacon-wrapped lobster and a stuffed rouget ("I need a user manual," Singaporean street food expert Seetoh says of the super-complicated presentation). The third course sees Kev with a duck breast/dumpling/bok choy plate; Angelo with a crazy-ambitious duck/foie/gras/cinnamon marshmallow concoction; and Ed gets Blalicchio style with it, doing a duck duo.
FINALLY — and I think this is the course that really put Jersey Kev over the top, solid — Kev rocks a crazy-colorful, inspired "Singapore Sling 2010" (right), a tropical-fruity dessert version of the cocktail; Angelo puts out a bordering-on-savory Thai jewel shaved ice; and Ed — oh Ed, Ed, Ed — cedes his dessert duties to Ilan, who puts together a dull and confusingly received sticky toffee pudding. ("It's sort of like a fuck you," Chang says of the dish, though he was laughing and meant it as a compliment. Chang! Keeps 'em guessing!) The judges have kind words for each of the cheftestants and their dishes, but it's clear early on that Ed is out of the running based on his overwrought meat course and phoned-in Ilan pudding. (Ed gets weird and defensive about the dessert course at judges' table, too, which really seals his fate.) Angelo earns plenty of praise, but Tom C and others feel his courses needed work. That leaves our dude Jersey Kev, who is able to execute his vision in a cohesive fashion, with flavors, plating and innovation — they fawn over his dessert in a manner that probably has all the Top Chef: Just Desserts contestants real salty right now — humming along in equal stead. Good on ya, Kev! The guy is currently hunting for a local restaurant space to start his own spot. Hope to hear more about this soon. Also very excited to learn, via that interview, that he regrets the baby food Quickfire. First of all, thanks to everyone for putting up with these ridiculous recaps for another season. Now I wanna hear your opinions: Did the right chefs make the finals? What'd you think of the finale? Did the right man win? Let me know in the comments. Till next season!
Sichuan Cockle & Squid Stir-FryGo Get This: 1/2 lb. cleaned squid, rinsed and cut into rings 1/2 lb. cockles, purged* 1 lb. dragons tongue beans (or another, not-as-badass variety) 2 garlic cloves, chopped 2 stalks lemongrass, minced, or lemongrass paste 1 small knob ginger, julienned 2 tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground 1 lime, juiced 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce 1 tbsp. canola oil 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped Salt and pepper, to taste Now Do This: Place the wok over high heat and add oil. Once the oil is rippling, add the garlic, ginger and lemongrass. Saute 30 seconds, then add the Sichuan pepper and cilantro root. Saute an additional 30 seconds, then add the beans, tamari and lime juice. Saute 2 minutes, then add the calamari. Saute another minute, then add the cockles. Saute till the cockles open, about 2 minutes, add the cilantro, toss and serve. * Most cockles available at your neighborhood fishmonger are farmed, which eliminates a lot of the sand and grit. Still, I always purge them by soaking the bivalves in a bowl of cold water with a handful of kosher salt (and cornmeal if Ive got it around). Leave them in the fridge for and hour or so, and the cockles will expel any residual sand hiding inside. (This also works for mussels and clams.) And as always, discard any that dont open after cooking. Theyre as dead as anyone who drops spoilers in the comments.
|The transcendently plucky Stacey Carosi|
|Tom C with Hissy, his trusted Cobra Bong|
Lima-Coconut Puree and Macadamia CrunchGo Get This: ... for the tofu 1/2 lb. block of firm tofu, pressed and drained 1/2 cup chipotles in adobo 1 tbsp. honey 1 tsp. cumin seed 2 tbsp. neutral oil, like peanut or canola Salt and pepper, to taste ... for the puree 1 cup lima beans, shelled 1 can coconut milk 1 tsp. cumin seed Juice of 1/2 a lime Few leaves fresh lemon verbena, chopped Salt and pepper, to taste ... for the crunch 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, toasted 1 tsp. cumin seed, toasted and ground Few leaves fresh lemon verbena, chopped Zest of 1/2 a lime Salt and pepper, to taste Now Do This: Start by making the marinade by pureeing chipotles, 1 tsp. cumin, honey and 1 tbsp. of oil. Cut the tofu into four half-inch slices, toss in marinade and refrigerate 30 minutes to an hour. While the tofu is marinating, combine half the can of coconut milk with a cup of water and 1 tsp. cumin in a sauce pot. Bring to a simmer, then add lima beans. Cook 10 minutes. Separate the beans and cumin from the coconut milk and water with a strainer. Discard the liquid and transfer the beans and cumin to a blender. If youre patient you should let them cool first. (I am not.) Get the blender going, add lime juice and stream in fresh coconut milk until the beans pull away from the sides of the pitcher and form a thick, smooth puree. Pass the puree through a strainer to make it extra-smooth, add chopped lemon verbena and season with salt and pepper. Reserve. Prepare to cook the tofu by heat a tsp. oil in a pan. Remove the tofu from the fridge and blot off extra marinade. Sear on one side until the marinade has caramelized, approximately 10 minutes. Flip and cook an additional 8 minutes. While the tofu is cooking, toast and chop the macadamia nuts for the crunch. Mix with toasted, ground cumin, chopped verbena, lime zest, salt and pepper. Plate: Spread the coconut-lima bean puree on a dish and arrange the squares of tofu on top. Sprinkle with macadamia crunch on top and pop that bottle of Gewurz like an Alpine gangsta.
|Spinaderella cut it up one time.|
|During the pre-dinner screening of Oldboy|
|Also, they're both banging flight attendants|
|"This shit right here is the International Space Station hand signal for 'Don't nobody go in the intergalactic bathroom for about 35, 45 minutes.'"|
|And now that we have your attention ...|
Hazelnut-crusted Cornish Hen with blue corn grits, bacon-fried peaches and sherry syrupGo Get This: ...for the hen 1 1-lb. Cornish game hen 1 cup raw hazelnuts 1 tbsp. smoked black peppercorns 1 tsp. kosher salt 1/2 cup sherry vinegar ...for the grits 1/2 cup blue corn grits 1 cup whole milk 1 cup water 1 pat butter 1 garlic clove, crushed 1/2 cup smoked cheddar cheese, grated 1/2 lb. slab bacon 1 peach, peeled and cut into eighths Salt and pepper, to taste Now Do This: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then get the hazelnut crumbs working by toasting the nuts and peppercorns in over medium heat in a dry skillet until fragrant, 5 minutes. Once toasted and slightly cooled, transfer the hazels to the dish towel, fold in half and rub gently, which helps remove most of the papery skins. Put the nuts in the food processor or spice mill with the peppercorns regulars OK, but smoked is worth seeking out for this recipe and kosher salt and buzz into a fine powder. Sprinkle the hazelnut crumbs liberally over the hen and press in firmly to create a crust around the bird. Shake off excess and place hen on pan fitted with a roasting rack. (If you dont have a roasting rack, put the hen directly in an ovenproof pan; just make sure you oil it first.) When the oven comes to temp, bake the hen. Mine weighed just over a pound, and 50 minutes cooked the bird through without drying it out. Were I making this for my living-in-fear-of-salmonella parents, Id probably take it another 10 minutes, but it was perfect for me. Make sure you let it rest 10 minutes before eating. As the hen cooks, make sherry syrup by adding the sherry vinegar to a saucepan, reducing by half and whisking in a touch of butter off the heat. Reserve. Then cut the bacon into lardons and fry them up in a skillet. Remove the bacon but leave the fat in the pan, lower the heat and add the sliced, peeled peaches. Ideally, you want to use firm peaches, but mine were ripe and they turned out swell. They only need 5 minutes per side to caramelize. Remove them from the pan and use the mingled bacon fat and peach juices to baste the hen half an hour into cooking. Get the grits going by combining them with water, milk, butter and garlic in a pan. My fave grits come from Anson Mills in South Carolina, but white or yellow Quaker work just as well in a pinch, and you can use any combos or ratios of liquid to cook them in. (Chicken stocks nice.) Bring the mix to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer, stirring every few minutes as the grits thicken. Theyll come together in 20, but give them another 20, adding liquid if you needed. After 40 minutes, fish out the garlic clove and stir in the cheese and lardons. To plate, lay down some grits and place the rested hen on top. Ring with the bacon-fried peaches and garnish with a drizzle with sherry syrup and crushed hazelnuts.
|"I'm sure you get this all the time, Chris, but the episode where Fred Savage was the sociopath serial rapist? TO DIE!"|
|Jason Merritt/Getty images | cbsnews.com|
|"We're completely screwed now that Strasburg's out, so I say we just stay up here and eat fusion empanadas or whatever the fuck these are until the bottom of the seventh."|
|"If you don't want to get cut, you'll hand over the xanthan gum, pendejo."|
|"Wait, Kevin, you got a whole fish? I got The Riddler's porno stash."|
|You know what they always say: the shittier/more hastily Photoshopped the laser eye death rays, the deadlier they are! Everyone I've ever met has said this|
|Luc Besson would be so proud ...|
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