First, let me say this – I have loved Trouble With Toast and all the wonderful people and experiences it has brought into my life. I know my slice of the interwebs is very small indeed, but it has been a cozy little home for quite some time now.
The thing is, I feel like the blog always comes last on the priority list. First come things like family and work and exercising and critters, and then there’s traveling and spending time with friends, and oh, right, I’m supposed to SLEEP at some point, too. I’ve been torn many days between just throwing up a quick post to ease my guilt and waiting to publish something of quality that people might actually want to read. Again, I know that I don’t have zillions of avid fans hanging on my every word, but I do take pride in my writing and don’t generally like to slack in any aspect of my life.
So, where does that leave me? Well, I have a bunch of recipes that I am going to post – quickly, and probably with minimal commentary and “extras” – and then I am going to ponder whether TWT has run its course or if it still has a place in my life.
Of course, it will always have a place in my heart.
Just when I was starting to get really bored with all of the options on the Food Network, my husband and I moved and got Directv and were happily introduced to the Cooking Channel. There are a lot of great programs, but one of my favorites has to be Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day. Basically, she promises that if you spend one day in the kitchen, you can have five nights worth of tasty, home cooked meals.
I never got on the “I hate Rachael Ray” bandwagon, but I was never her biggest fan, either. I felt that her recipes were just okay, though I was certainly in favor of getting busy folks into the kitchen rather than spending time at the drive-through. I was somewhat skeptical of the week in a day concept, but I decided to give it a go and spend a dreary Sunday afternoon getting all of the dishes ready for the week. Suggestion for the Cooking Channel – for this show, since folks are cooking everything at once and thus shopping for everything at once, could you possibly provide a comprehensive shopping list (organized by food genre) along with the recipes?
This bolognese was the first dish up. As most sauces and soups are, it’s pretty easy to put together – you just need a BIG stock pot and some time, especially since this recipe as-written represents a double batch. Don’t balk at the chicken livers – they really do add a deep, earthy flavor to the sauce. And of course, if at all possible, use homemade stock; I had homemade beef stock saved up from the last prime rib I roasted, and that really made a difference. The end result is a meaty, hearty sauce with TONS of flavor. It’s richer and less acidic than my usual marinara sauce, but if you’re in the mood for something really soul-satisfying, it definitely fits the bill. Make sure you toast a baguette (or other crusty bread) to sop up every last drop.
Warm 2 cups milk in small pot over lowest heat. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly brown. Then add the chicken livers, and cook almost through. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves, and cook until tender, 10 minutes. Add the ground meat and cook through breaking into pieces, but do not brown. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, clove, and stir in the wine and allow it to cook into the meat, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the warm milk to the meat and allow it to absorb into the meat for 1 minute. Stir in the beef stock, vegetable stock, and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Divide the sauce in 1/2, cool, and freeze one batch. Cool and store the remainder for a make-ahead meal within the week. Alternately, cook pasta to al dente, thin the sauce a bit with a bit of starchy pasta water and toss with pasta dressed with butter to combine. Top with grated cheese and chopped celery leaves. Serve with green salad.
I don’t know what I liked more about last week’s TCAS – the fact that Jamie got the boot (awesome), the fact that the whole fishing field trip was rife with humor (awesomer), OR the fact that I got to watch it in San Francisco with my husband, my sister, and my brother-in-law (awesomest). The only bad part was that I watched it immediately after arriving in California, so I was a wee bit tired and not so much paying attention to details. Oh, well. I suppose no one comes here for detailed recaps anyway, seeing as how others are so much better at them.
Clearly, no one was sorry to see Jamie go (maybe not even Jamie herself, given her lackluster performance throughout), but I was bummed to say goodbye to Tiffani F. Yes, mostly because she’s on my Fantasy team, but also because I have really enjoyed watching her this go-round. Frankly, I’ve enjoyed everything she’s done BESIDES her original turn on Top Chef, when she was a raging bitch and just seemed like she was compensating for her insecurities by taking her competitors’ heads off one by one. I like a good redemption story, what can I say.
Anywho, in addition to the Blais-Fabio bromance and some weird pseudo-sexual comments about holding rods, Carla’s win was a highlight of the episode. The challenge seemed like it was right up her alley, and I’m really happy that she won. Marcel, not so much – he was a total dickwad when Carla came back into the stew room and (enthusiastically, I’ll admit, but rightfully so) announced her victory. He may very well be getting the evil edit, but ya know, if you don’t act like a selfish ass clown, the producers won’t have much of that material to work with, now will they? Grumble.
Next up…RESTAURANT WARS!!! Ah, always an epic train wreck. Can’t wait!
So, I started following Fabio (from TC, not the creepy aging model who is now hawking Toyotas in order to afford hair product) on Twitter, and based on his ridiculous, only partially comprehensible Tweets, I seriously thought he was getting the boot this past week. But, it turns out that everyone’s favorite Italian can cook more than just gnocchi – who knew? It also turns out that he has a thing for turtles, but hey, I’m not gonna judge.
There was some false advertising going on in terms of the quickfire challenge – all of the teaser ads said something about cooking head-to-head with Tom, when in reality, the two-phase challenge involved Chef Colicchio cooking a dish as fast as possible, and then the cheftestants attempting to cook theirs in the same amount of time (which turned out to be 8 minutes and 37 seconds). The chefs who screwed the pooch included Dale and Jamie, who couldn’t even pull a full plate together, and Angelo, who did a crudo when the chefs were basically instructed NOT to attempt any raw preparations. Top honors went to Richard (who wisely chose to present foie, since it cooks quickly), Marcel (who avoided the fridge melee by grabbing and cooking Tom’s leftover fish), and Mike. Mike’s pan-roasted branzino won him immunity AND a new car. Marcel wasted no time making fun of Mike and his Jersey accent.
The dim sum elimination challenge was an absolute clusterfuck. Sometimes I get really frustrated with the “brains” behind TC – I mean, yeah, it was moderately amusing to watch the chaos in the kitchen, but I feel like this particular challenge was basically impossible. Then again, the chefs didn’t really approach it from an intelligent standpoint. For example, Jamie – who hasn’t managed to cook ONE good dish, decided to attempt TWO. Carla decided to make a Vietnamese dish for a Chinese challenge. Tre opted for dessert (always the kiss of death). And Casey not only decided to make chicken feet (a Chinese favorite, and incredibly difficult to make delicious), but then she volunteered to work FOH and entrusted her food to someone else. On the plus side, Susur Lee was the guest judge, and I just love him. It’s the simple pleasures in life, kids.
Fabio, Tiffany, Angelo, and Dale were deemed the favorites, and Dale’s sicky rice won the day. He acknowledged that the win was like robbing a bank, since the challenge overall went so terribly. I agree, but Dale is on my Fantasy TC team, so I’ll take it.
Not surprisingly, Carla, Antonia, Jamie, Casey, and Tre wound up on the bottom. It seemed like everyone – including Jamie – thought Jamie was going to be eliminated, but Casey was sent home due to her inedible chicken feet. Despite the fact that Jamie is also on my Fantasy team, I was pretty disappointed that she wasn’t heading out the door. Those chicken feet must really have been terrible – but, then again, I think they’re pretty terrible even when they’re made by Chinese people, so what do I know?
Next week, the chefs go to Long Island – my homeland! Some of them will fit right in…
”For last year’s words belong to last year’s language,
And next year’s words await another voice.”
T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
Wow, another year down the drain – can you believe it? I know that the ol’ blog hasn’t been as hoppin’ as usual in 2010, but you’ll have to forgive me – between travel (two trips to DC, one trip to Salt Lake City, one trip to Tampa/St. Pete, one trip to St. Paul/Minneapolis, one trip to Destin, two trips to Charleston, and one trip to Chicago), my sister’s wedding, four other weddings, three triathlons, one full marathon, and buying a house, I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to tackle this list of food resolutions.
I didn’t TOTALLY bum out, though. In January, I discovered some killer blueberry muffins, thanks to America’s Test Kitchen. In February, my husband and I made friends with the Four Coursemen, and I wrote about the beginning of my love affair with Holeman & Finch. I was eating healthy in March, which brought this awesome barley salad into my repertoire. I was doing a lot of fundraising in April, for Share Our Strength and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. May involved lots of low and slow cooking, despite the warmer temperatures. The worst season of Top Chef EVER, Top Chef D.C., started in June. July had lots of salads, as one would expect during summer in the south. We took a tasty trip to Chucktown in August, during which we revisited Poe’s but also tried FIG and The Glass Onion. In September, I was obsessed with peaches. October was busy, what with that pesky marathon, but I did find a new go-to chicken dish. November of course included Thanksgiving, but before the holiday, I made two great Martha Stewart meals. Which brings us to December – an exciting month in which Top Chef started its all-star season, and I posted about my first experience in trying to mimic Thomas Keller.
What will 2011 hold? We already have a trip to San Francisco on the books (in 2 weeks, woo hoo!), BlogHer Food is coming to Atlanta in May, I know we’ll be in Charleston at least once, and I still have lots of cooking to do in my new kitchen. So, all signs point to an exciting and tasty year!
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and a fantastic end of 2010. See you next year!
You know I’m into a television show when I stay up till 11 PM on a school night to watch it a la minute (in the parlance of our times), instead of on DVR the next day. I think the Fantasy Top Chef game I’m playing helps my late-night motivation – and, for those of you who are keeping score, I am currently beating my husband 11 to -5. Yes, that’s negative five. Tee.
I shouldn’t give him too hard of a time – this week, it could have easily gone the other way, since one elimination challenge team had TONS of my players, and the other team had tons of Jason’s. Thankfully, the team with tons of my players ended up winning.
I’m not going to do a recap, since it’s Christmas Eve and I’m much more interested in snuggling on the couch with my pup while my delicious prime rib roasts away in the oven. However, I will say two things:
1) As always, if you want a really good recap, go visit my girl Jordan Baker. You won’t regret it.
2) This whole “Jamie doesn’t participate in the challenge for whatever lame-ass reason and therefore gets a pass” game is straight up bullshit. As Fabio might say, “Ees Top Chef, not top spectator.”
Some level of normalcy should return to my life next week, so regular posting (recipes, woo hoo!) and TCAS recapping should resume. In the meantime, happy holidays to all – I hope everyone is eating well this season!
Even though I have Ad Hoc at Home dishes that I am DYING to write about, I feel like I should comment on this week’s TCAS first – not because the episode was super awesome or anything, but because it gives me the opportunity to brag about beating my husband in Fantasy Top Chef All-Stars. Yes, there is a Fantasy game for foodie nerds. Deal with it.
Despite being interested for Fantasty purposes, I felt like the episode was kind of…off. I don’t know if it was the hour-long format (when the previous two episodes had been 75 minutes), or the fact that half the time was spent watching the contestants eat at their assigned restaurants, but it seemed like one minute I was watching the quickfire challenge and the next minute I was watching judges’ table. There wasn’t a whole lot of actual COOKING that made the final cut.
Anywho, the quickfire was a modified version of the mise en place challenge. The chefs were randomly assigned to four teams of four. There were three ingredients (lamb, artichokes, and garlic) to break down simultaneously, and the first team to finish to guest judge David Chang’s standards got to hit the button to start the 15 minute clock for preparing a dish with the ingredients. The other three teams then had to complete their mise en place as quickly as possible, as they would only have whatever time was remaining to finish their dish. Right as I was saying to Jason, “I bet half of these chefs haven’t done their own mise en place in YEARS,” Tre laughed nervously about how he works in a restaurant with its own butchers. Conversely, Casey was shown butchering the hell out of some lamb, and Dale commented that she had to redeem herself for Oniongate in Season 3. That WAS pretty embarassing.
The Green Team of Angelo, Straight Tiffany, Mike, and Fabio finished their mise en place first, and they were all kinds of confident (ahem, cocky) about their dish being the best because they had the most time. Two teams wound up with lamb carpaccio because they didn’t finish with enough time left to actually cook a piece of meat. The Blue Team of Blais, Spike, Tre, and Stephen pulled out the win, and they each got to take home $5,000 for the honor.
For the elimination challenge, the chefs (in the same teams) visited four of Manhattan’s best restaurants. Then, they each had to create a dish that could appear on the menu of whatever restaurant they visited. The only one I was familiar with was wd~50, and I kept obnoxiously shouting to my husband, “I’ve eaten there! I’ve been in that kitchen!” Like I mentioned before, it seemed like we didn’t get to see a lot of the prepping/cooking (and “shopping” consisted of an exterior shot of the Whole Foods), but we saw enough to know that Stephen couldn’t work a blender, Carla was still talking about her sous vide finale disaster, and Straight Dale was trying to capitalize on Wylie Dufresne’s well-documented love of eggs. I love them, too, Wylie! Let’s have brunch sometime.
Oh, and by the way, on the subject of Stephen – he was yammering on about how fashion has become an obsession of his, and apparently he said, “Could be worse; could be cocaine.” But, what I heard was, “Could be worse; could be cooking.” Which, duh, sounded really weird, considering he was saying this on a COOKING competition. Guess I need to get the wax out of my ears. Moving on…
The judges’ visited all of the restaurants, and it was pretty tame commentary, even from Bourdain. So, the top four ended up being Straight Dale (egg dumpling with pork belly and broth that “tasted like breakfast”), Angelo (fish with white chocolate), Tre (grilled swordfish), and Antonia (riff on peas and carrots). Straight Dale won, scoring himself a trip to New Zealand and me some major Fantasty points. Woot!
The bottom four were Gay Dale (veal with peanuts, popcorn, and french toast – eek), Gay Tiffani (frozen melons – giggle), Fabio (wannabe Asian train wreck on a plate), and Stephen (salmon with fennel pollen that Bourdain said “tasted like a head shop,” whatever that means). Since two of the bottom four were on my Fantasy team and two were on my husband’s, I was pretty much planning on splitting this one – but alas, the TC gods were smiling upon me, and Stephen and Dale (both on my husband’s squad) were sent home. I will miss Dale’s funny commentary – hell, he actually talked about and demonstrated jazz hands in this episode – and Stephen’s well-tied ties, but that’s about it.
Looking forward to the U.S. Open challenge next week…will my winning streak continue???
You know life is crazy when it takes this long to write about TEH GREATEST TOP CHEF SEASON EVAR!!! Seriously, I was really looking forward to last week’s Top Chef All-Stars (which I will now refer to as TCAS, because I am supremely lazy) premiere – I was definitely ready for Bravo to redeem itself for the horrible, very bad, no-good Season 7. For the most part, I was pleased with the cast and the episode, and I am very glad we have a sweet, brand new, 50-inch plasma TV all set up, so I can watch the events unfold in beautiful HD. Then, last night, I finished watching the anger management lesson otherwise known as the second episode, so I figure I’ll just throw some thoughts together and then resume regular recapping next week. This is optimistic, as I do not yet have internet access at the new house, but I’m a glass half full kind of girl.
First, the cast…
Season 1 – Stephen and Gay Tiffani
Season 2 –
Elia and Marcel
Season 3 – Tre, Gay Dale, and Casey
Season 4 – Richard, Spike, Antonia, and Straight Dale
Season 5 – Jamie, Fabio, and Carla
Season 6 –
Jen and Mike
Season 7 – Angelo and Straight Tiffany
Generally speaking, I was most excited to see Tre (because he is HOT), Richard (because he represents Team ATL), Carla (Hootie Hoo!!!), and Fabio (duh). I was least excited to see the Season 7 kids – after all, we just spent many miserable weeks with them, and even though they are probably the two most talented chefs from that season, I just don’t think I”m ready to hang out with them again. Oh, well – just like any TC season, there are too many cooks in the kitchen to start with, and it will take a few more episodes before I can truly commit to my favorites.
I loved the challenges in the first episode. The quickfire challenge of teaming up by season and making a dish that represented that season’s TC city was pretty fun – though I do think that some of the teams (Chicago and Miami specifically) had a distinct advantage in that there are obvious foods that represent the area. I was simultaneously laughing and banging my head against the wall when Blais busted out the liquid nitrogen from the get-go. I also dug the elimination challenge, where the chefs had to recreate the dish that got them booted from their respective seasons. Genius! It was pretty clear from the start that Elia’s heart wasn’t in it, so I wasn’t surprised that she got the first heave-ho. It was fun to watch Fabio square off against Bourdain – I imagine that, with the enormous egos involved in an all-star cast, we’ll see a lot of defensiveness and temper tantrums at judges’ table (FORESHADOWING!!!).
Episode 2 was less awesome, if only because watching a bunch of screaming kids get hopped up on sugar isn’t really my idea of good TV. And WTF was up with Joe Jonas? Bravo couldn’t find anyone with a background in, ya know, FOOD??? Sheesh. In any case, Gay Tiffani got immunity and then screwed the rest of her team over while trying to screw the other team over (given the choice between T. Rex and Brontosaurus, she chose the former because she didn’t want the other team to have any meat to cook with – but little did she realize that HER team wouldn’t have any veg). Katie Lee (Joel) was the guest judge, and she was as monotone and dull as I remember her from season one (though Tiffani and Stephen do their best to suck up anyway). The Brontosaurus team pulled out the win, and Marcel/Richard/Angelo won the challenge with their banana parfait.
Then the fireworks began…Jen was PISSED that her team lost, and she proceeded to go all bitchtastic on the judges’ asses, basically giving a big “Nuh-uh!” anytime Tom or Gail gave her any criticism. Tiffani whined about how a T. Rex is an omnivore, and she thought they’d be able to cook with everything. Antonia threw Jamie under the bus and basically called her a pussy for going to get stitches instead of duct taping her knife wound. At the end of the day, though, Jen’s “wet bacon” and bland eggs sent her packing, and she left in an expetive-laced huff.
I think TCAS has gotten off to an exciting start. What say you?
Sorry for the lack of new posts – “catching up” is a tricky concept, and a lot harder to do than I anticipated. I have been cooking, though, and I’ve even prepared two meals from my autographed Ad Hoc at Home cookbook, which had been collecting dust for far too long. I will definitely share some good stuff next week, I promise.
In the meantime, definitely check out Blissful Glutton’s photo recap of a havest dinner that we both attended months ago at Miller Union. I never wrote about the meal, but it was a lovely evening, and I’m so glad that someone captured it (and she certainly did so better than I ever could).
Enjoy the weekend! I hope you all have tasty things planned.
Remember when I said I’d be back later this week with better posts? Yeah, I lied. Sue me. I’m back, at least, though all you’re gonna get during a holiday weekend is a weak-ass recap of TC. Again, sue me.
I can’t believe this episode was the last one filmed in DC. On the one hand, it seems like they could have (and SHOULD have) done a lot more with the city and its wonderful food options. On the other hand, I will be super glad to be finished with the lame, punny humor that has seemed to accompany every challenge.
The quickfire challenge was a tough one, where the chefs had to pick a wine and then create a dish to pair with it. The contestants are told at the outset that the winner will be rewarded with a trip to London, and that this will be the last “high stakes” quickfire of the season. They only have an hour, and yet Kevin inexplicably decides to do a braised pork belly (to pair with a merlot). Not shockingly (to me, anyway), there isn’t enough time for a braised pork belly, so he has to switch gears and cook quail instead. He does his usual “act pissy in the kitchen” routine, which hasn’t gotten any more charming. Kelly goes for a zinfandel and a boar and blue cheese combo (icky), and Angelo picks a white wine to pair with foie gras. Ed and Tiffany both opt for ribeye. Angelo ends up winning the challenge, and the chefs are told that the final four will be heading to Singapore.
For the elimination challenge, the contestants head to the Goddard Space Center, where they are given their instructions by a NASA food scientist. They are to create a delicious dish that can also be reproduced for space eatin’. The scientist tells them to avoid too much sugar and large pieces of food, and that spicier foods work well when freeze-dried. Off to Whole Foods!
Prep seems pretty standard, minus Tiffany realizing that she can’t use some mussels she was planning on. The next morning, the chefs get a note from Tom stating that their ride was outside and that the winner of the challenge would be taking it home. I was kinda hoping it would be a spaceship, but no, it’s just a dumb old Toyota Avalon. Angelo gets in the drivers’ seat – good luck navigating the District, buddy.
Time for dinner – and Bourdain is back!!! Buzz Aldrin is also one of the guests, along with the usual government drones. Kelly goes first, with her halibut and artichoke number, and everyone seems to enjoy it. The sauce would not fly (so to speak) in space, though, says the scientist. Ed presents his Moroccan rack of lamb, and Bourdain thinks he nailed it. Eric Ripert thinks it is too complicated, and Bourdain gives him a hard time (and calls him “the Ripper” – awesomesauce). Kevin’s steak with fried onions (seriously, that’s all it boiled down to) is well-received, though the scientist wonders how they would keep the onions crispy in space. Tiffany also did halibut, and again Bourdain and Ripert argue about the dish. Finally, Angelo’s shortribs make quite the impression on Bourdain, and when Ripert starts nitpicking, Bourdain accuses him of being cynical and snarky and having a negative world view. Oh, how the tables have turned!
At judges table, the chefs are told that they all did well and that the difference between winning and losing was very small. The biggest complaints seem to be that Kelly’s dish was unoriginal (though perfectly executed), Kevin chose to serve sirloin, and Tiffany didn’t take the skin off her peppers. Tiny little errors, but I suppose that’s how it works when the season is nearing its end. Sadly, Tiffany’s errors send her packin’, which makes her sad because she was so darn close. I am sad that she is gone, and since she was the only remotely likable contestant in the bunch, I am now perplexed as to who I want to win.
Singapore should be interesting…