Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Case of the Purloined Peas

I fell asleep. It's true. I think it was during the long convoluted explanation of the Quickfire Challenge. Food on a Toothpick. Rules on food. Lobbyists. It was at this point that I was pondering what size toothpick Jack Abramoff used during his lobbyist days.

C'mon, wouldn't he have been the perfect judge for the Quickfire?

As for the rest of the episode it was a snorefest. When the highlight is some possibly purloined Pea Purée you know it's not even worth Tivoing. Do I think Alex stole Ed's puréed peas? No. In the house chatter the night before between Andrea, Kenny and Alex, Alex is bemoaning the fact that he doesn't know what he's doing. He says "I have these English peas and but they're shit" to which Andrea asks if they are the same ones (peas) that Ed got. Alex says he doesn't know what Ed got but then Kenny chimes in with:

Did Alex steal the pea purée or just the idea? He's already admitted to having purchased some English peas the night before and making purée takes all of what, 10 minutes? In fact, in his one on one the next day, suddenly he's decided to make pea purée. He should thank Kenny for giving him the idea.

Peas cooling down in an ice bath.

Alex stirring something green.

Sure he's a bit of a disorganized crude schmuck but it's not like Ed is perfect either. Don't forget how Ed missed putting a breakfast patty on all the plates back during the Room Service challenge in Epi 3 and totally whiffed on the hollandaise sauce. So maybe Ed forgot or misplaced his own purée.

Interestingly enough, Alex is not the first person Ed questions about taking his purée it's Andrea and then Stephen, who denies knowing anything about it and only then does he ask Alex who says he did not take his purée. All I know is at this point I really stopped caring. I am so jaded about Top Chef that for all we know Padma got hungry and snuck in and had herself a little snack.

And really, who is going to deny a hungry single mother?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Here at the Karmic Kitchen, we get questions. Lots of questions. Have you ever made flan? Do you have a good use for the herb lemon balm? When is Dim Sum Sunday coming back? Why would anyone eat this? We try to answer these questions to the best of our abilities but sometimes you have to go to the source to get the good stuff. As it happens sometimes during our viewing of Top Chef, we tend to wander off point into areas that have nothing to do with food. For example, last week regular commenter Moi remarked how much she loved the dress Michelle Bernstein wore in the second half of the show.
(sorry about the picture quality, no good screen grab of the full dress)

Although she googled high and low, Moi could not find the designer of the dress. Well you know I couldn't let that beautiful dress languish in obscurity. So I did what any good basement dwelling blogger worth her sel de mer would do. I emailed her people.
It's good to have people. Because her people forwarded my email to Michelle and here is her answer.

"Tell her I bought it on consignment years ago and it's still one of my favorites. Unfortunately for me and her there are no tags in the dress sorry, but I am so happy she likes it!"

So there you are Moi, an answer. Not the one you were looking for but at least you can stop googling. Now please pardon me while I go make that photo the screen saver on my I-Pod Touch and bask in the warmth of Making Michy Happy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Grits and Greens

Happy News!! I'm actually having some success with this planting/harvesting/cooking experiment. It was in doubt there for a while. The bugs were enjoying themselves just a little too much by eating my collards down to the veins. Despite the little bastids my greens have finally reached a size that allowed me to try out a recipe I've been itching to make since I first flipped through Virginia Willis's Bon Appetit Y'all.

collards 3

A grits and greens recipe that will satisfy my Southern culinary yearnings which have been stronger than usual due to the fact that I'm reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Syd over at Adrenaline's Shadow recommended it. The book is chock full of dish and food descriptions so Grits and Greens should help my taste buds to simmer down.

collards 2

Actually this is two recipes. The Tangle of Bitter Greens could easily stand alone as a dish. But add these two recipes together and you will get a beautiful thing.

Grits with Corn and Greens Recipe


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, grated
  • 1 cup whole corn kernels, either frozen or freshly cut from the cob
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup stone-ground or coarse-ground grits
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 recipe of Tangle of Bitter Greens


1 Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the grated onion and cook, stirring, until transparent, about 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kernels become soft, about 5 minutes.

2 Add the milk, water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Whisk in the grits, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the grits are creamy and thick, 45 to 60 minutes. Stir in the butter, Parmesan, and Greens. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

collards 4

Tangle of Winter Greens

The best way to clean greens is to fill a clean sink with cold water, add the greens, and swish them around. The dirt will fall to the bottom of the sink. Lift the greens out, drain the sink, and repeat until the water is clear and the greens are free of dirt and grit.

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 medium cloves garlic, mashed into a paste (see below)
1 medium bunch kale, collards, turnip greens, or mustard greens (about 1 1/2 pounds), cleaned, tough stems removed and discarded,
and leaves very thinly sliced in chiffonade
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and slightly damp ribbons of greens; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the greens are bright green and slightly wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Garlic Paste
To prepare garlic paste, place the broad side of an unpeeled clove of garlic on a clean work surface and give it a whack with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Remove the papery skin and trim away the tough basal plane at the top of the clove. Halve the garlic lengthwise and remove any of the green shoot, if present, as it is bitter. Coarsely chop the garlic, then sprinkle it with coarse salt. (The salt acts as an abrasive and helps chop the garlic.) Then, using the flat side of a chef’s knife like an artist’s palette knife, press firmly on the garlic, crushing a little at a time. Repeat until the garlic is a fine paste.

grits and greens

This is a surprisingly hearty dish with a lot of texture and flavor. I've never grated onions as a prep for a dish and was surprised just how little onion flesh is left after grating. My collards were not too bitter and not cooked to death. A little bite in your greens never hurt any one. This dish would make a great accompaniment to some braised short ribs. Or do like I've been doing for breakfast, slap an egg on top with a side of bacon and you're good to go, Y'all.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Much to do about nothing.

Catfight? Was there really a catfight? A Claws Out Dramarama. You know, the one between the Miami based chef Andrea...
...and Miami based, long time guest judge, Michelle Bernstein.

Except I was always under the impression that to have an actual fight, you need two combatants. As far as I could tell there was only one person who was not a happy camper.

Michelle is here to judge the Quickfire and if it's Michelle that must mean little used proteins. This time it's things like Emu eggs, wild boar and rattlesnake. But it's not the rattlesnake that's got Andrea rattled.

Please let there be no hair snatching incident during this season of Top Chef. While Andrea plots the Fall of Michy, the rest of the chefs wrestle with their nasty bits. That is until Padma strolls in and announces that it's time for a Quickfire Do Si Do and everyone takes the protein of the chef to their left.
Not everyone is pleased with this sudden turnabout. Time runs out and it's time for Michelle to taste the dishes. Andrea, who started out with duck tongues, ends up with wild boar which is not easy to get tender in less than 30 minutes. What does Michelle think of Andrea's dish?

There's what Michelle says....

...then there's what Andrea hears.

Andrea's nightmare continues because don't you know, her name gets called out for the bottom three along with Stephen and Alex. Frankly I think as long as your critique does not include the word Insipid you're doing OK.

Not OK.

In the end, not much of a catfight. Just a chef who let the situation mess with her head.

Yes, Andrea, she's there for the whole episode. Enjoy.


Crabs and Patrick O'Connell last week...
...Michy and The Girls this week. Oh Top Chef, you know me so well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Down on the Farm

So there was this challenge. I'm not really sure what it was about?

I know what this says and I know they were promoting Ayrshire Farms and after a little research on their website it seems like a fascinating place. They have their own organic home dairy, they specialize in rare and endangered breeds of livestock, and contribute to the seed pools of heirloom plants. And....

...they breed these beautiful Shire horses. Sounds like paradise to me. So what did we get to see of this beautiful farm?

A field and a rock wall. My little crack monkeys, this could have been any number of fields in Loudoun or Fauquier Counties. The state of Virginia is covered with rock walls. I should know, I grew up 18 miles north of this farm. This is fox hunting country. Steeple Chase country. Actually when I saw the previews I thought that's what they were going to do, the spring Gold Cup Steeplechase Race. It would have been off the hook.

Bitches are serving Asian cracker mix in silver trophy cups!!

But no, they are out in the middle of a cow pasture, trying to do an organic dinner with....

...a gas powered mobile pantry. It just seems wrong. Even more wrong?

How is this guy still in the competition? Salads, like desserts, if done poorly usually means a one way ticket to the Condo of Disgrace. But Timothy's turnips and asparagus must have been horrible to lose out against a bad 3 hour salad.

Kenny wins with a curried eggplant but I think I would have given it to either Andrea or Kelly for their dishes (which are also on the plate above since it was served family style) and the extra credit dessert Kelly took a risk to make out there in that environment. What I really wanted was to see why this farm was so special that they traveled so far to do this challenge. Just seems like another lost opportunity.

Monday, July 19, 2010


As anyone who really knows me will tell you there's 3 things I love most intensely and that's Maureen O'Hara, bacon, and Maryland Blue Crabs. The bacon and the crabs I seem do alright on my own but if anyone can get me within 50 miles of Herself well I can be very generous with my gratitude.You know I was ecstatic when the last Quickfire popped up.

The chefs immediately start talking about live, energetic, anxious to get off the table crabs...which is good because you DO NOT want to cook dead crab. Actually any dead shellfish is unwise to cook and consume unless you enjoy projectile vomiting. So the protein is rocking for this Quickfire, how about the judge?

OK it's not Maureen O'Hara but for me, it's almost as good. The Inn at Little Washington is one of those Must Eat At places on your Culinary Bucket List. Happily I've already crossed it off but would be more than willing to help someone else with their list. The Inn is beautiful, the food exquisite and the total experience is well worth the price you'll pay. But will the contestants be able to crack the mystery of the crabs in enough time to impress Chef O'Connell? I'm having my doubts.

I don't know who this knucklehead is, totally crushing an entire live crab. I also doubt this idiot got any usable meat since he's now crushed the hard outer shell with the softer inner shell and organs with the sweet raw meat. What a stupid waste. Respect the Crab you putz. The one Maryland guy, Tim, seems to get he has a huge advantage at quickly picking the hard to get at meat into a large enough quantity to do something fun like.....oh a CRAB CAKE.

So did the crabs give up their angry pinchy lives in vain? By my count there were 5 crab salad type dishes and 4 and a 1/3 crab soup/broth/chowder type dishes. Kenny actually had 3 crab dishes, two of which were not a soup or salad. As far as I can tell not one damn chef even attempted to make a simple and elegant crab cake. How about a crab biscuit and gravy? How about stuffed crab? BAH! Here's the winner.

Looking at the recipe, there's a whole lot going on. I might try making it but I think I'd rather try Angelo's Blue Crab Broth Infused with Lemongrass and Ginger first. At least he had some Old Bay in his dish.

Now my only hope is that Top Chef Masters will satisfy my Blue Crab love by doing a Maryland Blue Crab Quickfire. Oh to dream the impossible dream.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Maryland is for CRABS!!

Top Chef's Got CRABS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am in HEAVEN

Even better?
Patrick O'Connell from the Inn at Little Washington as the Crab Judge.
Sweetness on a Stick

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Safety Dance

How cracktackular was that last Elimination Challenge? Quick, everyone raise your hand who, when they heard it was a Team Elimination, spared not one thought how they were going to pick the winner, all you thought about was two smucks for the price of one going home? Yeah, me neither.

Teams of two, cooking a breakfast course, a lunch course and a dinner course. Everyone cooks breakfast BUT if your food is good enough, two teams will be safe from cooking the lunch course. WHAT?? For season after season, time and again the judges reprimanded chefs who played it safe. Now they decide to reward those who play it safe? Still we're finally presented with a challenge that ramps up the pressure each time a team is not called safe and it's a real world challenge. Chefs will be asked to come up with menu ideas if hired by hotel restaurants. Chefs will be working nicely with others to make the customers happy. If you don't make the customers happy, you could be fired.

Yes, Sherry, it could be you.

On a side note, was it just me that wondered if Padma has taken to skinning gators for their meat and the skin?

So the chefs go shopping here...
...where Tiffany says this about her partner Tim...

...which may mean one thing in Dallas however in Dupont Circle...

gay dupont means something else altogether.

Picture 11

Really, that's the Dupont Circle subway station. What??

The judges for this challenge include a rep from the Hilton Hotel, Nora Pouillon, chef and owner of Restaurant Nora and some former contestants.
Always love seeing Bryan Voltaggio. Let's just say he's guest judge enough for me so no need to even introduce (asshat) the rest since their 15 minutes of fame has long since evaporated. Time for breakfast.
Team Creepy ran out of time and missed saucing all their plates and one plate didn't even get a potato cake. Don't think the Hilton will be keeping their resumes close at hand.

The First Round Safe Teams

Sherry and Stephen with their messy plate poached egg plate,

and Tiffany and Tim who made the smart move with Crabcakes Benedict.

There was a whole lotta hollandaise going on with those breakfast dishes.

The rest of the teams now have to absorb the fact that they weren't good enough and will have to hustle lunch.
This looks interesting, a fresh pasta gnudi.

It's during this round where it gets interesting. It's Andrea and Kelly's dish with the white beans. The canned white beans. When asked if they cooked the beans they readily admit they did not because of time and budget.

Tom, of course, doesn't understand not having the time to cook "...a bag of beans?" Normally I'd agree with Tom except...

...I don't know of many dried bean varieties that cook in less than an hour, no matter what sort of soaking method you use. Was he talking about using a pressure cooker? Were the chefs supposed to start their beans during the breakfast service? Is that even allowed under the rules? I hate when he does this shit. Not that using dried beans would have helped keep Andrea and Kelly safe.

Second Round Safe Teams

Team Creepy with the really nice looking scallops and gnudi.

and Angelo and Tamesha with their simple beef carpaccio.

Three teams are left to battle to stay in the game and they are not happy campers.

Teams start to fracture when doubts start to arise about flavors and textures. In the end it comes down to two short rib dishes and one pasta dish. It turns out that Andrea and Kelly's Short Ribs win out over Kenny and Kevin's Short Ribs.

Was it the best dish of the entire challenge, breakfast, lunch, and dinner or just the best against the other two dishes? No one knows but for their efforts Kelly and Andrea win trips to Spain and Italy.

Kenny avoids pulling a Trey when Lynne and Arnold's pasta dish falls flat and they are sent packing.

So good bye to the Lynne and Arnold, who in the end were betrayed by a simple undercooked pasta.