Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Surrounded by Beauty

While I might be a photo monkey, I have a huge respect for the artists of our world. Especially when that artwork pairs up with the culinary world. I eagerly look forward to each issue of Cook's Illustrated not only for the recipes but for the cover artwork and what collection of things are on the back cover.

Radishes by Robert Papp

Alice Water's Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook has got to be one of my top five cookbooks due in no small part to the luscious artwork by David Lance Goines liberally laced throughout it's pages.

Happily I have a new artist obsession to add to my collection. Meet Haley Harmon of the blog Don't Eat the Paintings. Simple but beautiful little watercolors that express a real joy and love of good food. Be sure to check her out and enjoy a visual feast.

Haley Harmon

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All the News That Fits

The diabolical producers of Just Desserts weren't satisfied with yanking away the chef's gadgets during the last Quickfire so they decide to drain them of all color with a Black and White Elimination Challenge.

The LA Times is celebrating their 128th year anniversary and are throwing themselves a little party. Probably because you never know when another newspaper will bite the dust and end up in that big recycling bin in the sky so might as well party now. The chefs can use any flavor they like but the end result of the dish must appear black and white. I really like this challenge. It pushes the better chefs into some interesting directions and weeds out the chefs who don't really conform to the challenge or those who just run off the tracks all together.

Most of the chefs seem to be rising to the occasion.

Although I don't really understand what Morgan is trying to accomplish with this maneuver? Prep is done and now it's time to set up at the party.

Apparently the drowning method did not work out so well for Morgan.

It's at this point that Remaining Heather discovers that she's missing rice krispy treats. Of course, just like pea puree, she immediately suspects Morgan. Which we all get to hear about. A LOT.

Remaining Heather no longer, now she is Whiny Heather and her mission on Just Desserts is to find a way to eliminate Morgan. What she needs to do is concentrate on her desserts. Because she's letting some color bleed out on her plate.

While it's hard to see here, Erika's middle layer is not dark at all. However it's her ice cream that is failing her.

Danielle's play on the 128th anniversary is cute but fails to impress the judges.

In bit of twistiness the judges call in Whiny Heather, Danielle and Erika to Judges Table first leaving the four guys to start dripping copious amounts of loser sweat in the stew room. What the guys don't know is that it's the ladies who have to face the fire of failed dishes.

Even after their critique, they must not reveal that they are the losers as the menfolk enter Judges Table. That coupled with the judges slamming her ice cream causes something in Erika to snap.

However it's hard to argue with desserts like these.

Zac's deep fried Whoopie Pie. Deep Fried, need I say more?

Morgan's Blocks and Columns, a very clever take on a newspaper dessert.

Eric's beautiful and delicious Mississippi Mud Cake.

Yigit's dessert of many flavors and components.

The boys enter the Judges arena to take their punishment like men and nearly end up fainting with relief to find out they are the winners. Is it wrong that I love the whole deviousness of that move? Despite much praise and love heaped on the long suffering Eric, they finally announce Yigit the winner.

Unfortunately for me, one of my favs ends up going home and it's not Whiny Heather.

Erika has to pack up her pastry bag and move on. I know I'm sad but as it gets closer to the finale, the decisions are going to be harder and harder. Even more exciting? Just Dessert's version of Restaurant Wars. Don't look for the same old same old.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day of the Damned Dawn

When we last left our intrepid pastry chefs they had just been released from their pastry garment sweatshop after grinding out edible fashion. Time for another Quickfire or as it's known in my house, The Day of the Damned Dawn. You see for their dessert the chefs can only use one pot to cook their dish in.
They can wash it as many times as they want but they can use no other cooking or mixing vessels. This is also revenge of the Production Assistants who sometimes can spend a huge part of the day washing dirty pots and pans. What will they be cooking in their Pot?

Their mission is to make a savory dessert. Perhaps with bacon.

Now according to the Remaining Heather, a heinous crime was committed during the mad grab for bacon. Apparently Morgan dislocated her jaw as he posted up some beets. I suspect Remaining Heather is hoping to invoke the No Violent Touching Rule used back during Season Two of Top Chef to have Morgan jettisoned from the competition. Sadly the Referees fail to make a call therefore there is no foul. A torrent of milking ensues for the rest of the episode of Remaining Heather's massive injury. While Morgan may have won the battle of the beets, Team Go Diva totally bogarts the bacon.
Can I really blame anyone for keeping all the bacon to themselves? I think we all know the answer to that question. But will it help the Team win?
Zac apparently held on to some beets and comes strong up the lane with Beet Cake and Lemon Thyme Gremolata.

Eric stews some fruit, throws some prosciutto on top and hopes for the best.

Danielle made something that only made sense in Danielle World.

Morgan does some interesting things with his spoils of war.

Yigit goes crazy with the chocolate, bacon fat and foie gras. Now, I must point out that this is not the first time in the Top Chef Universe that chocolate and liver has been paired in a single dish. Ilan Hall tried his hand at it with disastrous results, encasing a chicken liver in a wad of chocolate. Yigit at least leaves the liver on the outside and keeps the bits small and manageable.

Remaining Heather has a lot going on in one tiny dish.

Erika's dessert is suspiciously absent from review on the show (never a good sign). However I did find a photo of it at Bravo's website.
This is described as a Blue Cheese Milk Chocolate Soup. I don't know about pairing Blue Cheese with Milk Chocolate. Still it didn't end up in the bottom three like Danielle, Eric and Remaining Heather's did. Who ended up the the top three? Again we've got Zac, Morgan and Yigit as the three to beat. Immunity is up for grabs but it finally comes down in Zac's hot little hand. Zac immediately proclaims himself as the Susan Lucci of Just Desserts. So it was written, So let it be done.

(With apologies to La Lucci)

Gail, not to be outdone by a queen in a better dress, has an offer for Zac. Would he trade immunity?

Zac, no dummy to the High Stakes game knows that Gail's shoe budget is higher than a measly thousand dollars and asks for more. Gail, no dummy to good TV, says, why yes, Zac, I'll up my offer to five thousand dollars. Zac caves and sells his immunity for the offer. I think he should have held out for a pair of Gail's red pumps. We'll see if Zac regrets selling his immunity for the Elimination Challenge. We'll also see if Remaining Heather can milk her booboo to any advantage what so ever.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dim Sum Sunday - Heart Healthy

It's hard to ignore the headlines of rising rates of diabetes and heart disease in America. Our aging population has partied hardy on a steady diet of fat, sugar and salt. However not all is doom and gloom. Chefs and cooks are working hard to come up with healthy choices to replace
our favorite foodie vices. When I went looking for a dish that was heart healthy, I was looking for something that was simple, seasonal and hopefully, tasty. I ended up choosing David Liebovitz's Low Fat Tarte Tatin (oddly enough which not found at his website). Basically it's a single crust apple pie. There's a great video of Julia Child making one back on 1971 (bless you PBS). Let's just say there's no holding back on the butter with this dish.That's a stick of butter she's slathering the pan with, roughly 92 grams of fat. While quite yummy and decadent not exactly the heart healthy dish we're looking for. The recipe I'm following only uses one tablespoon of butter to caramelize the apples. Combined with the thinner top/bottom crust helps bring this down to a much healthier level. First you make and chill your crust. Then you peel, core and quarter your apples. Melt the butter in a 10 inch iron skillet and combine with 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Wedge in your cut apples in a concentric circles in your skillet and then cook for 20 - 25 minutes on the stove top. Once the apples have cooked down a bit you place the crust over your apples, tucking under the edges. It goes into a 400 degree oven until the crust is golden.


As you can see my skillet is more of a dutch oven but it still works. I just made sure I used a springform pan bottom to help me in my flip maneuver.


Sadly I cooked my apples too long and burned the center but since you're not supposed to disturb the apples while they cook, I'm going to need a little more tart making experience to know when the best time to stop the cooking process.


You can see by the edges ideally what you want, that golden color while the apples still hold their form and not drown thin crispy crust with apple juice.


As long as I avoid the really burned parts, still not bad and something I would try again especially with the wonderful apples that are currently in season.

Saturday, October 23, 2010