Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Fish

Our chefs have battled the mighty seas and have returned victorious with their catch of stripers, blues and some porgy. Now they must formulate their thoughts on how to incorporate what they've caught with what's available at the Farmer's Market to produce the dishes they will serve 200 guests at a beach party. We've spent enough time with the chefs to realize that some people are starting to get on the nerves of other people. Jamie, Marcel, Dale. So whenever these team challenges come up, the chefs try and find a way to deal with them. To me that would seem to be cook the best food you know how to cook. Not so with everyone else. Richard seems to think that he needs to "manage" Marcel.

He does this by agreeing that his team should only do one dish thereby putting all their fish in one net. This is a tricky strategy because you've picked the least manageable chef left to attempt to manage and it's a double elimination. Richard may regret this decision.

The produce at the farmer's market looks spectacular. Plenty of fruit, vegetables and herbs to select from. Angelo is right when he says the market dictates what your dish is going to be. Let's say you've already decided you want to do a watermelon salsa to go with your fish dish but the watermelon at the market is pithy, the onions old and dried out and there's no bright green cilantro, would you still make a watermelon salsa? I would hope not, you might have to go in a completely different direction depending on what's available. So it's here where our chefs will make or break themselves.

Carla tells us she has caught two bluefish. Bluefish is not a fish I've had in a great long while but according to what was said on the show and a little research, it's a fish with a flavor than most folks are not used to or enjoy. When you eat a nice mild salmon or some tender flatfish, bluefish definitely falls into the strong, fishy category. Carla has a dish in mind but she's got to have the right produce to balance out what she wants to do. Jamie, she of the Teflon Outer Shell, caught striped bass and thinks a freshly picked cucumber is the way to go.

What? With all the rod and pole jokes you didn't think the editors would leave a genuine lesbian with cucumber shot lying on the cutting room floor did you? Forgetaboutit!!

The next day is beach party day and the chefs start breaking down their fish in their outdoor kitchens. Carla explains how tricky bluefish can be to clean. Have to get rid of that bloodline or your dish is going to be too bitter. Over at Team Manage Marcel, Richard apparently is now backtracking, saying that it was only Marcel who wanted to do one dish. Wha...? Why Mr. Blaise, I do believe there were three members of the team who agreed to that, you being one of them. Now he's stuck and seems to be taking it out on Fabio who is doing a lion's share of the prep work. It's so sad when Bromances go bad.

Time for Tom to do his Peak and Prod. He picks the low hanging fruit first with Richard, Fabio and Marcel's single dish. Now Blaise sees the error of his ways.

Ya think? Tom checks in on Mike, Tiffany and Angelo and has no issues to pick at them about. He next checks in on Dale, Carla and Tre. Tom, being a passionate fisherman, has to ask about Dale's big fish. Turns out that sucker weighed in at 37 pounds!!! That's a lot of good eating. Dale is roasting it whole and serving it with flour tortillas. Tom can't resist stepping on his big fish high by asking if he made his own tortillas and now Dale is left to stew in his own store bought tortilla sweat. Tom moves on to Tiffani, Jamie and Antonia where he tries to hint to Tiffani that her preparation of the bluefish might be a problem. Sadly she doesn't seem to pick up on it. It turns out she will be cooking her bluefish, skin on. Unlike Carla, the bloodline will remain in Tiff's dish.
The chefs finish with all their work and service begins. What an incredibly beautiful setting with the mild weather and the city sparkling in the background.

Service is calm and low key which, after the dim sum challenge, is a welcome change. No huge mistakes but what is interesting is that they split the judges up. Padma ate with the guest judge and Tom and Gail ate together. They did this before, during the Night at the Museum episode. I kinda like this because they each can find their own strengths and weaknesses with each dish instead of being influenced by some of Tom's yoyoing back and forth between his issues with seasoning.

In the stew room the chefs start to sweat out the second double elimination of the season. Padma calls in Carla's team and Angelo's team. Because of the change up by the producers of not always calling in the winning team first, the chefs left in the stew room hope against hope that this is one of those instances. It is not. Even worse, there's a trip to Amsterdam as a prize for the winner. That winner being Carla with her amazing Smoked Blue Fish Lettuce Wrap.

This is all the things the judges like to see in a dish. A fish cleaned and prepared correctly. Seasonality with the freshness of a lettuce wrap and last but not least, surprising the judges with an out of the box presentation, namely smoked fish and a bagel. She reinterpreted that simple idea, that ode to New York into a winning delicious dish. It deserved to win. It was the Ying to Tiffani's Yang of bluefish dish.

Smoked bluefish with tomato, roasted corn and zucchini ribbon salad. Even if she had cooked this fish without the skin and the bloodline, the dish is still not exactly blowing anyone else away in terms of style or conception. After seeing Carla's dish and then seeing Tiff's, you know Tiff was heading for the door. Had it not been a double elim she might have squeaked it out to cook another day because Jamie finally cooked her way out of the competition. Richard, Fabio and Marcel have the ladies to thank for saving their one fish dish wonder.


the dogs' mother said...

Not knowing but is it an amateur mistake for Tiffani to leave the bloodline in the fish?

Big Shamu said...

It would seem to me...yes. What's even more maddening is that she said she had worked with this fish before. Oh Tiff.

MakingSpace said...

Dagnabit. Just when I was learning to love cucumbers.

Froggy, Tiffani specified that this exact dish was the staff meal at a place where she worked once. She was really proud of it. It made me think she had made it exactly like that many times before.

I guess your staff can't boot you.

the dogs' mother said...

That's right she did say that!

Here in the PNW we are salmon folks. My granddad used to catch one in the morning and we'd have it for dinner in the evening, cooked over an open fire, next to the stream it was formerly swimming in.

Buzz Kill said...

Many years ago, my father use to fish a lot along the Jersey coast and caught blue fish all the time. We always skinned it because we didn't like the skin. We didn't know about the bloodline thing. We grilled it and smoked it. We had a homemade smoker made out of a 30 gallon drum and the fish tasted great on crackers.

I (with The Boy) did a striper a couple of months ago. Grilled in foil with onion, lemon, thyme, rosemary and butter. Boy was that good.

I liked this elimination challenge although I thought someone from each losing team was going home. Marcel dodged a bullet.

Big Shamu said...

MS, don't blame me for the offending cucumber, blame the editors.

Froggy, what a great food memory. I hope your grandfather never had to fight a bear for dinner.

Buzz, smoking blues seems to be the way to go.
This episode is killing me with seafood pangs.