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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Armchair Cheffing

I used to be an avid viewer of Top Chef. When it first came out, with an eclectic mix of self taught cooks and seasoned kitchen veterans, it was quirky and entertaining. I would immediately follow up each episode reading the blog recaps of the judges, as intrigued as I was with the challenges thrown at the varied group. But, with success, the show evolved a pattern that has become formulaic, and I became less likely to follow the series.

But the most recent episode, set in Seattle, caught my attention.

Spoiler alert: I will discuss the outcome of the show after this point. Stop reading if you do not want to be spoiled.

This episode centered around Pike Place Market, without a doubt the culinary heart of Seattle. What took them so long? I love visiting the Market; the labyrinthine structure is replete with ingredients and culinary creations. And the elimination challenge involved taking artisanal ingredients, and making a dish highlighting it.

This is a difficult challenge - the list included cardamom bitters, curry coconut chocolate, spicy dill  pickles, rose petal jelly, cheese curds, salmon candy, and truffle popcorn. So difficult, in fact, that the contestants all pretty much bombed - no winner was announced, and two chefs were sent off.

But I have to ask myself, given the challenge, what would I make of them?

Cardamom bitters - like the contestants, I would have used these in a curry, just not on seafood. Duck curry would be more in line.

Curry coconut chocolate - not having tasted the chocolate itself, I don't know how sweet it is. But if it were darker - mole I think. Although there may not be enough time to carry it out. If it is sweeter, then an Indian sweet of some kind, like a burfi,

Spicy dill pickles - my immediate thought would be a creamy cold soup with hot meatballs. Maybe lamb.

Rose petal jelly - this would be the most difficult ingredient. I am still wrestling with a bottle of roasted garlic and jalapeño jelly I got from the Market a while back. For a savory application, pork belly perhaps. Or perhaps a scented panna cotta.

Cheese curds - This should be inspirational - I would go Sichuan style salt on cheese curd age fry. Or maybe a ma-po sauce.

Salmon candy - I liked the use of this in a salad, but I think perhaps an empanada or a tortellini.

Truffled popcorn - I'd make dessert. Ice cream, in fact. With ginger snaps, or cherry cake.

What would you do given the same ingredients?

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