Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef New Orleans Recap Episode 8: "Piggin' Out."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Top Chef New Orleans Recap Episode 8: "Piggin' Out."

I don't think you know what a "gooch" means.
Sara thinks she’s a gooch. Don’t google that, or do. Either way, I won’t talk about it on here.

Her interpretation of a “gooch” is that she’s bad luck. Because every team she’s been involved in has been mediocre or on the bottom. Um. Maybe the real reason is you’re not a good cook and you pay more attention to your hairdo than your food? Wait. She doesn’t like being on the bottom. Ah. I’ll just leave that one alone.

Wait. Someone just said that Patty, who was kicked off last week, has only been cooking for three years?? C’mon producers, what’s the vetting process here? I swear instead of finding the absolute top contestants, some of these people are literally cast as fodder. #RedShirts
Ensign Patty.

Quickfire time.

Standing next to Padma is none other than New Orleans’ musical icon, Dr. John! 

Talk about having lived a full and fascinating life! During the early days, Dr. John sold drugs, ran a whorehouse, and was been in and out of jail. That’s all before he became a six-time Grammy winner and an inductee to the Rock and Roll hall of fame.

I’m sure some day there will be movies made about him.

What’s this? Someone on the show knows who Dr. John is? Brian recognizes the good Dr. from his recent collaboration with The Black Keys. Of course. He’s also wondering why Dr. John is here. Um. He’s only one of the most famous people from New Orleans?? #FacePalm.

This week’s Quickfire challenge? Make hot sauce.

When Dr. John speak and we need subtitles. You know why? Because he’s just that cool. Us mortals aren’t cool enough to understand him on our own.

Kids. Couple of words to learn this week. 

The man's so cool he's got his own language.
Let’s start with “hip-tang.” What does that mean? According to Dr. John, it has to have a “flavor-nicity of the highest order” mixed in with “tang-a-nicity” to make a killer sauce. 

“Hit it. Can’t quit it,” he preaches.


Who wouldn’t want eat something with a little “hip-tang?” Assignment of the week. Use the phrase “hip-tang” at your workplace as much as you can. Instant promotion!

45 minutes. Winner gets immunity. Go.

This is an interesting challenge. Every culture has their own hot sauce. And it’s not, ‘make a dish that does well with hot sauce.’ It’s just the sauce. Like Nina said, “Nowhere to hide.”

Not Hip.
Carlos is pretty psyched. Since he works with hot peppers often, he feels confident about presenting the proper amount of flavor and heat. A lot of other chefs are combining tropical fruits with their peppers. Meanwhile, Justin is adding fermented anchovies. See, that’s super smart. Fermented anchovy means instant umami. And that’s “flavor-nicity” right there!

Although there are no apparently sponsors for this challenge, all of the empty bottles look a lot like they’re from “Louisiana Brand Hot Sauce.” Hopefully the local company, Bruce Foods, got some $$ out of it.

Time’s up.
No Tang.

Both Padma and Dr. John have some accompaniment in front of them so they’re not tasting the sauce as -s. Padma goes with plain white crackers. Dr. John appears to be chasing hot sauce with some cajun rice.

Lesson from this Quickfire. Don’t make hot sauces that are TOO hot. It will bombard the taster’s pallet with too much heat. Balance is key.

Both Sara and Nina’s hot sauces are too hot. They fell to the bottom alongside Nick’s sweet and sour concoction. Don’t blame the guy though. He had his first ulcer at age twenty. So he probably avoided dealing with spicy food. With that said, god knows why he decided to become a chef. Talk about an ulcer-inducing career. Oy.

Now let’s see who’s got the “hip-tang.”

Brian’s green jalapeño with lime and yuzu, Justin’s umami driven anchovy, and Carlos’ habanero mango hot sauce are all pretty “hip.” But there can be only one. And that’s Brian’s hot sauce. He was smart to use jalapeño. It provides just enough heat while the yuzu added the “tang” factor. He gets immunity again. Hope this isn’t a team challenge, cuz whoever is on his team should expect minimal effort.

Elimination Challenge.

In walks another New Orleans icon, Donald Link, wheeling in a whole ginormous pig. Donald Link is the owner of Herb Saint, Cochon, and Cochon Butcher. He was one of the first chefs to return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, cooking and providing free meals for everyone who needed it. Much like John Besh, Chef Link kept his restaurant group in New Orleans to provide jobs and awesome food to the local people. He’s a true champion of all things New Orleans.

The piggy who went to the market...
Alongside Donald is local artist/butcher/chef, Toby Rodriguez. If you’re a Tony Bourdain fan, you might have see Toby in an episode of No Reservations where Toby took Tony to a small hole in the wall and they feasted on stuffed turkey wings and okra smothered shrimps and crabs. Oh and he threw Tony a REAL boucherie. 

A boucherie is a cajun tradition where a community would come together to slaughter and prepare an whole pig. Since there were no refrigeration back then, the community would break down into groups and every part of the pig would be used and preserved. Some would make ham, other would make boudins. The important thing is that every part is cooked and used. 

This is what happens when you get eliminated. (j/k)
Today’s challenge. As a team, break down this 300 lbs hog and throw their own boucherie. Tomorrow they’ll have 5 hours to cook. Though each chef will be responsible for their own dish, as a team they must use every part of the pig.

As a demo of what kind of dishes are served at a boucherie, Toby and his chefs will make some traditional dishes for the cheftestants tonight. Wow. What a treat! This dinner alone is worth surviving 8 episodes in!

The chefs gather around the hog and start divvying up who gets what. Right away Sara tries to be leader and suggests a “cohesive” menu - only to be immediately shut down by Justin who thinks they need a more “diverse” menu so not everyone’s doing the same thing. #womp.

It’s already a mess. These guys can’t even work as a team to decide who gets what, let alone butcher and portion out this damn thing. So it comes down to experience. Apparently both Justin and Nick have butchered over 10 whole hogs before so they get to take the lead. Usually at this point someone confesses to have “never done this before.” Apparently either they’ve learned to lie, or finally too embarrassed to admit to it at this point.

Good ole Sara’s playing armchair butcher, questioning every move. Nobody likes her. 

Finally, the animal is broken down and portioned off. Surprise! Carlos is guess it, tacos! You know, just in case you forget where he’s from. Then comes the actual surprise, Justin, the local chef is also going to make tacos. That’s really smart because you know, regardless of expectation, this still is a New Orleans themed season. So maybe you want to use your local experience and appeal to the crowd. 

Travis is making ramen, with store bought noodles. Brian, with the immunity asks, “like spaghetti?” Haha. Nice dig. #EyeRoll #ItsNotRamen
Real Cajun food.

With shopping done, the chefs comes home to find Toby and his team have taken over the house’s kitchen. They’re making some of the most amazing looking dishes we’ve seen on this show so far. Smoked tasso wrapped in goat cheese, backbone stew, boudins, all look super delicious. Let’s just cancel the rest of the season and give the Top Chef title to Toby. This food looks by far better than anything the cheftestants made this season. 

Next morning, it’s time to cook. Let’s head off to The Bayou Barn.

Sara is bitching about this being an outdoor cooking challenge. Hey it’s a boucherie! What did you expect? Cooking demo complete with swap-outs at William Sonoma? Psst.

The Bayou Barn is an outdoor catering/events facility. That means they’ve got lots of nifty outdoor cooking gadgets. A standing smoker, giant charcoal grills, and a “china box” are all ready to go. 
Top Chef

“A minute and forty seven guys!!” shouts Brian the immunity calmly while drinking some iced-tea. Not so fast. There’s actually an hour and forty seven minutes left to go. Yeah. We can tell he’s taking this week seriously.

Every week someone decides to make something they’ve never made before. Even though Stephanie’s got arguably the easiest ingredient, pork belly, she decides to go off the reservation. She’s going to make a pork “brodo” (soup) with crispy pork skin. Good luck. Making something for the first time always works out well on Top Chef.

I'm gonna start a fire!
Louis the Loner tells us he’s not very social and basically has no friends. However, he’s made more friends these few weeks than he has in years. This is making him all warm and fuzzy and he would love to stay longer. That my friends is what the editors call “foreshadowing.” Chances are Louis is in trouble. That and he’s making freaking popcorn. 

Apparently there’s also a boucherie tradition in China. Because Shirley remembers going to grandma’s house where they did the same thing, breaking down and sharing a whole pig. She’s going to make dumplings. 

Oh oh. Looks like Justin’s going to burn the whole damn place down. His open fire grill is getting a little out of control and with cooking pork breast, low and slow is usually the key. Scorching is usually not the recommended cooking technique. He might be on the hot seat. Get it? Heh.

Time’s up. Here what these guys came up with.

Brian - Porchetta with Oyster Mushrooms.

Yup. Dude has immunity and really wanted to go outside his comfort zone. So he make a pork belly roll with some sautéed mushrooms. Way to go out on a limb dude.

However, even Brian can’t screw this up. Donald Link said this would be something he’d make if he was in this challenge. 

Tom and Hugh Acheson tried to cut in line. Got totally shut down. Ha.

Not exactly Boucherie food.
Sara - Pork Dim Sum with Crab & Shrimp Har Gow (dumpling).

So apparently Sara still thinks her expertise is Asian food. However, seems like she decided to focus on the food this week. Both Tom and Hugh thought it was pretty good. Good thing. I’m tired of her bitching about how bad she is.

Justin - Wood Roasted Pork Breast Taco with Pork Liver Salsa Verde.

I’m not sure where Justin got his taco technique from. Usually the proteins in tacos are cut into small, bite sized pieces so it’s easier to eat. But Justin decides to serve the pork breast in slices. Not a smart move. Oh oh. Perhaps it was the flames, but Donald Link thought the pork was dry. 
Boucherie via Mexico.

Carlos - Pozole Verde with Fried Chorizo Tacos.

Now that’s a smart move. Serve a hearty stew with a size of crispy crunchy taco. You don’t find a land war in Asia, and you don’t try to out cook tacos with a Mexican! Carlos shows Justin how to properly cook/serve a taco. 

Shirley - Jiaozi Dumpling with Pork, Grilled Kidney & Crispy Pork Fat Salad.

Jiaozi dumplings are essentially Chinese raviolis. They’re savory and always boiled in water. To serve them with something crispy like cracklings is the perfect play on texture. Soft meaty pillows of meat alongside crispy strips of pork skin. We might have a winner here. 

Louis - Slow Grilled Pork Leg with Spring Onions, Shitake Mushrooms, Melted Corn and Popcorn.

Some whispers to Tom that this is the “best one.” Tom totally disagrees. Hugh found it confusing. Melted corn served with popcorn. I guess calling it “avant garde” would be putting it nicely.

Stephanie - Pork Brodo with Braised Pork Belly & Summer Vegetable Pickle.

Stephanie is not confident about her dish. On paper this dish sounds delicious. However, neither Donald or Padma liked it. Congrats Steph. You just screwed up one of the winningest ingredients on Top Chef.

Travis - Cajun Style Pork Ramen with Pork Bone Broth & Collard Greens.
David Chang would CUT you for this.

Earlier Travis tried to sell this dish as “Asian-Cajun.” To which Donald Link mockingly said, “Ca-sian.” Immediately Hugh asks if the noodles were handmade. Nope. And of course Hugh then shares sarcastically with Tom on the “difficulty” of making ramen noodles. Tom rolls his eyes in disdain. 

Carrie - Crispy Trotters with Snap Peas & Pickled Onions.

Crispy trotters is one of those super delicious things that most people won’t eat because of what it is (pigs feet). You’re missing out. Think of it as the best tasting chicken nuggets ever. Only it’s pork. Crispy on the outside and warm and tasty on the inside. Tom and Hugh agrees that this is going to be a tough one to judge because there are so many good dishes.

It's head, but Tete sounds better.
Nick - Tete De Cochon (pig’s head) with Summer Beans, Lemongrass Vinaigrette & Wheat Berries.

Dude deserves props for pulling off this dish where it take a lot of work. He had to cook down the head, take the meat off, and roll the whole thing into a torchon. Though Donald Link thought it was super heavy, Nick balanced it out with the bright and crunchy veggies.

Nina - Braised Pig’s Head Ragu, Roasted Corn & Mustard Greens.

Though Nina had told Tom earlier that she wasn’t going to use heat, a last minute tasting caused her to reconsider. She add some cayenne peppers at the end to give the dish some pop. Good decision because both Tom and Hugh really liked the dish.

"I'm hopeful this season will get better!"
During the interlude Stephanie tells us what a nervous wreck she is. Nobody cares.

Back in the stew room. The flat screen of doom beckons.

What?! Tom just said that this was the best food he’s had in 11 seasons. The chefs in the stew room can’t believe it, the other judges probably don’t believe it, I certainly don’t believe it. 

The judges all like Shirley’s dumplings, Carlos’ pozole, and even Brian’s porchetta. On the flip side, Justin’s dry taco, Louis’ bizarre popcorn dish, Travis’ poor excuse of ramen, and Stephanie, who couldn’t bring flavor into braised pork belly. 

In a game of “one-upmanship” in front of the Judges, Shirley tells the judges that she and her mom used to travel three days to grandma’s house to make those dumplings.
The thrill of victory.
Carlos says people used to ride the bus for four hours just to have his mom’s pozole. Nina’s dad kicked the British out of Saint Lucia. 

The winner? Carlos with his comforting pozole with the chorizo tacos. Tom tells all three of them to keep cooking like this. Looks like Carlos is starting to find his stride. 

Time for the axis of bad food.

Justin, Louis, and Stephanie are called in. 

Sassy Hip-Tang.
Justin is defiant. He’s surprised that he’s here. Padma, being the pretty “mean girl” she is, immediate strikes back by telling him that his pork was “very bland and very dry.” This is an escalation from her earlier statement, “Justin’s meat was a little dry when we had it…”

Don’t be petulant with Padma or she’ll cut ya! #Protip

Tom quickly steps in and tells Justin that ALL the food was good and his portion of Justin’s meat was well cooked. So maybe this was just an issue of consistency. Ha.

Agony of defeat.
Stephanie’s problem is that her dish tastes unfinished. Tom needed more texture, more flavor, more something. At this level of competition any little mistake could sent you packing. Or better yet, serve the judges some popcorn.

Louis with his overly sweet, nonsensical popcorn dish gets the cut. He just tried to be too “cute” with this challenge. When Donald Link says he “hates” something on your plate, you know it’s time to go. So long Louis. Even though you worked for Thomas Keller, the only thing I’ll remember about you is that Thomas Keller is a great chef. 

Judging by the reaction of the stew room, I think people thought hoped it was going to be Stephanie. No worries folks. Her time will be up soon.


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