Duck a’l’Orange- A Tale of Attempting to Make the French Classic

Have you ever been really psyched to watch an old classic movie, only to be totally bewildered half-way through, trying to figure out what all of the fuss is about? (I’m talking about you, Some Like It Hot). That sort of sums up my experience of tackling the Top Chef Boston’s Week 10 Challenge of cooking a dish that honors the late, great, Julia Child. One on hand, I feel like mastering classic french dishes is some kind of test you must pass if you are going to call yourself a “serious” home cook. On the other hand, I do wonder why we are still talking about a recipe that was introduced to the American public in a cookbook published in 1961. Do french people even still make duck a’l’orange? Is this recipe worth all of the fuss? I gave it my best shot to try and find out. Continue reading Duck a’l’Orange- A Tale of Attempting to Make the French Classic

Top Chef Boston Week 9- Spicy Carrot Soup with Barley and Mushrooms

It is week 9 on Top Chef Boston, and it was exciting to see a creative challenge posed to the contestants. Each chef was given a different famous local author and asked to create a dish that was inspired by a piece of the artist’s work. Surprisingly, this led to both a number of visually inspiring dishes, and vegetable heavy food. With Christmas right around the corner, I was happy to take on a dish that was high in veggies and low on butter for this week’s challenge. Mei ended up winning with roasted vegetables, that were enhanced by “onion soil” and a Thai coconut “snow,” but I felt more drawn to Doug’s flavorful carrot soup.  Continue reading Top Chef Boston Week 9- Spicy Carrot Soup with Barley and Mushrooms

Top Chef Week 4- It’s Time to Make Pasta

If you are going to go on a reality cooking show, there are certain things you must perfect before you go. Contestants ALWAYS have to filet a fish, break down a chicken, bake a cake without a recipe, and make pasta. These are bare minimum reality cooking skills. Up until this point, I have been putting off learning how to make my own pasta dough. Mostly because I am completely intimidated by the process, despite the fact that the only ingredients are flour and eggs. So this week, when the cheftestants were challenged to make a 3 course Italian meal, I knew my time to attempt pasta had come.  Continue reading Top Chef Week 4- It’s Time to Make Pasta

Top Chef Boston Week 2- Halibut with Fennel Slaw…with Cod

This week on Top Chef Boston, the cheftestants were split up into teams and asked to whip up a dish using ingredients contained inside of a mystery box. Last week, when I attempted to replicate Gregory’s Haitian Chicken, the challenge was finding a similar recipe and selecting an appropriate chili pepper. With three people on a team, the dishes were broken up into different components that each person was responsible for. This created a different kind of challenge- replicating the dish was more about using different techniques than finding one cohesive recipe. Even though the winning dish was surf and turf, I once against decided to make the runner up dish. For this week’s challenge, I chose to attempt Mei Lin, Katie Weinner, and Katsuji Tanabe’s halibut, pickled rhubarb, cherry, and grilled fennel slaw- with mixed results.  Continue reading Top Chef Boston Week 2- Halibut with Fennel Slaw…with Cod

Top Chef is Back in Boston- and I am Starting My New Challenge with Haitian Stewed Chicken

As far as cooking shows go, Top Chef is by far my favorite. Each season, it seems like the caliber of contestant talent gets more impressive. I also love the inventiveness that is showcased on the show, the expertise that Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio bring to the Judge’s Table, and seeing a new city’s culinary culture featured each week. But I have always felt intimidated by the dishes the cheftestants make, like they are too complicated to recreate. Probably because these are chefs trained at fancy culinary schools and under some of the most well known chefs in the world. But when I really think about it, I shouldn’t be. A lot of the cuisine made on the show is prepared in a few hours, for a few hundred people. Tom Colicchio frequently talks about the importance of keeping food simple, and using a few quality ingredients to highlight flavor. I mean, the chefs all shop at Whole Foods. I should have just as much access to the products they are using, so why can’t I make those same dishes?

So that is what I am going to do. Every week, after watching the show, I am going to pick one dish that someone has made, and make that dish myself. In week one, as I was watching the show, I felt myself gravitate towards two dishes. Mei’s congee with caramelized pork, and Gregory’s Haitian stewed chicken with fried bananas. Mei’s dish won, and sounded delicious. I’m going to come back to that one, but for my first dish, I decided to start with Gregory’s runner up dish.  Continue reading Top Chef is Back in Boston- and I am Starting My New Challenge with Haitian Stewed Chicken