Top Chef
Into The Fire

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Keckler: C+ | Grade It Now!
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Food, Fire, and Frog Legs

Padma explains the concepts of the Quickfire and the Elimination Challenges and tells them that this Quickfire will be a test of skills. They all have to create a flambé dish. They can use any of the alcohol lined up on a shelf as well as anything in the Top Chef pantry. We finally meet Otto, a forty-six-year-old instructor at the Las Vegas Culinary Institute, who explains what flambé is: "You take a liquid with a high alcohol content and you simply pour that liquid into the pan and tip it toward that gas flame, that way it will ignite." Otto has short grey hair, gelled up in individual spikes, and he talks out of the side of his mouth while looking down. He reminds me of Creed from The Office. Suyai tells us she never learned how to flambé, so she's nervous. Padma gives them twenty minutes to prepare their dishes. Food Flurry. Pans ignite. Elia has some trouble with the igniting part because she chose red wine instead of something with a higher alcohol content. I'd have thought that someone who trained at Ecole Lenôtre in Paris would know more about flambéing. Time's up. Marcel is surprised Elia chose red wine. I'm surprised your hair didn't catch on fire, Flock of Pelicans.

Padma and Harold start tasting. Those damn white boots of hers remind me of those paper booties my mom used to put on our Christmas crown roast. Marcel has them try a Banana and Avocado Tarte with Corn Chips, Ice Cream, and Rum Cocktail. What got flambéed? Moving on to Elia, the judges try her Strawberries with Red Wine and Chocolate Flambé Sauce. Harold confirms that Elia used the red wine to flambé. Elia looks worried. Betty made a Spicy Coconut Curry Sauce with Steamed Mussels and Mango Couscous. Okay, again? Where's the flambé? And why aren't they explaining that to us? When they get to Carlos and his Creole Shrimp Flambéed with Spanish Brandy, Harold asks, "How do you suggest I incorporate the jalapeno pepper and chilies in there, or is that purely garnish?" Loaded question. Just like you never garnish with anything inedible, you never put anything on a plate that is purely garnish and doesn't add to the overall flavor of the dish. "Purely garnish," Carlos affirms. Suyai explains her Spicy Tequila Lime Shrimp with Chunky Mango and Avocado Salsa. "I was just psyched when the flame went up. I was like, 'awesome,'" Suyai grins at us. I like her already. We get to Sam and his Espresso Shrimp Flambéed with Sambuca and served with a Roasted Hazelnut and Peanut Pesto. Nice idea, especially since Sambuca -- an anise-flavored liqueur from Italy -- is traditionally served with three espresso beans called "flies" which represent health, happiness, and prosperity. Sam explains that the shrimp was sautéed in an espresso syrup. Cool. Still don't like him, though.

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