Top Chef
Social Service

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Keckler: C | Grade It Now!
Ain't it Offal, Mabel?

Cliff and Sam get to work on a scallop and foie gras dish. Cliff teases Sam that since he has Immunity, he'll just be sitting in a corner smoking a cigar while Cliff sweats the challenge. Sam takes it all in good fun, just as it was intended. They're both clearly ridiculous rockstars, even if Sam's topknot does make him look like a Sumotori. They'll both be in the final four. Michael and Ted Ilan tell Colicchio they're making baked paella out of partially-cooked risotto and plating it in individual dishes. Pretty nice use of the partially cooked risotto. I was at an alumni thing once and one of the passed appetizers was a tiny risotto cake that had been fried on both sides and topped with some sort of red pepper aioli. I turned to my husband and said, "The remains of last night's risotto." Giada has a recipe for doing that in larger scale. Not that I like Little Big Head, mind you, but I can't contest that she has fabulous recipes. ["Aw. I love her and her frighteningly toothy grin." -- Joe R] Ted Ilan assures us that Michael came up with just as many ideas as he did and he really thinks Michael's food has become more refined and elegant throughout his Top Chef term. Moving on to Mia for a babysitting Sniff 'n' Sneer, Colicchio learns that the fourth course will be a pan-seared duck breast Napoleon. Michael tells us, "Betty and Mia, they're, like, doing this puff pastry contraption. It looks like they're starting their duck a little early. Duck is traditionally served rare and if they're going to let that sit and they're going to refire it, it's not going to be rare." Knock me down with a fiddlehead fern for two reasons. One, Michael used the word "contraption" in a sentence, and two, he's holding forth on the right way to cook and he's completely correct! Far cry from his Cheeto penis.

Over with Josie and Marisa, it looks like the fifth course is going to be "a trio of palate cleansers." They're basically making a bunch of salads. Some with fruit. Doesn't sound very challenging. Tasty, but easy. As the graphics tell us that Josie and Marisa's dish is called "The Awakening Trio," Cliff gives us his opinion of their dish: "Josie and Marisa had an idea to do an intermezzo. Normally, the fifth course is a protein, and the dish to me is unsuitable." All Carlos and Elia seem to be making is a basil-pomegranate juice drink in a shot glass. Later, of course, we find out that they are making more, but at the time I was all, "They're just making JUICE?" Colicchio sneers at us that he doesn't get what's going on because he doesn't think any of them have spoken to each other about their individual dishes. "I think they're so focused on the ingredients and cooking they're not thinking a step ahead. Mia and Betty are working on this duck Napoleon. A Napoleon is typically a dessert and it's layers of pastry and pastry cream -- they're working on a savory version of one," Colicchio goes on with sneering incredulity. I think it's odd that Colicchio makes it sound so outlandish to be making a savory Napoleon. They are not unheard of. Colicchio thinks the pastry is unnecessary at this point. Given that they never really make an actual Napoleon, I'd be willing to agree with him on that. In fact, at this moment, Betty pulls out their puff pastry triangles and they're all... puffed. When you intend to do a Napoleon the right way, you want your pastry layers to be flat and crisp, not puffy. You often would use semi-puff pastry rather than a full puff, but if you have only puff pastry, then you would keep the pastry from rising too much in the oven by baking them with another sheet pan on top of them. Removing the sheet pan at the very end of cooking time allows the pastry to brown up nicely. I don't know if Mia and Betty really ever knew what a Napoleon was. At the very least, they had no idea how to manipulate the pastry to make one successfully. Colicchio also thinks some of the dishes will be difficult to plate, particularly Josie and Marisa's palate cleanser and Elia and Carlos' trio of desserts.

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