Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......


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Between Ariane feeling upbeat, Eugene feeling lucky, and Hosea talking about his dad having cancer, there were any number of swords of Damocles we could have seen swinging low. In the end, Eugene should have gone home, but the judges decided -- at the last minute, I'm sure -- to allow everyone a reprieve. Part of the reasoning for that decision was the fact that all the chefs banded together to help out when the sun rose on the day of service to a refrigerator left open overnight. Sure, they were packing it pretty tight. Sure, the food going in was hot. But these are massive, industrial-strength chillers.

And if an year old knows not to leave the fridge door open, I'm betting a room of 11 chefs would too. In other words, I think it was producer sabotage, plain and simple. Crafted purely for the effect of a Christmas episode. And the way it fucked with Radhika's head was a pretty mean goddamn way of ensuring a heartwarming segment full of chefs helping chefs. Stovetops Without Borders. But for all the manipulation on the part of the producers only shop at this mass-market semi-high-end store! Truth Number One is that Ariane is completely out of her league.

Her no-butter cauliflower puree makes her the Anti-Paula Deen; hooray. She's made a salad , with no cooked component, and won. She made deviled eggs and survived. This is worse than using scallops three weeks in a row Jamie. This is not being a chef. Hosea, on the other hand, continues to bring it. Paella's not the most amazing or impossible task, but it's smart in a one-pot Quickfire challenge: accomplishable, on-target, and kinda hard to fuck up.

His choice to go with something smoked for 11 pipers piping is the only logical choice, and was done well in spite of the kitchen "accident. Space filler.

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Side characters that will entertain us with their googly eyes, mouthfuls of Golden Grahams, and inexplicable attachment to sushi, but ultimately have no chance of winning. They've shown nothing Remember that miracle curds and rice dish Eugene made? Anyone notice that in the grocery store, he eats a sample from the deli case and says he'll try to replicate it? It was no accident, but the producers chose to portray it that way. Hosea, if he can stay on task, is becoming the front runner. Stefan's proving to be a little tone-deaf and definitely bull-headed.

Jamie's got no killer instinct, and needs to start going with her gut if she's going to make something happen. Fabio needs to stop worrying about playing people and charming them, and start doing something that reflects hisownself. Jeff just needs to slow his brain down a little more. He's made a good go of it so far, but is still a step or two off. Radhika is the only real dark horse. She could blow people away, or she could turn into a powerhouse. I too hope this season turns around based on this episode. But I don't think that's an improvement to be placed solely on the shoulders of the chefs.

Maybe free agent acquisition and new guest judge Toby Young is the catalyst for such an improvement. If he's a one-liner machine, then maybe not. I'd still like to see Tony Bourdain come in on a more regular basis. I think he could make a difference in the future of American cuisine that Gordon Ramsey wants to make, and Tom Colicchio is close to making.

But Bourdain's got to want to, and I'm not sure if there's anything he really wants to do that's still located in a kitchen. Is there a correlation between the dearth of big-name international chefs in this season, and the apparent lack of culinary chops for most of the contestants? I don't think so. What would Daniel Boulud think of these folks? Eric Ripert? April Bloomfield? Probably not much. So there you go. It was a non-traditional, very meta episode of Top Chef.

It purports to be a turning point. I hope you don't mind that I made the recap reflective of that level of introspection. Hopefully, next week's episode will be better and next week's recap more timely. Tricksy, Bravo. Very tricksy. Last week, Alex's sudden discovery of the microphone was taken as a clear indication that he was doomed. This week, Melissa takes the stage and screws up the formula. Are we supposed to believe she has an actual personality? And are we supposed to believe that Stefan really does have the hots for Jamie? Jamie, who plays for the other team?

Sure, she's cute. Sure, it's the Real World Syndrome. But do I think that it has anything to do with true love lust , instead of alcohol and an attempt to get her off her game? If Stefan showed us anything this week, it's that he is a masterful check-raiser. But he's got some great shirts "I make good babies"? The Quickfire is one of those cool spelling bee-style competitions we've gotten in seasons past.

This time, the chefs will pair off and taste a sauce. The challenge is to say how many ingredients you could name, with the option of calling your opponent's bluff and forcing him to actually name as many as he says he can. Did I mention that Stefan's a good check-raiser? This is his game. Round One is shrimp and lobster bouillabaisse thank you, Bravo, for spelling it correctly.

Eugene guesses fish sauce fish sauce?? Round Two is Thai green curry. After a very strong Round One performance, Hosea continues to nail his sauces. Stefan feigns non-confidence and then names eight ingredients. He's the friggin' Terminator.


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Radhika, meanwhile, can't call her own raise and fails. Round Three is Mexican mole actually "mole sauce," which is the same as saying a sandwich comes "with au jus" , and this final round is true spelling bee style. Carla flames out on the very first guess.

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It's down to Hosea and Stefan, and it is in fact Stefan who guesses wrong first with tomato paste. Hosea nails his final ingredient, and is given winner's immunity for the week. Dude's got chops, for real. Knife-draw for the Elimination round groups the chefs into four thematically divided teams: Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue. It's a wedding-themed challenge Ariane tells us she knows because she's married; she's also old , and Gail glides in to tell the chefs that they'll be cooking for her bridal shower: forty chicks who LIKE TO EAT.

Unless the food is veal or black beans. Gail doesn't play veal and black beans. Okay, veal -- but what's wrong with black beans? Great concept. Eugene suggests shock sushi. Eugene, meet pigeonhole. Let's do something with that! Their main focus will be on the ocean. At Whole Foods, no one gets behind the counter this time. Fabio continues to win me over little by little, and Daniel shows just what kind of tool he really is by appearing to buy store-made peach sorbet.

Carla's running around using some kind of bird call she uses to attract her mate, but the rest of her team is strangely staying far, far away. Stefan is being a little patronizing to his teammates he's been talking Jeff down for his savory tomato sorbet since they broke into teams. Once the chefs get back into the kitchen, the menus start to come to life a bit. Tom arrives to pressure and intimidate the chefs as he is wont to do , and is generally dubious of Team Blue's level of innovation and also that they're trying to make blue corn blue--I mean, how could they??

Team New just makes him make googly eyes and get the hell out of there. He's anticipating a tough crowd of foodies at the shower. Two very odd segments follow. The first is the night between prep days, with a group of chefs out on the balcony at night. They're all sitting, chatting Daniel's standing there facing everyone doing bicep curls with some freeweights.

Seriously, what is he? Meanwhile, Eugene decides that he's going to do his sushi banchan style, which means basically self-serve, or build-your-own. Stefan pooh-poohs that, remarking that "women don't want to make their own food. The second odd segment is our weekly mid-break vignette. Stefan is crowding Jamie onto her bunk bed, bottle of beer in hand, pressuring her to kiss him; none of that tongue bullshit, just a kiss.

Strangely and remember how I said I thought she was a show stalker who just wanted to be a part of something on TV? It's like she's been photoshopped into the background of every scene. The day of the shower arrives, and the chefs get prepping at Twenty Four Fifth. Fabio: "You don' wanna piss off the bride day before the wedding. Team Old serves first; with all those hungry female eyes staring at the all-dude team, I'm reminded of the last scene in the Castle Anthrax from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Hosea's shaking hands are making his gazpacho glass rattle on the plate.

It's kind of embarrassing! Team Old offers a tomato carpaccio with sorbet, a gazpacho with mint, and a tomato terrine with eggplant and balsamic vinegar. Stefan thinks the sorbet is a complete wrong move; the diners all love it. On the other hand, they find his terrine a bit bland that's what happens when you make a dish you can't taste before serving. Team New has a mishmash of responsibility, which often translates in Top Chef -speak as "our whole concept is weak, and by spreading out the blame we hope to survive by attrition.

The presentation is messy, and Eugene offers no explanation on what the diners are to do with the stiff sheets of nori plopped on their plates. Daniel, in a fit of what passes for creativity on his part, plops a couple mushrooms under Carla's salad as a "fun surprise.

The diners aren't, either. Team Borrowed is sweating their lamb. Ariane is the lamb cooker, Radhika is the lamb marinater and raita maker, and Jamie is the carrot puree-er and secret spice vadouvan provider. This team doesn't know jack shit about lamb if they think that what we saw on the screen is undercooked. I've eaten lamb served closer to raw than that, and I'm not in the culinary capital of the world. Radhika, indignantly: "I'm not serving rare lamb to these women. As it turns out, they all love it. Actually, the whole course goes over quite nicely. Team Blue, with their blue corn-crusted Chilean sea bass, roasted corn puree, and Swiss chard, nominate Fabio to do the talking.

He's so dreamy. And it completely works. Panties all be droppin'. It's like one of those knife demonstrations at the mall; "ooh! Gail is concerned about the political correctness of serving sea bass. Guest judge, and Food and Wine editor, Dana Cowin joins the regulars for a bit of criticism. Teams Old and Borrowed are the clear frontrunners, and they're summoned to Judges' Table. The star of Team Old's strong lineup was indeed Jeff's sorbet take that Stefan, who looks part pissed, part abashed.

Jamie's vadouvan carrot puree was subtle for having such big flavors, and the lamb was perfect in every way. The winner, clearly, is the one who brought the best flavor to the table No one standing there expected that, including Ariane. She didn't, and correct me if I'm wrong, provide any flavor. She cooked meat. The judges, especially Tom, are none too pleased with either team. Eugene and Carla acknowledge that their plate was flawed, but crazy old Daniel is happy as a pig in shit about it. It is at this point that it was obvious he was done.

He's got some kind of mental disorder, and that's saying something when he's standing next to Carla. After Daniel and Eugene make sure they know each others' phone numbers despair abounds , and Team Blue is given a stern warning about not sucking anymore, Daniel is indeed dismissed. Crazy and completely tone deaf, his obnoxious beard and manic demeanor will probably not be missed by any TC fans.

His only defense? There are wrong decisions in football games, too. Next week, Martha Stewart, more event catering, and an apparent refrigeration malfunction. And now let's head to the kitchen, where Hoda and Kathie Lee are hamming it up -- get it, ham? It's on Bravo, and we own that, too. Aren't we great? But first, this 4-year old boy got his face caught in a pasta roller. We'll have the harrowing call, and his nanny live in-studio, right after the break.

That's a defunct radio station in Evanston, WY. It's not a name were blessedly spare on-camera. We didn't have to put up with Kathie Lee's mugging grimace hello, Daniel or her histrionic spit-take on a food whose worst quality was that it had a funny name. Thankfully, we can put this episode behind us for hopefully never seeing the Today show clapper monkeys ever again on Top Chef.

And it's too bad, because this wasn't a terrible episode. It was actually pretty entertaining. After a teary reading of Richard's goodbye letter to roomie Alex, we go right into the action with Rocco DiSpirito's very recognizable and very tightly-stretched face. Thank god for Fabio, who I'm really starting to appreciate if not like. His tepid response to Rocco "He's not real Italian, but The Quickfire challenge puts our chefs to the task of making a one-bite breakfast.

An amuse-bouche, if you will. Oh, for the days of Hung's Smurf village hallucination of a breakfast. This week's creations are all a little boring, especially since Rocco did us the disservice of mentioning that he looooooves bacon. Well, no shit, Sherlock. Who doesn't love bacon? Now the paradigm has been fucked, and everyone is either going to make something with bacon, or get screwed for not making something with bacon. Stefan is confident like the Terminator is confident. Daniel's doing some crazy-ass thing with zucchini flowers that I just cannot make out from his pre-cooking description.

Melissa tries to do a really precise egg and breaks about 19 yolks in the process. Melissa, Prettyboy who I'm really considering calling by his actual name , and Ariane all made bacon bites but didn't make it to the tops. There can be only three. Stefan fights the system by making huevos rancheros served in the empty and cleaned eggshell. Two bites, but ingenious and tasty plus, no bacon!

For once, someone bitching about rule literalism is actually vindicated! And Jamie is a last-minute inclusion in the top three, but her well-executed BLT-ish thing is a two-biter. That gives the win to Leah, again. Pay no attention to the resounding failure of the chef next to me With her second straight Quickfire win, immunity, and the latest book from old Snare-Drum Face in her grasp, Leah runs headlong into a total bellyflop. Seriously, her performance in the Elimination challenge almost merits zero discussion.

Indeed, it takes up very little of the rest of the show. Lucky for her she doesn't need to show up to remain safe. Padma explains that marketing yourself is a big key to success for a modern chef. Rocco's highly visible face shows no shadow of self-doubt, no indication that he's thinking about his Italian grandmother's meatballs or his aggressive financier or his old restaurant and TV show in any way.

Maybe marketing yourself well is the key, Padma. Just maybe. Anyway, the chefs will need to create a dish that can be prepared in a two and a half minute segment on live TV. It's got to be simple enough, it's got to be tasty, and you've got to be able to sell it to the host and the viewers. Fabio immediately recognizes that dees will be tall order for heem.

He really is winning me over, just a leetle. Questionable decisions abound in the shopping segment. The chefs have 30 minutes and a scant C-note with which to shop. Questionable decision number one: the Whole Foods meat counter staff let the chefs get behind the counter and cut their own Eugene's doing sushi again; watch out for yer pigeonhole, bud. Health inspectors and injury liability attorneys all experienced heart palpitations at that moment.

Questionable decision number two: Alex decides to do a dessert. And he's only got an hour to prep it. Now, I'm not supporting Kathie Lee's hammy, "look at me find unusual things disgusting; doesn't that make me just like you? Easy, big fella. You've got years of practice to get to be that obnoxious. Dry runs of the 2. I guess that's one way to simulate the pressure. It's worth noting, I suppose, that the chefs don't know at this point that they're going to be on the Today show. Good man, Tom! Stefan -Minestrone soup -He doesn't appear to speak very much; judges confirm later that personality did not live up to food; who's surprised?

Hosea -Crispy ahi tuna roll with crushed wasabi peas -Didn't get to see much of his performance -I'm not sure the judges said anything about him. Eugene -Tuna sashimi and pea shoot salad -Rocco asks the obvious "what's the difference between sushi and sashimi" question, and Eugene absolutely bombs the answer, like Jill-quality bomb -Again, no judge commentary that I caught Melissa -Blackend habanero shrimp -Another real judge spit-take!

Tom has to tap out from the pummelling hotness of Melissa's shrimp -All judges agree it's way too hot. Judges table will be in the morning, y'all can go to bed. Jamie cries herself to sleep, like she says she does every time she fails at something. Alex is bitchy and defensive, but is getting married in less than a month and ultimately unworried if people don't like his stuff. Melissa takes exception to that attitude, and is pissed that someone who doesn't want to be there might stay longer than her.

Seriously, she looks like she's about to turn into the Hulk. Seething quietly. At 2 AM, a black-clad stalker creeps into the apar--oh, it's just Colicchio. Oh, that sneaky Tom! He's here to tell the top three chefs that they'll be cooking in a mere hour or so, and the hosts of the dreadful fourth hour of the Today show will be sampling their dishes live, on-air, and will select the overall winner live, on-air.

Since this was before the season actually began, the chefs will observe from the green room. The chefs left behind wake up to find a nice new TV and instructions to tune in. Tom, hopefully crawling a little inside his skin, stands beside Hoda, Kathie Lee, Meredith Viera and some other chick who probably does the news, as they descend upon plates of the three best dishes.

Watermelon makes Meredith sick or so she says , so she abstains from the full experience. But they all like Ariane's dish, making "mmm" noises with full mouths. Fabio is clueless as the cross-talk chatter rises over the analysis of his dish. It's official, I like him. Not love, but at least strongly like. Now, it's early, so I forgive Jeff for pre-emptively bashing the "unsophisticated palates" of the ladies of Today. They bite, they chew, they all go "Arroo?

And then Kathie Lee sees her opening and gets all melodramatic. What a fucking tool. During their kibbutz, the ladies discuss the finer points of which plate was prettier, and I heard a "doesn't seem too unusual" in there as a point of analysis. Guess there goes Jeff's chances of winning and this is why I'm going to call him Jeff from now on, because he fucking brought it to those retards, won over the real judges, and completely nailed his prediction that it wouldn't go well with the four stooges. Pretty unsurprisingly, Ariane's tomato and watermelon salad is declared the winnner.

It's cool for her, since she watches the show clearly the only one of the top three who does. Carla goes apeshit back at the ranch. What was that about crazy nervous energy, Rocco? At the semi-toothless Judges' Table, Fabio is gracious and kind. Ariane is humble and excited. She gets not only a bag full of Rocco's favorite tools presumably all kitchen related, since it's clear he is his own favorite tool , but will appear on Today the morning after this episode airs that would be this morning; anyone submit themselves to the horror? Again, a good prize for the right person, all around.

The losers come out to stave off dismissal. Melissa claims she tasted her shrimp, but Rocco doesn't buy it. Jamie knows she got frazzled, and Tom reminds her that in a live situation like that, she could have just flipped the egg, but it's her frustrated recoil that sticks in Rocco's craw. Alex has no defense for his choice or his performance.

He says something about how the whole point of this competition is to push yourself, and he didn't. Tom reminds him in classic Colicchio style that "the whole point of this competition is to win. My second question is, why say anything about dedication, Melissa? You don't have the chops to stand up there and elocute, so don't even bother. All you're doing is passive-aggressively calling out Alex, and Padma seizes on it to ask Alex why he should stay.

Stumble, mumble, cliche, blah blah blah. It's the pre-elimination commercial break, and that means weird Top Chef vignette time! Carla comments on the sexual attraction between the two; I don't want to hear Carla talking about sexual anything. Anyway, all three dishes were inedible by Rocco's estimation, but it's Alex that finally gets the boot. Wrong dish at the wrong time, and it never really worked out even going over time. Go forth and get married, young man. And Carla?

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I think she's a Top Chef stalker. She just wants to be part of everything. First to cheer, first to say "hi," first to stand up and hug Alex. If she cooks rabbit at any point in this season, I'm going to be very afraid. Next week, Gail gets married not to Alex , and the chefs have to cook for her boobies--I mean, her bridal shower. Did you see the size of that spoon? Thing No. That last thing is as good a segue as I can make to the Quickfire, which features Chicago hey, weren't we there last season chef Grant Achatz, owner of Alinea , as the guest judge.

Grant's a cancer survivor; wonder what the Foos think about cancer. Incidentally, Alinea is the subject of a very entertaining blog written by Carol Blymire entitled Alinea at Home. Carol, after having tackled the French Laundry cookbook , is just starting the process of preparing every dish in the Alinea cookbook. She's a great writer, and a competent cook. Read it. The chefs draw knives, which reveal unusual numbers.

Padma says they're page numbers, and reveals the Top Chef Cookbook. Open the book, find your page, and put your own spin on the recipe found therein. And it would be intriguing to see the chefs struggle to adapt them, except then Padma and Grant pop back in and tell everyone to stop what they're doing, take their work so far, and turn it into a soup instead.

Now Leah has to turn tuna tartare into chilled white asparagus soup with a floating tartare-topped brioche. Actually, that sounds pretty good. Grant likes it too. Carla likes to use love as her secret ingredient. Daniel creates perhaps the first ham and egg soup, which also goes over well with the critical mouths. Ultimately, Leah wins the Quickfire and this week's immunity. No losers were announced. She also wins the ability to choose her team for the Elimination challenge, which is this season's first catering event. The Foo Fighters, tired of road meals, will have the chefs craft two competing Thanksgiving menus for their regal enjoyment.

The entourage makes up 60 people, with almost a third of them vegetarians. Don't worry, chefs. They've given you their rider. They like their water bottle tops loosened but not removed. A quarter-twist. Fabio goes on and on about Europe some more time to stop that, bud , and the stakes are announced: winner gets to see the show, losers have to do dishes. Alex, at least, has a good outlook on the challenge: all chefs want to be rock stars, he says, and now we at least get to cook for 'em.

Top Chef drops the ball by not getting a release to play any Foo Fighters songs during the following segments, but the chefs make their way to the concert anyway. Oh, Padma and the Foos failed to mention that they'll be cooking outdoors, with microwaves, toaster ovens, and one burner. That seems a little absurdly arbitrary, but whatever. Do the Foo Fighters believe that microwaves lead to cooked food? The all-star team immediately starts annoying each other: Stefan thinks he can knock out two sauces all quick-like on the one burner, Jamie disagrees.

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They name themselves Team Sexy Pants for no apparent reason. The sucker team, meanwhile, decides to live on the edge and assign turkey duties to Ariane. They take on Ariane as their mascot, and name themselves Team Cougar -- yes, for that reason. The way Ariane rushed to the front of the crowd when they met the Foos' roadie, I'm thinking they're not that far off. Once again, Prettyboy has stepped up to organize the children.

Both teams are doing the usuals: turkey, sweet and standard potatoes, stuffing although the SP's do a vegan stuffing. Team Sexy Pants adds fruit cobbler and pumpkin tiramisu, Team Cougar adds bacon mac and cheese, maple smoked pork, banana s'mores, and pumpkin-berry parfaits. Unintentional line of the night, from Ariane trying to get her team off her back about cooking time on the turkey: "Guys, it's a breast.

As the chefs finish up, Fabio realizes he's left his dessert out in the rain oh no! Okay, it actually starts raining with about 40 minutes to go. The operation gets hurried indoors, and before long the judges and Foo Fighters arrive. Again, Richard goes on at length about Tom's sexiness and "gay bear icon" status.

The deal with catering challenges is that the dishes get hard to assign to specific chefs. Not so this week, although the show still didn't focus on them very much. As such, I can't really give you detailed analysis. Team Cougar's dishes are inconsistent. Jeff's spoonbread stuffing is dry and overcooked. Alex's mac and cheese has bacon, and is thus tasty. Mashed potatoes are "al dente" to put it nicely, while the turkey and smoked pork and the jury-rigged smoker are both delightful.

Only Carla's dessert passes any sort of muster; the s'mores and parfaits "barfaits," by a Foo's estimation both have a spitty consistency that equals a cream that hasn't held up during service. Team Sexy Pants' dishes are at least less awful; the commentary wasn't as plentiful for this menu. But Radhika's vegan stuffing is great, the yams are good, and Fabio's tiramisu is a smart and impressive Italian twist on pumpkin pie. Hosea's cobbler, for which he was not particularly effusive, is equally well-received. The voting is pretty evenly split, and spitty dessert isn't necessarily going to sink the boat of Team Cougar.

Daniel, who is clearly not gay, tells us he's wearing his party hat and party underwear, and wants the win. Sadly, he will have to party in those undies on his own, because the Foo Fighters give the win to Team Sexy Pants. It has to have been the most humiliating and demoralizing defeat in Top Chef history, because from all indications, the losers could hear the music from the makeshift dining room in the staging area.

Daniel opens the stew room segment by flipping off the winning team after they return from the concert. Strangely, this episode ends with no declared Elimination winner, after beginning with no declared Quickfire loser. The judges go straight for the kill. They don't have much to say to Alex and Eugene call it the Pig Clause: cook with pig, and you're most likely to survive , and they're excused. Same with Carla, whose mediocre dessert was still the best of the three, and Ariane, whose moist and well-carved turkey was a clear redemption.

That leaves Daniel, Richard, and Prettyboy. The panel appreciates Jeff's natural leadership, and it looks like his stuff wasn't bad enough to cancel that out. Richard's un-s'morey s'mores and Daniel's bad potatoes seem like an imbalance against Big Gay Rick, but I thought his defense of his dish was eloquent and well-reasoned.

The decision, however, will have to wait until after another interlude mid-break. This time, Daniel's eating peanut butter sloppily, spills some on the floor, and gets taken to task by Jamie. Daniel says something about Jamie's hormones, and then it's back to the advertisers. Kinda fun, mostly just strange. Anyway, after the break, the judges reconvene, and declare that Richard is indeed going to have to make a weepy exit.

And he doesn't disappoint. So ends an unusual episode of Top Chef. What have we done to deserve this? This episode begins with a little shout-out for the gays in the crowd: a shirtless Prettyboy, and a shot of Ariane Miss New Jersey, as some have called her taking a frighteningly large bite of whatever it is she's eating for breakfast, and mowing down on it like there's hyenas in the foyer ready to pounce on the leftovers. They see each other as the prime competition.

Also, they like to touch each other. No, really, it's true. They're handsy. I had to rely on Padma's narration and a little Wikipedia action for the spellcheck to know that Donatella Arpaia of many restaurants and occasional Food Network appearances would be the guest judge this week. I had to do that, because Bravo kept their promo banner on-screen over the top of the TC caption. I don't care about housewives, Bravo, and neither does anyone else. The Quickfire challenge will be to craft a signature hot dog a NY staple, natch , and their weiners will be measured against that of hot dog maven Angelina D'Angelo.

I had a smoke alarm incident as the details of the challenge were being laid out, but I think the chefs were either instructed or encouraged to craft their own sausage. Winner gets immunity. Never has a populace been bred to be unable to pronounce its own homeland more than those from Long Island. And if you couldn't tell, that's where Daniel's from. He told us. At least, I think he did. It was pretty hard to understand. Anyway, the other male foreigners Stefan and Fabio are both doing panini-style dogs. Indian Radhika continues to show that she's not just a one-note Indian chef by making an Indian-themed hot dog.

Wait, what? The judges breeze through the sampling, noting that Jill decided to use store-bought dogs and didn't do much with them. Radhika's is messy, Eugene's sushi-inflected creation results in the "Hm, thank you" response no one wants to hear. Hosea blends hot peppers and smoky bacon into his flavor profile, and I'm won over. The judges like it, too. Stefan rocks the Wisconsin cheese reprezent! And Jamie's dog has a bone. And it's in Padma's mouth.

I better stop. Radhika's Indian hot dog takes the prize, and Radhika gets immunity. Angelina, apropos of very little, tops her dog with mustard, kraut, and relish. Looks good, judges like it, means nothing to the competition. False starts and Craft For the Elimination round, the chefs will team up to serve lunch at Tom Colicchio's Craft restaurant. This would be truly fascinating if it hadn't been done last season. As it is, the challenge will be to not only serve up a " New American " lunch menu for 50 diners, but to please the most bitter crowd of never-were douchebags since the I Love New York reunion show: failed applicants for Top Chef.

The breakdown of course responsibility immediately devolves into the friggin' NY Stock Exchange at opening bell, and Prettyboy of all people is the one who steps in and corrals all the mustangs. Hosea's a seafood guy, and decides to try a dish familiar to him but with canned crab instead of his preferred dungeness.

I'm sure there's no difference. Jill sees ostrich eggs and decides to take a flyer on this flightless bird for her quiches rather than use standard chicken eggs. And Ariane gets the "I'm not a fill in a dessert-related profession " out of the way early this season. I'm sure she'll pull it out, though, right? Back in the kitchen, surprise surprise, Jill's never worked with ostrich eggs and can't even get the fucker open. Tom comes in to deliver the specifics of the challenge Craft, Top Chef no-calls, whatnot , and we go to commercial break. Except in the middle of the commercial break, we get Hosea and Leah getting mighty comfy on a bed, chit-chatting with some other chefs.

Leah talks about how much she likes having boyfriends, and Fabio chimes in from the confessional that they're getting awfully close. Y'know, to Bone City. And then back to commercials. So let's pretend that that little tiny segment, semi-promo, aborted whatchamacallit didn't happen, and get on with the TV show about cooking. Eugene, at this point, makes a swear, and it dawns on me that last season really was as foul-mouthed as we thought it was.

This is a group of choir members by comparison. Carla the caterer, who should be in her element, is making delicate little apple tartlets. She's happy with the crust, but not as much with the filling. Fabio, while expressing his love for Tom and his flamboyantly Italian last name, is doing some arcane and frankly frightening thing with his kalamata olives that involves liquefying the insides while leaving the outside almost eggshell-hard.

I'm scared of these olives, but it's a bold move similar to the one that Marcel couldn't pull off in the Season 2 finale. Richard borrows a move from his gay, bearded, reality competititor named Richard counterpart and tries to sabotage Ariane by not telling her her dessert's too sweet. But everyone else does, so it's a non-issue. The 50 worst attitudes in New York and I believe that's saying something file in for lunch, and the meal -- expedited by Tom and his Craft head chef -- gets rolling.

Jamie Dish: Chilled sweet corn soup with mint and chili oil Feedback: Tasty, diners liking the mint. Hosea Dish: Chilled crab salad with citrus vanilla and avocado Feedback: Slimy, yuck. Fabio Dish: Beef carpaccio with arugula salad, aged parmesan, and those freaky kalamata olives Feedback: The judges, at least, are absolutely digging the olives. Leah Dish: Yukon potato and scallops Feedback: I missed the detailed description, but it's clear it's a bad dish. Scallops are sandy, presentation is 80's.

Melissa Dish: Grilled avocado, peaches, vinaigrette Feedback: Boring. Jill Dish: Ostrich egg quiche with a rice-pecan crust, asparagus Feedback: Tastes like glue, looks like dog food. Eugene Dish: Open-faced meatloaf sandwich with polenta Feedback: Cruddy presentation, difficult to eat. Of course, the failures were unimpressed with meatloaf their monocles fell into their cocktails and everything. Stefan Dish: Seared halibut with microgreens and ravioli Feedback: Light and rich from the same person, who didn't appear to realize that the two are generally contradictory , presented very well.

Jeff Dish: Chicken with honey mustard and chorizo, corn spoonbread Feedback: Chorizo wins anyone's heart, even if he was the slowest service in the kitchen. Alex Dish: Pork tenderloin with potatoes and fresh vegetables Feedback: Terrible. As in, actually bad. Radhika Dish: Citrus-avocado mousse, chocolate wontons with Kahlua Feedback: Basically sweet guacamole.

That's not a good thing. Although, it's not Indian! Daniel Dish: Ricotta pound cake with pistachios and a strawberry coulis Feedback: A respectable effort, fairly tasty. Ariane Dish: Charred lemon meringue martini over cherries and a cookie crust Feedback: Like all the other chefs said, it's way too sweet.

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Richard Dish: Some peanut butter, banana, and jelly-ish sandwichy thing. There was another false alarm because of our weird oven, and I missed some of the description. Feedback: Seemed to think it was fun, after-schoolish. Carla Dish: Rustic apple tart with ginger-peach tea, apple chips, and a slice of yellow her word, not mine; I'd assume cheddar cheese Feedback: Cheese was sweaty and unappealing, but the tarts were great. Shockingly, the Sour Grapes Squad is thoroughly unimpressed and disappointed. Not much more surprisingly, Tom is disappointed too. He describes the collective effort as setting back the New American cuisine movement by 20 years.

That's a bad thing. So, at the Judges' Table, Tom commends the service and setup in the kitchen, but tells the chefs that their food was generally not so nice. The judges indicate that there were a few bright spots. Carla is first. They loved the pastry, but Tom wished the cheese had been incorporated more, rather than just plopped down.

Regardless, it was Padma's favorite dessert. They then turn to Fabio, who at first opportunity starts blathering about how strongly he felt about his dish and he was surprised that he was here. Of course, it was clear that the judges liked his dish, and he didn't give them the chance to say so. But once they do, they hail his fresh and bright flavor profile, and the grilled lemon in particular. The olives, Tom tells him, will get you noticed. Jamie's corn soup has good balance, clean flavors, and appropriate seasonality. The winner is Fabio, for most surprising, best overall dish, and best absurd grasp of language and cultural convention.

Euros 2, everyone else, 0. The stinkers are led by Hosea, who honestly thought he was in the top 3. He wasn't. The diners found it too sweet, the judges found it underseasoned, and everyone thought it had a funny taste. Amazingly, no one breaches the subject of fresh vs.

The good idea on paper just didn't come together. With Ariane, the judges found no real vitality to the dish, and of course there was the spit-take. Jill has, to this point, struck me as a doofus. Probably trips a lot. Thinks Borat isn't just funny, but is a great documentary. But her appearance at Judges' Table has me completely convinced that she isn't even a chef. I'm told that her audition video is the one we saw a snippet of in the premier, with a bikini-clad chickypoo sunning herself. I'm thinking she amazed her TA in college by cracking an egg over her Ramen, and that gave her this false impression that she's a chef, or, like, something.

Anyway, the judges indicate that Jill's dish could have been special, but was painted into a corner by the insistence on working with ostrich egg. I'm wondering if Tom's ever had ostrich egg. I haven't personally, but I know a little bit about 'em, and I doubt that an ostrich egg quiche could ever be even good , much less special. Her inability to express herself in any meaningful way makes Tom grimace. Clearly, the biggest strikes among many are as follows.

Hosea: overconfidence. Ariane: Padma's spit take. Jill: as Gail put it, "the lamest defense of any food" in Top Chef history. Combined with a really terrible dish, and you can tell who's leaving. Jill, don't trip over the seam in the carpet on your way out the lobby. Ariane cries in the stew room, weeping "I don't deserve [to still be here].

Your performance has been uniformly bad so far, and your luck can't hold out forever. Next week, Thanksgiving dinner Plus, "vegetarians don't eat fish all the time! Welcome back, fans of sharp knives, sharp haircuts, and Padma's scar. It's Top Chef 5! My general thoughts on this episode are as follows: "Seventeen new chefs--some in bikinis!

There are significantly fewer self-styled characters on TC. You can't blame Fabio for being Italian and boy is he Italian. I won't take up too much space running down each character's bio; Wikipedia is doing the heavy lifting for me here. I'll limit myself to some notes. Eugene and Jamie are the tatted ones. Lauren and Patrick are practically still in diapers, and also know each other from the playground or something.

Carla's a caterer; this will be interesting. Melissa is for you Runway fans Top Chef 's Blayne. The chefs meet Padma and Tom in a lovely park setting, and learn that of the 17 currently assembled, only 16 will actually enter the competition proper. That's right, an Elimination Quickfire.


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I am definitely hoping for Lauren to go. She talks like her dialogue was written by a high schooler at 23, I suppose she's not far from that. She's overconfident and obnoxious. And she's a military wife. That will only get more annoying over time. The QF begins as a skills test. Each chef will peel 15 apples by hand, knife only. The first nine are safe, while the rest will have to compete in round two. Fabio's not going home for "an hepple" it's possible I'll make fun of his accent all season, even though I shouldn't.

Stefan wins the first round, and thus gets elimination immunity. Round two requires the chefs to brunoise the apples; this is a very fine, very precise dicing of the peeled apples. And Lauren can't pronounce it correctly. All the more reason I want her to go. Daniel, while slow with the peel, is a machine with the chopping. The third round, in a very smart ordering of the tasks, is to make an dish with the apples, as well as a selection of other ingredients.

On the spot, 20 minutes. I love this! It's so much better than having a paring knife challenge decide who leaves. During the introduction, Radhika declared that she knows people will assume she's just gonna make curries and rice all season, and wants to surpass that expectation. So in round three, she makes a chutney. Lauren and Patrick, meanwhile, are whipping up salads. Way to wow the judges, kids!!! Lauren's is the least of the bottom four, and she is sent blessedly packing. Padma tells her there's a ferry waiting for her; I say, "And he's standing right next to you.

Give him a hug. Ethnic neighborhoods are the theme of the block, and the chefs will pair up to go head to head in creating a neighborhood-inspired dish. At least none of the neighborhoods were misspelled this time hello, " Duck a la Orange ". The contestants are already distinguishing themselves, which is nice.

I am so delighted that you shared these. I will try to imagine your childhood while eating these. Being from middle Georgia, I can relate to your story in so many ways. Tricia — I hope you and your hubby like this one. Gorgeous post! I love everything about it- your nostalgia, your photos, your storytelling- everything! And the teacakes sound fantastic too :. I grew up in a tiny Kentucky town that sounds very similar to yours. Once I went off to college, my Mama often shipped me care packages with her yummy tea cakes inside, and all my friends would pile up on my tiny dorm room bed and eat them while I read the sweet letter that came inside the box.

Such special memories! How sweet, Beth! I can just picture you and your friends eating teacakes in your dorm room. Glad I could bring that memory back for you. Oh boy!!! Wish you and BeeBop could be here Sunday for dinner. Guess that means bringing out family recipes and gathering in the clan. And a fantastic hostess, too. I remember her beautiful china especially. Thanks, Dara. I do cherish all those old recipes. I refer to them often! Love the nostalgic connect with the food post. Makes it so much more delicious and meaningful!

Thank you for sharing this special window to your world Lana. These tea cakes sound wonderful! I grew up in Mobile, Al and have so many of the same food memories that you do. I remember the teacakes my grandmother used to make, they looked much like yours only not as perfectly round.

I guess Nany didnt cut hers out with a cookie cutter or jelly jar! Thanks for the memories! Love your stories Lana. I grew up in the burbs but so much of what you say was the same for me. Just a much simpler and carefree time. Teri — you could totally make these teacakes. I dont remember when I saw a more perfect picture of this kind of cookie, the sparkle of sugar is magnificent would love to dive into the screen and grab one!

Wow, Claudia — thank you so much! I tried really hard to make that photo special and I liked the way it turned out, too. I have her recipe.. Keep telling the storys we love to read them. I love when people remember and associate the food with their memories. And teacakes are one of the things she makes well. Hi Lana, what a lovely site you have!

I am now following you on twitter. My favorite thing about visiting food blogs besides wonderful recipes and beautiful food photography is to hear the stories of why a food became a comfort food and why it feeds the soul. I love your tea cakes and I will be making them for my girls!

What a wonderful post Lana. I loved reading all about the memories you have via the food you create. Lana, I read the recipe for the fried catfish, then the cheese grits. I lingered over the chicken and dumplings …. Thank you so much for saving and sharing these heirloom recipes that feed our souls as well as our bodies. Thank you so much! Your comment just made all the effort that goes into this blog completely worthwhile! Lana, I was sitting at my desk looking at recipes for tea cakes and ran across your lifetime of memories. I was telling my grandchildren about the same things.

Too funny. I also come from a cooking family. My Mom is a great cook, you talking about good dressing ooh! I am also a great cook. We have a big family and I cook for them a lot, and when I cook I cook with lots of love. Thank you for the memory lane I just went down.

God Bless you! Lana, This past summer our son and his wife asked us to come to the beach and visit them while they were on vacation. They have a five year old daughter , and a nine year old son. I decided I would take some desserts. First I made a pound cake for the adults, and then I decided I would make a chocolate cake for the nine year old boy that he loved, and then I pondered what to make for our sweet Caroline.

I decided to make the teacakes because my mom had made them many times when I was a little girl. When it was dessert time the night we got there, I opened up the two cakes and Caroline asked what I had made for her. When I opened the tupperware container and she had to look inside. After she ate the first one she wanted another and she and her brother finished them while we were there. Now she begs me to make them for her. She says they are the best teacakes in the world.

So maybe I have started a memory that they will carry with them after I am gone. I love this post! When I saw the tea cakes it took me right back to my elementary school days in Richland Ga. The lunch ladies use to make them for us. What town are you from? Thanks for this post. I loved it! Far southwest corner of the state. I was born and raised in Thomasville. We only moved once Hawaii then moved back. Love your stories, and could fill a book of my own. I hope to try your Tea Cake recipe as soon as the Christmas rush is over and I can slow down a little. Cook on Southern gurl.

I made them and the memories flooded back. Your recipe was right on. The only difference was that my Bigmama did not ever cut out the cookies as we were always in too much of a hurry for her teacakes, that she cut them up southern dumpling style and baked them. Wonderful memories — great piece of southern heritage! Thank you so much, Kim. Thank you so much for this recipe. I will be baking them this afternoon. My Granny used to make tea cakes for us quite often. I never could master her recipe. She never had to write anything down, hence no recipe for me. As a man, I love to cook the old-fashioned way: Chicken and dumplins, fried corn always field corn, never sweet corn, cause we never heard of sweet corn fried okra, field peas, butter beans and collard greens along with fried corn bread.

I now need to come back to the present from your website. Thank you for the trip! My maternal grandma lived in Iron City just south of Colquitt. We have been trying unsuccessfully to recreate her teacakes for years. My daughter actually brought another effort over just last night … while good, still not the real deal. I can hardly wait to try your recipe. Thanks for your comment, Dixie. I too grew up in southwest Georgia…Thomasville. Anywhere near your small town? They were the best! She always patted them out by hand.

I hope you enjoy the teacakes recipe! How amaizing is that? Would love to hear from Sheila. I know they will be delicious. Food and fellowship goes together like biscuits and syrup and everyone should enjoy them. She didnt roll hers out like cookies but she baked them in muffin tins I grew up here in the Heart of Dixie or Alabama.

Been looking everywhere but I cant seem to find one similiar to it anywhere. First time baking these but thinking about giving this a try, should I add more milk to thin it out and cut down on the flour? Hi Linda — this is a fairly stiff dough. I made some last night and they took me way back in time. These were a real treat during the great depression when sugar was so hard to find.

I like to use it as a History lesson for my Grand kids and it gives me a chance to tell them my memories of their Great, Great, Great Grand Mother. Your comment makes me really happy, Sally. I love being able to keep the old recipes and memories live for others. Everything you said, seems i could have written it, word for word. Im cooking these tea cakes now, as i cook some homemade chicken soup for supper. Thanks for the recipe. Brought tears and really wonderful memories of my mother who absolutely made the best cornbread dressing ever!

Thank you, even for the tears. She was my maternal grandmother and died around , but I can still smell and taste these wonderful treats. I failed to get her recipe and have tried so often to duplicate, but not with too much success. I am definitely going to try these and see what happens. I grew up in Pontotoc County near Ecru in North Mississippi and those peaceful childhood memories, just so heavenly. Thanks again. Please do pull all your memories together and create a book.

Although I was born and raised in Canada, my childhood contains a similarity to some of your memories. America is no longer free nor does she now belong to the people. We have voted into office people who put love of money and power ahead of love of America and the price we have paid is the loss of our country. These people have Uncle Sam by the throat! Wake up, America, and reclaim our country by voting these scoundrels out of office! Thank you for the wonderful compliments on my cooking. Love U. She put lemon in hers. I can smell them now. My mama was such a good southern cook. Her recipe calls for the ingredients but not the measurements!

She knew just how the dough would look after throwing in all the ingredients.

Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking...... Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......
Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking...... Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......
Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking...... Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......
Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking...... Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......
Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking...... Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......
Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking...... Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......
Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking...... Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......
Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking...... Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......
Cookin Aint That Hard:A simple look at some complex recipes to put the fun back into cooking......

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