Tag turducken

Top Chef Culinary Olympics

After 22 challenges and 17 chefs, it’s down to the top five of Top Chef Las Vegas!

The theme of this week’s quick-fire and elimination challenge: Bocuse d’Or– the world’s most difficult and ultimate cooking competition. Executive Chef of Café Boulud and 2007 Bocuse d’Or American representative, Gavin Kaysen, serves as the quick fire judge. Their challenge: create a version of Chef Kaysen’s Bocuse d’Or dish- a protein, in a protein, inside a protein. Hmm…Turducken perhaps? The chefs have 90 minutes to create their dishes.

On the menu:
Eli- bacon-crusted breakfast sausage with a six-minute center
Jennifer- calamari steak, scallops, salmon, shitake, shiso with rice noodle salad
Michael- ‘poultry terrine’ chicken with turkey and bacon mousseline
Kevin- cornmeal-fried fillet of catfish with scallop and shrimp
Bryan- rack of lamb and merguez sausage wrapped in caul fat

Jennifer takes the win! It’s great to see her on top again after her not-so-stellar performances in the last few challenges. Now on to the elimination challenge. The challenge: A Top Chef version of the Bocuse d’Or. Each cheftestant must create a regal presentation platter with one protein and two garnishes. The chefs have two choices for protein: lamb or salmon and four hours to cook. In true Bocuse d’Or competition style, the chefs must present their creations on a traditional Bocuse d’Or mirrored platter. The chefs will be cooking for 12 esteemed judges, including representatives of the American Advisory Board of the Bocuse d’Or as well as Thomas Keller, the only American-born chef to have simultaneously two restaurants with three Michelin stars. The criteria of the challenge: taste, creativity and execution. I can’t think of a better group from Top Chef Las Vegas contestants to serve in this elimination challenge!

On the menu:
Michael- salmon with cauliflower chickpea tart and zucchini tzatziki
Jennifer- salmon and caviar, shrimp flan and truffle, celery root and shitake
Bryan- crusted lamb loin, lamb shank crepinette and orzo au gratin
Kevin- poached lamb loin, sherry-glazed beet and asparagus in sunchoke cream
Eli- sausage wrapped lamb loin, carrot puree and tomato piquillo canapé

Back at judge’s table Jerome Bocuse, son of Paul Bocuse, serves as the elimination guest judge. Kevin wins! His dish is simple, well executed and cooked correctly. Frankly, Kevin makes the kind of food that I want to eat and his humble, kind attitude is making me root for him to win! He is awarded $30,000 and a spot to compete in the 2011 Bocuse d’Or as an American representative. But it is Eli who is sent packing for his undercooked lamb. It was ‘hard to swallow’ as one of the judges stated. Farewell Eli!

Next week, the chefs head to Napa! Until then, cheers!

10 Steps to Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

After today’s election, there will be nothing left for America to argue about, other than what to serve for Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps a spinach gratin and butternut squash and cider soup to spice up the usual fare of stuffing, yams and green beans… garlic mashed potatoes are a must and pumpkin bread pudding with caramel, too!

Of course, the unequivocal star of our annual harvest holiday is the turkey. In recent years, we’ve noticed all sorts of culinary treatments and trends for cooking the bird: deep fried, smoked, bbqed, glazed, basted, curried, brined or stuffed beyond stuffing – by this we mean the infamous turducken (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken).

turkeyWe’re all for adventurous cooking, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, I choose not to mess with a good thing. Here are my 10 Simple Steps to a Perfectly Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey:

1. Order your turkey from a reputable meat purveyor at least one week prior to Thanksgiving, and pick it up the day before. A fresh turkey is more flavorful than a frozen turkey.

2. Ask your butcher to remove the wishbone. This way, you can slice the full-length of the breast.

3. Buy one pound of turkey per person or 1½ pounds if you want leftovers. Smaller turkeys are more tender, so order two small turkeys versus one large.

4. Once home, remove the bag of giblets from inside the cavity, rinse the turkey inside and out, and pat it dry with paper towels. This helps prevent bacterial growth. Refrigerate immediately. Bring to room temperature one hour before cooking.

5. Stuff the turkey just before roasting to prevent bacterial growth. Don’t overstuff. The stuffing expands while cooking and may cause the bird to explode!

6. While trussing the bird makes a prettier presentation, it is isn’t necessary and the bird will actually cook faster if untrussed. If you do truss the bird however, use kitchen twine not dental floss!

7. Rub the skin of the bird with butter or oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sweet paprika. The paprika makes the bird a turn a beautiful golden brown. Put the turkey, in a roasting pan, on a rack, so the heat can circulate. Fill the pan with 1/2 inch of water for basting and pan gravy.

8. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Then cover the breast meat with aluminum foil to keep the bird moist, and cook at 350 degrees until done. Baste every 30 minutes.

9. The turkey is done when a thermometer inserted into the thigh reaches 160 degrees. The breast may be a higher temperature since it cooks faster.

10. Before carving, let the bird rest for 30 minutes on a warmed platter covered with foil.

Brining the turkey before cooking will produce an even juicier roasted turkey. You’ll find my recipe for brining and roasting a turkey here. Oh, and let’s not forget the gravy. Try this favorite: Pan Gravy with Bourbon Recipe.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more great cooking tips and tricks for Thanksgiving Day. Parties That Cook’s Thanksgiving recipes can be found here.