Top Chef: Episode Five

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Last night’s episode of Top Chef was all about leftovers. Sounds like an interesting challenge, right? I’d love to see how some of these characters could repurpose last night’s dinner into an exciting and entirely new meal. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what happened. The Quickfire Challenge to create a dish using “offal” – the leftover parts of animals such as pig trotters, lamb kidneys, beef hearts, tripe, and chicken feet. Their creations were then judged by Michelle Bernstein, consulting chef of Social Hollywood. For some reason virtually everyone went for the sweetbreads coming up with dishes such as Sweetbread and Scallion Beignets with Chinese Five Spice Powder and Sweet Soy Broth. There were a few exceptions:

• Veal Tail and Tongue Stew with a Sunny Side Up Egg on Toast
• Braised Pig Feet with Sauteed Arugula and Cornbread
• Braised Oxtail with Carrot Broth, Potato Puree and Tripe Crackerlings
• Fish Head and Beef Cheek en Brodo with Black Pepper Fettuccini

For the Elimination Challenge the chefs were asked to create a six-course lunch for sixty people, hosted by quirky character actress, Jennifer Coolidge. The twist, in keeping with the theme of leftovers, the chefs have to use the leftovers from the Social’s dinner menu from the night before. Of course all this actually means is that they are limited to what is in the Social Pantry and Walk-in, which just so happens to have everything one could ever want to cook with. So I’m not clear how these would be considered “leftovers.” Nor is it much of a twist. But whatever.

To make sure there was no cheating like last time, Tom Colicchio decided to hang out in the kitchen and keep an eye on things. It seems none of the pairs consulted with one another to see what each other was making and the resulting menu was a bit of a derivative hodgepodge.

• First course was a Duo of Salmon – A Tartare with Avocado and Red Onion, and a Mousse with Red and Gold Beets and Beet Greens
• Second course was Seared Diver Scallops with a Confit of Serrano Ham as well as Seared Foie Gras over an Oyster Mushroom Crostini finished with a Fig Gastrique
• Third course was a Lobster, Shrimp and Mushroom Paella topped with a Softshell Crab
• Fourth course was a questionable savory napoleon of Pan Seared Duck Breast with a Balsamic Merlot Reduction, Sweet Potatoes, and Green Beans with Preserved Lemons
&bull: Fifth course was an “Awakening Trio” – Prickly Pear and Coconut Soup, Fennel and Apple Salad and a Sauteed Pineapple Salad
Bbull: Sixth and final course was another trio – Chilled Pomegranate and Orange Juice with Basil, another Napoleon, this one with Phyllo, Mascarpone Cream, Champagne Grapes and a Fig Sauce, and an Apple and Pineapple Sorbet with Candied Pistachios

Does anyone else miss Stephen Asparino the snobby sommelier from season one? Sigh.