Today will not be an easy recap – I’m very much a product of my culture and so insects (and all land arthropods and worms) are disgusting to me, plus all of them are also NOT kosher, except for one species of locust. So this will be fun.
Yes, the Quickfire has our top ten cooking “bugs” (I’m being nitpicky. “Bugs” are a species of insect with certain characteristics in common. I know it’s also a generic term for “creepy crawlies.” I’m a pedant.) None of them are happy – in fact, all of them take some time to make sure we know they aren’t happy, include Celina who has actually eaten crickets. The most unhappy is Suvir, who will not take a life to make his food. He does have a solution to his problem, though.
There is chopping, grilling, roasting, frying, poaching (in soup). There are many salads and vinaigrettes, which makes sense with only 20 minutes to cook. Some also make use of the edible plants used to disguise the critters earlier.
The guest judges are Ruth England and Mykel Hawke, from “Man, Woman, Wild”, which is a show on The Discovery Channel. It’s a survival show, apparently, where they eat what food they can find.
Naomi made tempura fried nightcrawlers in a salad. (Note, after this I started just pausing the show and typing what the chyron said.) Everyone thought it looked and tasted good.
Hugh made fried crickets with sunchoke and carrot puree in blood orange vinaigrette. Everyone loves it, especially the puree.
Celina made soy crickets with salsify salad, to reproduce crickets she’d already eaten. The judges didn’t like the legs, but that’s how the original was made. “I was sucking legs out of my teeth for an hour.” Wow, that surely sounds appetizing. It surely does.
Suvir made a Himalayan jungle and market salad with LIVE hornworms in a jar on the side, with a blowtorch garnish – presumably so one could cook one’s own. This didn’t go over very well, although Mykel did seem to enjoy killing and firing his worms. Mykel also respects him for sticking with his convictions, but it didn’t fulfill the challenge.
John made grilled scorpion with smoked poached eggs and oyster root, and they think it tastes really good all mixed up – as it should.
Mary Sue made a sunchoke salad with roasted beetle. They liked the crunch of the beetles and Ruth loved all the cilantro.
Traci made a salad with chipotle-dusted fried scorpions and aloe vinaigrette. They liked the scorpions but thought the aloe was too bitter. Traci agrees.
Floyd made an omelet of nightcrawlers, amaranth, roasted shiitakes and bacon. Bacon and eggs being classic, Mykel truly “dug” it.
Alex made angel hair pasta with beetles and flowers. Ruth loved the contrast between the crunchy beetles and the soft pasta.
George made a hornworm and cocoanut soup with lime, lemongrass, ginger and arugula flowers. They all hate it, and look nauseated after tasting it.
Curtis asks the guests what were their least favorites. Ruth didn’t like Suvir’s market salad with the live hornworms, and Mykel hated the cocoanut soup. Apparently, hornworms have a very elastic skin and need to be in smaller pieces. Or, you know. Avoided.
Ruth’s favorite was Hugh’s salad, with the fried tempura beetles, and Mykel liked Mary Sue’s sunchoke salad. Hugh wins – his first. His charity is Wholesome Way, which does initiatives like doubling food stamps. He says this experience will be useful when he opens “Hugh’s Bug Shack.”
The Elimination challenge is a fundraising tasting menu. Ten courses, one per chef, for fifty people. The guests will pay $100 for the dish they like the best, to be given to that chef’s charity. The one with the most votes wins. The critics will choose who goes home. They have three hours, and can only use what’s in the pantry (except, I assume, the ickies.)
(Just a thought – while land arthropods seem to be on the ick list, sea ones such as lobsters and shrimps are not. As Alex said, someone had to have been the first to eat an oyster. I wonder why, though. Except, well, I don’t eat any of them at all. Not kosher.)
It seems to be a straightforward and relatively easy challenge. They can certainly each cook a dish for fifty people in three hours with the ingredients at hand. But they are wise in the ways of reality shows, so none of them trust this. And, indeed, Curtis says that there will be “curveballs” thrown that way. I wonder just how popular baseball is in Australia for him to use that idiom.
Hugh offers to do a dessert because he has immunity (that was part of his Quickfire prize), while Naomi does her normal thing of taking over, much to Alex’s dismay. John decides they need a hot appetizer, so he’s doing risotto. Naomi reads off the menu to make sure she and everyone else knows what they’re doing.
And now there is no water. Floyd is making a fish dish and now he can’t wash his hands. George find that all ironic because he’s working for Charity:Water, which helps provide clean drinking water all over the world. This is near and dear to Adam Lambert fans because we helped raise over $323K for that charity.
Floyd and others melt ice for water, while Naomi makes her cream of celery soup with as few ingredients as she can so that she can manage everything else as self-appointed chef de cuisine. And then they find they must set up the dining room.
Suvir is zen through all this – he finds the kitchen to be a theraputic, calming, magical place. I can attest to that SOMETIMES. I have gone to work frazzled and upset to find I have no food and have to go shopping on a day when time is tight – and yet, once I have the knife and the food in hand, and I’ve begun to cook, everything just calms down. Until I have fifteen minutes to go and thirty minutes of work ahead of me. Then I get frazzled again.
And now Curtis comes in and tells them they have 30 minutes fewer in which to cook. Hugh yells at people to simplify their dishes. John says this will kill his garnish. Suvir can’t. His is meant to be complex. He does have Celina taste for salt and corrects with more acid.
As Naomi goes to organize the dining room, Hugh decides to stop up and help Naomi. This is not a good idea. He should know that – you can’t have two chiefs.
And now there aren’t any waiters, either. Chefs can do service anyway they please. So now they have to cook, plate and SERVE their dishes. And everyone else’s. Plus do wine service.
Naomi thinks everyone should be finished cooking before the party starts, but Traci doesn’t think that’s possible for those with hot proteins, such as herself. She’s just going to not listen.
Allen Sytsma, editor of grubstreet.com, joins the critics.
First up is Mary Sue with her Tuna Ceviche with peruvian aji, amarillo on plaintain chips. They like the presentation but think it tastes flat.
Next is Suvir with Chick pea, yogurt and potato (chaat) salad from Northern India, with baby spinach. They love it – it’s delicious and diners are licking the plates. But it’s also well within his comfort zone. All I know is that I want it.
George has prepared Shrimp alhinho with pickled carrot, red beets and vanilla oil. The critics think it’s cooked perfectly but is a tad salty.
Then comes Naomi with her Celery veloute with salsa verde and finished with lemon oil. It looks absolutely delicious, and it apparently is – very rich and yummy. One critic wonders if maybe she’ll be hurting the rest of the meal because it’s so rich it’ll be hard to follow, but it’s every chef for themselves.
And now John is serving his Roasted shiitake and prociutto risotta with pine nuts and paprika. It’s a classic dish, although Allen questions the pine nuts. The problem is, it’s TOO classic. Nothing shouts pay $100.
Floyd has rice flaked sole with roasted cauliflower, apples and sundried ginger broth. This sounds so good to me. The critics agree – loud and bold and sweet and spicy. Some of the diners think the broth is too much.
There continues to be tension in the kitchen between Naomi and Hugh as they fight for dominance.
Alex serves roasted salmon with gazpacho vegetables, with toasted chili and tomatillo sauce. He knows it’s risky because people like differing degrees of doneness for their salmon, if they like it at all. And, indeed, that’s what happens.
Traci has the only meat dish – Roasted rib eye and slow cooked broccoli with red wine sauce and toasted shallots. Oh,YUM. It was clear she could cook meat, but Allen doesn’t like the vegetables. The younger critics, like him, think they’re overdone, but the older ones like that they’re cooked.
Hugh serves the first of the desserts – strawberry buttermilk panna cotta with black pepper (YUM) and champagne berry soup. Frozen blackberry seedlings. He’s very pleased and the critics are amazed he got them so perfect in the allotted time.
Celina serves the final course – chocolate puddin’ (sic) with ginger cake donut ( really a donut hole.) They like the taste of the donut but not the texture and generally do not like the puddin’. Suvir comments that it tastes more like packaged puddings than what he’s used to.
The chefs are happy they pulled off the meal, and Curtis is proud of the way they handled the curve balls. Then he asks to see Suvir and Naomi. They were the top finishers – Naomi got 43% of the vote, with $1800 going to her charity, and Suvir got 40% with $1700 for his. Naomi wins. They got a combined 83% of the votes, which means the remaining eight split 17%. It says a lot that Naomi’s very simple cream of celery soup basically crushed everyone but Suvir.
Mary Sue, Celina and John are on the bottom. While Mary Sue liked her ceviche, the critics found the pickled onion overpowered the rest of the dish. They admit that John’s risotto was delicious and classic, but that’s playing it too safe. Celina’s dessert tasted chalky and not very rich. They wonder if she likes the pastry kitchen, and James tells her to stay away from dessertville, since she’s done this several times.
In the end, John is sent home for being too safe, although they emphatically say he’s an amazing chef.
Neither of the other two took any chances either – there’s simply no risk in chocolate pudding and ginger donuts, and ceviche is hardly innovative anymore. On the other hand, John’s dish was delicious, which was not true for the others. I know Mary Sue is a celebrity and Celina nearly made to Iron Chefdom, but that shouldn’t be a pass for them. Both are also extraordinary chefs and Mary Sue won a few times, but that, too shouldn’t be enough.