Top Chef Texas: Episode 7 Recap

Before we start our recap of Top Chef: Texas tequila-and-game-meats episode, I’d like to offer a shout out to chef Hugh Acheson. In these posts I’ve tended to gloss over the judges’ contributions to Top Chef (after all, they’re not the ones competing), but last week it was brought to my attention that chef Hugh is a native of our nation’s capital. In the journalism game we call that “a hook.” Sure, it’s a small one, but the fact that Acheson grew up in Ottawa and began his career cooking at the renowned (though now closed) Café Henri Burger in Gatineau gives me an opportunity to pump up the city’s growing culinary reputation.

 Top Chef Texas Episode 7 - 1

 

I lived in O-town for a few years in the early aughts. Back then the scene struck me as a bit wanting. Sure, there was a smattering of hot spots (I recall a wonderful meal at Beckta during its early days), but overall Ottawa diners seemed to make do with some decent if overpriced boites in the Byward Market and a few stuffy rooms frequented by politicians and diplomats. Since then a number of creative chefs have brought their talents to bear at eclectic restaurants like Town, Taylor’s, Oz Kafe and Black Cat Bistro. Which is all to say, if you find yourself famished after a day touring Parliament Hill, make a point of checking out some of Ottawa’s now-numerous options for gastronomic satisfaction.

Anyway, back in our regularly scheduled, Texas-based programming, the aspiring top chefs were presented with a Quickfire Challenge requiring them to create a dish that would pair well with one of a few types of Don Julio premium tequila. From the get-go, Ty-Lör was positioned to win, seeing as how he’d been to the state in Mexico where tequila originates. I’m going to trust him on that, because I have absolutely zero experience with the agave-derived spirit. What I do know is that it’s gained quite a bit of popularity amongst alcohol connoisseurs.

 

Top Chef Texas Episode 7 - 2

“Good tequila is made to be sipped, similar to a wine or a nice craft beer,” noted this episode’s guest judge, Tim Love. I call this the hoity-toity tea test: if you’re told to sip a drink, it must be classy (disclosure: I just made that up, but it has a ring of truth, no?).

As I was saying, Ty-Lör knows his tequila, and even though the stakes were low in this quickfire (immunity was not up for grabs), the mustachioed chef redeemed his poor performance from last week. His winning dish, briny steamed clams in a fish caramel sauce—paired with Don Julio 1942 tequila—was apparently dreamed up on a beach in Thailand. Texas? Mexico? Thailand? How cosmopolitan!

 

Top Chef Texas Episode 7 - 3

 

Now, while I’m far from a tequila expert, I do have a little familiarity with game meats. Some of my favourite meals ever have revolved around deer, bison, rabbit and other such tasty proteins. The elimination challenge, in which the chefs paired up to prepare dishes from quail, elk, boar and the like, had me salivating (another disclosure: I wrote this post after eating a disappointing stuffed pepper for dinner).
Before sending the chef’s to Whole Foods, Padma tossed a few wrenches in the proceedings. Namely, the chefs themselves would be responsible for choosing the three worst dishes served in the six-course dinner. Both members of the losing pair would be sent home.

 

Top Chef Texas Episode 7 - 4

This was another challenge that offered a nice window into the culinary souls of our cheftestants. Last week I defended Heather’s assertiveness in the kitchen, but this week she basically just spent the day bullying her partner, the significantly more introverted Beverly (Heather was also unnecessarily arrogant during the “choosing of the losers” segment of the night). Grayson, too, was disappointed in Chris Jones for messing up some sort of too-creative sweet potato thingamabob; ever the professional, he was disappointed in himself, too. Two of the more level-headed chefs, Edward and Ty-Lör seemed to get along well—or, at least, they had no catty comments or blowouts worthy of being shown on camera. And heavens to Betsy! Their dish of quail with pickled cherries and eggplant was the chefs and judges favourite!

On the bottom end of this dual-elimination challenge were Nyesha and Dakota; the latter struck out by under-cooking her venison. For shame! Ruining a perfectly good cut of Bambi like that.

So, did the judges rule justly in this case? Can you imagine the carnage if it had been Heather who was sent home, dragging poor Beverly behind her?
Craig Craig
Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.

Question of the Week: What’s the Last Over-the-Top Dish You Ate?

For this week’s Question of the Week, we caught up with You Gotta Eat Here! host, John Catucci, and asked him to weigh in on the following question:

What’s the last over-the-top dish you ate?

overthetopdish

Check out the video below to see what John had to say! Then, leave us a comment and let us know what your last over-the-top dish was.

Related

Recipe to Riches Returns, Casting Call Announced!

It’s official! We’ll be receiving a ‘second helping’ of Recipe to Riches! The national casting officially opens today as the team begins the new search for Canadian home cooks with a recipe worth $250,000. Interested contestants are encouraged to register for their audition city, date and time at recipetoriches.ca.

RtoRCasting2
Evaluating the auditions in each city will be returning judges Laura Calder, host of French Food at Home; Tony Chapman, Founder and CEO of leading advertising agency Capital C; and Dana McCauley, Culinary Director of Janes Family Foods.
Contestants will compete in one of seven culinary categories including:

  1. Hors d’oeuvres
  2. Cakes, puddings and pies
  3. Savoury snacks
  4. Entrées
  5. Condiments and dips
  6. Candies and chocolates
  7. Cookies and squares

Auditions will be held in four cities on the following dates:

  • Halifax: February 11
  • Vancouver: February 18
  • Montreal: February 25
  • Toronto: March 4

To keep tabs on what’s new and what Canadians are saying about Recipe to Riches, check out the Recipe to Riches page on Facebook at facebook.com/recipetoriches or follow @RecipetoRiches on Twitter.

Top Chef Texas: Episode 6 Recap

For some reason the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about sauces is Apocalypse Now. You may not remember, but there’s a guy on Martin Sheen’s gunboat that everyone calls Chef, and he explains it’s because he’s from New Orleans and was “raised to be a saucier.” For a long time I thought that was an absurdly specific career path, but based on Top Chef: Texas’s latest quickfire challenge, it’s evident that the ability to make a stellar sauce truly is a special skill, one that can be underappreciated by diners.

TC6A

Said test was for each chef to prepare a dish incorporating his or her own take on one of Escoffier’s “mother sauces”—bechamel, espagnole, hollandaise, tomate and velouté—the sauces from which all other sauces are derived.

Something I didn’t know: apparently there is a debate over whether certain of these mother sauces require a roux. Guest judge Dean Fearing called out Paul and Whitney on their lack of the thickening agent. Did their disrespect of strict classicism cost them the challenge? We’ll never know. Paul’s offering was one of chef Fearing’s top three picks, but it was Grayson’s scallops with charred corn hollandaise, corn ravioli and blueberry balsamic reduction that best pleased the judge’s palate.

TCB

But enough of all this namby-pamby French stuff! This is Texas after all. Padma quickly tossed out the sauce and doubled down on the meat, announcing an elimination challenge the required the chefs to cook a four-course steak dinner for 200 guests at the Cattle Barons’ Ball.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really starting to dig Edward’s style, and it’s not just because he reminds me of one of my good friends. He really took charge when it came to menu planning and ensuring all the chefs were on-point with their prep work. I imagine it takes more than a bit of moxie to wrangle so many Type-A chefs in the same kitchen. Alternately, Heather started to catch some flack from her fellow chefs. I guess they find her a little overly assertive? To me, it just seemed as though she knew what she was doing and wasn’t afraid to show it.

TC6C

Oh! Ty-Lör cut his hand open! Apparently, he was at the emergency room until 6 a.m. waiting to get stitched up. The injury didn’t seem like it would hobble him too severely, but he did end up having some trouble with the steaks (he was the designated grill man); miscommunication with the kitchen made for some inconsistently cooked meat. Fortunately for Ty-Lör, Nyesha’s sauce saved the day.

Whitney, though, had some trouble with her potato gratin. All the judges agreed that it was, basically, not cooked. For her inability to master this simple side dish, she was sent home.

TC6F

And the winner? Supposedly-bossy Heather took home the gold (in the form of a brand new car) for her peach cake dessert. It looked like a nice, light end to a big ol’ Texas feast, and to some, anyway, a justified victory for a chef who was on this day fully in command of the kitchen.

Last Time on Last Chance Kitchen:

Cheered on by previously eliminated chefs Andrew, Richie and Keith, Chuy and Whitney went at it in a burger battle. Each was asked to create the American classic using unorthodox lean meat—Chuy had ostrich, Whitney was given elk. They both did everything they could to ensure their protein remained moist and was spritely seasoned, but the consensus opinion was in favour of Whitney’s offering. Perhaps it was the egg on top that did it? Watch Last Chance Kitchen: Whitney vs. Chuy

Craig Craig Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.

Top Chef Texas: Episode 5 Recap

We went from down-and-out to high society in episode five of Top Chef: Texas, as the contestants tested their skills in a quickfire challenge using a back country survival kit, then scrambled to cook in one of Dallas’s wealthiest neighbourhoods.

 

Top Chef Texas

 

After their exhausting rodeo chili cook-off, the cheftestants packed up their digs in San Antonio and hit the road for the city they call Big D. Surprise! They made it only partway before being stopped by a state trooper and detoured into a muddy field, where Padma and guest judge chef John Besh awaited for the quickfire.
Before we go further, I have to ask: can just anyone hire the Texas police to setup a roadblock? The state is known, of course, as a bastion of free enterprise, but aren’t there some institutions that just shouldn’t be up for sale? Even to an innocuous cooking show?

 

Anyway, it was fun to see Chris Jones sprint, Tom Cruise-style, to the nearby cornfield in hopes of adding that extra something to his dish, which was to be composed of the canned and dried ingredients found in a “survival kit.” Texas, of course, is coming off an epic drought, so the ear he found wasn’t much to write home about.

Top Chef Texas Episode 5 - 1

 

Overall the chefs did display a certain resourcefulness (this city boy would be lucky to get a flame going on the kerosene burner), but I was disappointed that Edward’s dish—seemingly one of the only offerings that wasn’t “mess hall”-inspired—didn’t come out on top. Instead it was Lindsay’s play on a soup and sandwich combo, featuring Saltines and canned Vienna sausages, which earned the win and immunity.

Top Chef Texas Episode 5 - 3

 

The elimination challenge was one that my mom and her book club would have no doubt enjoyed. The chefs were tasked with preparing a progressive dinner for Dallas’ frou-frou set. Ty-Lör, having cooked for the likes of “Bill Gates, rock stars and movie stars,” seemed confident in his abilities; Dakota, on the other hand, regretted being placed in another dessert squad.

Personally, I found the “get to know the hosts” segment interesting. The chefs were given so many requests and restrictions, one gets an understanding of why they cook in restaurants—where they tell you what you’re going to eat—rather than catering kitchens, where the customer is always right.

Also, how come nobody likes cilantro? What’s with these Dallas socialites?

The dishes themselves didn’t strike me as the best that the contestants had ever envisioned. Everyone seemed to offer fairly generic mélanges of vegetables, slightly overcooked meats, and over thought desserts. That said, at least Chris Jones’s roasted chicken “cigar” with cumin and sesame “ash” took the hosts’ personality into account. (At judges table we learned that he didn’t pull off the concept successfully).

 

Top Chef Texas Episode 5 - 2

 

Ultimately, however, it was Paul’s roasted Brussels sprout appetizer that was deemed best of a fairly pedestrian carte. The Texas-based chef impressed both the judges and the party hosts with his simple yet texturally elegant dish. On the bottom end? Chuy’s overdone salmon with mealy goat’s cheese.

So whaddaya think? Was it really time for the “Chu-Chu Train” to make tracks? Or was there some other chef who earned your ire in this episode?

Last Time on Last Chance Kitchen
I’m sure Keith hoped that his third time in the LCK would be a charm. He battled Chuy in a challenge to butcher five bone-in rib-eye steaks and cook one of them to perfection. Tom seemed satisfied with both their efforts, but had to give the win to self-proclaimed “steak purist” Chuy. His meat was just seared ever so slightly better. Watch Last Chance Kitchen: Chuy vs. Keith.

 

 

Craig MoyCraig Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.

 

 

 

Question of the Week: What’s Your Favourite Comfort Food Dish?

Winter is definitely in full swing and the colder weather has many of us wanting to warm up to some cozy and soothing food delights. So, for this week’s Question of the Week, we caught up with Chuck Hughes and asked him:

What’s your favourite comfort food dish?

Poutine

Watch the video below and see what Chuck had to say! Then, have your say and let us know which comfort food dish you love the most.

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Scavenger Hunt: FNC’s 13 Days of Giveaways

Giveaway

It’s time for a giveaway don’t you think? Really, we never get enough for free these days. Well Food Network Canada is here to change that. We believe that everyone deserves a little something special, and hopefully you’ll be our next winner.

Starting February 6th, we’ll be giving away 13 amazing prize packs. The beauty with this giveaway is that not only will you get one item, but a themed foodie package. From baking to drinks, we’ve got you covered. All you have to do is follow the clues to win. More information will come down the pipeline, so be sure to mark your calendars for Monday February 6, 2012 and keep your eyes posted for our next giveaway blog post!

 

Carrot and Coriander Soup

Winter is now in full force and Montreal is covered under a heavy blanket of snow, so we are now officially in soup weather. I like this soup because it’s both rich and comforting, but also more vibrant than other typical winter soups like beef & barley. Carrot & coriander is a classic combination, so in this recipe I use both ground coriander seeds and fresh coriander leaves (cilantro). Toasting the ground seeds with the onions gives the soup a rich, nutty aroma and the fresh cilantro brings a welcome brightness on a cold winter’s day.

 

Carrot and Coriander Soup

 

When choosing the carrots, look for smaller ones, because they will be sweeter and less bitter than over-sized carrots. Carrots that are sold with the green tops still attached tend to be of a higher quality than those sold without. Leftover soup will keep well in the freezer.
Carrot and Coriander Soup
Prep time: 15 min. Cooking time: 35 minutes. Serves 8
Ingredients
900g (2lbs)          carrots, peeled & chopped
150g (1 1/2 cups) onions, chopped
2 cloves              fresh garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons         ground coriander
150 ml (5 oz)       35% cream
60g (2 1/4 oz)      butter
1/2 bunch            cilantro (coriander leaves) chopped
2L (4 pints)          vegetable stock (optional)
Olive oil, salt & pepper
1. Add the onions, 30g butter and ground coriander to a large sauce pot and sauté on medium-high heat until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper, add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes.
2. Add the carrots and cover with 2L (4 pints) water or vegetable stock. Simmer on medium low heat until the carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes.
3. Transfer the soup to a blender, add 100ml cream and the remaining butter, one tbs at a time while blending.
4. Divide the soup into bowls, drizzle with cream and garnish with fresh cilantro.

 

Derek Bocking Profile PhotoDerek Bocking is a professional chef with over 15 years of culinary experience. On his blog, Derek’s Kitchen,
he shares restaurant-style recipes for amateur gourmets to try at home,
from quick and easy meals to more elaborate showstoppers.

 

Top 5 Dishes to Try (and Live to Tell the Story)

Facing one’s food fears and embracing the spirit of culinary adventure can be both liberating and thrilling. The following options are not for the faint of heart and may either give you reason to chuckle or recoil. Of course, that depends on where you come from…

Sannakji
Sannakji is a dish that fully embodies the Circle of Life song from The Lion King. Live baby octopus is sliced up, marinated with sesame oil, dried red chili, and soya sauce then topped with toasted sesame seeds. Still writhing when presented (octopi have multiple brains located in each appendage which move independently) each living morsel must be chewed thoroughly to avoid having the suction cups attach to your throat. Not sure if this delicacy will catch on outside of the peninsula, but it is a sure bet that it would be unlike anything you’ve ever had before.

Prairie Oysters
Prairie oysters are an odd euphemism for testicles. Whether from bulls, sheep or buffalo, this delicacy has always held a symbolic role as a source of fertility. Served poached or fried in a variety of ways, it seems cowboys and ranchers in North America have been chewing on more than just tobacco when home on the range.

Chow Tofu
Chow Tofu, which literally translates to “stinky tofu,” lives up to its name in every way. Served on bamboo skewers and topped with a chili-speckled jelly, the Chinese have been enjoying this fast food for centuries. By allowing the soy-based custard to over-ferment, a wrinkled skin forms on the exterior while the centre decays to release a strange, earthy scent of decay. One cannot accuse the vendors of false advertising.

Balut
Balut, enjoyed in countries like the Philippines and Cambodia, is a fertilized duck or chicken egg that is boiled and served in the shell. The embryo is semi developed and has a delicate flesh that is both gluttonous and firm. If you can get past the obvious form and shape of the contents found in the shell, you will be surprised to find that it tastes a lot like chicken.

Snake Soup
On a late night trip to one of my favorite haunts in Chinatown, I was informed by my waiter that they were featuring a snake soup of the day. The snake (of unknown origin) was skinned, segmented into 2″ sections and boiled in an excellent broth. It’s hard to tell whether the snake added to the flavour of the soup, but in seeing the skeletal remains at the bottom of my bowl, I immediately thought of a couple from hallowed antiquity that might consider my menu choice an apt end for this reptile.

 

Top 5 Culinary Travel Itineraries

Barcelona
Bathed in history and culture, this city by the sea is known for its beaches, bazaars and of course, tapas. Originally meant as an accompaniment to wine, these small plates of varied flavours have been elevated by skilled masters such as Ferran Adria and Santi Santamaria far and above their humble origins. On a given tour of this city’s unique landscape, you would be hard pressed to eat the same dish twice. From local haunts to Michelin-ranked temples of cuisine, Barcelona is a limitless landscape of flavours built one small plate at time.

Singapore
This former British colony boasts one of the most diverse mix of cultures and peoples anywhere in the world. Owing to its central location in the South East Asian rim, Malaysian, Indian and Indonesian influences blend with Chinese and Western cultures. From the city state’s iconic chicken rice to black pepper crab, Singaporeans count eating as part of their identity and this fickle audience is always on the hunt for the next best place. From five star boites to street stands lit by candles, one can easily find themselves eating far beyond their usual limits. But, with this much variety always at the ready, it’s hard not to.

Buenos Aires
This land of tango and mountain range beef is replete with all manner of foods carried over by its various European settlers. A meat lover’s paradise, the local favourite is called the el asado and is comprised of grilled steak, sausages, small intestines, kidneys, and blood sausage. But, don’t let this cavalcade of carne throw you off. The city’s perch on the Rio de La Plata makes seafood plentiful and ceviche a national obsession. Add to this, the new generation of Asian- and European-influenced restaurants serving everything from sashimi and classical Spanish to French fare, you will find Buenos Aires is a world within a city.

Turin
In the northern region of Piedmonte, Italy, this former capital is storied for its political, academic, and artistic history. And, with its proximity to Barolo, the local wine bars and restaurants boast an enviable list of reds from the many wineries in the region that have been honing their craft for centuries. However, to really appreciate what this city has to offer, book your trip in October when truffles are in season and even the smallest of trattorias boast menus overflowing with shaved bliss.

San Francisco
Considered by many as one of the best food cities in the U.S., the city by the bay has long enjoyed its surroundings to produce some of the best food anywhere. Seasonal and local is a way of life for cooks here, and a new generation of chefs are redefining California cuisine. From the Mission District to North Beach, a whole new class of restaurants are challenging norms and bringing high-quality fare to the masses. Hubert Keller, Michel Mina and Gary Danko have all helped to cement San Francisco’s reputation as a place where eating well is not only possible, but probable.

 

 

 

Top Chef Texas: Episode 4 Recap

Some liked it hotter than others on the fourth episode of Top Chef: Texas. Me, I’m generally a mild- to medium-heat kind of guy; I’ll take the odd jalapeno or chipotle pepper, but that’s about as spicy as my weak little taste buds can take.

 

Top Chef Texas

 

Chef Paul Qui, on the other hand, turned up the heat all the way up to 11 in the quickfire challenge, which had the competitors creating dishes to highlight a variety of different peppers. The chilies that ranked higher on the Scoville scale offered a riskier test, but also greater monetary reward for the victor. I’d always thought the habanero was the hottest “cooking” pepper, but Paul’s chosen ghost pepper, at one million Scoville units, is apparently more than twice as hot as the little orange “hab.” His daring decision paid off—guest judges Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken gave the win to his chilled coconut soup with kaffir lime and ghost chili.

 

Top Chef Texas Episode 4 - 1

 

After that, the contestants split into five teams for a classic Texas throwdown—an all-night chili cook-off, to be prepared at the Top Chef house, and served to 200 cowboys and rodeo regulars. Again, I am in awe of the chef’s brassiness at the grocery store butcher’s counter. How they managed to all get out of there with dozens of pounds of brisket is beyond me. Back at the house, they impressed with on-the-fly ingenuity, claiming any cooking surface available, from barbecues to stovetops to the gigantic outdoor fireplace. What I wouldn’t give for a nice little cooking fire some days (yes, I live in a 700-square-foot apartment).

Top Chef Texas Episode 4 - 2

 

At the Tejas Rodeo, the teams revealed the precise science of reheating chili. Basically: never, never, never stop stirring. Once the cowboys arrived, talk turned to authenticity. The green and red teams went traditional, making their dishes Texas-style, meaning without any beans. Perhaps this is sacrilege, but for me, chili without beans isn’t chili. They thicken the mix and add texture. And they’re healthy to boot. I’m gonna say it: without beans, it’s just a spicy beef stew. Of course, I’m not a chef, nor am I a Texan, so what do I know?

 

Top Chef Texas Episode 4 - 3

 

I’ll tell you what I know: the green team (Chris Crary, Chuy and Sarah) triumphed. On the other hand, the black team (Beverly, Nyesha and Richie), told that they were the losers, had to compete against each other to repurpose the ingredients from their chili into a winning offering. Sadly, the result was the breaking up of the Moto duo, as Richie was sent packing for a frito-crusted pork tenderloin that was deemed “one note.”

Last Time on Last Chance Kitchen:
The opportunity for redemption came quickly for Richie, courtesy of the Last Chance Kitchen. In another repurposing test, the chefs were asked to make a dish using leftovers from a Thanksgiving feast. Keith went homestyle with his offering, while Richie presented a more stylized plate. Though he managed to overcome a salt mishap, the little guy from Chicago couldn’t best the big bear—Keith won his second last chance challenge. Watch Last Chance Kitchen: Richie vs. Keith.
 

Craig MoyCraig Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Chef Texas: Episode 3 Recap

Last week on Top Chef Texas, a group of 29 aspiring, well, top chefs was sliced and diced to 16 over the course of three furious qualifying challenges.

Top Chef Texas

 

As an entrée to episode three, we got a glimpse of the remaining competitors chillaxing in a San Antonio villa. Unlike seasons past, the overriding vibe I get from these chefs is that they’re all super-professional and really respect one another. Perhaps that’ll change as the competition progresses; aren’t chefs supposed to be all self-absorbed and back-stabby?

For now, anyway, they seemed to have camaraderie in the kitchen—where they set to work on their first quickfire challenge, featuring that true Texas treat, rattlesnake. Did anyone else think the chefs would have to kill their own snakes? As for the dishes themselves, the majority were fried. In my opinion, that’s probably a safe bet. If I was to be served snake, I’d want it cooked to within an inch of its gamey life (and even then I might not eat it). But, apparently it’s quite a delicate meat; the chefs at the bottom of the quickfire presented too-chewy snake meat, or snake that was overwhelmed by other flavours.

Top Chef Texas Episode - The Chefs in the Kitchen

 

The victor? Chef Dakota, who heard “snake” and thought “beer,” and earned immunity with her beer-battered snake (obviously). I thought chef Paul’s Korean-inspired dish looked lovely, but if the flavour wasn’t there…

On to the elimination challenge, post-haste! As usual, the chefs split into two teams to create memorable party menus for a 14-going-on-15-year-old girl.

I’ll tell ya, I was impressed by Beverly’s take-no-prisoners attitude at the supermarket. Jumping the queue at the butcher’s counter is a personal dream of mine. Back in the kitchen, Keith caused the first bit of controversy when it was discovered he purchased pre-cooked shrimp for his team’s menu. Would that oversight come back to haunt him?

Top Chef Texas Episode 3 - The Chefs at the Grocery Store

At the quinceañera, guest of honour Blanca Flores was a surprisingly adept critic, offering very on-the-nose comments on taste, texture, flavour and the like. The real judges had a major bone to pick with both teams for using store-bought tortillas. And well they should have! Practically every main that was offered had some tortilla element. There must be more to Mexican cuisine!

In the end, the green team reigned supreme. Clearly the right decision. Led by self-proclaimed goat expert Chuy, they were, in the words of Tom Colicchio, “a little more authentic, a little truer to what [the judges] were looking for.”

There was mucho finger pointing at judges’ table, as Keith exclaimed that he was being “thrown under the bus” for his mistaken purchase of pre-cooked shrimp and apparently erroneous use of flour instead of corn tortillas for his enchiladas. Authenticity counts, my friend! But, it’s clear that communication was lacking in the pink team’s kitchen—listening to the judges, the team’s entire menu was a failure.

Top Chef Texas Espidoe 3 - At the Quinceanera

It may have been a team challenge, but Top Chef is ultimately an individual’s competition. And so, for his sins, Keith found himself packing up his knives and walking out of the kitchen.

Until…

Last Time on Last Chance Kitchen:
After being given the boot, Keith got some consolation by winning the last-chance battle against Andrew. Given 10 minutes to create a six-ingredient dish, the former made good use of his seafood expertise in a clam ceviche and steamed clams with pancetta. The Peruvian staple has been a hot dish for a few years now, and Keith’s East Coast interpretation helped him ride the trend to victory.Watch Keith vs. Andrew online now!

 

Top Chef Texas airs Mondays at 9pm ET on Food Network Canada. 

 

Craig MoyCraig Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.

 

 

 

 

 

Related:

Make the Travel Destinations You Visit Better Through Voluntourism

Always wanted to visit a far-flung locale? Make it happen while leaving it a little better than you found it. There are a plethora of “voluntourism” opportunities available for you to take part in that will help change the lives of people around the globe. We’ve chosen five options for you to enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences while making the world a better place.

 

1. Farming in the Hebrides

WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) (www.wwoof.org/index.asp) helps place volunteers with farmers in need of assistance with the day-to-day running of their “crofts” (small farms). One of the more remote opportunities for volunteers is on the Hebridean island of Eigg in Scotland. Through WWOOF, you can arrange for placements allowing you to help local organizations, such as Grow2Grow, where volunteers help young adults overcome their challenges by working together in an organic garden. While walking the white sandy beaches and enjoying the turquoise waters, you’ll quickly appreciate why the Hebrides have been a destination on people’s bucket lists for years.

2. Sudan Volunteer Programme

Modern-day Sudan was once the powerful Kingdom of Kush, a thriving civilization that excelled in metal production and succeeded in staving off advances from the mighty Egyptians, and even Alexander the Great. Today, volunteers regularly arrive in Khartoum, the capital, to work with university and high school students to help improve their English-language skills through the U.K.-based organization Sudan Volunteer Programme (http://svp-uk.com/). Undergraduates and grad students are eligible, but must pay for their own airfare, in exchange for accommodation and a small monthly salary.

3. Zambia, Beyond Sport Integrated

Explorers have been arriving in Zambia for thousands of years, most famously British explorer David Livingstone, who discovered the spectacular falls he christened “Victoria.” One of the poorest nations in Africa, many people here suffer from HIV/AIDS. Beyond Sports Integrated (http://beyondsportintegrated.com/Beyond_Sport_Integrated/Beyond_Sport.html) is a Zambian-based organization that needs volunteers to help children aged 10 to 18 learn through sports and play. Volunteers spend hours every day running drills, playing soccer, and teaching children many of their own favourite games¾voluntourism at its most fun.

4. Camino de Santiago, Spain

Possibly one of the most famous pilgrims’ trails, the Way of St. James in northern Spain is on many people’s bucket lists. People from around the world have been walking this 500-mile journey for centuries. It attracts both religious and non-religious pilgrims who seek the solitude and challenge the Camino offers; if you walk from one end to the other, it will take you six weeks to complete, giving you plenty of time for soulful reflection. Many use their trek as a means of raising money for their charity of choice through sponsorships from friends and family. For more info, use advice and tips from the Global Volunteer Network (http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/about/).

 

5. Build Homes through Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village

Habitat for Humanity has been helping families build their own homes throughout North America since 1976. Now volunteers can take part in building projects around the world. Volunteers pay for their trip, between $1,000US and $2,500US (not including airfare), while the recipient family contributes time to the effort, as well as paying back a no-interest mortgage. Those monthly loan payments, along with donations and contributions of building materials, help build homes for others. This year there is several special interest projects available to choose from, including a build of energy-efficient green homes in Mongolia and a project to build 40 homes in Nepal http://www.habitat.org/gv/special_interest_builds.aspx).

More Links for Voluntourism

Kiva.org: http://www.kiva.org/fellows

Azafady: http://www.madagascar.co.uk/

Pepy: http://pepyride.org/

 

How to Improve Your Community Through Food

It’s that time of the year when families like to gather for large, hearty meals and to reconnect with each other. It’s also the time when many of us decide to make changes in our lives, to better ourselves or help others. This year, why not combine the two? There are dozens of ways you can combine your love of food while making people’s lives better. Here are just a few.

 

Become a backyard gardener

Families have been growing produce in their backyards for generations, but the newest twist is to open your private space to urban gardeners who then donate the food to local charities and food banks. Families often take a cut of whatever is grown. How perfect! Fresh food and someone else does the hard work. There are also groups that will come in and harvest the fruit from your fruit trees. Check out these organizations:

 

Young Urban Farmers (www.youngurbanfarmers.com)

Food Share (www.foodshare.net/garden02.htm)

Not Far From the Tree (www.notfarfromthetree.org/about/what-we-do)

Fruit Share (www.fruitshare.ca/about-us/)

Sharing Backyards (www.sharingbackyards.com)

 

Send your seeds abroad

If you don’t have the backyard space to help, you can make a difference by saving the seeds from the fruit you eat and mailing them to an organization that sends them to farmers in Africa. It’s easy and costs nothing but postage and the fruit you were going to eat anyway. Visit Seeds for Food (http://www.seedsforfood.org) for details on how to prepare and send your seeds.

 

If you can stand the heat, get in the kitchen!

Why not share your skills with someone who doesn’t know a paring knife from a meat cleaver? Calgary’s SouperStars (http://www.communitykitchenprogram.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=55&Itemid=61) is run through the city’s Community Kitchen program and teaches children how to prepare nutritious meals. If you don’t have something similar in your own city, you can start one. Fresh Choice Kitchens (http://communitykitchens.ca/main/?en&History) is a community program in B.C. that offers tips on how to do it.

 

Become the next cooking star

Okay, even if you don’t become the next FoodNetwork Canada superstar, you can still publish a cookbook of family and friends’ favorite recipes then donate the proceeds to a charity in Canada or around the world. Check out Cook in a Book (http://www.cookinabook.com/index.html) or FundCraft (http://www.fundcraft.com/fundraising-cookbooks/index.asp) for how-to tips.

 

Bake for a cause

Is everyone always begging you to make your gran’s cinnamon oatmeal raisin cookies? Take orders for batches with tips from Gretchen Witt who raised $400,000 for pediatric cancer research by baking 96,000 cookies with 250 volunteers. She shares tips on how to run your own über-bake sale on her website, Cookies for Kids with Cancer (https://www.cookiesforkidscancer.org/AboutUs.asp).

 

The host with the most

Hold a themed dinner party to raise money for your charity of choice and charge friends and family for their participation. You can also simply let people know you’re hosting the dinner for charity and allow them to make contributions on their own. Consider your cause when planning the menu, such as making cuisine from a country that’s suffered a natural disaster or by only using foods grown within 100-miles for an environmental cause. Make sure you print out pamphlets or provide information for your guests so you can help them understand why you’ve chosen this charity to receive your support.

 

Now, get ready to change the world, once recipe at a time.

 

 

Question of the Week: When You Dine at a Diner, Do You Prefer to Sit at a Booth or at the Counter?

For this week’s Question of the Week, we caught up with You Gotta Eat Here! host, John Catucci, and asked him to ponder this most INTRIGUING diner dining query:

When you dine at a diner, do you prefer to sit at a booth or at the counter?

diner

Check out the video below to see what John had to say!

Related

Ask an Expert: Which Organic Foods Should I Buy at the Grocery Store?

This week we asked the authors of Unjunk Your Junk Food to give us their tips on buying organic produce at the grocery store. Organic always seems to be so much more expensive! Are there food items we should definitely splurge on and others we can be more frugal about?

organic

Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes their Dirty Dozen list.This year, they recommend that these foods should definitely be bought organic: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, imported nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, and kale/collard greens.

As for those which can be purchased non-organic, your best bets are: onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mango, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon. Also, you can get away with buying sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms that are not organic.

Related

Local Canadian Eateries Shine In New Series, You Gotta Eat Here

Through my day job in Toronto I’ve become acquainted with a lot of foodies, and perhaps have become a bit of one myself. While we all enjoy indulging at the city’s absolute top restaurants, we also take pride in knowing all the best neighbourhood nooks—those welcoming little eateries that serve up no-fuss comfort fare you keep coming back for.

 

John Catucci

There are dozens of such local restaurants in Toronto; no doubt there are hundreds more across the rest of the country.

Which is to say that the new Food Network program You Gotta Eat Here could potentially profile Canada’s comfort food favourites from now until the next decade, if not longer.

The debut episode saw host John Catucci (think a geekier, more urbane version of Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) heading into the kitchens of three local gems: Stratford, Ontario poutinerie Boomers Gourmet Fries; John’s Place in Victoria, B.C.; and Relish Burgers in London, Ontario.

Now, I do my level best to maintain a moderately healthy diet, and so try not to eat too many meals whose main ingredients are some manner of meat, gravy and/or cream sauce, and melted cheese. But good gracious! Did some of the dishes on the premiere look mouthwatering or what?

Take, for example, Stratford’s favourite potatoes-and-cheese snack. Apparently, when they’re not putting on their famous Shakespearean festival, residents of this town are downing one of many types of poutine at Boomers Gourmet Fries. Of course there’s a traditional option with simple curds and gravy, but what really whet my appetite was the zestier-sounding black bean and chili fries. I wonder if Justin Bieber has a favourite? YGEH’s Catucci sure did—every single one he tasted.

In the coming episodes we’ll feast our hungry eyes on everything from Neapolitan pizza in Montreal, deep-fried seafood in Cowichan Bay, B.C., an enormous surf-and-turf platter at the Saint John Alehouse in New Brunswick, and smoked everything at Hadley’s in Toronto.

I’m looking forward to discovering these and many more of Canada’s great local eateries, and maybe even planning an excursion to one or two of them. Before that, though, I’d love to hear what your personal favourites are. Where are those places that you’ve just gotta eat at?

 

Watch You Gotta Eat Here Fridays at 9pm ET and Sundays at 4pm ET on Food Network Canada. 
Craig Moy Craig
Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about
all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.

How to Host a Dumpling Making Party

Although they’re a traditional dish at
Lunar New Year feasts, dumplings can be enjoyed all year round. When steamed they
are soft and savoury; when fried they offer delectable crunch, but no matter
how they’re prepared, dumplings are pillows of comfort to the hungry.

There is, however, a price for the flavour
value dumplings provide: preparing them is hard work. But, hosting a dumpling
party is the perfect antidote to the monotony of stuffing and pinching.
Transformed into a social activity, repetition becomes a side-note, a whispered
tone that is lost amidst dominant chords of fun and community.

First
Things First

The host sets the tone for the party, and
it’s your choice how structured you want your dumpling fest to be. To keep
things simple for your guests (but more involved for you), prepare all tools
and ingredients in advance, and simply invite friends to attend and assemble. Alternatively,
you can host the party potluck style, asking everyone to pitch in by bringing
their own ingredients and tools.

Once all the guests and ingredients are together,
the fun of assembly begins. Some dumpling parties will assume a natural rhythm,
a communal assembly line of filling, pinching, and cooking, and others will
require more direction from the host, but whether you plan to organize your
people, or allow for freeform expression, it’s a good idea to make a few
practice dumplings yourself so you can give tutorials on the fine art of dumpling
stuffing.

How
to Make the Dumplings

1.
Lay a wrapper flat, mound about
a tablespoonful of filling in the centre, fold it into a half-moon and pinch-pleat
across the top so the filling is snugly contained. Don’t fret if your dumplings
look less than perfect—a tightly-filled dumpling will taste good no matter how
it looks, and even a loose dumpling can benefit the party.

2.
If it falls apart during
boiling it will help create a savoury broth that can be enjoyed after all the
other dumplings have been cooked. If you’re worried about your instructional
skills, treat your guests to a special presentation of one of YouTube’s many
dumpling-making tutorials.

3.
Place uncooked dumplings on
parchment lined pans, and avoid letting the sticky parcels touch as separating
them is next to impossible.

4.
It’s best to designate one
person to be in charge of each method of cooking: to prevent sticking, boiled
dumplings should not be overcrowded and are done when they rise to the top of
the pot (approximately 6 minutes). Silky steamed dumplings can be prepared in a
bamboo steamer and are done when the skins become translucent (approximately 8
minutes). To fry, carefully add steamed dumplings to a hot, oil-coated frying
pan and crisp until golden. 

The fillings listed below are specific to
Northeast Asian cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year, but don’t feel
limited to those flavours. Indian samosas, Slavic perogies, Latin American
empanadas and Italian ravioli all have very different wraps and fillings, but
they share the same stuff-and-savour concept as dumplings. Their fillings can
easily be packed into dumpling wrappers—often with surprisingly tasty
results.

Potential
Fillings

·
Ground pork, beef, chicken or
lamb, blend to a paste

·
Shrimp, deveined and chopped

·
Scallops and crab, chopped

·
Scrambled eggs, finely chopped

·
Soft tofu, pressed and strained

·
Nappa cabbage, finely chopped

·
Carrots, finely diced

·
Spring onions, finely chopped

·
Oyster, shitake, enoki, and/or
button mushrooms, finely diced

·
Zucchini slivers

·
Kimchi, finely chopped

·
Watercress or spinach,
blanched, drained and squeezed to eliminate excess moisture

·
Sweet potato or glass noodles,
oiled to prevent sticking and chopped into small pieces

·
Ginger, crushed

·
Garlic, crushed

·
Fresh, finely chopped herbs
like dill, fennel, and cilantro

·
Dried herbs like garlic powder,
ginger powder, cumin, and turmeric

Wrappers
Buying fresh store-bought dumpling skins or wonton wrappers will save a ton of
time.  Freeze unused wrappers for your
next party.

Sauce
Ingredients

·
One or more types of soy sauce
(low sodium, tamari, ponzu, or a mix

·
Rice wine vinegar

·
Chili sauce or flakes

·
Fish sauce

·
Sesame oil

·
Sesame seeds

·
Sugar

·
Grated ginger

Assembly
Tools

·
Clean, flat surfaces for
assembling – countertops, tables or cutting boards

·
Bowls of water for rinsing
fingers and fixing dough

·
Bowls for each guest to concoct
their own fillings

·
Tape, paper and markers for
labeling

·
Clean, parchment-lined pans for
stashing uncooked dumplings

·
Plastic wrap to ensure uncooked
dumplings stay moist

Cooking
Tools
Pots and slotted spoons for boiling, bamboo trays
for steaming, frying pans, oil, and spatulas for frying

Safety
Tips
Leave the raw meats to adults. Keep bowls of water
and towels handy for wiping mucky surfaces, and encourage your guests to wash
their hands frequently. Kids can stay (relatively) clean and safe making
dumplings with vegetables and pre-cooked fillings like tofu and scrambled eggs.

Tasty
Combos

·
Pork, fennel and dill

·
Tofu and kimchi

·
Beef, ginger, scallion and
glass noodles

·
Lamb, garlic and cilantro

·
Chicken, cabbage, carrot, and
ginger

You can find handy
recipes for dumpling and sauces
right here on our website, but remember:
experimentation is the spice of a dumpling party.

Be creative, have fun, and above all kung hei fat choi! (Happy New Year!)

Bite-sized Roast Beef Sandwich

I’m a sucker for cute little things. I adore the little teeny-tiny single serving Heinz Ketchup and Tabasco bottles we serve with the steak tartar at Beaver Hall. Maybe it’s because I’m not the tallest man and holding one makes me feel like a giant. Maybe that’s why I love making these “sandwiches” so much. It’s fun to be able to wolf down a whole roast beef sandwich in one bite.

 

Rustic Meatballs With Mandarin Orange And Fennel Sauce

 

To make these bites you could save some time by buying pre-made, pre-sliced roast beef, but the quality of what you find at the grocery store is usually pretty sub-par. I want to show you a little trick that will give an ordinary steak the flavour and texture of roast beef. I use a Ziplock bag and large pot of warm water to cook the steak “sous-vide” and then give it a quick sear in a smoking hot pan.

 

To do this style of cooking, a professional kitchen might have a high-tech piece of gear called an immersion circulator that will keep a water bath at a precise temperature. At home, a large pot of water with a thermometer will do the trick. This way the steak will cook gently in the warm water bath and you can achieve the texture of a 5lbs roast that has been cooking for hours with a 1″ steak that has been cooking for minutes. One 8oz (250g) steak will make 20-25 bites.

Start to finish 30 minutes. Makes 25 bites.

  • 1 250g (8oz) strip loin steak
  • 50ml creamed horseradish*
  • 5 gherkins, thinly sliced
  • Montreal steak spice
  • Dijon mustard
  • 25 mini toast slices

*creamed horseradish can be bought pre-prepared, but for a fresher flavour mix equal parts whipped cream & horseradish

1. Seal the steak tightly in a Ziplock bag. To push the air out, submerge the bag in water, keeping the seal just above the water as you close it. Place the sealed steak in a 60C water bath for 15 minutes.  The hot tap water at most homes is already close to that temperate, so all you want to to is hold it there. A large pot of water should keep a stable temperature on medium/low heat. Keep some ice-cubes near by to throw in if the water gets too hot. Cooking at a lower temperature for longer (55C for 1 hour) will give even more tender results, but it is very hard to hold water at that precise a temperature for that amount of time without an immersion circulator.

 

2. Remove the cooked steak from the bag, slice into two strips. Season with Montreal Steak spice

 

3. Get a cast iron pan smoking hot. Add a small amount of oil and then quickly sear the strips on each side. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes and then thinly slice.

 

4. Lay out all your toasts and spread a small amount of djion mustard on each one. Place 2 slices of beef on each toast and then garnish with creamed horseradish and gherkins.

 

Derek BockingDerek Bocking is a professional chef with over 15 years of culinary experience. On his blog, Derek’s Kitchen,
he shares restaurant-style recipes for amateur gourmets to try at home,
from quick and easy meals to more elaborate showstoppers.