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Top Chef: Just Desserts 2 – Ep 9 – And Then There Were Three

I was a big fan of this week’s challenge. No Quickfire to be had, and potentially no more to come this season now, so it was all a big focus on the penultimate Elimination challenge. Chefs were told they were going international, with Orlando speculating and wondering where he left his passport. Oh, Orlando, its as if you never watched this show. There was no chance they were taking a trip. They were instead told to select a country from about 10 options – presumably to cook a dessert based on that cuisine. Hammer took France, as you would expect anyone would. Orlando grabbed Spain, Matt took Italy and Macho selected Cuba based on her experience cooking in a Cuban restaurant. Side note – just had tres leches cake in a local Cuban restaurant this weekend, and that can be on my menu every week if need be.

Except this was not a challenge to make a traditional dessert. Oh no, this was much more fun. Chefs had to select an entrée from those countries and make a dessert which looked that other food. Awesome. It is basically what Carlos was doing last week with the carnival burgers. Would have been interesting if he survived to play this week. Macho panicked as she had no idea what to make – even though everyone watching at home knew it was going to be a Cuban sandwich. Matt was quick in selecting manicotti (his pronunciation would have made my New York Italian parents cringe), and Orlando was also quick to take paella. Manicotti made a lot of sense as stuffed pasta seems ripe for dessert mocking – they’re sort of pastries in the first place. I think Orlando’s big error was in making rice for the paella’s rice. That should have been something desserty. Rice pudding, as Elvis pointed out, would have been logical. Or at least cut up some white chocolate into rice shapes. Something. It was hard to tell at judges table why he went home, but I think it was because his dessert seemed a bit half-assed. It looked like paella, but not so much. It tasted good (we assume), but not too good. It was difficult, but not too difficult. It was probably good enough to make it in early rounds, but not at this point.

I found Hammer’s choice interesting. He chose Beef Wellington to make, a good choice given the pastry shell and meat filling. He had a great idea in making layers to show the rare beef coloring. He had a bad idea in not making his own puff pastry. However, at first, I questioned just as Elvis did – isn’t Beef Wellington English? Nope. Hammer was right, and Theoden later confirmed it. It’s a French dish based on the British hero. When in doubt – meat with pastry is French, except when in a pie. Then it is English. Of course, I am sure there are tons of exceptions, but there you go. Also, if it is good food, it is likely not English. If you recall “A Fish Called Wanda,” England’s contribution to fine dining – the chip. Sadly, I can’t find the clip in English.

So, Macho pulls out the impressive win after not actually having an idea in place by the time Elvis did his walk through. Hammer’s seemed overall very solid, despite the pastry (which I thought could have been his downfall). Matt’s looked amazing – I loved how he carved out the pasta ridges with his Exacto Knife. However, the flavors were not complex, so he fell into the Bottom Two with Orlando.

Now we have our Finale next week, and in two weeks, we’ll be back again with the latest Classic Top Chef season. Because Bravo wants to kill me.

Elimination Challenge – Make fake real food. Basically. Matt freezes tubes of mousse and wraps into his shell. He tells Elvis that he was going to make a berry and tomato sauce, but he bails on that idea. In what may have saved him, he chooses to make a basil gelee to go on top and knocks that out of the park. Orlando uses plums as his fish, and beets as his chorizo. And nothing speaks to dessert goodness more than beets and rice. Hammer said he has done this dish before, and at first I thought that if he has made Beef Wellington desserts before, why did it take him so long to decide? But clearly, he meant he has made Beef Wellington, so I should learn to pay more attention.

Many judges – the main ones are Gail, Elvis, Théoden and Iron Chef Kat Cora. Others include Gloin, see the Quickfire Hits for that nickname (AOC Lucques and Tavern), Michael Cimarusti (Providence), John Sedlar (Playa and Riveria), Sang Yoon (Father’s Office and Lukshon). I will call them Gloin, Rusti, Yoon and Newt (Sedlar looks like Newt Gingrich’s better looking cousin).

Matt – Manicotti – Crème Fraiche Cake with Mascarpone-Ricotta Mousse, Strawberry Compote, and Basil Gelee with Parker House Rolls Kat thinks it looked awesome and had a nice flavor. Yoon thinks he went all out, while Théoden made some salt comment. Damn accent. Gloin thought that after half of the dish she had enough – no surprises.

Hammer – Beef Wellington – Puff Pastry, Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Jam and Salted Caramel – Théoden is impressed with the layering, and Kat thinks he did a great job with the graduated temperatures and colors. Elvis found it delicious, but not overpowering.

Orlando – Paella – Coconut and Saffron Rice, Tuile, Compressed Plums and Roasted Beets – They did not like the broken up rice texture, although Elvis was happy with Orlando’s light hand on the saffron. Kat thought the presentation was beautiful, but Gloin was not happy with the beet chorizo, even if Rusti disagreed.

Macho – Cuban Sandwich – Brioche, Cream Cheese Mousse, Strawberry Caramel and Potato Salad Macho also made plantain chips and pineapple pickles. The mousse was the fake pork, and the caramel was the ham. The potato salad consisted of pineapple, banana and Asian pear. Newt felt that this was the only dish that transported him to that country. Elvis thought the mousse was messy.

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