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Top Chef 3 - Ep. 3

Have to say I was actually surprised at Howie winning the Elimination Challenge (and doing so well in the Quickfire), but his final pork chop dish looked absolutely heavenly with the cider sauce! Ted Allen has good things to say about Howie on his blog. I suspect he'll be around longer than Joey will.

But what the heck was up with CJ's tuna casserole? That just looked completely icky.

And Hung (IMO) was rather childish and arrogant in saying that Alfred Portale didn't know what he was talking about when he commented about the gigantic "croutons" in putting Hung in the bottom 3 in the Quickfire.

As for Micah - the idea of the stacked meatloaf was OK, but even on television, it looked incredibly dry! Loved the Elks Lodge visitor saying "My meatloaf was crunchy!"

I do have to say I was actually looking forward to more imaginative renderings of American Comfort Food, but most of it just didn't seem all that appetizing. I will, however, be checking out the recipe for Howie's pork chops (especially with some real unpasteurized apple cider in my freezer!).

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  1. I was glad to see Micah go, her South African attitude was getting really annoying. And while American comfort food may be gross, you can't be a chef and pretend to know nothing about meatloaf, which has versions in any culture...terrines, hello? It's not like South Africa even has the most highly sophisticated cuisine around, anyway.

    It was interesting to see Howie's med-rare pork. Overcooked pork is still mandated by the US govt and that's obviously why they didn't discuss it on the show, but it was nice to see the slices obviously pink and the judges love that.

    5 Replies
    1. re: kenito799

      One of the blogs on Bravo (Padma's) noted that some of the Elks Lodge visitors had major issues with the pink pork, even after the reassurances from the TC folks. :-)

      1. re: LindaWhit

        This is such a great observation, and something I've been wondering about as well, as I even heard Ming Tsai say on his tv show "No pink guys!" when talking about a seared pork loin or chop.

        Didn't the judges also comment that it was cooked perfectly? So is medium rare pork ok?

        1. re: Rocknrope

          The paranoia about getting trichinosis from pork is way overblown---there are barely any cases anymore (undercooked ground beef is far more risky). Here's a discussion from Bruni's blog last year, sparked by the delicious medium-rare pork chops served at the Little Owl in Manhattan:
          http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

          1. re: Rocknrope

            Strange as on another episode I saw Ming Tsai declare how pork is now safe to be cooked medium rare (that's where I first found this out.)

        2. re: kenito799

          South African food is so meat and potatoes, Micah has no idea what she is talking about with that pretentious fake South African accent. Good riddance!

        3. Ugh...I cannot believe nobody commented on the sweat dripping from Howie's nose into his ceviche. I guess his dish won because it had that "a little something extra".

          12 Replies
          1. re: HungryLetsEat

            yup- that was gross. I am trying to decide who are the contestants who idolized Marcel. I seem to remember someone saying that in the SEason 1/2 Challenge. I fI had to guess, I'll bet it was Hung. Maybe he can cook, but he is not at all likable. And Bobby is a big baby!!

            1. re: macca

              Hung and Marcel are friends from Las Vegas so I imagine they are both big fans of each other's cooking.

              1. re: Elyssa

                Marcel has his blog up (one write-up for two episodes before he heads off for fishing vacation in Alaska - which seems completely incongruous to me!), and he praises Hung highly. No surprise.

                  1. re: macca

                    Word. I couldn't stand Marcel in S2 and can't stand Hung in S3. Hung will likely be in it in the end though.

                    1. re: ggdinero

                      I'll bet you are right- I wonder if Hung will aggravate the other contestants as much as Marcel did- but maybe that is Bobby's job in this series.

            2. re: HungryLetsEat

              i think there's a picture of him (in padma's blog at bravotv.com?) where you can see the sweat on the very tip of his nose. while it's not appealing, if a little sweat on your food bothers you, you might want to stop eating out. kitchens are very hot places, and, for those of us who sweat, it's really hard to prevent a little moisture from flying around, especially when really busy. it's one of those things best not thought about, but the reality is you're eating a little bit of the staff every time you eat out. gross? yes. but true, too.

              1. re: mark

                Fried Padma toe bathed in Howie sweat jus...

                1. re: mark

                  Mark,
                  While intellectually I know this to be true (that chefs do sweat and do lick their fingers, etc and touch food in restaurants) I don't necessarily want to be reminded of it. Especially when I'm totally digging the food these people are laying out and am getting hungry just looking at it.

                  Really, what did this particular shot lend to the show? Realism? - yes. Ick factor? - most definitely. Increased respect (from the general non-restaurant-worker viewer) for previously poor finisher Howie ? - definitely not.

                  1. re: HungryLetsEat

                    i get what you're saying. i look at it this way, it's one of the few bits of reality you'll actually see on a "reality" tv show. while i agree it's a bit unpleasant, i also think it's kind of important in the greater scheme. we tend to view ourselves as somehow separate & better than the rest of the natural world. we live in our own little bubbles of illusion that allow us to remain aloof from our natural place. i think it's good when a little true reality enters the picture & reminds us that we're critters just like all the others. i don't think this is the producers' intention, but it doesn't bother me to see the human body doing its thing instead of a sanitized, hunky-dory version that creates unrealistic expectations. it's important to remember that there are people out there who actually believe what they see on tv. imagine how shocked you would be if your "knowledge" of restaurants came from the food network, then you visited a real, working kitchen during a busy dinner shift; you would probably never eat out again.

                    1. re: mark

                      I see your points. I guess I'm the only one who was grossed out by it since I didn't see any mention of it in the Top Chef blog comments. Usually those folks are quick to point out such stuff. On a separate note - I certainly didn't want to eat out for a while after reading Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential". Made me think long and hard about ordering anything with Hollendaise on it, among other things.

                  2. re: mark

                    LOL! Yeah, I took a cooking class at a local restaurant last year, and while the chef was saying, "Keep your fingers out of the food," he reached into a tub of butter and scooped out a huge dollop--with his fingers, of course. Totally funny!

                2. My San Diego Brian's quick fire made me want to go out at 10 pm. Hung is an A$$. Micah is a snob. Every country has funky looking "home" food and it sounds a bit pompous to bash it on American TV. Maybe they are all afraid to admit the guilty pleasure of simple fried chicken and mac n' cheese. Although simple, some of these dishes can be an art and they are not just peasant food.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: Ela0427

                    I don't know, I thought the results were clearly racist... I mean, the Jamaican woman did a Jamaican turn on Chicken a la King, and the judges lambasted her because it didn't have peas in it. I grew up in an Italian-American household, and I would have no idea that chicken a la king is supposed to have peas in it. I don't even know what it is. So the "foreigners" are penalized because they're less familiar with American comfort food than the Americans are.... Doesn't really seem fair to me. And, hey, kenito799, what exactly is a "South African attitude"? That sound pretty racist to me, too.

                    1. re: ctscorp

                      "racist" is being a little harsh, don't you think? Micah is South African but she is white. Also, if anything the comments are more jingoistic than racist (maybe a slight euphemism but there is definately a difference).

                      While the foreign competitors may have not been previously exposed to these dishes, they were given a plateful to illustrate the "classic." I am sure that the Chicken a la king on display had peas.

                      Micah definately had a poor attitude when it came to the meatloaf. You can't completly judge something by its looks. South Africans eat all flavors of biltong and that stuff isn't that appealing to look at.

                      1. re: Bhutani

                        If you look at it another way, the foreign chefs could have had an advantage on this challenge because they wouldn't be constrained by their own perceptions of what a dish was "supposed to" be.

                        I just do not get Micah dissing the meatloaf. While the sample meatloaf did not look particularly good, meatloaf was one of the better (and tastier) options up there.

                      2. re: ctscorp

                        I grew up in an Irish-American household, and, like you, I still hjvae no idea what chicken a la king is. I wonder who really eats it?

                        1. re: macca

                          The chick Sara who had chicken a la king aptly described it as "a pot pie without the crust," so she clearly knew what what expected of her. She should have made some kind of braised chicken stew without the cream rather than kabobs, which have nothing to do with chicken a la king.

                          The ones who ended up in the bottom four were there mostly because their food tasted bad (Micah, Sara, CJ) or was cooked poorly (the lentil girl) -- although some of them didn't really follow through on the "redesigned comfort food" idea, the judges told exactly *none* of them that their dish tasted great but they were put in the bottom four because they messed up on the concept. I have no problem eliminating the people who can't make their food taste good -- it is a cooking show after all.

                          1. re: macca

                            My mom often served it for events like our birthday parties. We really liked it! But that was back in the day when everyone's mother (or someone in the home) cooked dinner every day. I don't think your being Irish-American has anything to do with not knowing Chicken a la King. I know plenty of Irish-Americans who grew up on the stuff back in Chicago when I did...

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              I think Chicken a la King is one of those classic American dishes that took off because the recipe was on the back of a Campbell's soup can because it used the product. A lot of classic American dishes became popular throughout the country because certain brands printed their recipes in ads or on the back of the box/bottle/can.

                              I've heard of it. You can still find it in old school diners and in frozen food sections. I think Stouffers or some other frozen dinners make it.

                              I've never actually tasted it and my mom never made it but I recognize it as a classic American dish.

                              Rachael Ray even did an updated version of Chicken A La King.

                              1. re: Elyssa

                                I make Chicken A la King often. I have never used a soup base, never heard of anyone that does. I make my own white sauce. It is a classic dish, and peas are optional.

                                1. re: Elyssa

                                  My Korean mom would make Chicken a la King with the leftovers from the chicken and broth after making Korean-style Chicken noodle soup. She did not make it creamy, though.

                                  I also do not believe that Top Chef was being racist by presenting an American Comfort Foods Challenge. If you remember from last season, one of the challenges was to make Vietnamese and Korean food.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    And no one complained about the advantage/disadvantage that presented for specific cheftestants. Of course, that was a team challenge, where the chefs' strengths/weaknesses could be counterbalanced.

                                  2. re: Elyssa

                                    Chicken ala King was popular long before there even WAS Campbell's soup! No one I know ever used soup in that. OTOH, Tuna Noodle Casserole was a totally different story.

                                  3. re: ChefJune

                                    Sorry- I did not mean that being Irish American had anything to do with me not knowing what chicken a la king was! I was responding to ctscorp's post. Cts said he/she did not know what it was, and that he/she had grown up in an Italian American household. It was just a point of reference.

                                  4. re: macca

                                    My only memories of chicken a la king are from the early and mid '60's when I was a young girl living in Moscow, in the (then) U.S.S.R. We often had to eat imported canned food and one of the biggies was chicken a la king! I remember it as a creamy sauce with chicken chunks, pimiento and mushrooms. No peas. Served over rice--probably Minute Rice! I don't think my mom ever served it again once we got back to the States.

                                      1. re: Furgs

                                        No crazy peas in any of those recipes!! HA! :)

                                        1. re: Furgs

                                          Those canned College Inn entrees were disgusting! Almost as bad as Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast. Yuck.

                                          We ALways had peas in our Chicken ala King. and pimientos.

                                    1. re: ctscorp

                                      Clearly part of the challenge was to deconstruct the original comfort food, and reinvent it. I didn't think anyone did anything really imaginative. It didn't matter that they were unfamiliar with the dish, as one of the chef's hit the nail on the head by noting that chicken a la king was like chicken pot pie without the pie. I don't think the challenge was racist, even Hung noted that in his family comfort food was steamed fish, rice and veggies, but he seemed to figure it out. I think all of the chefs, even the "foreigners" work here in america, and I don't think Howie and Dale made it to the end by being more familiar with American comfort food, in fact Dale used his (russian?) family recipe to put his spin on his dish.

                                      1. re: ctscorp

                                        I'm going to have to disagree with the "racist" accusation, too. Maybe it was biased toward those who were more familiar with American comfort food, but it's not like the chefs didn't have plates full to brimming with the dishes they were supposed to recreate. Presumably, each dish had the appropriate ingredients in it (i.e., peas, which are pretty easy to identify), which would basically serve as a crib sheet for what their interpretation should contain or at least gesture toward.

                                        I also assume that the chefs could have tasted the food if they were unclear as to the cohesive flavor profiles they were to interpret. Again, I'm not very sure how that constitutes stacking the deck against someone who hails from another culture.

                                        And just to clarify:
                                        racist = to discriminate on the basis of race. "Jamaican" isn't a race, neither is "Italian."

                                        1. re: ctscorp

                                          i really do not think it was racist by any means. micah mentions she's lived and had a business in the states for two years. if anything she was the one being prejudiced by insulting american comfort food...
                                          as for the chicken a la king....they were given plated meals...not just the name. i assume they could take a long hard look and maybe a taste or two?

                                          1. re: ctscorp

                                            "I grew up in an Italian-American household"

                                            Sounds a little racist to jfood. From what jfood heard the judges did not like most of what they saw on this episode. Sounds a little anti-chefist to jfood.

                                            But heck do we need to lable everything?

                                        2. I was really happy to see Micah go - I couldn't handle hearing about her damn kid anymore! I think the knock on ketchup was what ultimatley gave her a few extra negative points that put her over the edge. Yes Americans like ketchup just as Germans like mustard or the French like mayo - it's what we put on stuff, no need to knock the culture of food. Her take on meatload was just trying to dress it up - and it was executed poorly.

                                          It seems like in each season where they try and get the cheftestants to improve upon a classic by making it edgy the judges are completly dissapointed. Last season no one really understood the idea of the Thanksgiving dinner (except Marcel) and in the season before I think the same thing happened. The chefs really don't have enough time to become completly creative in what they prepare - this challenge might be better in teams rather than as 1 person. I think the time constraint just makes them try and update the classic rather than reinvent it - so it fails to meet the expectations of the judges.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: wingman

                                            Wingman - You hit the nail on the head noting that the cheftestants in all three seasons have lacked in the "updated classics" department. I think the time constraints have a lot to do with that but on the other hand if this contest is meant to produce a "Top Chef" and similar challenges have occured in earlier seasons, you would think the contestants would have thought of what they would create if placed in similar situations.

                                            I laughed a little bit when Micah made the comment on ketchup. My boyfriend and I were sitting down to dinner and as usual his Costco sized ketchup bottle was right in front of him.

                                            1. re: wingman

                                              I love this show but think the time constraints are sometimes absurd. I've worked on the line in popular eateries and know you have to crank out plates like crazy - a facet of the job required of most cooks/chefs. But even in those situations, we usually knew the dishes well and spent the whole day prepping for dinner service.

                                              These folks are being asked to be super creative, in an unfamilar kitchen, with somewhat unfamilar dishes and ingredients - and they have a half hour or whatever? That's nuts. It takes me 20 minutes to reheat a slice of pizza in the toaster oven, unbag a salad and pour a coke... and I created none of that. How many pros can make a lasagne in that time? They ripped the gal who used store bought franks, but what's she gonna do in that timeframe? Meanwhile one of the guys figured this out and bought instant mash. That's telling. Likewise, one of the best chefs turned out a ring of green stool.

                                              The quickfire challenges cover the speed skills. Let them have a bit more time for the main dishes - not everything needs to be a sprint. Let them poke around, experiment, and have a tad bit of time to be creative. This isn't live TV so they can edit the pace/drama. I don't care for a 20 minute pasta sauce - show me the Godfather ragu. Let's see if they can smoke ribs or briskett for half a day. Roast a whole turkey or leg of lamb.

                                              Does anyone agree? Quick is sometimes good, but some of the best meals take some time.

                                              1. re: tastyjon

                                                Yes, I agree and have often thought the same thing. I would have loved to see a true "low and slow" BBQ challenge.

                                                1. re: Mushroom

                                                  I'll bet Tre would have won that one!

                                                2. re: tastyjon

                                                  I agree. I don't really care if it's "fair" to them, because I consider this show purely for entertainment purposes, but I think it would make for much better watching if they had more time and could therefore be more creative or show off any skills other than speed, which is just not the only important thing.

                                                  Personally, I'd like to see more really truly difficult and interesting challenges with a whole evening to think and prepare (which has happened on past seasons) because the results are so much more impressive -- like last season's 7 sins dinner, which was one of my favorite episodes from any season.

                                              2. Gosh... it could have been such a fun episode! I love remakes on American classics. I would have had fun with that challenge for sure. This is the first episode I've watched this season, and Tom looks even crankier than he did last season!

                                                And I don't know what chicken a la king is either??

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: Katie Nell

                                                  I guess chicken a la king is chicken pie without the crust. Gee- what is point of chicken pie if there is no crust???

                                                  1. re: Katie Nell

                                                    I think the problem was that there were two parts to the challenge: to "reinvent" the dish, but also to make it "healthy." Given the limited amount of time they had to conceptualize their dish, and the even more limited time they had to tinker with it, I think they mostly chose to focus on the "healthy" aspect rather than the "reinvent" aspect. The challenge also was worded in such a way (at least, as presented to the audience) that the term "reinvent" could simply have meant "make it healthy."

                                                    I think Howie was lucky, in that a pork chop and applesauce is not particularly "unhealthy" to begin with, so he could focus more on deconstructing and re-presenting it than making extensive changes. The dishes based on frying or creamy sauces or a starch base (tuna casserole, chicken a la king, etc.) were much harder to make healthy and still have them be recognizable. Also, this group of chefs didn't seem to have much experience thinking in terms of "healthy" cooking and didn't seem to have a clear idea of what some of the possibilities might be.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      I found the challenge poorly defined. After Tom's walk through the kitchen, he expressed disappointment that he didn't see anything truly imaginative from the chefs. My understanding was that the primary goal was to remake a classic to be healthier (ie, lower cholesterol).

                                                      What I found odd was the loose definition of "lower cholesterol" and no quantifiable measurement of what that meant. Last season during the "fat camp" challenge, they actually had dieticians to measure fat grams.

                                                      1. re: Carb Lover

                                                        What I found odd was Tom and other judges complaining that so many people took the challenge "literally", then they complained that Sara's chicken a la king had so little resemblance to the original. I don't think of peas as being a defining element of CAK -- I think of the mushrooms in the sauce, and maybe green peppers and pimientos.

                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        Umn, I'm not a doctor (yet) but I'm pretty sure pork and applesauce is less healthy than lobster, and they ripped the lobster guy apart for the high cholesterol.

                                                        This webpage has a chart -- if you click it you can see how healthy lobster is.
                                                        http://hostinginmaine.com/~grandman/l...

                                                        I also for the record can't believe that no one made cauliflower, which to me is one of those obvious things that feels carb-y but is actually veggie.

                                                    2. I do not think Hung said Portale did not know what he was talking about....he said that he did not understand the concept of his dish. I believe he had the two large croutons as a take on the loaf of french bread that you would often see along side a vietnamese soup. just my opinion and I could be way of base.

                                                      Either way the translation of what Hung wanted to do or get across did not impress the judge.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ChrisZ

                                                        Thanks for the correction, Chris - couldn't *quite* remember what Hung had said. However, I have to believe that Portale, with his experience, probably understood the concept; just didn't agree with the execution of it. Hung still seemed arrogant to me in saying what he said...it was someone else's fault, not his.

                                                      2. My one (minor) gripe about last nights show was the focus on Brian's high cholesterol lobster. Wouldn't Casey's ribeye have been even higher in cholesterol than the lobster? (At least that's what my cursory internet research indicated.) Yet, she didn't get her hand slapped.

                                                        Maybe they were also coming down on Brian about the "only doing seafood" thing because of last seasons "only doing Spanish" thing.

                                                        Regardless, I am just loving the show this season!

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: Mushroom

                                                          I agree, it was ridiculous for them to bash Brian for the lobster. There was no attempt to actually calculate calorie or fat content in the dishes so it was more about the perception of "healthy, modern, lighter" rather than reality.

                                                          Brian explained that it was a small portion of lobster and health is about portion control...completely true. Americans are obese because portions have become insanely huge. From the 50's to the 70's a "regular" size hamburger and fries was considered a normal adult meal at McDonald's. Now I hear commercials on the radio every day for "Zone Chefs"...basically hiring someone to cook normal portions of food for you since we have lost the ability to know when to stop eating!

                                                          to LindaWhit above--one of the blogs, I think Padma, explained that she thought Portale was objecting to the large crouton having too much butter and seasoning and when dipped into the soup it overwhelmed it and the combination was too fatty. Of course, that's not what he said to Hung.

                                                          1. re: kenito799

                                                            Or at least not what the editors allowed us to hear. Thanks kenito - I do recall reading that in Padma's blog, but didn't have the episode taped so I could go back and watch to see exactly what was said.

                                                          2. re: Mushroom

                                                            I think they may have been coming down on Brian for "doing only seafood" because he's the executive chef for a seafood resto (Oceanaire Seafood Room) here in San Diego. IOWs he's not stretching his cooking chops to show what else he can do, but perhaps just coasting on what he can do well. Remember, he won the Elimination Challenge last week by doing a seafood sausage. At this point we all know he can work with seafood, now he needs to prove he can work with something other than than of the piscine variety.

                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                              Don't know why they should give Brian a hard time about cooking seafood- look at, Ilan, the Season 2 winner- he certainly did not work on anything out of his comfort zone, and he only cooked what he counld do well.

                                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                I am sure it is one of the reasons they come down on him. But Ilan did nothing but Spanish food last season and he won the whole bloody thing - even after the judges had questioned his ability to do anything but Spanish food.

                                                                So, is the lesson here to stick with what you do best? I don't know - too many inconsistencies with some of the judging - or at least it's edited that way.

                                                                As it is - so far - Brian is one of my favorites.

                                                                1. re: Mushroom

                                                                  Read Tom's blog re: differences in judging each season. Each episode's judging is different, based on the parameters of what the challenge is about. But I definitely think they're taking what they "learned" last year re: Ilan winning everything but staying within his Spanish comfort zone, and ensuring they this year's cheftestants don't do the same thing.

                                                              2. re: Mushroom

                                                                Oops! I didn't see this and re-made your point above. Great minds think alike :)

                                                              3. I felt Micah was in a negative mood too much and was properly dismissed. You can't cook delicious, tasty food when your head and heart are full and negativity. The best chefs always seem to be happy to me.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: roasted138

                                                                  I guess thats why Gordon Ramsey is such a fun cheerful fellow.

                                                                  1. re: RBCal

                                                                    Haha! Touche! I actually like Gordon after working on the post-production for the Fox version of Kitchen Nightmares. He can be a pretty nice guy, especially while he's cooking. He's great on the BBC network, it's a shame Hells Kitchen is such an atrocity.

                                                                2. So apparently Micah's complaints that she hasn't tried any of these foods or seen most of them is totally not true. While I do believe she was born abroad and has spent time there...this website has serious evidence that she in fact spend most of her school years in the United States----in Massachusetts nonetheless. So I'm sure she's at least SEEN a meatloaf and fried chicken before.

                                                                  http://amuse-biatch.blogspot.com/2007...

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Elyssa

                                                                    That is interesting. Perhaps she played the 'outsider' card to cover for her lack of talent.

                                                                    1. re: Elyssa

                                                                      Here is a spin on Micah's Chow interview, by the very perceptive ms place: http://dis-ndat.blogspot.com/2007/07/...

                                                                      1. re: ChinoWayne

                                                                        Thanks, dahling. You know I was her champion for the first couple of TC episodes, but then she began to creep me out. That CHOW interview totally made her a NUT in my mind. Charlus' findings on Amuse-Biatch.http://amuse-biatch.blogspot.com/2007...
                                                                        helped to sway me as well. I'm sure she cooks like a dream on her "on" days, but who can tell?

                                                                    2. Examples of Chicken A La King:

                                                                      http://southernfood.about.com/od/chic...

                                                                      From the Betty Crocker Website: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/r...
                                                                      (As I said before this dish probably got popular from the push of various brand name products

                                                                      )

                                                                      And finally a recipe and history lesson from an old Gourmet magazine listed on epicurious.com:

                                                                      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                                                                      That should help clear things up! :)

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Elyssa

                                                                        Thank you!! Also- love the info about Micah. What a fraud!

                                                                        1. re: Elyssa

                                                                          Interesting...no peas in any of the recipes you cite...the judges said Sara should have at least included peas. But the CALK of my grade school cafeteria memories did have peas, I think (memories mostly repressed)

                                                                          1. re: kenito799

                                                                            FWIW, fresh peas aren't a May food in Miami; this spring was so hot that fresh peas weren't even a local spring food in this part of the country. Canned (gag) or frozen peas would have gotten more criticism than no peas.

                                                                            1. re: shallots

                                                                              I don't think frozen peas would have garnered criticism at all. Many establishments use them exactly for that reason. Unless she didn't cook them all the way through, which would have been bad.

                                                                          2. re: Elyssa

                                                                            I knew Rachael Ray had a version of this (actually she has a number of episodes where she reworks old classics...including tuna noodle casserole):

                                                                            Ray's version includes the much-debated PEA!
                                                                            http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                                                            And in case you are looking for a jazzed up version of CJ's (sighhhhh!) recipe:
                                                                            http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                                                            1. re: Elyssa

                                                                              Thank-you. I used to make this (painstakenly) in the late 60's when my parents came to lunch. I found it in the Joy of Cooking, my only cookbook when I was 21. Anyway it was chicken and pimento's and mushrooms (probably canned back then - they were their own food group) in a cream sauce enriched with egg yolk (I thought this was high cuisine) and served in puff pastry cups. The puff pastry and sauce were the high cholesterol but we thought of it as a light lunch.
                                                                              A nice caribbean curry with some hot peppers could have done wonders for this dish.

                                                                            2. I too was so dissapointed at what they came up with! Granted these are hard dishes to make upscale and healthy but some of these were not even upgrades. I would have loved to redo that meatloaf! I am a dietitian and I wanted to share my thoughts with you guys about how mad the judges made me with their "lobster is high in cholesterol" comments because:

                                                                              1.Focusing on lower cholesterol content in foods alone is outdated. While I understand the need for product placement (Vitorin), health care professionals agree that focusing on the cholesterol content of foods is not the right approach to a heart healthy diet. We encourage clients to focus on total, saturated and trans fats before cholesterol in their diets as these have the highest impact in overall and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. It is also important to focus on the amount of fiber, fruits and vegetables in the meal as these help lower cholesterol levels.
                                                                              2.The lobster fiasco was not the contestant’s dish, the fiasco was the wrong message the panel gave the audience. To Mr. Colicchio: lobster is not high in cholesterol! Yes, when compared to fish, shellfish is higher in cholesterol, however overall and compared to other proteins shellfish is actually lower in cholesterol, calories and total fat. In fact, lobster has less cholesterol than chicken and some alternative meat sausages, and it is lower in calories as well. In addition, shellfish contains some Omega -3 fatty acids which are very important for heart health. I was so upset when he repeated “lobster is very high in cholesterol.” This is an old fashioned myth that we are trying hard to eradicate and there was a panel of non health experts repeating it! Portion control is key and as the contestant who prepared the lobster dish beautifully put it: “everything in moderation.” If he was criticized for the cholesterol amount in that dish, then the contestants who prepared the chicken (especially the fried chicken version where he left some of the skin in there), sausage and pork dishes should have been criticized as well. They all did a good job in lowering the cholesterol content from the original recipe.

                                                                              As a dietitian and a foodie I say, go on have your lobster and your butter...
                                                                              all in moderation ;-)

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: yomyb

                                                                                I agree, I thought Brian was being smart (and more innovative than many of his peers) by converting the ground meat in stuffed cabbage into seafood, which is almost always lower in fat and calories (and usually contains good for you fats when it does), and lobster is not what I consider an unhealthy 'meat', cholesterol or not. (same with shrimp.) I think the judges just wanted an excuse to push Brian to excel past his comfort zone.

                                                                                1. re: yomyb

                                                                                  Very interesting. Thanks for your thoughts. And it makes me feel a lot better about a recent trip to Boston, eating lobster in some form 3 days in a row!! :)

                                                                                  1. re: Elyssa

                                                                                    Elyssa, never feel bad about that!! I live in Boston and if I could I'd eat it three meals a day!

                                                                                  2. re: yomyb

                                                                                    You should really post on the Bravo Blogs. At least someone's assistant will read it and if nothing else, the judges probably won't make the same mistake again.

                                                                                    1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                      Thanks for that lobster info! I hope the info on that lobster website is accurate. Looking at the Bravo blogs, several people (including me) have left messages on Tom's blog calling him on that.

                                                                                      The issue is addressed in Carlos' blog! He says they were way off base and gives lobster nutritional info. Guess what--he also calls Micah out: says she should have made bobotie. Seems like he is the most knowledgeable foodie at Bravo.

                                                                                      Tom better say something when he blogs next (there was no entry this week, he must be busy, or ashamed about his lack of nutrition knowledge...) Pretty irresponsible for TC to be spreading nutrition misinformation!

                                                                                  3. I'm baffled as to why Howie won. The whole point of the challenge was to lower the cholesterol content of the dish. Howie changed porkchops and applesauce to porkchops and apple salad. Applesauce doesn't contain cholesterol. Howie's reinvented dish had the exact same amount of cholesterol as the original dish. His dish may have tasted best, but of course it tasted best when everyone else was serving "health" food and he was serving fatty, salty, artery clogging pork chops! (I say this as a person who loves to eat pork chops)

                                                                                    So, the judges penalized Brian for lowering the cholesterol content of his dish, and rewarded Howie for not lowering cholesterol content, all because the panal was completely clueless about nutrition.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                      Seems to me that it is hard to make a dish that evokes porkchops and applesauce, without using porkchops. It's my understanding that pork these days is actually much leaner than in used to be, and it didn't look like there was much fat surrounding the slices of pork he served. And, I thought that substituting a slaw with apples and vegetables for the applesauce was very clever - less sugar, raw foods rather than processed etc.

                                                                                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                        the pork chops were grilled...which must result in lower cholesterol than my mother's breaded and fried ones!

                                                                                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                          I thought Howie did really well. When I think pork chops and apples sauce, I also think mashed potatoes laden with milk, butter and cheese, and a heavy gravy. Howie's dish was low cholesterol. Howie kicked their asses (except for the chicken and dumpling guy), and rightfully so.

                                                                                        2. Two things:

                                                                                          I agree with the poster who was sick of Micah yapping about her brat! We get it, you have a child. You miss her. Now shaddup about it, please. And like Hung said, stop using it as a crutch. She performs well - "YAY ME!" She performs poorly - "Oh my baby, my baby." Shut it.

                                                                                          Regarding the lobster and the "health" issue. I think since the judges specifically said "Low cholesterol", they were not thrilled with the lobster choice, as even though it is low fat, it is relatively high in cholesterol. If he chose a seafood that was low cholsterol, he probably would have fared better, even if it was higher in fat, as he could make the argument "You said low cholesterol, not low fat or low calorie." Doesn't matter much anyway, as he had immunity.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Rocknrope

                                                                                            Again, lobster is not high in cholesterol!!! It has about 61 mg of cholesterol whereas chicken has around 78 mg....chicken is considered low in cholesterol and so is lobster.

                                                                                            1. re: yomyb

                                                                                              Agreed, Chef Tom and the rest of the judges should be forced to take a remedial nutrition course if they think lobster is high cholesterol!

                                                                                              1. re: LabRat

                                                                                                Just reading Ted Allen's blog on Bravotv.com, and it looks like they got the message about lobster and cholesterol loud and clear:

                                                                                                "That’s because, as so many of you noted on the boards in recent days, in the last episode of TC, we at the Judges Table mistakenly repeated the myth that lobster is high in cholesterol. It is not. In fact, lobster meat has slightly LESS cholesterol than a skinless chicken breast.

                                                                                                All apologies to America’s hardworking lobstermen (and lobsterwomen), and for any confusion we may have caused those seeking to reduce cholesterol in their diet. (Note: Lobster dipped in butter IS high in cholesterol, natch)."

                                                                                          2. Agreed that it was time for 'Did I mention that I have a daughter' Micah not to be confused with the 'Did you know that I've over come so much' Micah to go. I was getting fed up with her peaks and valleys. This past episode she seemed arrogant and condescending(You Americans). Weather it's true or not that she went to high school here, I find it hard to believe that she didn't know what the foods were. Especial since she has a daughter and lives here now.

                                                                                            That being said I think this was a lame challenge that perhaps the judges were unsure about. Howie won by replacing a pork chop with...a pork chop.(although I am glad he won) Seems that people who did take risks we given a really hard time. Like the girl from Jamaica whose name escapes me tried her take on chicken a la king. and was raked over the coal for it not being 'authentic'.

                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                              Yes - these inconsistencies are the things that tend to frustrate me a bit. HOWEVER - overall it's fantastic - it's just about the only thing we're watching this summer - besides baseball.

                                                                                              1. re: Mushroom

                                                                                                I just that it seemed like everyone got different memos for this challenge. But overall I'm also really enjoying this season.

                                                                                                http://meandmyfork.blogspot.com

                                                                                                1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                  Withnail, I agree with you. loving this season of Top Chef. For most of these dishes to be recreated authentically, more time was necessary. It takes FOREVER to fry chicken properly. Also the dishes they were trying to recreate were time consuming recipes(some of them). Who knows what is originally in Chicken a la King? I think most of these chefs are very competent and dont come into contact while working with everyday foods of America. Micah? Get out! I've been to South Africa; the food is amazing, and yes there is a version of meatloaf there. If she had any creativity she would have done a spin on a loaf made of meat. I thought it was an interesting challenge to take these fatty favorites and make them more healthy. Bravo to Howie. The fried skin from Hung scared me and i make a mean healthy(ish) fried chicken. The lobster? yes a little fatty, but dont we need fat in our diets? I applaud him for using an ingredient not usually seen in comfort food. Enjoying these chefs, I wish they had the seven sins challenge!

                                                                                                  1. re: sharonm

                                                                                                    Did you see the links on Chicken a la King?
                                                                                                    http://www.leitesculinaria.com/writin...
                                                                                                    Totally legitimate 19th Century American reciope that was whittled away to insipid blecch by processed food interests. A good microcosm of the corporate destruction of the American palate in the 20th century.

                                                                                              2. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                I said this above, but I don't think Sara (the girl from Jamaica) was raked over the coals because her take was non-authentic so much as that her take did not taste good. If she had done the same thing but it tasted great, she would not have been in the bottom 4.

                                                                                                1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                  Well, her chicken skewers with the muddy brown mushroom sauce (I think that's what it was) wasn't in ANY way reminiscent of chicken a la king, and they did comment that they couldn't understand why she did skewers instead of more like a stew. So I'm not sure if she had done the same thing but it tasted good if she still wouldn't have been in the bottom 4. Maybe squeaked by into the middle-of-the-road group.

                                                                                              3. Ok... even if they never had it they could taste the darn thing. It was not plastic!! I could try to wing a foreign dish by having a few mouthfuls.

                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Ela0427

                                                                                                  I'm glad Howie won.As far as Lia and her lentils and sausage,what was the girl supposed to do,make her own sausage? What if she didn't know how?
                                                                                                  She should have used beans,canned even.I say that because we have made beans at home,and my dad would soak the dried beans,etc first then start them cooking and they take awhile as some of you know. But I would not have myself chosen lentils but used a mixture of beans.
                                                                                                  As far as meatloaf is concerned,I would have used ground turkey,or if beef,not sirloin bu round or chuck.Added ryebread crumbs,egg beaters,and herbs also for flavour plus in case anyone was watching their salt intake.And she could have made a nice home made sauce.

                                                                                                  1. re: HollyDolly

                                                                                                    yes she should have made her own sausage. a top chef should know how. she had plenty of time.

                                                                                                    1. re: ceeceee

                                                                                                      Doesn't she work at Jean Georges? I'm pretty sure she also went to culinary school--but can't confirm that. She would know how to make sausage for sure. Just not sure she would have had enough time to do everything.

                                                                                                      She bought pre-made sausage and got put before the firing range for it but some how Dale bought pre-made rotessirie chicken AND didn't make his own mashed potatoes (Does not take that long...I make them alllll the time!!). So it seems a little unfair to blaste her for that. She soaked the sausage in beer I believe...but that wasn't mentioned in the description of the recipe which I think would have been a good touch.

                                                                                                      1. re: ceeceee

                                                                                                        Lentils also take very little time to cook. Given a choice between canned beans and dried lentils, I think she made the right choice, just didn't follow through correctly.

                                                                                                      2. re: HollyDolly

                                                                                                        If that one guy can make a seafood sausage then she should be able to make a chicken sausage

                                                                                                        1. re: sugarbuzz

                                                                                                          Hey everyone,

                                                                                                          Wanted to let you know that our interview with Micah is now up on the site! It's not on the home page yet, but will be as soon as scheduled maintenence is over (new search is here!). Check it out: http://www.chow.com/stories/10627
                                                                                                          Love to hear your thoughts on it after this great discussion.

                                                                                                          Meredith

                                                                                                          1. re: mudaba

                                                                                                            Pretty funny interview...maybe her parents thought she was "wasting her education" wandering around the world because she was wasting their money!
                                                                                                            I would be interested to know how she sold herself to get on the show in the first place. Hard to feel sorry for her about leaving the kid, etc., she knew what she was getting into and will continue to benefit from being on the show.

                                                                                                            1. re: kenito799

                                                                                                              A South African dish which to me is a form of meatloaf is called Bobotie. After I had it my first reaction was, "South African comfort food."

                                                                                                              1. re: 2top

                                                                                                                Exactly. I got this recipe from a So African friend when I needed a "national dish" from that country to bring to a party. It's meatloaf topped with a curry flavored custard and baked with yellow rice. It would have been a natural jumping off place for her. I was expecting her to make it.

                                                                                                    2. Interesting that those who fared best were those who respected the dishes most. The second-place chicken and dumplings was made from the chef's own family recipe. I used to hate meatloaf. I thought it was like dogfood without the can. Then I tasted meatloaf lovingly prepared by a very good cook. I'm sure Micah never did.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: Brian S

                                                                                                        My mother made a pretty good meatloaf.She most of the time used rye bread in it.
                                                                                                        Why,I don't know.If we had no rye bread,she would use regular bread.
                                                                                                        I think the chefs could have been really creative,if it wasn't for the place they were serving the food. Because it was at the Elks Club and many of the people that i saw were elderly,i think they tried to be somewhat conservative in their approach to their dishes.