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Episode 2, Ilimination Challenge, What would you have cooked?

Caroline1 Mar 21, 2008 06:42 AM

I can't say that the producers and/or staff of this show are very lucid about setting out their rules. Nevertheless, the rules they did set out are:

Make a dish using only five ingredients

Salt, pepper, sugar, and oil do not count as an ingredient.

My problem with these rules is what comprises "oil." At one point they did list safflower oil or olive oil. But what about sesame oil, or butter, especially drawn butter which is an animal oil? And even more befuddling, what about water? No mention anywhere of water.

Well, with these "rules," such as they are, and assuming water can be used freely without counting as an ingredient and that butter counts as an oil, what would you have made?

Me? Unless I found something that blew me way off track while shopping, I would have made an omlette. My five ingredients would have been eggs, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, and cheese. Either a really great Swiss type of cheese, or a mellow pecroino Romano. I'd make a filling with the tomatoes and thinly sliced zucchini with just a hint -- a very important hint -- of garlic. Standard three egg omlette with about half an egg shell of water and some salt with white pepper if they have it, otherwise skip the black flecks in the eggs. Stuff the omlette with the filling and some shaved cheese, fold (do not roll) to serve, and garnish with a bit of shaved cheese around the plate and one perfect tomato rose.

Probably wouldn't win with it because the guest judge is in to all that molecular stuff. But I think it would score points with Colichio, and probably Padma, if for no other reason than an omlette is a classic among classics. Oh, and I do get rave reviews on my omlettes. Not that I'd brag about it, or anything like that. '-)

Give it some thought and tell us what you would have cooked. We may outshine the "cheftestants!"

  1. c
    charlottecooks Mar 21, 2008 07:25 AM

    Butter did count as an ingredient. A tomato rose?

    4 Replies
    1. re: charlottecooks
      Caroline1 Mar 21, 2008 07:50 AM

      For a tomato rose, you peel the tomato with a very sharp knife cutting one long continuous peel with scallops along one edge. Then you roll it up and it makes a rose. Done well, it's gorgeous. Done badly, it just unrolls on the plate and looks like garbage. If you have to, you can use a toothpick at the base to keep it together.

      If butter has to count as an ingredient, then I'd use olive oil. I've made omlettes with olive oil before.

      I was also thinking... Looking for loopholes. You can flavor eggs if you can scrub the waxy coating off of them, then put them in a plastic bag with herbs or anything with a strong flavor you want to pass into the eggs. Don't know what their time allowance was, but with enough time, you could put eggs in a zip lock bag with thyme or oregano or tarragon and put them in the fridge (or leave them out) overnight to infuse the eggs with the flavor. So... Since none of the herbs are actually in the food, would this count as an ingredient, or could you skate? hmmmm...

      1. re: Caroline1
        c
        charlottecooks Mar 22, 2008 02:56 PM

        Oh, one of those. Going retro then? I personally despise any type frilly garnishes.

        1. re: charlottecooks
          Caroline1 Mar 22, 2008 03:56 PM

          Well, people do eat witht heir eyes first and their mouths second. But it is a matter of personal preference. My (current) favorite Japanese restaurant garnishes their dishes with a lovely live orchid. It lasts for days at home, a charming reminder of a lovely meal. But I will admit, tomato roses don't have that kind of shelf life.

      2. re: charlottecooks
        wolfe Mar 21, 2008 01:00 PM

        http://www.theworldwidegourmet.com/ve...

      3. Adrienne Mar 21, 2008 08:21 AM

        For the quickfire:
        I think the omelet idea is a good one. My immediate thought was a salad... depending of course on what looked really good at the market... with one type of greens (arugula?) mixed with an herb (basil?) and with one vegetable (asparagus? peppers?) and one fruit (peaches? figs?) grilled and finely chopped, with some julienned prosciutto or mozzarrella. I would definitely have wanted serve whatever I made with relatively little cooking to highlight the freshness of the market ingredients.

        For the elimination:
        This is not a specific idea, but the one thing I would have liked to see was contestants making foods from the region their assigned animals live in. Not that it was necessary, it just would have been a neat addition... like bears are indigenous to North America and I would have wanted to make fresh grilled salmon and corn and blueberries (not all together necessarily) to incorporate the environment of the bear as well. For penguins, they did a great job, but I think I would have made at least one sushi canape. I think a penguin could probably enjoy nigiri :)

        1. Morton the Mousse Mar 21, 2008 12:26 PM

          Don't forget that the whole point of this challenge was to showcase ingredients from the farmers' market. If eggs and cheese were available at that market, great. If not, than the proteins in your dish are coming from the pantry.

          22 Replies
          1. re: Morton the Mousse
            j
            Jason_Coulston Mar 21, 2008 01:32 PM

            I was surprised at how much meat appeared on the plates in the Quickfire Challenge. If I'm limited to five or fewer items and I'm at a gorgeous farmer's market, I'm thinking vegetables vegetable vegetables. A simple salad presentation using the season's best ingredients speaks a lot louder, in some instances, than beef. Ubuntu was just named by the New York Times to be the second best restaurant in the United States . . . not located in New York. Ubuntu celebrates the vegetable in all her glories and for me I would have been looking for that type of inspiration from the market.

            Not that I'm a hardcore vegetarian. On the contrary, I have a deep love affair with the glorious hog. It's just that with five ingredients the challenge is to really make a plate sing. For me that means simplicity. Let the product do the talking.

            I'm guessing this episode was filmed a couple of months ago? Give or take? I would expect to see things like apples, winter squash, root vegetables, maybe some early Spring veg like Asparagus or artichoke?

            R. Jason Coulston

            1. re: Jason_Coulston
              ccbweb Mar 21, 2008 01:46 PM

              I don't understand the conflation of the notion that simplicity and singing and such are the domain of vegetables. Can't a good piece of protein/meat sing if its simply and well prepared? The product can still do the talking (and, in this case, had to...only 5 ingredients). Ubuntu's preparations, from what I've read, aren't exactly simple....just fabulous.

              1. re: Jason_Coulston
                t
                tastelikechicken Mar 21, 2008 01:48 PM

                I don't think it has anything to do with being a "hardcore vegetarian" or not. You're in a farmers market with loads of fresh veggies of every variety.You show off your skills by taking the best you can find and not follow the crowd. One of the problems i have with this show since the begining, is quite a few of the contestants are one dimensional. They only want to cook meat or they don't want to cook street food because "I'm a restaurant chef" That's not what being a chef is about. It's about rising to a challenge and taking a risk. There's an old saying in kitchens; "There are no small jobs in a kitchen, only small people" and unfortunately this show has more than it's share of small people.

                1. re: tastelikechicken
                  ccbweb Mar 21, 2008 01:51 PM

                  This is something else I'm curious about: the idea that "its about rising to a challenge and taking a risk." I agree its about rising to a challenge because that's what the whole show is, challenges. But why is it about taking a risk? If you can do something well without taking a risk (ie, when you get to choose whatever you want to make, why make something you've never done before?) then why would you take an unnecessary risk?

                  1. re: ccbweb
                    t
                    tastelikechicken Mar 21, 2008 04:33 PM

                    The challenges on this show are designed to take these people out of their comfort zone. From the interviews conducted before the show starts, the producers have a pretty good idea of each person's skill level and what they can or can't do. Do you think everyone there has made pizza before? The one guy who made a p izza with with grapes and other fruits, isn't that a risk? He might have done it before, but now he's being judged by RDS a noted Italian American Chef. These judges have seen and done everything
                    in the business. You have to pull out all the stops to win them over. If my style of cooking is New American and I'm given Middle Eastern ingredients that I have never seen or heard of before, what do I do? I try to figure out how to apply these goods to my style and techniques. Isn't that a risk?These people come from many different backgrounds. I can tell you from experience, that there is no way they either know recipe or have used many of the ingredients they are given to work with. Yes, in some of the challenges they get to choose ingredients. But what if one of the ingredients is ground beef? My comfort zone is meat loaf. Do I make that for the judges? Not if I want to stay on the show. The public these days demands new and orginal dishes. Everytime a chef walks into the kitchen and tries to create something new with the latest hot ingredient she/he is taking a risk. That is the reality of our business.

                    1. re: tastelikechicken
                      ccbweb Mar 21, 2008 09:08 PM

                      If you can make a delicious meatloaf, then yeah, you might make it at that. It depends on the challenge. My point was that one need not take unnecessary risks and that the point of the show is to win, not to take risks.

                      You don't take the risk to serve your customer, you create and refine and then serve it. The show is obviously different and is designed to put the contestants in a spot where they will be pushed....but the contestants often make choices that take themselves even further away from things they know than they need to. I'm not trying to make a high level argument about how they ought to handle it all so much as noting that the show isn't as much about finding ways to take a risk as it is about winning $100,000 and the whole title and such....managing that risk more carefully might be a good move on their part toward that end.

                      1. re: ccbweb
                        t
                        tastelikechicken Mar 21, 2008 10:38 PM

                        You can refine and perfect a dish as much as you want. The moment it gets put on the menu it becomes a risk. You risk the public not accepting it and the press bashing it.
                        And I disagree. You are not going to win by playing it safe. Some will obviously take bigger risks than others and it may not work every time. But the ones who push it a little further have a better chance of reaching the end and the prize.

                        1. re: tastelikechicken
                          ccbweb Mar 22, 2008 08:23 AM

                          I don't entirely agree with all of that....but I also don't disagree with it...I think we're ultimately just disagreeing on the essential idea of risk.

                          1. re: ccbweb
                            t
                            tastelikechicken Mar 22, 2008 11:13 AM

                            So I guess we agree to disagree. And that's ok. I think because I have been in the "business" for so long I want to see these people really push thenselves and not just do something I consider everyday. And then again what I consider everyday others would consider new and inventive. It's a matter of what you are used to. Oh by the way, I do make a mean meatloaf but I was joking about it being my comfort level.

                            1. re: tastelikechicken
                              ccbweb Mar 22, 2008 11:40 AM

                              Now that I agree with: I always want to see them do something new and interesting to me, too. I, too, have been in the "business" and get what you're writing about. Personally, I wouldn't make meatloaf either, but that's because I simply don't like meatloaf.

                2. re: Jason_Coulston
                  Morton the Mousse Mar 21, 2008 02:05 PM

                  I disagree. I feel that pastured meat raised by small, local ranchers epitomizes the principles of the farmers' market. Preparing that meat with seasonal vegetables and herbs demonstrates the wide range of the local bounty.

                  I'd guess that the episode was filmed late summer, given the presence of peaches at the farmers' market.

                  ccbweb is right that Ubuntu has nothing to do with simplicity. The food I ate there was extremely technique-intensive - many critics have likened it to the type of food you get at a 4 star restaurant. I would guess that it requires hours of prep time, and each dish featured a wide range of ingredients in order to strike the remarkable balance of flavor and texture. Jeremy Fox himself could not have prepared this type of food under the constraints of the Quick Fire.

                  1. re: Jason_Coulston
                    wolfe Mar 21, 2008 02:31 PM

                    Jason Coulston
                    Ubuntu was just named by the New York Times to be the second best restaurant in the United States . . . not located in New York.
                    Actually the list was of the best 10 new restaurants opened in a set time period and not previously reviewed. It is the choice of one critic and illustrates the words of Aristotle "One swallow does not make a summer." nor does one critic.

                    1. re: Jason_Coulston
                      chicgail Mar 22, 2008 10:06 AM

                      The show was shot in late August or early September when the Green City Farmers' Market (Chicago's preeminent organic farmers market was filled with gorgeous produce of all kinds.

                      They have plenty of eggs and cheese as well as (mostly frozen) meat offerings as well.

                      That being said, I agree with you that an all-vegetable options would by far have been my option if I had had been one of the contestants.

                      1. re: chicgail
                        s
                        soupkitten Mar 22, 2008 04:06 PM

                        really? that's weird-- in many shots, the produce looked kind of worse for wear in that episode-- everything very wilted and tired looking. it looked like they got there around noon though, not that i could be 100% on that-- but i thought that a farmer's market episode should properly be done in early morning when everything looks great and there is the most selection.

                        1. re: chicgail
                          Caroline1 Mar 22, 2008 04:42 PM

                          As the show was unfolding and I was thinking, "What would I cook," I figured everyone else would go for an all fresh vegetable dish, which is why I thought an omlette would be a standout. But as soupkitten has pointed out, things looked wilted. I can't recall... Did anyone do an all vegetable dish? I don't remember one.

                          When Padma said "farmers market," I was thinking "Alice Waters." I don't think even her shadow showed up.

                          1. re: Caroline1
                            s
                            soupkitten Mar 22, 2008 04:48 PM

                            i think dale made a point of doing an all-veg dish. he was turned off by the frozen meat at the market and said he wanted to go a different route. he did a veg dish featuring hen-of the woods mushrooms, in my recollection (and it was received positively by the judges)-- but i think he was the only one.

                            1. re: soupkitten
                              Caroline1 Mar 22, 2008 05:02 PM

                              You're right. I forgot about that. But now that you mention it, I do recall thinking how fresh the mushrooms looked as he was chopping them.

                              1. re: Caroline1
                                s
                                soupkitten Mar 22, 2008 07:13 PM

                                another cheftestant featured the same mushrooms in their dish (which involved meat)-- and i totally forget who that was. the shrooms must have really looked stellar and exciting at that market-- but they didn't show the mushroom seller/booth, which i would have liked to have seen. makes me think that judging the whole farmer's market on a few edited shots may not be accurate, though.

                      2. re: Morton the Mousse
                        Caroline1 Mar 21, 2008 02:17 PM

                        There are farmer's markets and there are farmer's markets. Most of those I've shopped at have a wide variety of everything that can be found on a farm, including eggs and cheese. In Los Angeles' farmer's market, about the only thing yuo can't buy is new tires for your tractor. But maybe I didn't look hard enough.

                        1. re: Caroline1
                          j
                          Jason_Coulston Mar 21, 2008 02:49 PM

                          I agree that farmer's market-sourced meats from small producers can represent the essence of good and local cooking. I just felt, overall, that the plates presented by the cheftestants didn't look like market-inspired plates. It's easy to please somebody with a nice piece of properly-cooked meat. Any of the competitors on Top Chef can cook a medium-rare steak. Presumably most of us on this board can as well. To me that doesn't seem very exciting . . .or bold.

                          And as for Ubuntu only being good in the opinion of one reviewer, well, I guess you can make it two reviewers as I'll throw my hat into that ring. When I was there in November 2007 it was one of the most exciting and memorable meals I've had. Definitely the best of 2007. Not that Ubuntu is really relevant here, I just used it in context of my original post and others felt the need to discuss that point as well.

                          R. Jason Coulston

                          1. re: Jason_Coulston
                            Caroline1 Mar 21, 2008 06:24 PM

                            Well, so far I've watched both shows that have been aired as of this writing. Not once have I experienced a feeling of, "Wow! I wish I could taste that!" Unfortunately, there have been a few, "God, I'm glad I don't have to taste that." Not a good omen for what's to come, in my book.

                            1. re: Caroline1
                              a
                              AMFM Mar 21, 2008 08:19 PM

                              best looking thing imho was that banana bread. and i could make it. maybe the peach pizza. but i totally agree that nothing else has tempted my taste buds at all.

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