Saturday, January 12, 2013

Quickfire! Ginger! #TopChef (and a drink recipe!)

I had the bright idea that I could write a bunch of posts based on the Quickfire challenges on this season of Top Chef, but the past few weeks have been difficult. One week it was oysters. I've eaten oysters, but I've never shucked one. I decided to skip that week.

Another week it was about cooking with no pots or pans - just aluminum foil. I guess I could have done something with that, but I didn't have any blog-worthy ideas. Not even in jest. So I figured I'd skip that, too.

But, uh oh, last week the quickfire was about sharpening knives. No recipe there. Well, I guess I could have julienned a lot of vegetables and made a salad ...

Finally, on this past episode of Top Chef, the quickfire was about ginger. I immediately had a lot of ideas. First I thought of salad dressing. But there's no way I could win a quickfire with that. Then I thought about a cocktail, but I don't think there are cocktail ingredients in the Top Chef kitchen.

Next I was thinking about granitas and cakes and quickbreads and cookies. Sigh ... 15 minutes ... no way.

Then I thought about soup. Yeah, I could do that. A carrot-ginger soup would be good, right?

Here's what I would do:

Peel and dice some carrots, throw them in a pot with butter. Um, okay, the butter should be melting first. Do a quick little cook in the butter, then add a little water and boil the heck out of the carrots until they're tender.

Oh, wait. Ginger. I'd add a piece of ginger to the cooking carrots. Then, when the carrots were tender, I'd pull out the ginger and blend the carrot into a nice puree. A stick blender would be good. Add water to get the right consistency. Add salt.

Oh, and maybe a hint of cinnamon, but not too much.

Hmmm ... but that's not enough when everyone else is making ridiculously complicated multi-course dishes. So... let's see. Orange soup that's sort of sweet would need some green for contrast. So I think I'd blend up some watercress with some oil, then strain it and drizzle some of the green watercress oil in dots over the top of the soup.

Wait! How much time do I have? Maybe a little creme fraiche before the oil! RUN LIKE MAD TO THE PANTRY!!!

But wait! This needs some texture!

How much time do I have left??? AHHH! PANIC!!!

Maybe some thin shavings of carrots - or a small julienne - quickly pickled. That would add some crunch and a bit of acid, and it's also very cheffy to present an ingredient in both its cooked and raw states. A little haystack of the carrots on top of the soup would finish it nicely.

Needless to say, I haven't actually tried this recipe, so I have no idea if it would work. I think it would. What  do you think? What would Wolfgang Puck think (WWWPT)?

Wolfgang Puck was the judge for this episode. I love listening to him, and I'd love to cook with him. Cooking for him might be a bit intimidating, though.

So, if they did allow cocktails, this is what I'd make. It's interesting because the drink is completely clear, but it's got a lot of flavor.

Not Maryanne, But Tropical

Two small slices of ginger (smaller than a dime) peeled
1 ounce orange vodka
Cucumber soda

Skewer on of the ginger slices (Oh! Or if there's candied ginger, use that!) on a little cocktail skewer thing, or a toothpick.

Put the second piece of ginger in the bottom of a glass. A short one like you see over there on the right.

Add the orange vodka. Muddle/smash/mash the ginger to release flavor. Remove the ginger (or strain into another similar glass if you've made a mess of the ginger). Add ice. Fill the glass with cucumber soda.

Garnish with the slice of ginger or the candied ginger. Serve.

If you're watching the show, you can help keep your favorite chef in the competition. Check out the Save a Chef competition where you can vote via Twitter or by texting. Easy peasy!