Thursday, April 24, 2008

Comedic Cooking


I rarely tune into Bravo's "Top Chef" - mostly because it airs at 10 p.m. on Wednesday nights, a schedule that isn't particularly convenient for me. And then there's the fact that unlike Project Runway - where you can see the designs and draw a logical conclusion - it's far less easy to armchair quarterback when you can't taste the meals being judged.
That being said, I have watched the past two episodes after the previews drew my attention. And while I doubt I'll become a loyal viewer, I admit I've been pleasantly surprised. Last week, for example, the contestants were charged with concocting upscale, tasty tailgate food appropriate to feed hungry Chicago Bears fans. Fun, right? And in last night's episode, they attended a show at the famed "Second City" only to find out they had to make dinner for the improv troupe and judges the next day based on a random trio of colors, feelings and ingredients the audience was asked to provide. Hee!
Anyway, there were more than a few meals mentioned last night that I'd love to add to my recipe rolodex, beginning with the pastries featured in the dessert challenge. Hellooo, yogurt puree with fried wontons? Chocolate cake with salted basil ganache? Sign me up! And then there was the absolutely dee-lish sounding "banana scallops with banana guacamole" and chocolate ice cream. Wow.
Moving on to the dinner portion. The five courses were yellow vanilla love, depressed purple bacon, drunk magenta Polish sausage, green perplexed tofu and orange turned-on asparagus. While some struggled with the challenge, others rocked it. There were two dishes that I particularly coveted. First, the squash soup with vanilla creme fraiche that was apparently so good one of the judges said she would "lick the bowl" if she wasn't in front of the camera. And then there was the tofu steak with green curry marinated in beef fat. How better to represent perplexed tofu than to give the veggie-friendly item a meaty flavor?
I was thrilled to discover you can find all of those recipes on the Top Chef Web site. Unfortunately, some of them are a little too, shall we say, complex for my cooking abilities. Bummer.
I'll keep trying, but in the meantime, here are two sucralose-sweetened dishes that -although less fancy than the afore-mentioned vanilla squash soup or banana scallops -will certainly please the tastebuds.

Spicy Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Banana and Chocolate Bread Pudding

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