S2E16 (Pressure) – Salmon

S2E16 (Team Challenge) Note: At the beginning of the episode, the top six chefs were split into two teams and asked to run dinner service at the Michelin-Star restaurant, Patina. They were tasked with executing four of the restaurant’s signature dishes (shown below) with basic instruction from the restaurant’s chefs. The Red Team of Christian, Ben, and Suzy won based on feedback from the guests (all of whom were Patina regulars) and the restaurant’s chef and owner. This sent the Blue Team’s Tracy, Adrien, and Jennifer into the pressure test.

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The episode showed and talked about so few components of each dish that it was difficult to determine the techniques and ingredients used in each one. Additionally, based on my watching of the episode, it appeared that many (if not all) of the sauces, marinades, and other prep work were already done for the chefs. While I hate passing up on a challenge, I felt that there was simply no way for me to recreate even one of the dishes with the limited instructions and my lack of access to the ingredients that I thought would be necessary. Therefore, I had to skip this challenge and move on to the pressure test from this episode. 


For the pressure test, Tracy, Jennifer and Adrien had to scale and filet a whole salmon into at least 10 portions and cook one of those portions perfectly for the judges in just 45 minutes. Before the task, Gordon Ramsay gave a helpful tutorial to the chefs demonstrating the proper way to accomplish this. I thought it was really helpful so I posted the clip below. I really wish this show had more of this and less of the interpersonal drama. But I guess that’s not what reality shows are for…

All of the contestants really struggled with this challenge, but Tracy had the most issues with both the prep and the cooking, resulting in her elimination. However, I definitely think she got the better end of the deal as the show said that they would pay for 1 year of classes at Le Cordon Bleu for her and a job with one of them when she graduated.

Since I obviously was not going to get my hands on a whole salmon, I decided to simply make a perfect pan-seared fillet of salmon with a garlic-dill butter sauce and two sides: cheddar-gruyere scalloped potatoes and roasted asparagus.

The first thing I did was work on the scalloped potatoes. I used this recipe as my guide: Scalloped Potatoes – Southern Food. This recipe was very simple and straightforward so I, of course, had to jazz it up a bit. I made several key changes and additions,  which definitely added a lot of flavor.

In a small saucepan, I melted 3 tablespoons of butter with 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced). After allowing that to cook together for a bit, I blended in 3 tablespoons of flour and cooked that mixture together for 1-2 minutes.

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I then added 1 1/2 cups of skim milk, 1 teaspoon of salt and a couple dashes each of thyme, nutmeg and black pepper. I whisked this mixture constantly until it was smooth and bubbling. Then, I removed the pan from the heat and stirred in 2/3 of a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1/3 of a cup of shredded gruyere.

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With the cheese sauce complete, I layered 2 cups of thinly sliced potatoes in the bottom of a a casserole dish and poured half of the cheese sauce over the potatoes. I repeated this with 2 more cups of potatoes and the rest of the cheese sauce. Then, I sprinkled the top with shredded cheddar cheese, grated parmesan and paprika.

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I baked this at 350 degrees for a little less than hour (until it was cooked through and brown and crispy on the top). For plating purposes, I used a large round cup to get a perfect circle of scalloped potatoes to display with the salmon and asparagus.

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While the potatoes were in the oven, I prepped a bunch of asparagus and tossed it in some olive oil, minced garlic, diced yellow onion, salt and pepper. I baked this in the oven (at 350 degrees) until the asparagus were tender, about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness.

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Finally, it was time for the salmon. I have never pan-seared salmon before so I completely followed this recipe and it was great: Seared Salmon Fillet Recipe. While the salmon was cooking, I made a quick and simple sauce by melting a couple tablespoons of butter with 1-2 cloves of garlic (minced) and some fresh dill.

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When everything was finished, I plated the salmon then squeezed some fresh lemon over the top and spooned the garlic-dill butter sauce over the top. Finally, I put the scalloped potatoes and asparagus on the plate and served. Overall, this dish was delicious. I could not stop eating those potatoes and the salmon was very flavorful. I still have no idea how I would have done at breaking down the salmon but I’m now confident that I can make a great salmon dish.

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S2E9 (Mystery Box) – Vegetables

Employment Update: 4 Job Applications, 1 Scheduled Interview, 1 Sales Assessment, 2 Follow-up E-mails

This week’s mystery box challenge asked the chefs to create a restaurant-quality vegetarian entree out of some of the following ingredients: purple fingerling potatoes, goat cheese, phyllo dough, green and red tomatoes, asian pear, basil, shallots, avocado,  beets, mushrooms, asparagus, eggs, rice, cumin, lemon, arugula, parsley, green beans, japanese eggplant, smoked paprika, moroccan spice, curry powder and a variety of other herbs and spices.

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Jennifer (Vegetable Terrine), Adrien (Green Gazpacho) and Alejandra (Vegetable Korma) landed in the top 3 with Jennifer winning overall, allowing her to pick the focus for the next challenge.

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As soon as I saw that purple potatoes were part of the mystery box, I though that it would be really cool to do a purple potato gnocchi with oven roasted vegetables. However, when I went to the store, I quickly realized that finding purple potatoes to work with was going to be an issue. I had to settle for red skin potatoes but I was confident that it would work out since I had made gnocchi successfully before using this recipe: Simple Potato Gnocchi.

The first thing I did was boil about a pound and a half of red skin potatoes until they were tender. While the potatoes were on the stove, I prepped the vegetables for the dish. I cleaned and cut a bunch of asparagus in to thirds. Then, I chopped 1/4 of a yellow onion, quartered 8 ounces of baby bella mushrooms, diced 1 tomato and minced 2 cloves of garlic. I mixed all of this together and laid it out on a lined baking sheet. Then, I drizzled it all with olive oil and sprinkled it with salt and pepper.  I put this whole mixture in a 350 degree oven after I had prepped the gnocchi and started the boiling process per the recipe link above.

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As the gnocchi popped to the top of the boiling water, I transferred them to a pan with some melted butter and warm olive oil. I tossed them in this mixture to keep them warm and to keep them from sticking to one another. Once all the gnocchi were in this pan, the oven roasted vegetables were done. I transferred all of the vegetables into the pan with the gnocchi and tossed the whole mixture.

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Finally, I started the sauce. I melted 4 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. Then I added 1/2 of a shallot (finely chopped), 4 cloves of garlic (minced) and 4 leaves of fresh basil (finely chopped). After a few minutes of cooking, I then added in 4 ounces of goat cheese, stirring while it melted to make sure everything combined evenly.

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I poured the sauce over the gnocchi and vegetables, sprinkled salt and pepper to taste, and mixed it all to coat evenly. I let the whole mixture cook on low heat for a few minutes to ensure that all the flavors could come together. And then I served it with a garnish of shredded parmesan.

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Overall, the dish came together pretty well. The flavor was great but the gnocchi did not hold up very well. I think using the red skin potatoes instead of the traditional russet potatoes threw off the dough. I could tell immediately that it just was not coming together as well as it had before. I also just made a half recipe (unlike before) and that could have thrown proportions off as well. The gnocchi stayed mostly in tact but I do think that it would have been much better had I used firmer potatoes. I haven’t really worked with purple potatoes so I’m not sure if that would have been an issue with them, but I do think the dish was delicious and very good looking regardless.

S1E8 (Elimination) – Romance Theme: Passion Fruit

Employment Update: I’ve had two more Skype interviews since my last post for a full-time role in Chicago with a really cool startup. I’m really excited about it but we will see what happens. In the meantime, I’m just enjoying my time in Louisville and exploring the city (when it’s not raining outside – I thought I left Oregon…).

After the Mystery Box challenge, Lee (the winner) was able to choose which ingredient he wanted the chefs to base a dish around in order to create romantic dishes. His choices were chocolate, passion fruit and burrata. He, of course, picked passion fruit (which is crazy difficult to get around here and I’ve never even tried one before).

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A lot of the chefs did prawns or steak with some sort of fruit salad or sauce. The judges did not appear to be impressed with many of the dishes except for those put out by Sharone (Porcini-crusted Tenderloin) and Lee (Tenderloin and Prawns).

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Slim and Whitney were the bottom two dishes this week. Whitney made passion fruit glazed shrimp, which she overcooked. Slim did a really weird fruit and meat fondue dish and ended up being sent home – mostly because she thought her plate was really good even after a terrible critique.

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For my attempt at this challenge,  I decided to do a Thai-inspired passion fruit risotto with chilean sea bass and roasted asparagus. Tragically, I was unable to find any passion fruit in Louisville. I went to three different stores and all I was able to come up with was passion fruit juice. To make two portions of this dish, I used:

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  • 2-3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
  • 2-1/2 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup of Arborio Rice
  • 1/4 Cup of Red Wine
  • 1 Tablespoon of Ginger Paste
  • 1 Tablespoon of Lemongrass Paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Cilantro, Coarsely Chopped
  • Several dashes of Thai Red Chili Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Passion Fruit Juice
  • 2-1/2 Cups of Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 Cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 6-ounce Filets of Chilean Sea Bass
  • Bunch of Asparagus
  • Lime
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • Olive Oil for Cooking

The first component I focused on was, of course, the risotto. I sautéed the onion and garlic in the butter and olive oil until the onions were translucent. Then, I put the Arborio rice in and cooked it for a few minutes. I then mixed in the red wine to add some color to the rice, followed by the ginger, lemongrass, cilantro and thai red chili sauce. Then, I started the process of adding the broth into the rice mixture. I had heated the chicken broth and passion fruit juice to a boil before starting the risotto so I could slowly add the warm liquid a little bit (about 1/2 cup) at a time. I continued to do this until the rice had absorbed all the liquid and finished it by mixing in the parmesan cheese.

The other two components were simple. I placed the asparagus in a roasting pan, drizzled the spears in olive oil and seasoned it with some salt and pepper. Then, I just put it in to a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

I seasoned the sea bass with salt, pepper and lime and pan seared it (just a few minutes on each side). With all of the components complete, I plated the dish with the risotto on the base, followed by the asparagus and the chilean sea bass. (See finished product below).

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The dish was delicious and very unique. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had anything quite like it before. Everything was cooked perfectly but it got a little oily and some crunch would have been nice to have in order to break up the similar textures. I also would have liked to add a little more red wine to get a richer color to the risotto. Overall though, it tasted great and I definitely think I would have been safe this time around.