Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, January 06, 2011

TC All-Stars' Dim Sum prospects,Downton Abbey's debut and The Worst Cooks in America are back for seconds

For the Quickfire Challenge on last night's Top Chef All-Stars, Judge Tom himself came out to cook a dish in a small amount of time(eight minutes and thirty seven seconds,to be precise)and the other chefs would have to do the same.

It was quite the scramble,especially since immunity and a new car were up for grabs with this win. However,when the dust cleared it was Mikey Isabella who was handed the car keys due to his tasty pan roasted branzino over capers and black olives.

The Elimination Challenge took everyone to a Chinatown restaurant to make dim sum for the lunch crowd. Top Chef Masters contender Susur Lee joined the judges' panel here,which was fine but considering how screwed up things got during service,it would have been interesting to see Anthony Bourdain's reaction there.

Service was incredibly slow,to the point that the customers were helping themselves to the food carts as they went out on the floor. There were long gaps in between dishes and even Judge Tom had to go to the kitchen and let the chefs know that people were so annoyed that they were leaving! Considering that this is the All Star season(not to mention that these folks are professional chefs off camera),that whole mess was hard to understand.

The results were so bad that the least favorite dishes were called up to judgment first. Carla was on the chopping block for her summer rolls with lemongrass,which looked great but were completely flavorless.

Antonia was one of the Bottom Five,despite having a nice shrimp toast plate. She assisted on some other dishes such as Jamie's long beans with sausage that came out greasy and covered for those who were serving lunch upstairs. If she had just done the shrimp toast,Antonia might have been on top.

Not all of the culinary collaborations had a unhappy ending;Dale and Angelo teamed up to make cheung fun with xo shrimp that put them both in the winner's circle. Angelo also had a solo dish that went over well,a shrimp and pork spring roll.

Fabio was worried for a moment when he arrived at the kitchen to cook spicy ribs and didn't find a grill. Yet his soy glazed honey spiced ribs came out just fine and also granted him a spot in the top for this round.

The winner,however,was Dale for his bacon wrapped sticky rice in a banana leaf. That seemed to put him in a good mood for once. That guy is still as cranky as he was in his original season,seriously.

The bets were on for Jamie to be sent off to pack her knives but ,no,it was the less than mighty Casey who struck out here.

She did try to shift some of the blame for her chicken foot with pancake plate on to Antonia(who helped make it while Casey was working upstairs)but truth be told,Casey had never worked with this poultry item before and it was so chewy that even the desperately hungry customers at the restaurant refused to eat it.

One thing is for certain,this season is certainly keeping things lively. Next week,the chefs go fishing and Fabio has a run-in with Richard during prep. Boys,boys-you need to behave!

The second season of Worst Cooks in America started off pretty well,considering that this time I didn't have to wait for a cable network dispute to be over to see it. Last year's winning chef mentor Anne Burrell is facing off against Food Network regular Robert Irvine to whip a team of raw recruits into culinary shape.

Both teams have their fair share of misfits and potential players,with their budding skills being tested during an opening Skill Drill and a Main Dish challenge. What is also being tested is the teaching style of the team leaders,an aspect that is just as interesting as seeing who goes home each week.

This week,it was all about chicken and Chef Anne instructed her crew on how to make chicken cacciatore with haricot vert(fancy green beans). Cacciatore is one of those dishes that I've always heard of but never had,so this was a real treat to see. Granted,two of her recruits had fire trouble during their cooking time but Chef Anne made the grade with this one:

Robert Irvine showed his team how to cook "airline chicken" with a potato hash. Airline chicken is basically a chicken breast with the wing still on but the bone is Frenched(meat scrapped off it).

As much as I adore chicken breast(and that end result looked mouth watering good),Chef Irvine is a tad business like in demonstrating his technique. It's too soon to tell which chef is the better teacher but if I had to choose a team,Chef Anne would be my pick. She's tough but talented and a bit warmer than Irvine seems to be:

PBS Masterpiece Classic begins their new season with Downton Abbey,a miniseries that was a hit in it's home country and sure to do just as well with American audiences. The show is centered around the Crawley family in 1912 and their coping with the unexpected results of the sudden death of two of the family estate's heirs.

Due to those pesky entails that were still on the law books in England,a male cousin is set to inherit instead of Mary,the eldest Crawley daughter who was engaged to the son of the recently departed heir. The impact of these events is also reflected upon the servants,with a new man arriving as some of the established staff are considering their options,along with hiding a few family secrets.

With a blend of old and new faces in the cast,along with compelling plot lines written by Julian Fellowes,Downton Abbey promises to be the place to be,indeed:


THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: New episodes are set to air by January 27,a rather long time to wait there,if you ask me. Good things come to those who do so,I know ,yet this teen vampire drama is number one on my TV obsession list which makes it hard to resist(thank goodness for Santa bringing me Season One on DVD this past Christmas!):

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