The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Top Chef Boston Episode 6: The First Thanksgiving

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OK, maybe I was a little off when I talked about Boston not having a strong food identity.   In previous episodes, there was a weak or no connection between Boston and challenge themes – dinner at a baseball park, individual matches named after famous battles, cooking for men in uniform.   I still don’t think that any of those are unique to Boston and they didn’t mean much in terms of the challenges. But this week’s episode had a couple connections to Boston that actually made sense.   This week had a Thanksgiving theme which was appropriate as the first one took place in nearby Plymouth.

I’ve mentioned a few times through the years that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.  I love how it’s all about gratitude, family, and food.  Many other holidays can get annoying because they’ve become a pissing match where other people try to prove they are more patriotic or religious than you are.

And, worse yet, we in America have found a way to commercialize everything. Seriously, when did Memorial Day – a day to remember fallen soldiers – become the best day to buy a sofa?   Thanksgiving hasn’t gone that way yet, although many money-grubbing, scum-sucking stores and malls are trying to change that.  We really need my plan to be adopted.

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Quickfire Challenge

The chefs had to create a dish that highlights cranberries.  Apparently Padma had a little too much fun and needed the cranberry juice for a particularly nasty urinary tract infection.

memecrunch.com

memecrunch.com

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Just kidding.  Though THAT would be a great TV moment.

It was about cranberries, though. The show started out with the contestants having to run into a bog and harvest a crate full of cranberries.  The first four to finish got the advantage of choosing from a “high end pantry” with quality ingredients.  The other four had to choose from a ghetto table with ground chicken, packaged food, and other not so glamorous stuff.  The winner got immunity.

Bottom three: Katsuji, Adam, Stacy

Top three: Dougie, Katie, Mei

Winner: Katie’s cranberry borscht. Yes, cranberry borscht.

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Elimination Challenge

The contestants were tasked with making a dish for a traditional Thanksgiving meal at Plymouth Plantation.  In this case “traditional” wasn’t turkey, stuffing, and the usual fare.   Here, they had to cook using the same equipment and utensils that were used at the time.    Ingredients were either local or what the pilgrims brought on the Mayflower.

They split into two groups, but the dishes were individually judged.

Dougie – spit-roasted rabbit with garlic ramps hazelnuts chestnuts & radish

Katsuji – roasted butternut squash with poached lobster, chestnuts, and ancho chile butter

Stacy – ramp-smoked clams with butternut, lobster & ramps

Melissa – roasted parsnips, green beans & zucchini with ramp & onion vinaigrette

Adam – Succcotash with beans, corn, summer squash, wilted spinach & spiced goat milk

Katie – Blueberry stuffing with blue cornmeal cornbread & sautéed lobster

Mei – duck fat roasted cabbage with trout vinaigrette

Gregory – roasted goose, goose confit with green beans & gingered onions

KerriAnn – Seared venison loin with blueberry compote & buttered hazelnuts

Favorites: Doug, Katsuji, Mei

Winner: Katsuji

Least Favorites: Stacy, Melissa, Gregory

Gone: Stacy

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Random Thoughts

– Damn!!!  Not that I thought Stacy should stay, she definitely deserved to go and it was only a matter of time.  But I was all set to start a new drinking game where you do a shot any time Stacy mentioned that she was from Boston.  My unofficial count from this episode was 7.  That would’ve made for a fun hour.

– Product placement: The Quickfire Challenge had blatant product placement with Ocean Spray cranberry products.  But at least it was an integral part of the dishes.

– Product non-placement: I was shocked that they weren’t schlepping around in a Toyota.   In past years, it was awful watching them sing the praises of a soulless minivan.

– I think Gregory got a pass this week as his goose was really tough and almost inedible. But I think they let him slide on the basis of his past performance.

– I was utterly confused on the ingredients throughout the show.  Katsuji’s dish used ancho chile, which I didn’t think they had at the first Thanksgiving.  Stacy used ramps, which is available in spring and loses its foliage in June.  Yet, they were harvesting cranberries which happens in October.

– They made a big deal about Melissa not having a protein in her dish, but neither did Adam.  And Mei only used meat to flavor the dish, not the meat per se.

– They had mentioned, almost derogatively, that all the pots and pans used in the elimination challenge were cast iron. I’m not sure how that’s a bad thing, because I absolutely love cooking with cast iron and other “old-fashioned” pans. I just picked this beaut last week and can’t wait to start experimenting with it.

debuyer pan*

– With the Thanksgiving theme this week and the previews at the end of the show mentioning  “later this season” it looks like there won’t be a show next week.  Whew!

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I really want you to come back to this space over the next week. But if you don’t, I hope you have a terrific Thanksgiving with fun times and save travels!

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About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

9 comments on “Top Chef Boston Episode 6: The First Thanksgiving

  1. Pingback: Top Chef Boston Episode 5: It’s War | The Food and Wine Hedonist

  2. A Famished Foodie
    November 20, 2014

    Interesting that you liked this one so much- I thought the Thanksgiving theme was pretty gimmicky. So far though, I’m hoping for a finale with Mei, Gregory, and Doug.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 20, 2014

      Surprisingly, I’d throw in Katsuji in the mix. He’s so inconsistent, but when he’s on he’s damn good.

      I don’t know what to think of Katie. When she’s not wholly uninspiring she makes stuff that sounds completely gross. that wins.

      As for Thanksgiving theme, sometimes when they are constrained like that they churn out really interesting dishes. And it did make sense in the context of Boston.

  3. elizabeth
    November 20, 2014

    In the realm of Thanksgiving episodes, this will probably be one of my favorites alongside the Foo Fighters concert from a few seasons ago along with the S2 Thanksgiving episode (but that one only for Anthony Bourdain’s snarky comments).

    As soon as I saw the ramps I immediately remembered that this was filmed in the springtime. Regarding the cranberries–I think they harvest the bog cranberries all year-round (those are the ones that end up in juice and the like, per the Good Eats episode on cranberries I recently rewatched) and only the dry cranberries get harvested in the fall. But I may be wrong about that if they also showed them harvesting the dry cranberries.

    And speaking of Good Eats, Romancing the Bird was on over the weekend so I was rattling off the traditional First Thanksgiving foods before they were showing them onscreen. I’ve been trying to think of something good and light to serve on Thanksgiving during the afternoon–maybe I’ll do a steamed clam or mussel dish.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 20, 2014

      Shoot, missed Romancing the Bird. I’m sure it’ll come back on again. And serving something light on Thanksgiving? That’s what the turkey is for…

  4. a2sicilian
    November 21, 2014

    I was surprised Katsuji’s dish won, but will say that the combo of spicy and squash is amazing. Remember when the “blood-sucking lawyers” brought that roasted butternut squash side to your dinner party with the fresh chili peppers, cilantro, and lime? Awesome dish. Found it at epicurious.com. I’ve also made it on a weeknight using pre-cut chunks of squash from whole foods.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 21, 2014

      Katsuji is a real darkhorse. Hes either one of the worst or one of the best. This was simple bc it had minimal ingrdients, even tho i question whether the chile arbol was available – the Puritans certainly didnt have on the Mayflower.

      But if he can get consistent, theres no reason why he couldnt bump off Adam, Mei or Dougie. Gregory is still the frontrunner.

  5. a2sicilian
    November 21, 2014
  6. Pingback: Top Chef Boston Episode 7: Restaurant Wars | The Food and Wine Hedonist

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This entry was posted on November 20, 2014 by in Television and tagged , , , , , .
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