I had incredible sympathy for the Top Chefs the other night. They had an actually honest-to-goodness, real, worthwhile challenge for once. No snack machine silliness, or freezer bag madness. As I watched them try to recreate Le Cirque's potato crusted sea bass, I thought, "Man, that's gotta be difficult to do."
I consider myself a not-too-shabby cook, but when Hung made his remark about "Any chef should be able to do this dish," I cringed a little. I don't think I could.
Then I remembered. Oh, yeah. We DID try to make this once. How did it turn out...?
Well, we didn't have a mandoline back then, so the potato slices were too thick. We didn't have sea bass, so we used halibut. And we had no idea how to wrap the pieces of fish, much less make them stick together, so much of the kitchen dialogue went like this: "God%&*!@$%! STICK damn you, STICK!"
(In case you're interested, here's the recipe on Daniel Boulud's site.)
Let's just say it's a good thing that there's no photographic evidence. I think I was probably blocking it from my memory.
I don't think I could ever be a "chef." All that stuff about technique and skills -- I still don't do the knife-against-the-knuckles-while-chopping thing properly, although I must admit, I fairly certain that I can still chop an onion faster than Casey.
I'm reliant on recipes, I like to troll other people's ideas and steal from them flagrantly. And is it "cheating" to use the best possible ingredients, and then just cook 'em up with lots of butter and salt? I leave it to you to decide.
Take this lovely meal we had a little while back, for instance. I suppose credit for how good this meal was should actually go to the ferry plaza farmers' market. Marin Sun Farms Beef: We rubbed with some olive oil, salt and pepper and stuck it under the broiler for a few minutes. Potatoes and wild mushrooms: clean, slice and cook with some duck fat and salt. Fresh peas: shelled (and heavily sampled) and cooked in butter. (I'll let you read all about the Sean Thackrey Andromeda we drank with it all on my Omnivore's blog.)
Three-year aged Parmigiano-Reggiano drizzled with chestnut honey.
The Gourmet meal.
Are we chefs, or what...
Dessert is probably the most complicated thing we make in this household. Here's a duo of ice creams, Pear Caramel and his heavenly Chocolate Ice Cream-- for which I can take no credit -- they're both recipes out of David Lebovitz's fine book (By the way, we've made four of his ice creams to date and everyone has been killer. Buy the book. Seriously) .
So are we chefs or cooks? Hrm, I think we're just eaters.