Top Chef: Texas 9.6 – Higher Steaks

I squealed in delight when I saw my favorite Texan chef was the guest judge for this episode: Dean Fearing!  I’ve eaten at the Mansion (it was one of the top restaurants in the world when he was head Chef) and regularly visit his name sake restaurant here in Dallas.  I used to watch his TV show where his sous chef showed how to debone a chicken in under two minutes.  I kind of fan girl him.  (And it thrills me every time he stops by my table to ask me about my dinner.)

The best steak of my life was at his restaurant, and it’s all about steak for our cheftestants.  This isn’t going to be easy, folks.

Everyone is still sad to lose Chuy (me, too!) as they head into Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas, which will serve as their kitchen.  Dean Fearing awaits them (and I bet he had on cowboy boots.)  Padma gets straight to the quickfire challenge. Every chef worth their salt should know how to make basic “mother sauces.”  Their challenge will be to draw knives to determine which sauce they’ll make, and turn it into a unique dish of their own.  They all draw and the clock starts ticking. They’ll have an hour and a half.

It looks like Paul is turning his espagnole into a Pho, which sounds amazing.  Beverly is also turning hers into something Asian inspired, which irritates Heather.  But then, everything seems to irritate Heather.

Quickfire Results 

  • Sergeant Handsome:Velouté -Butter-poached halibut over mussels andouille, mushroom and the velouté sauce.
  • Edward: Béchamel – Cauliflower milk béchamel with poached red snapper, tarragon crab and fried oyster
  • Grayson: Hollandaise – Scallop, charred corn sauce, corn ravioli and blueberry balsamic (it looks amazing)
  • Paul: Espagnole – Quail with pickled and roasted mushroom and garlic scapes, and okra (Dean asked about his roux, but he didn’t make one. Uh, oh. Also, it looks delicious.)
  • Whitney: Tomate – Poached shrimp, fennel pilau, sauteed okra and pancetta (Also asked about her roux, she’s pretty snotty about not making one, nor would she. Oho. Dean is not impressed, nor am I.)
  • Heather: Béchamel – Gruyere croquette, apple and ginger compote and an Asian slaw (It looks like hush puppies on apple sauce.)
  • Beverly: Espagnole – Crab maki roll with rib eye, charred shallots, peppercorn, sake and red wine.  (Not a lot of her mother sauce, but she makes food that I want to eat, I must say.)
  • Dakota: Béchamel – Peach-infused béchamel, seared scallop with truffle and lemon zest (It sounds delicious, but the judges move on quickly.  Also, the scallop seems to be overcooked.)
  • Ty-Lor: Hollandaise – Hollandaise with lemongrass and citrus zest, Aki tuna and baby bok choy (It’s revealed he didn’t clarify his butter, and Auguste Escoffier rolls over in his grave.)
  • Nyehsa: Tomate – Tomate sauce with coconut ras el harout and braised lentils with toasted pistachios. (She mentions that it’s her favorite thing, making a sauce.)

Worst:

  • Dakota – The peach was overpowering, and no other flavors evident
  • Nyesha (ouch) There were too many flavors.
  • Beverly – Um..where was your mother sauce?  They could only taste wasabi.

Best

  • Grayson – Dean was blown away that she even made a ravioli in an hour and a half. Delicious.
  • Sgt. Handsome – Unbelivable flavor, and excellent technique
  • Paul – Excellent flavors, especially the pickling.

The winner of the mother sauce challenge, earning themselves immunity: GRAYSON.  Way to go, No Job!  She is definitely someone to watch out for.

Elimination Challenge:
There will be one team, four courses for dinner and 200 guests.  It’s for a huge event up here, the Cattle Baron’s Ball.  (The dinner is casual, but later in the night when it’s the “ball” portion, that’s where all the celebrities show up.  And former Presidents that I didn’t vote for. Ahem.)  Two of the courses need to be steak, and those steaks need to be MEDIUM RARE, Dean is very specific about that.  As in, medium rare when they hit the table.  Which, if you think about it, makes it easy on the chef.  Two minutes a side at high heat, boom, plated.

Ty-Lor goes on about how much steak experience he’s had, because he worked in New York City.  (New York City??  Get a rope.  Um, that’s a famous commercial, I am not advocating violence.)  Of course they’re going to be serving at Southfork Ranch, famous for being the backdrop to Dallas, the iconic soap opera. True fact: it’s really small and not that impressive.  And Kristin shot JR, that’s a Trivial Pursuit question.

The editors cut to a shot of Dallas from the Grassy Knoll (wow, guys, classy.) and then tot he gang at Whole Foods loading up with their $4000 budget.  They get back to the kitchen with three hours of prep time.  Heather starts bitching about Beverly focusing solely on her own dish and spending the entire time cleaning and deveining shrimp.  Ty-Lor, who has waxed philosophic about his dad loving to grill, then having heart troubles, making him the chef he is today (huh?) proceeds to stab himself in the webbing between his fingers with an oyster knife.

He calls out for a medic like he’s on Normandy, and it’s mentioned that he’s gone in one sixteenth of an inch.  Are you kidding me, bro?  Now, I am not a chef.  But I do have a +75 Survivor skill, because I cut a half inch into the palm of my hand while cubing up acorn squash.  I put cinnamon on it to stop the bleeding (little tip, you’re welcome) washed it, blotted with rubbing alcohol, and super-glued the sumbitch back together so my daughter wouldn’t freak out.  And then kept making dinner. [Here’s a picture of it, if you’re disturbingly intrigued by my pain – that is Iodine over the wound.]

Hey, who’s still hungry?

Time is up, tensions are high, and back at the house, the gang realizes that they may need to reconfigure the plan for the event if Ty-Lor isn’t able to work.  Ty-Lor comes back early in the morning after waiting in the ER all night – they must have sent him to Parkland, and now the JFK circle is complete.  He’s ready to work, though.  Good for you, bud.

They all head to Southfork, are underwhelmed, as is reasonable, and bravo didn’t clear the theme song to Dallas, it seems, as some jarring, weird music plays in the background.  Ty-Lor heads out back with about 13 charcoal grills, pouring lighter fluid on all of them and starting them up.  (Lighter fluid, bro?  Really?)

Chicago Chris sears his steaks and tosses them into some liquid and I thought my husband was going to have an aneurysm.  What are they DOING?  This better be some secret technique that is fabulous, because I have never in my LIFE seen this done to a steak, and I am from the land where steaks are born.

Whitney is making a potato gratin and stubbornly didn’t cook them the day before.  Now the top layer is gray and she’s having to pull it off.  Yum?  Beverly is still deviling shrimp, and speaking of aneurysms, Heather is about to have one.  Dakota refers to Heather as a mega-bully, and I’m starting to agree.  Chill, lady, and take care of yourself.

Tom and Dean come in to psych them out, er, check on their progress, and Dean is baffled at the way Whitney is cooking her potatoes.  He feels that it is cooking 101, and she’s failing miserably.  Ty-Lor is outside on his Kingsford charcoal, marking the steaks so they can be finished off inside.

Time for the Cattle Baron Ball!  It’s the biggest fundraiser in the country for the American Cancer Society, by the way, and getting an in to the Ball is a big To Do.

First Course: (Sarah, Dakota, Beverly) Summer gazpacho of tomato and watermelon, with poached shrimp and avocado mousse.

Judges: can’t taste the watermelon, too much acid.  Crowd: eh.

Second Course: (Ed, Paul, Chicago Chris) Seared New York strip carpaccio with heirloom tomato salad, vinaigrette and mushroom “bacon,” very clever, boys.
Judges: Tom thinks there’s no point of view, but Dean notes the steak is cooked perfectly

The camera cuts to Ty-Lor outside pouring water on the grill to steam the steak and whyyyy?  Why are you making Salisbury steak, Ty-Lor, why?!  Then Ed fires off the steaks too quickly – there are still 10 minutes left in the second course.  Uh oh.  The gratin is a gummy, mealy mess.

Third Course: (Nyesha, Ty-Lor, Whitney, Sgt. Handsome) “Grilled” Rib-eye, “Creamy” potato gratin (my sarcasm, not the show’s) braised greens and compound butter from bone marrow, red wine and onions. (I love you, Nyesha. Cook for me, please.)

Judges: Hugh thinks the steak is bad, Dean’s is positively grey.  Oh, dear. Tom is absolutely pissed about the potatoes, but everyone agrees the compound butter and sauce are outstanding.

Fourth Course: (Lindsay, Grayson, Heather) “Right-side up” Texas peach cake with a peach salad and candied pecan streussel.  (It should be noted that Heather is using – once again – Ed’s sponge recipe, something he’s not pleased about.)

Judges: Tom loves that it’s not overly sweet, especially not after a heavy meal.  The crowd is evenly divided, some of those old cowboys like a little sugar, who knew?

Ty-lor assumes it’s him because of the steaks. Heather immediately says it should be Beverly, because she focused on herself.  Um… Heather?  Ease up, hoss.  Padma comes in and asks for Nyesha, Heather, and Chicago Chris.

Judges Table
They’re the favorites of the night!

  • Nyesha: her butter and sauce made an unsalvagable dish worth eating.  Old school techniques with amazing results.
  • Heather: They loved how light and airy Ed’s, er, her cake was, perfectly baked and moist
  • Chris: His steak was perfect, just the right amount of marbling and the shining part of the dish.

Winner: Heather, which is going to make Ed so proud, I’m sure.  Also, she just won a Toyota SUV.  Son of a…  Ed is pretty sour about it.

Ty-Lor, Whitney and Ed are called back to face the music.

  • Ty-Lor: At the judges table, two steaks were undercooked, two were shoe leather.  The hell?  He takes responsibility for the dish.
  • Whitney: It’s 104 degrees outside, and she made a creamy, heavy dish?  And then screwed it up?  The potatoes were raw.  She had six hours to make a gratin, for the love of Mike. Dean mentions that she should have noticed that when she was cutting it for service.
  • Ed: His salad on the carpaccio was just him playing it safe, there was absolutely no wow factor.

Tom is livid about service and lays into them.  He picked the wrong 16, he thinks, how dare they serve that kind of swill to him?  They send them back to the stew room to tear them apart a little more.

I would like to state that at Fearings, Dean’s restaurant at the Ritz in Dallas, I have been served a two inch thick fillet of buffalo tenderloin, medium rare, and it was so tender I literally did not use a knife to cut it.  Find me a steak that perfect, and I’ll point out that you’re eating the same one I am.  (It also came with a black peppercorn and red wine reduction, plus a butternut squash taquito, and I promise: if you go to his restaurant and order that, you will agree with me that it’s one of the best steaks of your life. Un-freaking-believable.  And stick around for Brunch on the weekends and try one of his Texan Bloody Marys.  Hoo, are they good.   The man makes delicious food, that’s what I’m saying.)

The chefs are brought back in, and after Tom reiterates how mad he is about their choices that night, Padma puts on her sympathetic, yet serious face and says, “Whitney: please pack your knives and go.”

Everyone gives her hugs, but she’s not that upset about it, by the looks of her.  Eh, you win some you lose some?  And that lack of fire is probably why you’re out, cookie.

Next week: Heather bullies everyone, and I have no idea what they’re about to cook!

Please like & share:
  • Zyrya

    How the hell does one screw up a potato gratin? And why (WHY??) poach the steak? Did Chicago Chris think he was making brisket? The dessert sounds horrible. I just went to look for an image of it, in case it was prettier than I’m imagining (it doesn’t), and stumbled into a pic of Whitney. Aiieee! Who gave that woman knives???

    That menu sounds pretty unbalanced as a whole, to me, although having two steak courses makes it harder. How many covers did they have to produce? I had expected something with a great deal more tension and drama.

    • There was no excuse for that gratin, NONE. Hence the ax. And it was all mealy and didn’t even have a little green like parsley or BAH. No thanks, Whitney. I’m not joking, my husband was in TEARS over that steak. Every time they showed them splashing water for steam he would rage and cry out.

      There should have been an app course, or an amuse bouche before the watermelon/shrimp thing. It was all very strange, for sure. Or the first course should have been an app/amuse bouche the second course can stay the carpaccio and salad, but put someone that knows what they’re doing – NO, REALLY – on steaks and fire the person that thinks potato gratin sounds forward thinking. Damn.

  • Dumbass question, but, by Sergeant Handsome, you mean Edward, right? And if so, why? (Moreso the Sergeant part than the handsome) So dreamy *_*

    • whoops I totally see that you weren’t talking about him.. I just have a soft spot for Asians. My bad.

  • oh, I do, too – Sgt. Handsome is a joke name from an episode of Glee, for a guy that was ridiculously perfect. Chris (aka Sgt. Handsome) looks cookie-cutter pretty boy to mre. Not that it’s a bad thing, just, you know, going for the joke….

  • Vyola

    It deeply, deeply pains me to say this, as I lived in Texas for a while and have serious family roots there, but steak (and beef in general) was much better treated in Top Chef: Chicago*.

    Shame, shame, shame on all their heads.

    *(I have never had my mouth water during a food show like it did the episode where they butchered and cooked the tomahawk chops then took over Rick Tramanto’s steakhouse. From start to finish [except for Spike’s scallops!], I sat and drooled.)

    • Well…the Texas chef did just fine, and with the exception of Chicago Chris (who still put his steaks in a bowl of liquid after grilling them) the problems tonight were the Chicago chefs. ;) (Well, and Ed, who is from Tenn.)

      Gimmie pork when I’m in Chicago ever time. But steak belongs to us. Yes, I realize that I just threw down the gauntlet, ha. Still stand by it.

      • Vyola

        Oh, I agree! But for most viewers, the impression is going to be that Texas ruined steak.

        I’m starting to believe that this group is only good for Quickfires. Give ’em any more time to think and it goes bad in weirdly unexpected ways.

  • Lostakasha

    Late to the party but I had to chime in with my horror at steamed steak. Who *does* that? Maybe Ty-Lor was a chef at The Old Country Buffet in Chicago. I believe they mark their steaks with a Barbie crimping iron before steaming, though. It makes a big diff.

    When I saw Whitney layering those uncooked spuds with cheese I actually stood up, turned to D and said “what the hell is she doing?” Okay, so I yelled it and D told me to sit the hell down and take a Xanax because “it’s only a potato.”

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING.

    Your reviews are things of beauty. Carry on.

    • STEAMING. What. What?!?!? Also, I laughed at Barbie crimping iron.

      How dare D say that it’s only a potato?? Tell her I am making a stern face at her for that.

      <3 (Thanks, L, glad you're enjoying these!)

  • Ivyfree

    I didn’t see him dumping the steak into liquid, but I did see him splashing water onto the fire to cool it, which created steam- but the point wouldn’t be to steam the steak but to reduce the heat. No point charring the outside and leaving the inside raw. I think the problem was that the chefs inside flashed the steaks too soon, which pretty much destroyed them. I figured Whitney was getting knifed when they kept saying that her gratin made no sense- and it didn’t, not in that heat- a potato salad would have been better, if she had to do potatoes!- and it was a bad gratin with no redeeming value. Ty-lor didn’t make any excuses, he accepted the responsibility and faced up to it. I bet he won’t whine when he gets cut- if he does.