Thursday and Friday were both good days, though I'm happy it's the weekend.
We're already halfway through Italy, and I didn't even talk about the tapas yet! How dare I. Well, we had chicken chilindron - a hearty chicken stew with serrano ham and brandy served on little grilled toasts. Tortilla Espanola is the classic Spanish potato, onion and egg omelet, simple and satisyfing. I was particularly fond of the piquillo peppers, stuffed with creamy salt cod, and the baby squid, stuffed with serrano, peppers, onions, and breadcrumbs, then simmered in squid ink sauce. Scary to look at, yes, but quite yummy. Serrano was used once again in a super-thick bechamel sauce, breaded and deep-fried into crispy, creamy mouthfuls. Marcona almonds were also deep-fried, then tossed with sweet pimenton (smoked paprika), sugar, salt, and thin slices of Spanish chorizo. Salty, sweet, spicy, fatty and addictive!
But we are on to Italy now, and the food is scrumptious but a little too starch-laden for my tastes. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at how much pasta we're serving - it is Italy after all - but I long for some vegetables and meat.
The main dishes are:
tortelli filled with fresh ricotta and greens, sauced with brown butter, toasted walnuts, and fried sage; potato gnocchi with broccoli rabe and braised duck ragu; butternut squash and pancetta risotto; Pasta a la Norma (penne with caramelized onion, roasted eggplant, and tomato sauce with ricotta salata); and fettucini Bolognese - fresh spinach fettucini with a ragu of veal, pork, beef, and chicken livers, topped with a dollop of fresh ricotta.
Erica and I are the pizza team, cranking out a couple dozen thin crusted pizzas with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella (stretched in class, but not made completely from scratch, unfortunately), and basil. I also made piadina, a flatbread made with duck fat that's rolled very thin and grilled. We spread them with ricotta and sliced artichokes while they were still on the fire, letting the cheese go all warm and soft. Mmm.
Today was the day of the Bocuse d'Or USA Finals. Twelve chefs compete for the esteemed spot in the 2011 World competition in Lyon, France. Each chef has three hours of prep time the first day (Friday), then three hours today to complete and present two platters - fish and meat. The judges - 16 of some of the country's and world's finest - view the platters as they're walked by. The food is then disassembled onto individual plates for the judges to taste.
The kitchens, judges' table, and audience
The individual kitchens for the contestants. Four chefs competed at once.
A platter - salmon and caviar
Georges Perrier of Le Bec Fin, and Top Chef Masters hostess Kelly Choi
Thomas Keller inspects a tasting
Jerome Bocuse, son of Bocuse d'Or founder Paul Bocuse
Grant Achatz, Alinea
Susan Spicer (Herbsaint), Laurent Tourondel (BLT restaurants), Alan Wong (Alan Wong's)
Chefs viewing a platter
Daniel Boulud (Daniel) and CIA president Tim Ryan
Jim Burke (James), racing to finish
Unfortunately he didn't
Paul Liebrant (second from left), Corton
Traci des Jardins (Jardiniere), Perrier, Andre Soltner (Lutece), Spicer, Tourondel, and Wong