Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Top Chef, Episode 11: Once Upon a Time

A long time ago in a faraway land there lived seven dwarfs. Their names were Whiny, Cutie-Pie, Kentucky (Bluegrass), Freckles, Top Knot, The Unobjectionable One, and The Girl Who Never Went to Sleepovers.

The dwarfs complained a lot - especially Whiny - because they were being held captive in a GE Monogram kitchen by The Minions of Bravo. Sometimes there were four Minions but usually there were only three because The Unibrow was often so busy hunkering under bridges with trolls that he forgot to come to work. The Minions forced the dwarfs to cook delicious meals using strange ingredients from conveyor belts and barbecue huts, which made the dwarfs distracted and a little crazy - especially The Girl Who Never Went to Sleepovers.

Whenever The Minions were displeased by a dish, they fed its creator to wolves. Thus the prisoners lived in perpetual fear - except for The Top Knot, who thought he was better and smarter than all the other dwarfs.

One day it so happened that an Evil Queen (also known as Charlize the Movie Star) descended from her lair to visit the captives and demand a Gothic Feast full of creepies and crawlies and long-legged beasties. 'Frighten me with your wicked cuisine!' she ordered, 'Or I will condemn you all to a life slinging hash at franchise family eateries!'

The dwarfs, horrified by the prospect of the witch's curse, put their imaginations into overdrive and came up with a seven-course dinner to appease her dread appetites.

Kentucky (Bluegrass) decided to create a plate of tuna tartare with one white sauce (Asian pear vinaigrette) and one black sauce (made with black garlic and ponzu). 'It represents good and evil!' he helpfully explained, just in case the Queen was a little slow on the uptake. His addition of deep-fried fish skins with the scales still on was deemed both gross and exciting by the Minions, thus saving the hapless dwarf from a fate worse than death.

Whiny decided to satisfy the Malevolent One's taste for blood with red risotto cooked with Amarone and lambs' hearts. Although the dish was judged 'flavorful' by the Minions, they also declared it undercooked and too cheese-intense. It was a near-run thing for Whiny, who in her nervousness had forgotten the lessons from the dwarves' dark history, in which risotto cookery inevitably leads to ruin and despair.

Cutie-Pie doubled, doubled, toiled, and troubled over a witches' stew made from short ribs, scallops, and dragon beans. The Minions licked their plates clean and said the stew was 'damn good', leaving the wolves in the wings disappointed that, this week at least, there would be no Southern belles served up as a tasty hor d'oeuvre.

Freckles went outside her usual comfort zone and created a 'crime scene on a plate' consisting of black chicken, beets, foie gras, and a fried quail egg to 'represent the baby chicken that lost its life.' The Minions revelled in the dish's audacity and bloodthirstiness - and remarked how revolting it was to be served a black chicken foot with the nails still on it. Tragically, Freckles' greens were oversalted and only her wicked under-the-bus tossing of a fellow dwarf at judges' table saved her from the dining dungeons of suburban strip malls.

The Top Knot retrieved his magic bag of tricks from its hiding place and put together a poisoned apple with cherry pie. He billowed liquid nitrogen all over the place to make it like like cauldron smoke. For once, the Minions liked what he had done and rewarded him by not throwing him into a bottomless chasm full of quicksand and miracle berry tablets.

The Unobjectionable One made an enchanted forest with beets every way, cherries and lots of other stuff. The piece de resistance was a big bloody handprint - SPLAT! - in the middle of each plate. The Evil Queen thought it was 'beautiful and scary' - just like her - and her magic mirror sycophantically agreed. The Unobjectionable One was crowned the winner, and for his pains was subsequently turned into a toad.

The poor Girl Who Never Went to Sleepovers doomed herself to eternal torments with the conceit that 'Snow White is a halibut'. The Minions agreed that her dish was 'nice' but not 'wicked or dark' as per the challenge's brief. Even worse, her sauce suffered from a 'weird texture' caused by a surfeit of arrowroot and newts' eyes, causing the unlucky Dwarf to beg for her life at judges' table. Never one to be deterred by sentimentality, trails of breadcrumbs, or Princes Charming (yes, Eric - we're looking at you!), The Evil Queen banished the GWNWtS from the GE Monogram kitchen forever and for always, cackling horribly as she did so.

As the Minions rode away on their broomsticks, the remaining six Dwarves were left in the kitchen to ponder - of the two fates, which was worse?