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Top  Chef ™

Culinary Learnings from Top Chef ™

Pipian rojo is a type of Mexican red mole, or sauce, traditionally made with toasted pumpkin seeds, colored with red chilies. It is wonderfully nutty, and is a perfect pairing for chicken or duck. There is a sister dish, Pipian Verde. 

Aguachile is a Mexican dish (north west Mexico) made of shrimp and raw fish, marinated in liquid seasoned with chiltepin peppers, lime juice, salt, cucumber and red onion. It is an adaptation of ceviche.

Aronia berries grow on shrubs native to North America. There are two kinds of aronia berries—red berries and black berries, called "chokeberries" due to their astonishingly sour bite when eaten raw. The red berries are a bit sweeter than the darker variety. 

Lovers of the aronia berry claim that the berries are a fine superfood, helping to diminish the risk of many health problems. It is claimed that they boost the immune system and provide antioxidants in large volume.


Aronia berries pair well with pineapple and with coconut.

Bavette steak is the unsung hero of beef. Also known as "flap steak," the bavette cuts are flat, flexible in texture, and often contain a great ratio of muscle and fat. 

This abundance of fat makes the bavette highly flavorful as well as easy to cook. Because of bavette steaks' size and shape, they are best used for any dish that requires the steak to be sliced into many pieces.

In Top Chef ™: World All Stars, Samuel said "I don't think that poaching salmon is going to be enough, so I finish it off with a blow torch to really bring out the flavor."

Bottarga is a delicacy of salted, cured fish roe , typically of the grey mullet or the bluefin tuna. It is often called "poor man's caviar".

The best-known version is produced around the Mediterranean; similar foods are the Japanese karasumi and Taiwanese wuyutsu, which is softer, and Korean eoran, from mullet or freshwater drum.

Cacio e pepe means 'cheese and pepper' in several Italian dialects. The dish contains grated pecorino romano and black pepper, together with pasta.

Canela, originally called GranQueso Reserve, is an original creation inspired by classic Spanish-style cheeses. It is aged for 15 months or more in a cellar, which results in each bite offering a dense texture with crystallization and a concentration of exquisite flavors.

Chayote is a type of squash originating in central Mexico and various parts of Latin America but grown all over the world. 

Chayote is loaded with an array of nutrients and antioxidant compounds that provide many potential health benefits.

It is officially a fruit, but behaves more like a vegetable. Every part of it can be eaten, either raw or, like most squash, cooked.

In Top Chef ™: World All Stars, Chef Sara cooked 'cover crops'. These are crops that grow on top of the land and improve the soil.

Cover crops include: daikon radishes, clover, alfalfa, vetch, rye, wild lettuce, sunchokes, beets, buckwheat and oats.

Fermented shrimp paste, also known as prawn sauce, is a condiment used in many Asian cuisines. It's made by mixing finely crushed shrimp or krill with salt and fermenting it for weeks. The result is a dense, savory, pungent paste that can range in color from light to dark brown and texture from soft to rock hard.

Chef Gabri (in Top Chef ™: World All Stars, week 2) wanted to prepare a mole for his rice dish.

There is a wide variety of moles in Mexico, and every cook has his or her own variation. Most moles include nuts or seeds, chili peppers and dried spices. Many types of mole also include either fresh or dried fruit. The whole mixture usually gets ground or pureed together, yielding a thick yet pourable sauce.

Chef Gabri: "My mole needs to have 54 ingredients. Sunflower seeds. And I need tomatoes, garlic, onion, cherry red pepper, green pepper, pink pepper, black pepper, white pepper, fennel, pumpkin seed, coriander seed, walnut, macadamia, and a whole chicken."

Gremolata is a green sauce made of chopped parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. It is a very traditional Italian accompaniment, often served with veal.

In Top Chelf: World All-Stars we see Chef Buddha making butter by hand, since he has no access to it from the pantry. 

Hand-crafted butter is surprisingly quick and easy and to layer onto hot toast, is far fresher and tastier than even the finest shop bought butter. 

Make it by pouring a pint of heavy cream into a stand mixer and whipping relentlessly until it separates, forming butter and buttermilk. Put it into a sieve, or into cheesecloth, and press all the buttermilk out, and then rinse the butter under cold water until the water runs clear, showing that you have removed all the buttermilk.

In the "World All-stars" version of Top Chef ™, Chef Ali made his own cottage cheese. This is easier than most people think, and worlds cheaper than buying it off the shelf. 

The usual process is to heat skimmed milk, then add an acid (typically a good vinegar, but lemon juice works, too) and then let it sit to form curds and drain it through a fine sieve. Optionally, you can add some cream, but often, cottage cheese is enjoyed by people watching their fat intake, so this step is optional.

Huitlacoche is also known as Corn smut, fungus, Mexican truffle, and Mexican caviar. Huitlacoche presents as a soft, spreadable, dark ingredient? 

Huitlacoche is a parasitic plant disease that grows on ears of corn, around the kernels, in puffy grey pouches resembling stones. Despite this, huitlacoche is a delicacy in some regional cuisines of Mexico.

Koshihikari is a premium short-grain rice that is non-glutinous and grown in Japan. It is known for its sweet, slightly sticky, and chewy texture, and is often considered the most popular and high-quality rice variety in Japan

Marmite is a savory spread made from yeast extract, salt, and vegetable and spice extracts. It's a British staple that's especially popular in the UK, where it's often spread on toast, crackers, and sandwiches. Marmite is also vegan and a good source of B vitamins, including vitamin B12. It is a great option when looking for 'umami' in a dish.

Massaman curry  is a rich, flavorful, and mildly spicy Thai curry. It is a fusion dish, combining ingredients from three sources: Persia, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Malay Archipelago (typically cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg, and mace) with ingredients more commonly used in native Thai cuisine (e.g., chili peppers, coriander, lemongrass, galangal, white pepper, shrimp paste, shallots, and garlic) to make massaman curry paste. The dish is typically reinforced with chicken or other meat, potatoes, onions, and peanuts. The richness comes from the coconut milk and cream used as a base.

Merlot BellaVitano is a rich, creamy cheese made by Sartori, an American cheese company, that has notes of plum and berry. It's aged for at least eight months and has a unique Parmesan taste with a creamy cheddar texture. Merlot BellaVitano has won several awards, including gold medals at the 2015 World Cheese Awards and the 2015 and 2016 International Cheese Awards.

The word mextlapique is an Ancient Aztec word which refers to wrapping a food to cook on a grill. Most often, the food is wrapped in a corn tamale husk.

Muhammara and Garden Greens

Muhammara, also written as mhammara, is an Arab dish, typically eaten as a dip with bread, or as a spread for toast, or as a sauce for kebabs, grilled meats, and fish.

The principal ingredients are usually fresh or dried peppers, (typically Aleppo pepper) and pomegranate molasses, often with ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, and olive oil. It may also contain garlic, salt, lemon juice and sometimes spices such as cumin. It may be garnished with mint leaves or parsley.

The pasilla chile or chile negro is the dried form of the chilaca chili pepper, a long and narrow member of the species Capsicum annuum. Named for its dark, wrinkled skin, it is a mild to hot, rich-flavored chile. As dried, it is generally 6 to 8 inches long and 1 to 1+1⁄2 inches in diameter.

The pasilla peppers come in at around 1,000-2,500 on the Scoville scale, making them milder than other common peppers  like jalapeños and even cayenne pepper. Because of their unique flavor, pasilla peppers are commonly used in moles and salsas to add extra dimension to the other ingredients

While you might see poblano peppers labeled as pasilla peppers in the USA, there is a difference. Poblano is a fresh pepper, not dried, and it looks very much like a bell pepper—however, it is a deeper green and a bit longer and more slender than the pasilla.

Persillade is a mixture of parsley chopped together with seasonings including garlic, herbs, oil, and vinegar and served as a sauce or dressing. (Fancy word for something very simple but delicious.)

Pot liquor, sometimes spelled potlikker or pot likker, is the liquid that is left behind after boiling greens or beans. It is sometimes seasoned with salt and pepper, smoked pork or smoked turkey. When elevated, it can taste elegant and delicious. 

Pâte Sablée is a sweet shortcrust pastry. Sablé is French for 'sand' and the pastry is crumbly and sand-like. It is made of butter, flour, eggs and sugar. It is perfect for biscuits and tart cases.

In Week 5 of Top Chef ™ World All Stars, Chef Buddha made a dish for the Elimination Challenge that he said was based on Salmon Tarator. 

For a Tarator-style salmon dish, salmon fillets are topped with walnuts, parsley, sumac, onion and hummus in this Middle Eastern inspired fish dish

Sancho Cruz Manchego is a Mexican-style cheese made from Wisconsin cow's milk by Door Artisan Cheese Company. It has a creamier, slightly nutty flavor than the traditional Spanish Manchego, which is made from Manchega sheep's milk and can only be produced in the La Mancha region of Spain.

Sauce Vierge is a French sauce made from olive oil, lemon juice, chopped tomato and basil. Sometimes, crushed coriander seed is also added. Served hot or cold. 

Shiro Dash (aka shirodashi) i is a light-colored soup base used in many Japanese recipes. It lets you season food without adding the dark color of soy sauce. As a result, you can retain and enhance the subtle, beautiful colors of the ingredients.

You can, of course, buy it from Amazon with one-click!

In Top Chef ™ World All Stars, when elevating the traditional British Fish pie, Chef Buddha took cod and wrapped it in a 'shrimp farce'. A 'farce' is a mousse made from meat or fish trimmings, blended with cream, eggs and seasoning. It is a beautiful way to add color or flavor to another dish, and Chef Buddha uses it to bond vegetables (in this case, cucumber) to fish by using a protein farce as the 'glue'.

Tataki is a cooking technique typically used in Japanese cooking. It is believed that it was invented in the 17th century after a Samurai met European travellers who cooked food on a grid at very high temperatures.

It's used mainly for cooking fish - especially tuna - but can also be used to prepare red or white meat. The secret of this type of cooking is the temperature of the pan: which must be very high, to allow quick cooking. The resulting food is seared on the outside, raw on the inside, moist and delicious.

The "holy trinity" in Cajun cuisine and Louisiana Creole cuisine is the base for several dishes in the regional cuisines of Louisiana and consists of onions, bell peppers and celery. The preparation of Cajun/Creole dishes such as crawfish étouffée, gumbo, and jambalaya all start from this base. The bell peppers can be red, yellow or green.

Chef Nicole made the Classic British Yorkshire Pudding as part of elevating the "Sunday Roast". 

There are many great recipes for Yorkshire Pudding Batter but here are three essential tips:

1) Always let the batter rest, undisturbed, for at least 15 minutes before cooking. 

2) It is critical to pour the batter into red hot tins holding red hot oil. The batter must sizzle when you pour.

3) You must NEVER open the oven door to check your Yorkshire Puddings. Let them cook in the full heat.

Arayes are meat-stuffed pita pockets that are popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. They are usually stuffed with minced meat like beef or lamb, along with aromatic seasonings and spices.

In Top Chef ™: World All-Stars, Begona made "Tallarines of Pumpkin". 

Tallarines is a Spanish word for noodles (literally, "strips of paste").

Mix together poppy seeds, sesame seeds, dried garlic, dried onion, and salt - the result is known as "everything spice" or "everything seasoning".

According to Wikipedia, Brick cheese is a cheese originating in Wisconsin, United States, made in brick-shaped form due to using actual bricks to form the shape. The color ranges from pale yellow to white with an orange rind.

In Top chef ™ World All Stars, Begona used carnaroli rice.

Carnaroli is a medium-grain Italian rice that's grown in the northern regions of Italy. It's known as the "caviar of rice". Carnaroli is a superfine rice that is difficult to grow, but the small yields it produces are prized for their high starch content and long grain.

Carpaccio is a dish of meat or fish, thinly sliced or pounded thin, and served raw, typically as an appetizer. In Top Chef ™: World All-Stars, Samuel served up a tiger prawn carpaccio.

Tiger prawns get their name because they have light yellow color and brown strips over them. The weight of one prawn is up to 30 to 40 grams. They turn a lovely orange when cooked. 

Chicken katsu, also known as panko chicken or tori katsu is a Japanese dish of fried, moist chicken made with panko bread crumbs. It is related to tonkatsu, fried pork cutlets. The dish has spread internationally and has become a common dish served at Japanese and East Asian restaurants worldwide.

Diri djondjon is a native dish of Haiti. It is essentially a meal consisting of rice made with edible black mushrooms called djondjon. The meal is more common in the northern region of the country and therefore can be considered a regional specialty.

Epis is a blend of peppers, garlic, and herbs that is used as a flavor base for many foods in Haitian cuisine. Some refer to it as a pesto sauce. It is also known as epise and zepis. It is essential for Haitian cuisine.

Esquites is Mexican street food - corn kernels mixed with mayonnaise, freshly crumbled cotija cheese or queso fresco, lime juice, and chili powder

Étouffée is a thick, gravy-like stew that's made with a roux, flour, fat, and seasonings, and served over rice with shellfish, such as shrimp or crawfish. The word "étouffée" comes from the French word to smother, which describes the cooking method used in the Cajun and Creole areas of south Louisiana.

Fattoush is a "bread salad," said to have originated in Northern Lebanon.  Lebanese farmers would fry leftover pita scraps in olive oil for extra flavor and add any seasonal vegetables and herbs they had available.

Fesenjān (pronounced fesenjoon) is a sweet and sour Iranian stew from Northern Iran. It is typically served over rice and is common also to Iraqi cuisine. As a festive dish for special occasions, it has become part of Jewish Rosh Hashannah celebrations.

This dish is typically made with chicken, but the 'must-have' ingredients are ground walnuts and pomegranate concentrate. The rich, flavorful sauce is made nutty by the ground walnuts, with a pleasant tang from the pomegranate molasses. The spices of turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg add to the overall balance. 

Fesenjān is a sweet and sour Iranian stew from Northern Iran. It is typically served over rice in the Iranian manner. Fesenjan is also common in Iraqi cuisine. As a festive dish for special occasions, it has become part of Jewish Rosh Hashannah celebrations.

This dish was prepared by Chef Amar in Top Chef ™: World All Stars.

Frena is a traditional Moroccan bread. It is soft and billowy - like a swollen, soft cousin to pita, lavash or focaccia. In Morocco, Frena bread is still cooken on hot stones. 

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