Top Chef Episode 11: Bourdain Speaks

On his blog, one of AwK’s favorite celebrity chefs, Anthony Bourdain, speaks out about what happened on Top Chef Episode 11. Personally, I’ve taken all Top Chef blogging sites out of my Reader (I find them really annoying and not very entertaining overall) so I don’t know what’s being said on the blogs and what isn’t, but what he had to say about them didn’t surprise me too much.

His candor about judging the episode, Restaurant Wars, is refreshing and made me happy that the AwK team was able to gather why decisions were made that night at the Judges’ Table:

Dale’s Butterscotch Scallops were supremely bad. Jaw droppingly bad. So bad that there was a long, awkward moment at the table when all the judges just sat there, silent, stunned with disbelief that anyone–especially Dale–could serve something so…disgusting. It’s the only time on Top Chef that I literally could not take another bite.

Dale was in deep, deep trouble from the judges’ first mouthful of this luminously wretched gunk.

Surprisingly, Bourdain actually thinks Dale is a good solid chef, one who he would actually hire to work in his restaurant. His maturity and skills as an Executive Chef are obviously another matter.

Another (pleasant) surprise is where he states clearly that the Bravo producers do not sway the ruling at Judges’ Table — apparently it would not be wise to tell Chef Colicchio to send someone home for reasons other than their dish. That’s enough to win even more respect for the show.

And in a couple of small, delicious bits, he refers to Spike’s “strategy” during the competition.

Spike, on the other hand, can look forward to a long career.

In politics. He’s perfect for it.

Suck it, Spike.

If you’re a fan of the show, head on over to Tony Bourdain’s blog on the Travel Channel website and take a read.

Weeknight Cooking: Quick Arroz con Pollo


A Latin American dish, literally meaning “Rice with Chicken”. Delicious and spicy, you can make this on a weeknight and have it ready pretty quickly. It’s also fairly cheap to make. You can either eat this one with a fork or with a tortilla. Serve with a side of veggies. This meal is so easy, anyone and everyone can make it. For real.

Adapted from recipezaar.

Arroz con Pollo
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 (15 ounce) can tomatoes with peppers (I use a can of Rotel tomatoes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 – 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized squares
salt & pepper for seasoning
1 cup yellow rice
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until you can’t see any more pink in the middle.


Remove from the pan and set aside.

Drain the can of tomatoes, but do not discard the tomato juice. Add enough water to the juice to equal one cup. Set both aside.

Add onion, green pepper, and garlic to the frying pan. Cook until they are softened – should only take a few minutes. Add turmeric and yellow rice.

A quick note about the yellow rice: you can find this in the ethic food section of your supermarket. It has spices in the bag that make it yellow. You can use regular rice with this dish if you want, but I like to use the yellow rice to give the dish extra flavor and spice.

Mix ingredients well, stirring for about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato juice/water mixture, stock and bay leaf. Stir.

Return the chicken to the pan, stir to incorporate, and turn the burner down to low.


Cover the frying pan and let it cook for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked all the way through.


That’s it! That’s all you have to do!


Top this baby with some cheddar cheese and a little sour cream. So good you’ll get seconds.

Top Chef Episode 11: Restaurant Wars

Editor’s Note: This week, we are late on the Top Chef review as usual. But who cares? This week, Citizen Chef and Miss Macchiato sat down together (via the internet) to watch the most grueling challenge of the Top Chef series. From Anthony Bourdain needing to punch Spike out to Stephanie needing a bra, the AwK writers have included everything you need to know about episode 11: Restaurant Wars.

MM: Okay, I’m paused on Spike lying in bed. Those are probably the last words you ever wanted anyone to say.

CC: Kinky. So it’s 5:45 am and Tom Colicchio is entering the house. The Quickfire Challenge: spend a short shift on the egg station in Chicago’s most popular breakfast joint. This challenge doesn’t seem that tough.

MM: I see disaster coming — Did Spike just say, “Let’s get the EGG out of here?” Someone needs to punch him!

CC: Richard is waiting for someone to order scrambled eggs with a sea foam gelee.

MM: Antonia’s shirt says “Yo biotch.” How fitting for her.

CC: Yeah, it fits her well, too.

MM: I didn’t even notice. Was too busy admiring the irony.

CC: Their poaching pot is gross. Every poached egg has gone into that same bath of water and it hasn’t been changed.

MM: I wouldn’t want an egg from that.

CC: The one hard part about the challenge is that its dependent on what people order during your shift. For example, Lisa got “eggs over easy with a side of burnt styrofoam”.

MM: You mean styrofoam flambe. Oh wait, we’re talking about Lisa. She can’t cook a flambe.

CC: Technically it’s a brulee, I think.

MM: Phone plug… gotta plug that product.

CC: We cant play spot the product plugs; I can’t type that fast.

Antonia wins the Quickfire and the Elimination Challenge is announced: Restaurant Wars. The chefs go crazy with excitement, and Antonia, rather than immunity, is allowed to pick the team she is working with.

Photo courtesy of Bravo

CC: I kind of like Antonia. Good for her. I don’t understand why they are so excited — Restaurant Wars always kills people. And holy crap, what a HUGE advantage!

MM: Wait a minute — no Tom Colicchio for the Elimination Challenge? But it’s Restaurant Wars! I can’t imagine they won’t have him for this. Maybe it’s a trap.

CC: Of course, Antonia picks Stephanie and Richard. As far as I’m concerned, that team is the final three. Dale has skills but he’s gone off the deep end.

MM: And with every episode, he goes deeper and deeper.

CC: If you remember, I predicted he would be going home this week.

MM: Yeah, I was about to mention it. You know I’m still pining for Spike’s removal, though. As for Antonia’s advantage, I’d say this was unfair, but in previous seasons the “dream team” didn’t always win the challenge. So, who are they going to get to replace Colicchio in the judging?

Photo courtesy Time magazine online.

CC: My man Bourdain! Tony, if you’re out there – call me, babe.

MM: Okay, that makes up for not having Chef Colicchio.

CC: And for the restaurant challenge they get to decorate their restaurants with stuff from… Pier 1? Both restaurants are going to look like a dorm room. Okay, here come the menus. Um, butterscotch, miso,and scallops?

Photo courtesy of Bravo.

MM: Spike is the general manager?????

Photo courtesy of Bravo, commentary courtesy of AwK

CC: Okay, pause! Everybody pause!

MM: Ok, I’m paused.

CC: AGAIN, Spike is making one dish he can call his own, instead of thinking about the team.

MM: Well, yeah. All three of those contestants on that team (Lisa, Spike, and Dale) are not team players. They’re rats. If the ship goes down… Not so with the other team.

CC: And Spike is always looking for a way off the ship.

MM: Yep. King Rat.

CC: Weak. Sauce.

MM: (Laughing)

CC: OK, play!

Bourdain enters the kitchen, sharing his “warmer and sunnier disposition”, and talking to the groups about their menus. Team Gimp tells him they are cooking Asian food. Bourdain is interested to try it, considering he knows a great deal about Asian food.

Photo courtesy of Bravo

MM: I think Dale’s pissing his pants right now. (laughs)

CC: I would NOT want to cook Asian for Bourdain. Now it’s Lisa’s turn to piss her pants.

MM: Worse. Did you see the look on her face when she told him she was making Laksa? I think she dropped a little present into her pants…

Photo courtesy of Bravo

CC: This team is going downhill fast – brown avocado mousse?

MM: And another Ricegate!


CC: Who gave her rice to make?

MM: They didn’t say, so I’m guessing it’s part of the dish she came up with.

CC: Wait, what? Did Lisa just say Dale’s bad attitude was bringing her down?

Photos courtesy of Bravo, expressions courtesy of morons

MM: Yes! (Laughing)

CC: Hold on – pause it again!

MM: Ok, paused.

CC: Okay, Lisa wins the most ironic line of the season! The ridiculous part of the whole thing is that she’s right. Dale’s attitude is horrible. Almost as bad as Lisa’s!

MM: She’s unbelievable. Now that Dale’s having a rougher time than the rest of them, Lisa and Spike are going to hone in on that and exploit it for the rest of the night. It will certainly make things easier for them at the Judges’ Table.

CC: Ok, I’m still paused. Where are you at?

MM: Paused on Lisa’s horrible expression… I guess that doesn’t really narrow it down, huh?

CC: Okay, so there’s an issue with gritty clams. How do you get the grit out of a clam?

MM: The only way I know of is a little time consuming – before you cook/kill the clams, let them sit in clean water. Let them sit for about an hour, then put clean water in again and let them sit in it a little more. They will expel the grit on their own. I don’t know what chefs would do in a time-sensitive situation. (Any readers out there know?)

CC: Did Spike just say no one can hold him accountable for the food?

Photo courtesy of Bravo

MM: Look at him in that suit.

CC: I have terrible thoughts in my head – but I’d better not share them.

MM: I think someone needs to beat him up, stuff him in a locker, and take his lunch money.

CC: My thoughts were much worse than that.

MM: Stephanie’s working the front of the house… bad choice of attire. Those stiletto boots are going to be killer in another hour. She also needs a bra.

CC: Stephanie would be cool to go drinking with.

MM: You’re married.

CC: I’m just sayin. Ok, both those apps look good.

MM: The salad looks a lot like Richard’s ceviche salad from episode 10’s Quickfire.

CC: Yeah, he likes the little cubes.

MM: He should. His knife skills are excellent and he should flaunt what he’s got. The judges have lots of good things to say about Team #1.

CC: Their gorgonzola cheesecake intrigues me. Bourdain hates the smear but, come on, everyone does the smear!

Photo courtesy of Bravo

Gorgonzola Cheesecake with Sweet Potato Puree & Concord Grape Sauce
Prep Time: two hours and 45 minutes
Recipe by Stephanie Izard

Gorgonzola Cheesecake:
1 1/2 cups cream cheese
2 egg yolks
6 oz heavy cream
12 oz gorgonzola
1T brown sugar

Sweet Potato Puree:
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, large dice
3T butter
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Concord Grape Sauce:
1 bunch concord grapes
1T balsamic
Water for cooking

Walnut Crumble:
2 cups sugar
2T water
2 cups walnuts
2T butter

Recipe instructions are provided on the Bravo website here.

MM: If that’s the worst thing they can say about Team #1, then it’s in the bag.

CC: Now the judges move to Team #2’s restaurant… First impression: “Prince or Aerosmith?” (Laughing)

MM: Uh oh, some reflections – Lisa realizes she made a mistake.

CC: And she served it anyway! Now for that crazy butterscotch scallop… (Still laughing) Bourdain: “It’s Willy Wonka’s scallop.”

MM: Wow, you may be right about the elimination. Dale is sinking fast and there is no hope in sight.

CC: Next dish, Bourdain is still ripping it up. “Tastes like baby vomit and wood chips.”

MM: That’s unforgivable. Did they even taste their food before it went out?

CC: Did you hear that? A camera caught a customer saying they’d have to go out for dessert!

MM: And it’s over. Time for the waiting room and the Judges’ deliberation. The previous restaurant wars were portrayed so much more wacky and crazy that this one seemed really tame.

CC: Yeah it seemed like they all had an easier time of it.

MM: Or maybe they were just so busy focusing on how badly the second team did. From the judges’ reactions, there was all kinds of wrong going on in that restaurant.

CC: As we expected, Richard’s team is called in for the win.

MM: And the winning chef is… Stephanie! Another win. I really like her. Time for the losing team.


MM: Oh good grief, would you get a load of this? Dale’s about to weasel out of responsibility here.

CC: Spike won’t even stand behind his tablecloth and Dale is literally pointing fingers!

MM: Worse than that – Dale doesn’t want anyone else to talk or clarify what he’s saying, because it’s all contradicting what he is saying. Rats on a sinking ship.

CC: Look at Spike smiling – what a doofus.

MM: He knows he’s safe in this circus. All he has to do is keep his mouth shut and he’ll get to stay.

CC: I can’t decide which one I hate more, I really can’t.

MM: Okay, now that they’re deliberating, who do you think it’s going to be?

CC: I still think it’s going to be Dale because he messed up as Executive Chef AND as a chef.

MM: I hope it’s Lisa.

CC: If his scallops were good, it would be Lisa. But I still think its Dale. Actually, I hope to God it’s Spike, but I think he cheesed out another one.

MM: And the verdict… Dale is out.

CC: Who called it? Yeah, it was me!

MM: Stepanie’s trying to look shocked. It’s not working.

CC: Man, I’m on a roll! My prediction for next week is SPIKE GETS THE PLAGUE AND HIS LEGS FALL OFF.

MM: We can only hope. Next week it has to be Spike. IT HAS TO BE! Come on, I’m burning a candle for you, Spike… and I’m dangling a voodoo doll above the flame.

CC: You know what kills me is that either Lisa or Spike, or god forbid both, are going to make it to the final 4.

MM: I think it should be Spike over Lisa, even though I hate Spike!

CC: I’d rather see Spike leave and wipe that goofy grin off of his face.

MM: I hear that.

Weeknight Cooking: Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)

Before we begin, please be aware that there is a Boxer Short Advisory on this dish. That is, if you are wearing boxers while eating this dish, rest assured, they are being roxored.


This is an Indian dish with a tomato base. The sauce of the dish is both sweet and savory, and very satisfying.

The first question I received about this dish is the one that I always receive about Indian food: Is it spicy?

The answer: Not so much. In fact, this is less spicy than the Chicken Curry with Golden Raisins dish that I shared a while back. Like most Indian dishes, the spice level can be changed by the person preparing the dish. I do not add extra spice, but the chef is more than welcome to change that according to their taste preference.

I was really concerned about this dish because the list of ingredients is very, very long, but if you take a second to read it through, most of the list is spices. And of the spices, a lot of those are repeats. To abate some fears of a long and unmanageable recipe, I have taken the liberty of bolding the items that are not spices.


Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken)

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
1 tablespoon peanut oil (repeat!)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 teaspoon garam masala (repeat!)
1 pinch cayenne pepper (repeat!)

As you can already see, the list has been cut in half because of the spices.

In a large pot (I used a frying pan so I could take pictures more easily), saute shallot and onion in peanut oil until translucent (about 2 minutes).


Stir in butter, lemon juice, ginger garlic paste, 1 teaspoon garam masala, chili powder, cumin and bay leaf. Allow to cook for 1 minute.

Quick note about the paste: I couldn’t find ginger-garlic paste at the supermarket, so I just used 1/2 Tablespoon of ginger paste and 1/2 Tablespoon of garlic paste.


Add tomato puree, half-and-half, and yogurt. Stir to combine, then turn the burner down low. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.


While the tomato sauce is simmering, take out another frying pan and heat up another tablespoon of peanut oil on medium heat. Add chicken and cook for about 5 – 7 minutes.
Reduce heat and season with 1 teaspoon garam masala and cayenne.


Stir in about 1/3 of the sauce and simmer until liquid has reduced and chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Pour the rest of the sauce into the chicken.



Top Chef Catch-Up Episodes 8 – 10

Episode 8 Haiku:

Uncle Ben’s Rice plug
10 bucks at Whole Foods, er wut?
Pasta for the win

Episode 9 Haiku:

Richard wins again
Picks the bride, hubris perhaps?
Lisa makes ass cake

Photo courtesy Bravo TV

CC: 5 mins for that haiku to the window, Chef! Good God I am a funny bastard. Live haikus, made to order as you watch! Ok, now on to a more in-depth discussion of Episode 10. And please let’s not get behind again because I am running out of clever gimmicks.

MM: For the record, that was seriously awesome.

CC: Thanks! Ok, Quickfire Challenge with Salad and Sam.

MM: I thought it was a nice touch bringing back an old contestant that everyone knows and likes.

CC: Salad and Sam, this fall on FOX! He’s a diabetic chef, she’s a composed course of vegetables and dressings, but what in their past will lead them to the brink of disaster?


CC (continued): I always liked Sam, he was a good solid chef I thought.

MM: Agreed. He had a lot of respect overall from the other contestants as a strong chef.

CC: Yeah he was Season 2’s Harold I thought.

MM: The quickfire had interesting results, I think. Did you notice that some of the competition’s strongest chefs were in the bottom? Both Richard and Stephanie had the worst salads. So far they’re the strongest in terms of elimination wins.

CC: I thought Padma had a good point in calling it “this decade’s cobb or caesar”. It really set the stage for them to think of a salad that would endure, and I don’t think the bottom three thought about it in those terms. Although I think Spike cheesed out a win by using steak, but you cant argue with steak on a salad.

MM: Yeah, I agree. Richard was being a little too conceptual again and it didn’t work out.

CC: Yeah I don’t know what that was all about. He had squares of something in there but it was never really explained too well.

MM: Because I am just that cool, I pulled the recipe off of the Bravo TV website for you to take a look at. It sounds like something you’d eat.

Photo courtesy Bravo TV

Fresh and Clean Salad – Ceviche of Fruits & Vegetables
1 yellow beet, diced
1 red beet, diced
Salt to taste
Drizzle of vinegar
A few drops honey

A few iris leaves (petals) pulled
A tiny bit ginger
2 limes, juiced
A few drops yuzu
A few drops truffle oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Fruits & Vegetables:
1 avocado, sliced
1/4 cantaloupe, diced
1/4 jicama, diced
1 ripe pear, sliced
A handful assorted greens

Cook beets separately, then dress with salt, vinegar and honey.

Mix ingredients to make dressing.

Fruits & Vegetables:
Marinate fruits and vegetables in dressing. Then let salad to plate with beets.

MM (continued): Anyway, I would have liked to have heard more about that salad, but they only have a few seconds to talk about a handful of them. In the end, K-Fed #2 wins with his steak salad and, instead of immunity, he wins an advantage. Like the complete and utter retard we’ve known him to be, he does not fail to disappoint in his way of using the advantage, well, to his advantage.

CC: More importantly, he used it to create a disadvantage to everyone else. I think those are two very different things. The ingredients he picked, bread, lettuce, tomatoes and chicken, were chosen solely to limit everyone else’s options. He wasn’t even thinking about his own dish at that point. Then he comes up with… chicken salad!

MM: Not just chicken salad, it was a fruited salad with olives. That’s disgusting.

CC: Yeah, that makes no sense. Then some carrot sticks and celery, a masterstroke – and he had bread, all the bread in the world, and he threw some pita bread in there.

MM: I kept wondering why the other chefs didn’t think to use a wrap since they couldn’t use bread, but I suppose they wanted to stay away from sandwiches, unlike Doofus (Spike).

CC: He has more originality in his hat choices than in that dish.


MM: I’m guessing there comes a time in everyone’s life when they wake up and say, “How can I look like a doofus today?”

CC: Ok, time to talk about Burnergate 2008.

MM: Ok. Let’s talk. First of all, is there ANYTHING Lisa doesn’t complain about? Can she NOT shut her yap for five minutes? It’s always someone else’s fault. Gotta say that I’m on the same page as Dale – with all those people in the kitchen and with all that stuff going on, it was probably a mistake. Heck, it was probably even her that did it.

CC: Yeah, I mean who hasn’t turned the back burner on instead of the front one, or set it to high instead of low and put a dry pan on there and started a kitchen fire…

MM: Um, me…

CC: That all being said, I have ZERO problem with her bringing up the fact that Andrew broke the rules. That should have been brought up at Judges table, and if it wasn’t, and she wasn’t aware that THEY were aware of the rule violation, she was certainly in her rights to bring it to their attention. In the same sense that Lisa should stand behind her dish and take responsibility for it, Andrew needed to take responsibility for the fact that he screwed up. And that’s all I have to say about THAT. Harumph.

MM: I don’t think Andrew had a problem owning up to it, but I do have a problem with her bringing it up. It was her way of saying, “Yes, I sucked – but he sucked more so here’s a diversionary tactic to get the heat off of me.”

CC: He totally blew it off. “Oh gee I guess I missed that part in the rules.” He did that about the satisfying aspect and the grain aspect.

MM: Wouldn’t you? You’re on the chopping block – I’d say that I made a mistake. He said that he lost the rule sheet early on.

CC: Well I think she was saying, “I sucked, but he sucked AND can’t follow directions.”

MM: I still think she was a huge bitch by bringing it up.

CC: Well I agree with that statement up until the word “by”.

MM: *laughs* Okay, you have a point. She’s a bitch, AND she brought it up – I don’t like the way she brought it up, but that’s me.

CC: Yeah, I don’t disagree with that too much. But I think she had the right to bring it up, and it wasn’t any kind of underhanded tactic.

MM: why do you think she had the right to bring it up?

CC: It was a little whiney, but Lisa can’t order breakfast without sounding whiney.

MM: She definitely did have the right, but was it sportsmanlike? No, it was weasel-like.

CC: Because he broke the rules! Actually I totally disagree with that statement.

MM: Do you think Andrew did it intentionally? I get the feeling that he was trying to be so cool and clever (read: arrogant) with his rice substitution that he made a mistake. Then he was trying to defend it, in his usual horrible way. As an aside, at the time of this post, a poll on Bravo’s website reflects 60% of viewers felt Lisa shouldn’t have said anything.

CC: It is not sportsmanlike to let someone cheat.

MM: I don’t think he was intentionally cheating, I think his arrogance got the best of him.

CC: Oh yeah I agree. I think it was an honest mistake, but it WAS a mistake. Cheating is too strong a word in this case I think. I am anxiously awaiting both Spike and Lisa’s departure. And Dale maybe.

MM: I think Dale’s a jerk, but he’s got a bit of talent. We haven’t seen the last of him.

CC: Yeah if he can control his temper and his anti-social streak he might go a long way.

MM: The only group challenge he does well in are the ones where he’s paired up with Richard. So who’s talent is it that is getting the wins then? I think we both know the answer.

CC: Richard, Antonia and Steph are the clear-cut faves though I think.

MM: You know, I hate Antonia. Hate.

CC: There’s alot of hate going on in this post.

MM: She’s really irritated me with every “interpretive” challenge given. I know I say this in every review, but she can’t do it. Every challenge that she’s supposed to take a word or theme and create a dish around the theme she can’t do it. Not that she can’t – I am sure she can, but she doesn’t. That bugs me.

CC: Richard’ s going to win, we all know this. Embrace the fauxhawk.

MM: Yes, we know, and if he doesn’t, it will be a complete upset! I think if, in the end, we have Dale and Richard going head to head that would be quite a battle.

CC: I don’t know if I see Dale going that far. If he gets out of his Asian-influence comfort zone, he could be in trouble. Gaining an advantage, and intent, neither of which were evident here.

MM: Yeah, but Ilan (from a previous season) had the same problem and he won. The only other contestants I can imagine getting to the finals are Antonia and Stephanie. You know what I think about Antonia, and Stephanie is way too up and down. Once her dish starts to go a little wrong, it steers out of control like a train wreck. I like her, but she’s got nothin’ on Richard.

CC: I am anxiously awaiting both Spike and Lisa’s departure. And Dale maybe. And on that note…. next week we will be on time-ish! For almost surely! Otherwise we’ll be behind again. Which I guess is another option.

MM: To wrap up Episode 10, KFed #1 finally goes home and Richard wins.

CC: From your lips to God’s ear!

MM: Who is your guess for next week’s chef going home?

CC: Restaurant wars. I’m going out on a limb and say Dale.

MM: Wow. I’m saying Spike again, because I want to keep up the bad karma I’ve been sending his way.

CC: Because he takes a paring knife to Lisa and gets removed from the show.

MM: Now that’s good American television right there.

Raspberry Cream Trifle

Photo courtesy Taste of Home

I found this recipe out of necessity. One year I went to a strawberry patch and picked a bunch of strawberries. They were very ripe, and I needed to figure out a way to use them all before they went bad. Previously, I had never been a big fan of trifles, because they’re usually some heavy, syrupy goo, but this recipe popped out at me from a Taste of Home magazine because of the lightness and because it beautifully highlights fresh fruit. I went with it.

Because I was going to take this to an outdoor picnic/BBQ, I used a clear, plastic ice bucket with a lid and handle for easy transportation. The lid was a nice touch to keep it fresh (and to keep bugs from getting into it). Even though I am a baking snob, this recipe has found its way into my top 10 desserts for big, social gatherings – it always gets eaten, and I always get requests for the recipe. If you do a lot of potlucks, this trifle is a gorgeously delicious presentation, tastes wonderful, and is much quicker and cheaper than whipping up a cheesecake. For your next social gathering, go with this.

Raspberry Cream Trifle
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped
1 angel food cake (7 inches), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
2 cups fresh raspberries or strawberries (For a 4th of July BBQ, I did strawberries, raspberries and blueberries for red, white & blue – yeah, that’s corny for me, too, but it looked awesome!)

Ok, this isn’t hard. There’s no baking required, no heat required – this is a light, cool, and refreshing dessert. There is a bit of mixing, but no baking.

I know what you’re thinking — No baking? You? Using a premade angel food cake? Are you possessed by Sandra Lee?

Nope. The trifle was originally a way of using up old, leftover stale cake. So in keeping with the history of the trifle, I actually don’t mind heading to the store and picking up a premade angel food cake. Head over to What’s Cooking America, for more historical trifle nerdery.

Now, back to the trifle. In a bowl, mix up the water, milk and extract until blended. I use a hand-held mixer, and just swish this up for a minute. It doesn’t take long. Add the pudding mix and mix for about 2 minutes. Let it stand for 2 minutes, or until soft set.


Put the pudding mixture in the fridge and grab another bowl.

The heavy whipping cream must now be whipped. Pour it into a large bowl – keep in mind that this is going to end up 3 or 4 times its original size, so plan accordingly. Because we’re whipping up a liquid, I usually will empty and clean out my sink, and put the bowl in it. Otherwise, you’re probably going to splatter whipping cream all over.

Let the beater do its work until the cream is whipped – and the way to absolutely know if it’s done whipping is by picking up the bowl and turning it upside down. If the cream dumps out, it wasn’t done. If it sticks and remains firm, it’s done.

It should look like this:


Now grab your pudding out of the fridge. Take the whipped cream and gently fold it into the pudding. Do not use a mixer – with a wooden spoon or spatula, manually fold it until the mixture is combined. Should take a minute or so, and it will end up as a gorgeous pudding goodness.


Resist the urge to stick your face in it and inhale like a vacuum cleaner and move onto the next step.

Cut up the cake cubes into small one-inch squares and place half into the serving bowl. This is where the layering process begins. In this picture you can get a better idea of the plastic ice bucket I use to tote my dessert around.


Half of the cream mixture goes on top of the cake cubes.


Now for the tricky part. You will want to spread a thin layer of seedless jam on top of the cream mixture. The jam should correspond with the berries you’ve got. If you’re using strawberries, use strawberry jam. For raspberries, use a raspberry jam. You get the idea. If you would like, you can skip this part, but I have skipped it before and it tasted like it was missing a little something. My advice is to keep the jam. I use a sugar free jam, because it’s sweet and flavorful, and not going to give you a sugar-shock like bottle of Smuckers will. Use your best judgment.


It looks a bit goofy, but no one will see it as the berries are going right on top of it. So if you mess this part up, don’t worry – just keep going!


After the berries go on top, repeat the layering process: The second half of cake cubes, the rest of the pudding mixture, jam and berries.

Here it is; the finished product:


We did have to eat a couple of berries to get the lid on. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.


The next time you have to take a dessert to an informal, outdoor gathering on a sunny day, this is my pick as a winner.

Weeknight Cooking: Pizza Margherita


Now do I have your attention? And no, we will NOT be purchasing premade dough. For this pizza, we will be making our own.

I received a book on pizza as a gift and right away I was turned off by the recipes for dough. Dough is time consuming and usually involves the kneading process, which really isn’t my thing. It takes time and work, and I imagine myself laboring over a hunk of dough for hours until it’s done.

That isn’t the case at all.


This book, “Pizza: 50 Traditional and Alternative Recipes for the Oven and Grill” by Dwayne Ridgaway is fantastic and has some really simple dough recipes. If you make your own dough, it will be much easier than you thought – with the added bonus that you will be so proud of the fact that you actually made a dough. Of course, as a timid first-time pizza maker, I started with the simplest dough and pizza listed: Basic Pizza Dough and its counterpart, Pizza Margherita.

I listed this dish as a “Weeknight Cooking” selection, but I have to include this caveat: The dough takes 1 – 1.5 hours to rise, so making the dough itself wouldn’t be considered part of the Weeknight Cooking bit. However, one Basic Dough recipe makes 2 pizza doughs, and they will keep in your freezer for up to 3 months. I tested this out, and two months later I was able to thaw out and use a perfectly fine pizza dough. If you have it in the freezer and can thaw it, this dish counts as a Weeknight Cooking selection, as the pizza takes 10 minutes of prep time, and 10 minutes of cooking time. A 20-minute meal. Eat your heart out, Rachel Ray.

Let’s start with the dough.

Basic Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees F to 115 degrees F
1/4 ounce package of active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour or fine ground yellow corn meal
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing bowl
1 teaspoon salt

It’s pretty simple. Combine your water, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Mix it up and try to get the dry lumps broken up. Then set it aside for about 5 minutes – the top will get a little foamy/bubbly.


Add only 1 1/2 cups of flour, semolina or corn meal (I use corn meal) and 1/3 cup olive oil. Mix by hand using a wooden spoon.


Start to add the rest of your flour in 1/4 cup increments, stirring after each addition, until all of the flour is incorporated. The dough will still be slightly sticky. Admittedly, I was nervous about the sticky dough – my compulsion was to add more flour so that it’s smooth, but you don’t want to do that, because the dough will pick up more flour as you’re kneading it.


Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface (I used a cutting board) and knead for about 3 – 5 minutes. I confess that the short kneading time is what really sold me on this. For some reason I had an idea that I would be kneading for a half hour. All I ended up doing was folding it in half, pressing the ball of my hand into it, turning it, and repeating the process. I did that for about 4 minutes and gave up on kneading.

Coat a large mixing bowl with oil and put the dough in it. Roll the dough around until the oil has covered the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and and place in a warm, draft-free area to double in size. This will take about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.


After the dough rises, punch it back down to its original size and divide into two equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. One can be wrapped in air-tight plastic wrap or freezer bags and kept in the freezer for up to three months. The next one will be rolled out and topped with pizza goodness.

No pictures for this, I’m afraid, because it all happens so quickly.

Pizza Margherita
1 round basic pizza dough
28 ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, drained and seeded
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon coarse cornmeal
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
8 fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup fresh shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Roll out your pizza dough to fit the pan you’re cooking it on. Depending on the type of pan you’re using, you may want to place a layer of parchment paper on top of the pan. I use parchment paper when I use my thin-crust pan. If you don’t use parchment, use the extra cornmeal to sprinkle on the bottom of the pan.

Open up your can of tomatoes. I do love the plum tomatoes, but they’re hard to find where I live, so I will sometimes use peeled plum tomatoes. I usually find those packed with fresh basil leaves, which is fine. After opening the can, I just remove the basil.

I have never found the tomatoes seedless. What I end up doing is taking the tomatoes out of the can, one by one, splitting them open with my fingers and rinsing out the insides in the sink. Gordon Ramsay might call me a donkey and throw me out of the kitchen for that – I have no idea. It’s fast, efficient, and keeps all of your mess in the sink. Also, I doubt that cans of whole, peeled plum tomatoes without seeds exist. So just buy the regular cans and gently rinse the seeds out into the sink. Place the tomatoes on your cutting board and dice them up.

Throw them into a bowl with only 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil (I use flavored olive oil – you can find flavored olive oils easily in the supermarket), garlic (for this recipe, use fresh and not jarred), and salt. Combine gently.

Top your pizza dough with the tomato mixture and slices of fresh mozzarella. (And in case fresh mozzarella is a new concept to you, it comes as a big, white ball. You can pick it up in the cheese department of your supermarket.) Drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Bake your pizza at 450 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and basil. Serve that baby with some vino and enjoy.

Here it is again in case you’ve forgotten!


Top Chef Catch-Up: Triple Threat Quickfire!

Editor’s Note: Due to MM being on vacation and a complete slacker, the AwK contributors fell behind on giving you the Top Chef update. To make up for it, MM and CC have produced a Triple Threat Quickfire, where they each spout off three pertinent items you should know about each episode. Enjoy.

The Elements:

The Quickfire: Chefs are blindfolded and asked to do a taste test, but this time with a slight twist – they are to identify the higher quality ingredient. Winner: Antonia

The Elimination Challenge: Another group challenge. Chefs are paired off and given an “element” (earth, air, fire, water) and asked to create a dish that reflects the element. Winner: Lisa

Citizen Chef:

  1. I thought it was an interesting twist to make the blind taste test for quality of ingredients rather than the usual identification of them.
  2. Air = birds?? Pretty lame.
  3. Who called it? Citizen Chef called it. RIP Zoi.

Miss Macchiato:

  1. I loved the premise of this Quickfire Challenge: All chefs are blind folded and asked to identify the higher quality two ingredients tasted. A lot of chefs struggled through that one. Congratulations to Antonia, who I can’t stand at all.
  2. Once again, we’re watching an episode where Zoi can’t properly season her food. First it was that stupid salad, now it’s this dish.
  3. Every time the chefs are given a buzz word/inspiration word and are asked to make a dish about the word, Antonia can’t do it. She has a dish in her head and tries to pigeon-hole it to make it work for the dish. She did the same thing with the Movie Night episode, and it was a failure. I do admit Antonia is a somewhat-strong contender for the season, but the fact that she has very little imagination bothers me — chefs who do not have good imaginations are not top chefs!


The Quickfire: Each chef chose a beer, then created a dish that went with the beer. Congratulations: Jennifer

The Elimination Challenge: The chefs head out to Soldier Field for a tailgating party. After some pretty cool cameos, they head back to the Top Chef kitchen for judgment. Congratulations: Dale

Citizen Chef:

  1. At first I thought Lisa was getting a bad rap but as the season goes on, is there ANYTHING she doesn’t complain about?


  2. I thought the top 3 contestants in the Quickfire had great dishes, but at the risk of sounding like Spike, don’t piss off the lesbian!
  3. If you are going to use sausage, you HAVE to make it yourself. I am shocked that Brian went home instead of Nikki. Oh and to answer Andrew’s question, the last time the Chicago Bears won the Superbowl was in the Cretaceous Period.

    Bears Dinosaur

Miss Macchiato:

  1. Beer? Why aren’t we seeing more fine dining this season? In the beginning of the season, the pizza and wings thing was fun. Now it’s monotonous, repetitive and becoming a little frustrating. Where’s the duck confit? Even Hell’s Kitchen has had duck confit already.
  2. What’s up with Tom Colicchio wearing a little hat and scarf with his jersey? Did Ted Allen dress him up? Out in that neck of the woods, people who dress like that get shoved in a locker and their lunch money stolen. And wait – does he also have his umbrella in a plastic bag? Is that so it doesn’t get wet? It’s an umbrella!

    Top Chef Judges Tailgate with the Bears

  3. There was a lot of bad food served at that, but what stood out the most, even over Ryan’s high-end food, was Nikki. Nikki ran out of a lot of her food before the judges arrived. I thought that was even worse than Ryan’s error, but then again, I wasn’t there to taste it.


The Quickfire: Chefs have to make a dessert. O nos! Winner: Richard

The Elimination Challenge: The chefs are treated to a night out at The Second City, a famous improv. comedy troupe. As it goes in the Top Chef kitchen, the chefs soon found themselves facing their next challenge, as audience members tossed out words that would dictate the dishes the chefs were going to have to cook. Congratulations: Richard and Dale

Citizen Chef:

  1. STOP WHINING ABOUT MAKING DESSERTS YOU WUSSES!!!! Every year we have to hear: “I’m not a pastry chef… pastry is haaard… you have to measure and everything…” I will grant that desserts are a slightly different skill set than regular cooking, but we are a long way from “throwing in a bit of this and that” cooking here. Both savory and sweet dishes take care and expertise to accomplish. If you do not possess that, move over to Hell’s Kitchen. That is all.

    Souffle plus Kitchen equals Rocket Science

  2. Can anyone beat my boy Richard? Answer: NEWP.
  3. How do you not do a great dish with orange, asparagus and turned on?? I think if Stephanie and Jennifer would have kissed at the end of their presentation, Lisa would be going home. Also, never underestimate the power of a good butternut squash soup.
  4. Line of the season so far: “No problem man, I’m not Polish!”

Miss Macchiato:

  1. I love the dessert challenges. In this one, Richard really shined with an innovative and thoughtful dish. I have to admit, I’m a fan.
  2. Antonia continues to annoy me. Whenever we have a goofy thematic challenge (the Movie Night challenge, the Elements challenge), she can’t conceptualize a dish that pertains to a theme that is given to her. Instead she seems to make what she wants, and then tries to force it to somehow fit the theme, and that never works. I know she’s won a few things and is a strong contender to win, but it’s clear that even K-Fed #1 has more talent.
  3. An episode where the K-Feds get together in chefly harmony to cook. It’s like watching a sitcom of lovebird speed-freak chefs. All that team was missing was the courtesy reacharound.

Stay tuned for later on today when we finally catch up and review this week’s episode of Top Chef!