My wife was able to score some VIP tickets to the Top Chef Masters Season 5 Premiere Tasting Event.
With heavy hitters like David Burke and Bryan Voltaggio on the roster for this season’s competition, we were both really psyched to try their food. We were a bit disappointed to learn that Voltaggio would not be in attendance (he just had a baby), but we still had the pleasure of eating some of the best bites of food in the biz.
The way it worked: we were tasting the dishes that were presented in the elimination challenge at the end of the first episode.
I’ll start with what was by far our favorite dish of the evening, which has ended up being the feature of this article. It was masterfully created by Jennifer Jasinski, Executive Chef and Owner of Denver’s Rioja, Bistro Vendome and Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen, and her sous chef Jorel Pierce. Check out the pics below and let your mouth water like a hungry, rabid dog.
They prepared an orange and ginger caramelized skirt steak with roasted mushroom-fregola salad and preserved lemon yogurt.
The citrus really popped when you bit into the meat, giving it a bright contrast to the usual warm and earthy flavors you associate with good skirt steak. The caramelization gave the meat a nice crunchy and savory element, almost like a course sea salt, which contributed great textural dynamics.
I was curious, though, as to how the meat was butchered, because each piece of steak was sliced to a perfect little round circle, which is not normal when you think of skirt steak (usually sliced in strips on the bias). When I had the opportunity to speak to Jennifer and her sous chef Jorel about how the dish was prepared, they explained that several skirt steaks were “meat-glued” into a terrine form and shaped to look like sausages, then the terrines were cooked to a perfect medium rare before slicing into rounds (I think with a sous vide bath). I was blown away. I had seen this terrine technique used before, but never with skirt steak, and never had I seen it executed so perfectly and elegantly.
After watching the first episode, I realized that she sincerely took the judges criticisms to heart, because their critique was that her original dish was too clunky with large unshapely pieces of steak taking away from the dining experience. So by forming the steaks into terrines and slicing the newly-formed meat into perfect bite-sized rounds (and still cut on the bias), she and Jorel erased that problem completely. I guess that’s what happens when an expert chef has the luxury of using a kitchen and a sous chef. In the first episode she had to cook outdoors with a very basic set of tools, all by her lonesome, so making a terrine or using a sous vide machine was out of the realm of realistic possibilities.
Bravo Jennifer and Jorel, for impressing this carnivore connoisseur with a really amazing dish!
Another highlight of the evening: a Vietnamese style pork dish whipped up by chef Sang Yoon. This was the only other dish that I kept eating more and more of. It was sweet and pungent with the familiar, fresh, herby and spicy flavors commonly associated with Vietnamese cuisine (chili, cilantro, fish sauce, etc). Plus it was nice and juicy as well.
And, finally, here’s a little photo dump for all you bastards out there who want to see more: