When the first season of Top Chef Masters finished, we cooked along to Top Chef: Las Vegas (season 6). When that season finished, K and I started cooking from the Top Chef cookbooks, our favorite of which is the Quick Fire Cookbook because the dishes don’t take us three hours to cook while we starve and graze thus ruining our appetites.
Last week’s Top Chef night recipe — pineapple fried rice with XO sauce and seared scallops — was from season 4 contestant (I refuse to use the heinous word “chef-testant”) Dale Talde, then-sous chef at Buddakan in New York.
K used his rice cooker to make the rice (sticky, yummy and day-old … just as it should be for fried rice) and we skipped the addition of the scrambled egg because K isn’t a fan of eggs. We used fresh pineapple because it’s sweeter and fresh green beans instead of the long beans the recipe called for. XO sauce, in case you’re wondering (because I was) is a Cantonese seafood sauce made with dried shrimp, scallops and fish with chili, garlic and oil. It doesn’t smell as fishy as fish sauce, but it does impart a particular flavor I’m not sure you could replicate on your own. It is also not readily available in your local supermarket (gourmet or otherwise). K found it at a local Asian foods store.
This was a pretty easy dish to put together, but messy. We used a pan that was a bit too small and shallow to stir all the sauces and rice together so there were islands of rice scattered around the stove top. Also, we do most Top Chef nights at K’s place (my TV “plan,” sadly does not include Bravo) and he has an electric stove. With small burners. Therefore, searing the scallops all at the same time turned out to be a difficult task. Some of them had a lightly golden tint to them, but none of them had the slightly caramalized crust that I like them to have. Still good though.
Surprisingly, the best part of the meal was the green beans that we blanched in boiling water, shocked in cold water to stop the cooking then K cooked crisp-tender in a little olive oil, soy sauce and sea salt. We agreed that there was one smoky, salty, deeper element missing — something K’s dad used to put in fried rice when they were growing up — bacon. Because bacon (especially Niman Ranch bacon) really does make everything better.