The week before we left to eat our way through New York City, we had the pleasure of watching Richard Blais win the Top Chef All-Stars title. We both cheered out loud when they announced his name. He is a creative, innovative and obviously hard-working chef, self-critical almost to a fault. As a prelude to our delicious trip, we made one of his winning dishes — pork belly and black cod cutlet with brussels sprout leaves (click here for the recipe).
It was our first foray into pork belly and we simmered it in the crock pot instead of “regular” braising. We ditched the beets and mustard in the recipe because I care for neither. Pork belly was a home run — crispy on the outside and melty tender on the inside. The black cod was mild, crunchy and creamy and the brussels sprout “petals” (as I preferred to call them) were roasted in olive oil to perfection. It was a terrific way to usher in Top Chef Masters, Season 3 and now we’ve got leftover pork belly that we’re scheming over.
We were in New York and missed cooking a week of Top Chef Masters, but as soon as we returned we were back in the game with the meatball challenge. We needed something light after a week of appetizers, desserts and dreamy, creamy foods so we chose chef John Currence’s Vietnamese chicken meatballs (click here for the recipe).
We actually followed the recipe pretty closely on this one, but we used all ground chicken instead of ground chicken and pork fat (much to K’s dismay). The meatballs were juicy and full of flavor and the broth was rich and interesting. It was the perfect “welcome back to reality” meal for two people with a vacation hangover.
Still on our “we should probably eat lighter” kick, the next week we chose chef Floyd Cardoz’s rice-flaked sole with roasted cauliflower and ginger broth (click here for the recipe). We only have a small food processor and it was not powerful enough to grind up rice. Unfortunately, that meant some chewy bits of rice coating the mild, slightly sweet sole. Not bad, just not the texture we would have preferred. Next time we’ll use rice flour to coat the fish. The ginger broth was beautiful. Resting the roasted cauliflower in it took away some of the roasted crunch, but everything worked lightly together.
And now we’re caught up. Every Top Chef Night, as we clink our glasses together, I take a second to silently recognize how lucky I am. We’re fortunate to live a pretty comfortable life and work together to craft some wonderful food to share. Whether we’re eating decadent pork belly or sipping sprightly ginger broth, the sound of, “Mmmmm,” from my happy husband and the contented sighs of our dogs laying under the table always makes me smile, no matter what else is happening in the world. This is my happiness.