Can You Cook Like a Top Chef Winner? Yes You Can!

Chef Paul Qui won this season of Top Chef with a multi-course meal filled with gourmet Asian flavors, we were thrilled that he won (go Team Paul!). If you’re like us and regularly watch people cooking on TV, you’ve inevitably seen someone make a dish you covet. Think you can’t cook like a TV chef? You totally can! It’s just a matter of making a recipe work for you! Take, for example, Qui’s second course from his winning meal: sea bass with clam dashi, pickled radishes and mushrooms (click here for original recipe).

There’s already a lot of information missing from the original recipe (such as what to do with the clams once they’ve opened), so take it and make it your own. Those clams with the incomplete instructions? We ditched them altogether. Once that decision was made, K started on the dashi (broth). This recipe serves two.

Dashi
2 cups water
8 pieces kombu (dried seaweed)
1/2 cup bonito flakes (dried smoked bonito fish flakes)
4 TB soy sauce

Bring everything to a boil. When the bonito flakes sink to the bottom of the pot, the broth is ready. Strain and keep warm.

Fun fact: For this dish, I forgot to buy radishes so we didn’t have any pickles. In my opinion, the lack of them did not hurt the dish.

Next, I sautéed the mushrooms.

Mushrooms
1 cup porcini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 TB duck fat (or 1 TB butter and 1 TB extra virgin olive oil)

Melt the duck fat (or butter and olive oil combo) over medium-high heat in a pan. Saute mushrooms until lightly brown. Add salt and pepper. When cooked, remove from heat and let the mushrooms sit in the fat.

We decided that, to really make this a meal, we needed noodles. We picked up a package of ramen (you know, the kind you ate in college), threw away the gross, powdered “flavor” packet and cooked the noodles in boiling water until just tender (not mushy).

The star of this dish is the fish. We got two skin-on sea bass filets (not Chilean sea bass). The preparation is gorgeous and simple.

Sea Bass
2 sea bass filets, skin-on (black cod <aka Alaskan sablefish> or hake are good substitutes)
salt and pepper to taste

Rub both sides of the fish with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 2 TB of high heat oil (like safflower, canola or vegetable) to a saute pan. When the pan is hot, place fish, skin side down, into the pan. The fish kind of seizes up on itself and looks like it’s puffing up — this is normal, don’t panic!  When skin is browned and crispy, turn the fish over and cook *just* until you can’t see an uncooked pink line in the middle of the fish. It should just barely be firm.

Believe it or not, you’re ready to plate. Get a bowl, pile your ramen noodles inside, sprinkle the mushrooms on the noodles and lay the fish (skin side up) on the pile of noodles. We added a few fresh pea shoots on top for some color. Bring your dashi broth to the table in a separate pitcher (or gravy boat) for the final flourish.

Pour the hot dashi broth over the noodles (not over the fish) and you’re ready to eat!

The fish is buttery and succulent and, if you eat it quickly enough, the skin is beautifully crisp (if you let it sit for too long, the skin gets soggy). The noodles are perfectly slurpable and the broth is rich, deep and earthy. What a lovely, warming simple and healthy dish.

And what do you drink with sea bass, ramen and dashi?


Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay in an awesome and unique stoneware bottle (from Costco). It’s bright, fresh and crackling. That’s it! You just cooked like a Top Chef winner. And now that you’ve started, you’ll never want to stop!

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