Top Chef Episode 9: The Final Three

The final three chefs who will compete in Las Vegas for the prize of Top Chef were chosen this week, and it was a real surprise that Dave is going with Tiffani and Harold instead of Lee Anne.

Lee Anne has been a top player throughout the season, winning many of the challenges and receiving high praise from everyone. So it was jaw-dropping that weepy, out-of-sorts Dave got a spot in the top three, while Lee Anne and her knives were sent packing. Although Dave did poorly in the quick fire challenge of taking a common junk food and making it into something wonderful, he came out on top in the challenge that had the chefs make a dish highlighting black truffles and a rare wine. Their audience and guest judges were famous chefs from the Napa Valley.

I thought Dave was a sure loser at this task, too, because the other chefs made fantastic-sounding dishes to show off their skill, and Dave made macaroni and cheese. But as judge Tom Colicchio said in his blog, at the end of the day, chefs don’t want restaurant food, and Dave’s macaroni and cheese was comfort food, and did showcase the flavor of the truffle and the wine well.

So maybe he deserved the win on that challenge, but he really pulled a rabbit out of a hat to win the spot. Harold was also a clear winner, so that left Tiffani Lee Anne. Although Tiffani may have been as deserving as Lee Anne, Harold and Dave were both hoping Lee Anne would be joining them in Vegas. Tiffani can be a little rough around the edges, and Lee Anne was seen as more of a team player and all-around nice person.

But in the end, of course, it’s what’s on the plate, and Lee Anne’s lamb dish was judged to have way too many things going on at once. She overshot and overcooked the lamb, and her Top Chef days are over.

Here’s Dave’s macaroni and cheese recipe from the Top Chef web site. It must be outstanding to have won the respect of so many culinary geniuses! (You could probably skip the black truffle.)

Black Truffle Mac and Cheese

1 Tbsp. EVO
1 small shallot, brunoise
6 cloves of roasted garlic
3 oz of black truffles, sliced with truffle shaver
one quart of heavy mfg. cream
one cup of cognac, reduced to demi sec
2 tsp. fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tsp. fresh thyme stems removed
1 Tbsp. sherry
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. white pepper
8 oz. Fontina, finely grated
6 oz Parmiggiano reggiano,finely grated
2 tsp. chipotle Tabasco
2 cups seasoned sourdough croutons, run thru food processor to turn into crumbs
1 lb Fresh pasta noodles (rigatoni or other noodle that will hold sauce), cooked in salt water to al dente

Method:
Heat oil on stove top in stock pot and then add shallots and garlic and heavily sweat until aromatic. Deglaze with sherry and then add fresh herbs, truffles and cream and reduced cognac. Cook over low heat until reduced by half and truffle flavor is infused. Season and add parmesan and Tabasco. To this hot mixture add the cooked and drained noodles and the fontina and mix cheeses are melted. Taste noodles for seasoning and adjust as needed. Set aside.

Other ingredients:
8 oz unsalted butter
3 oz sliced black truffles

Assembly:
Take small 4 -6 oz. baking dish and butter the bottom and sides. Set one slice of truffle on bottom of each dish. Then add noodles and sauce to the dish and top with the crumbled croutons, finely grated truffles and a pinch of the finely grated parmesan and back in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and toasted on the top.

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