Nibbles 12.0 (including: Chili, Top Chef, Broadway, Art, and Lamb)

I apologize for my lack of posts towards the end of the week: I had a big one planned and then I decided to watch “You Can Count On Me” for the 8th time on DVD. It’s one of my top five favorite movies, a list that also includes “Defending Your Life” which has two of my favorite movie themes: life-after-death and food. What follows is a random list of Nibbles, small bites of content for you to nibble on over the weekend.

– This chili is awesome:

It was from last month’s Bon Apetit, you can read the recipe here and it’s the perfect thing to eat when you’re freezing. The night I made this our heat was out because a construction crew hit the gas pipe on the street and our apartment fell to 55 degrees which Craig says isn’t really that awful but I think it is. Making chili when you’re that cold is one of the smartest things you can do next to buying a space heater. Two things that make this chili soar: the chipolte chilis in adobo sauce (which I found in the ethnic food aisle of my Key Foods) and the Sam Adams cream stout. Not only does it give the chili lots of flavor, it’s great to drink with the chili when you’re done. I served the chili with tortilla chips instead of spoons. Diana said it was the best chili she’d ever had.

– Let’s talk about part one of the Top Chef season finale. I think I’m ready to acknowledge that the quality of this season is beneath that of last season. It feels more dramatic, yes, but it also feels less credible. I don’t believe that either of the two finalists are ready to command a kitchen. Marcel is the more obvious bonehead, but he’s a social bonehead.


I do think his food looks good and I really believe that the judges like it. The bigger bonehead, though, is Ilan.


He reminds me of the worst sort of bully, the one who doesn’t have the spine to actually stand up to his victim but who prefers to skulk around egging everyone else on. Like when Cliff had Marcel pinned and he was urging Elia to shave his head; or, on this episode, when he tells Elia to say something about Marcel at the judge’s table: my cringes had cringes. I’m sure that his disgust for Marcel is justified–it seems that everyone on the show, even the most likable, took issue with Marcel–but what Ilan doesn’t realize is that he’s an adult and when you’re an adult you have to ignore people like that. Especially when you’re on national television and your entire career swings on how people perceive you. I completely disagree with Tom Colicchio about kitchen behavior being irrelevant: it’s incredibly relevant. Great chefs are great leaders, they lead the people who work for them to greatness. So ta-ta to Sam, a natural leader who made good solid food, and hello to Ilan: the world’s biggest follower. Wouldn’t it be great if, at the end, Marcel wins but he breaks down crying and he says to Ilan, “You were right. I am a ruthless virgin” and he passes the prize to Ilan who, incredibly touched, reveals that beneath his disgust is raw animal attraction and the two start making out and they stay in Hawaii and they get married? Umm… is this thing on? Ok, next nibble.

– Hey! I saw a show last week for free (I know, I know, I’m the world’s biggest mooch: but there’s a difference between getting things for free passively, and actively seeking them out—I get free theater tickets from a company that asks that I blog about shows if I like them, which I’m very honest about: there’ve been plenty of shows we’ve seen for free that I haven’t blogged about, one of which Craig said, “If you had a gun to my head and said I had to see this show again or get shot, I’d have a really hard time answering”). This show was “The Little Dog Laughed,” a really fun romp about a gay movie star and his lesbian agent who tries to get him to stay in the closet so he doesn’t ruin his career. The best thing about the show is Julie White who is hilarious in her part: a part that’s garnered her tons of critical praise. So check it out before it closes in a few weeks. We really liked it.

– Another thing to check out is the Spanish art exhibit at the Guggenheim. I went yesterday and took the free audio tour and really enjoyed spiraling my way through. There is a food connection here, much of the art features food–including this really cool painting by Juan Sánchez Cotán called “Still Life with Fruit and Vegetables.” Can you name all the fruit and vegetables you see here?


– When you’re done at the Guggenheim, don’t miss the excellent coffee and pastries at Cafe Sabarsky only two blocks down. It’s a great New York afternoon: Spanish art and Austrian pastries. Can life get any better?

– Another awesome winter dish (and our final nibble for the day) is the Lamb Shank with Oranges and Olives from Mario Batali’s “Molto Italiano”:


As you can see I served it on wet polenta. The key is browning the shank for the full 15 minutes on high heat so it really gets seared and dark brown:


The braise has whole oranges that are cut up into segments:


It’s really easy to do and will fill your apartment with joy and warmth and good cheer, especially if there’s wine:


Stay warm this weekend!

18 thoughts on “Nibbles 12.0 (including: Chili, Top Chef, Broadway, Art, and Lamb)”

  1. The chili does look good. Are you going to post the recipe?

    It reminds me of my most recent chili-cooking adventure gone awry. We were up at a ski resort between christmas and new year’s with a bunch of family – 18 of us. My night to cook was scheduled for chili topped w/ cheese and onions, cornbread and tortilla chips, and green salad. I had all the ingredients assembled and ready to go but then was enticed to go have a drink in the bar across the way with my niece. They told me there would be plenty of time to make my chili when I came back. Two drinks later, I return to the condo to find that my brother-in-law who is a decent cook but likes to eat annoyingly early, had gone ahead and made the chili. That’s sounds helpful, but he didn’t make it MY way. And worst of all, he poured in an entire bottle of red wine. IN CHILI! It tasted awful! (both he and I like to put red wine in our spaghetti sauce but NOT in chili). I used almost a bottle of chili powder, a bottle of salsa, and a ton of tabassco sauce tried to get rid of the sweet and grapey taste of wine in my chili – but it was tough to do. finally I had to serve it as is because…there were 18 hungry people waiting to eat it. but I got some strange comments about it tasting…funny. and I noticed people ate a lot of salad and cornbread and only half-bowls of chili. Lesson: don’t put red wine in your chili and keep the wine-loving brother-in-law OUT of your kitchen when your cooking chili.

  2. I am behind in watching my TIVO’s Top Chefs so I didn’t know, until now, who was in the final round. Hmmmm. Can’t actually believe that it is those two and will have to watch to see how the heck that happened.

    As a chef, I couldn’t agree more that kitchen behavior is relevant and often bad, unfortunately. And it is not the place for a weak leader. As I tell my cooks when they ask “why” to some decisions – “because I am on the pointy end of the boat and when you sign your name to the menu, put your reputation on the line (bottom line) then you can make your decisions. For now, it’s my call”.

    If you can’t do that, you have no business running a restaurant kitchen.

  3. So, this season Colicchio thinks kitchen behavior doesn’t matter? Funny, last season, when it was a woman in the final round, he insisted that leadership ability was a necessary part of being a Top Chef. And I said at the time that if it was a guy who acted the way Tiffany did in the kitchen, he wouldn’t have said a word. It’s why I haven’t watched this season. Interesting.

  4. No offense, but I’m not sure you are really qualified to determine what matters in a professional kitchen. It does seem like the producers wanted this matchup (it seemed that throughout the show Sam and Ilan had the most to offer as cooks), but I do for the most part trust Colicchio’s judgment as to what matters in running a restaurant. I’m certainly not defending Ilan’s behavior, but it is also hard to tell what is really going on. For example, Marcel probably does a lot more to annoy the chefs than you see on screen, but who knows?

  5. There is a BIG brouhaha that they didn’t shave their heads until AFTER they pinned down Marcel. The tape shows him storming to the back room to escape (the first time), and you can see Elia sitting on the floor with her full head of hair.

    I think Bravo is VERY disingenuous to portray it that way, and the taint will never be off that Mean Girl, Ilian. (And I don’t mean he’s effiminate. I mean he’s behaving like a junior high school bitch.)

    I wanted Sam.

  6. First of all, Defending Your Life is a killer movie. Too funny!

    Secondly, I’m so disappointed that Sam was booted, because overall I think he was the best choice for Top Chef. The most mature, the most solid chef, and the best in terms of kitchen leadership.

    I also think Elia and Ilan were acting like immature babies, especially Ilan for the past several weeks. Taunting Marcel about his being a virgin, dissing him on his choice of using cherries for his “lust” dessert (which I thought was gorgeous), and many more digs he perpetrated against Marcel. I lost a lot of respect for Ilan through the latter half of the season because of his underhanded tactics.

    On the other hand, I think Marcel is also talented, he is definitely bold, and his food is ALWAYS beautiful. I also think he is more mature than Ilan. So now that Sam is officially out, I will be rooting for Marcel to win the whole thing.

  7. That chili looks fabulous AG – if you ever want to try a different approach, please, please (PLEASE) by all means check out Dean Fearing’s recipe, this stuff is absolutely phenomenal:

    My wife has made this many times for her office’s anual chili cookoff and it blows everyone away consistently. We use Guiness for the dark beer ingredient. Soooo good!

  8. Oh, one other thing, for you Top Chef fans out there, check this out:

    There is a whole series of interviews with the chefs and judges that are great – I happened to link to Cliff’s interview there, but you should check out some of the others (they are linked from the same page) – Michael’s is especially hilarious…


  9. Recipe for Lamb Shanks?

    Lamb Shanks With Oranges and Olives

    4 large meaty lamb shanks

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    2 red onions, cut into 1/2 cm dice

    12 cloves garlic

    1 navel orange, zest removed (reserve for top), then cut into 8 wedges

    2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

    1/2 cup Gaeta olives

    1 cup dry white wine

    1 cup Basic Tomato Sauce 1 cup chicken stock

    Season shanks liberally with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over high heat until smoking. Reduce heat and sear shanks, turning occasionally, until dark golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add red onions, garlic and orange wedges to pot and cook until garlic is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add rosemary, olives, wine, tomato sauce and stock and bring to a boil.

    Return lamb shanks to pot and return to a boil. Cover tightly, place in a preheated 180-degree celsius oven and cook 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until meat is fork-tender.

    Allow shanks to rest 10 minutes in sauce, then transfer to warmed plates, sprinkle with orange zest and serve. Makes 4 servings.

    Note: You can substitute Kalamata olives.

  10. Defending Your Life is pure magic. So is You Can Count On Me, but DYL is a way better food movie. What are your other favourite food movies? I love Moonstruck (when Olympia Dukakis makes breakfast I swoon and crave eggs in toast right away!), Big Night (obviously) and one of my personal guilty pleasures, Fatso! Dom DeLuise is hysterical. I can’t watch it without crying with laughter and eating everything in the house. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman is fantastic too, as is Like Water For Chocolate. I also have to say that the chili looks great! I can’t wait to try it out.

  11. Ilan is so smarmy. I saw him the other week waiting in front of Momofuku and I wanted to tell him he was a big jerk but just gawked instead. Favorite food movie would have to be Woman on Top with the delicious Penelope Cruz.

  12. Marcel is a douchebag. So is Ilan.

    I think Sam and Harold (season 1 winner) should start a cooking show together.

    Nay, a shirtless cooking show.


  13. “Tampopo” is probably one of my all-time fave foods films.. “Babette’s Feast” is awesome as well. And yes, I watch “Big Night” about once a month…

  14. That big curvy vegetable lying on the table in the Spanish still life painting is called a “cardoon.” I ate some raw with a bagna cauda in Italy last fall. Very unusual vegetable – texture was like a dry celery and the flavor mild but bitter. I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it again.

  15. Last night Top Chef finale proved one thing, every dog has it’s day. I am pretty sure that the producers were aware of Marcels behavior and staged the final program to have Marcel pay the price. Oh yes, the food matters but you are only as good as the people behind you. Marcel was forced to choose from a group of people who hated him and like Ilan. Sam said he wanted to work with Marcel to learn his chemical cooking methods. You know that he was totally against these and Marcels cooking methods, why would he want to work with him and learn from him? I know, because he wanted to make sure Marcel would lose.Was it an accident that some food was left behind? Probably not. It was payback. I am sure the group had some big private discussions before they were sent out to be chosen.

    Marcel was a little shit and in the end he needed the people who he formally screwed.

    The end.

  16. the great way to evenly brown lamb shanks (as well as beef short ribs) is to broil them – the technique i’ve learned from Jeremiah Tower who in turn attributes it to James Beard

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