This week's Master Meal features David Burke, who has like, seventeen amazing restaurants in New York City. Nathan and I had a lovely meal at Fishtail, and Nate's also been to the former David Burke & Donatella. I was really excited to learn that Burke would be appearing on Top Chef Masters, because I feel like he's one of those chefs in New York whose touch turns everything to culinary gold. Even though I've only eaten one inexpensive Restaurant Week meal at a David Burke establishment, I can tell that this is a man with great vision for his food, who considers every detail when creating his restaurant experiences.
For our second Master Meal, Nathan and I had the distinct challenge of translating Burke's playful and artistic culinary creations into home dining. Luckily for us, Burke had done half the work for us, drafting several "easy way" versions of dishes he actually serves at his restaurants for Food & Wine Magazine. After much consideration, we went with the steak and egg salad sandwiches. OK, to be honest the minute I saw the phrase "deviled egg salad," I knew Nathan would insist we make it, and that was fine by me. Instant end to deliberation.
steak and egg pita
Unlike our first Master Meal, which was slightly underwhelming, this was a great success. The egg salad mixed four chopped hard-boiled eggs with mayo, hot sauce, Woucestershire, paprika, dry mustard, diced celery, and some parsley and onion in place of the recommended chives. This had a nice kick to it, but wasn't too "angry," (this appears to be David Burke's favorite food adjective), in part because I added some extra mayo. I was skeptical about the egg boiling method, (cover eggs with water, bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let them sit for ten minutes before draining and peeling), but it worked almost perfectly, with firm yolks that still had a hint of orange gooeyness in their centers. (I love my eggs to be slightly less than hardboiled.)
The steak, which we seasoned, brushed with olive oil, and pan fried for five minutes a side, was delicious, with a wonderfully seared crust and perfectly juicy, medium rare interior. The watercress, tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, finished off the sandwich with a burst of freshness. My only slight complaint is universal to steak sandwiches: the steak strips are too hard to bite into, and I always end up pulling huge pieces out of the bread. Other than that, everything was great. Even the fact that we could only find whole wheat pitas to brush with olive oil and grill couldn't bring down our meal. Total success.
Unfortunately, while our meal may have turned out better this week, the result for our contestant of choice was the same: last place. And while Jimmy Bradley's failures could pretty much be attributed to his partner, David Burke had no one to whom he could pass the buck. He choked all by his lonesome. To his credit, they did seem to have a fair number of good things to say about what he made, but I think the editors must have been being really nice to him, considering the critics gave him really awful scores. It's a bummer too, because Marcus Samuelsson, who wound up in the winner's circle with Carmen Gonzalez, seems like a cocky bastard. If he's the ultimate Master, I'll be so angry, especially when I think about just how totally sweet and awesome last season's winner, Rick Bayless and runner up Hubert Keller were.
Anyway, we didn't just pig out on steak sandwiches and watch tv. I also made up a quick baby arugala, itty bitty tomato, blue cheese and crouton salad with dressing using this Alice Waters' recipe because I felt like we couldn't just have sandwiches for dinner, and also because I'd had the tab with the (incredibly easy) recipe up in my work browser for almost a week. The directions call for smashing one small garlic clove and two pinches of salt into a paste, adding two tablespoons of red wine vinegar and some freshly ground pepper. After that "macerates," or whatever, you whisk in two or three tablespoons of olive oil and you're done! Easy and delicious.
The only step that is remotely tricky is the garlic smooshing, which is meant to be done in a mortar and pestle. Now, while I have dreams of a Julia Child style "mother of all mortars" someday gracing my countertop, this is not currently something either of us own. However, Nathan and I both have nice wooden muddlers that some alcoholic beverage vendor was handing out for free at a Yelp event we went to last year. Aside from my recent venture into the world of mojitos, the muddlers rarely get used in their first line of work. Instead, they usually get called into duty as pestles, and they are pretty good at making the substitution. We've tried various stand in mortars, and last night I finally found the perfect one: some random ceramic sake container that someone in Nathan's apartment had left down on the free stuff table. It was deep, with a narrow bottom, and had a spout which later proved quite handy when it came to pouring the dressing. I love successfully improvising kitchen appliances.
Thus ends this week's edition of Master Meals. Next week six of the chefs featured in season one will be back, which rocks my rocks. Unfortunately, among them is Ludo Lefebvre, who was one arrogant son of a bitch. I can tell you for certain that we won't be featuring him on the blog any time soon, and I will definitely be rooting for him to lose again. I am also hesitant to try my hand at anything of Wylie Dufresne's, because I probably wouldn't have the necessary gadgetry.
So what are we going to make? Well, unlike the first two installments of Master Meals, Nathan and I haven't eaten at the restaurants of any of these six chefs. However, I did read The United States of Arugula, and I was intrigued by its mention of Jonathan Waxman's roast chicken dish, which sold for an unprecedented $23 way back in 1984. We had such great success with Julia's chicken recipe that I've been itching to make another one, so don't be surprised if you find an oven roaster featured next week. We'll see what Nathan has to say about this idea. Until then, stay tuned.