Bravo TV has launched its second season of “Top Chef Masters,” and so far, the show has managed to whip up our appetite for spice and heat, from Susan Feniger’s smokin’ shrimp and scallops to Marcus Samuelsson’s upscale twist on soul food.
Wait a minute, rumor has it that the Swedish/Ethiopian chef who trained in Europe and lives in New York is opening a new American restaurant in Harlem called Red Rooster. Could this mean that the show is fixed? Asking him to whip up soul food is like asking Rick Bayless to crank out a street taco, and we know what happened with that contestant.
Snarkiness aside, if you haven’t started watching it yet, beware. The show is as addictive as a bar of Valrhona chocolate. Talents to keep your eye on: Jody Adams of Rialto in Boston, Rick Moonen of RM Seafood in Los Vegas and Mark Peel of Campanile in Los Angeles, who is rumored to have graduated from Santa Rosa High, Class of ’72.
In the first episode, Feniger was partnered with chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia in Chicago, and both advanced into the next champions round. In the second episode, Samuelsson advanced, along with the hapless Carmen Gonzalez, who pulled off the most unlikely win in the show’s history after cutting her finger and forgetting her oyster and sausage stew at the prep kitchen. You want drama? She delivered it, with panache. But our money is still on Samuelsson, a brilliant chef and fierce competitor with a winning smile.
Here’s a recipe from Feniger and her fellow “Border Gal” Mary Sue Milliken, courtesy of the California Avocado Commission. The gals cook authentic Mexican and Latin American food at the Border Grill in Santa Monica and Los Vegas and Ciudad in downtown L.A. Invite some friends over for a garden party this weekend and serve this dish for lunch or dinner, with some margaritas. For a vegetarian option, you could substitute roasted veggies for the chicken.
Chipotle Chicken and Avocado Quesadillas
1½ cups shredded, roasted chicken
¾ cup canned black beans, drained
1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons minced, canned chipotle chiles
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups grated Mexican manchego cheese
1 cup grated panela cheese
½ cup grated cotija cheese
4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1½ ripe, fresh California avocados, seeded, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
Avocado Citrus Crema (see recipe below)
Combine chicken, black beans, onions, cilantro, chiles, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Let sit 20 minutes to blend flavors.
Mix cheeses together in a bowl.
Lay tortillas on a counter and brush with melted butter.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place a tortilla, buttered side down, into the skillet and place a portion of the cheese mixture over the entire tortilla. Place a portion of chicken mixture over half of the tortillas, leaving the other half empty. Cover chicken mixture with a portion of avocado slices. Cook until cheese begins to melt, about 3 to 4 minutes. Fold tortilla in half, over the avocado and chicken mixture. Continue cooking until tortilla is lightly golden on both sides and cheese begins to ooze. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. Cut quesadillas into wedges and serve with the Avocado Citrus Crema.
Avocado Citrus Crema
1 ripe, fresh avocado, seeded, peeled and quartered
½ cup light sour cream
1 lime, juiced
½ orange, juiced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.