Who will be the next Top Chef?

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp on Polenta with Chipotle-Tomato Butter Sauce

Top Chef is one of my guilty reality TV pleasures. There’s plenty of drama, crazy antics and personalities, but most of all, some fantastically creative food. Of course I don’t love everything about the show. The product placement is growing more painfully obvious with each episode. Do they really need to be so in-your-face about it? I understand they need advertisers, blah, blah, blah. But seriously, a little subtlety never hurt anyone. I heart Tom Colicchio. He is a great judge and speaks his mind without trying to back pedal his way out of it like some of the other judges, cough cough – Gail Simmons – cough cough. Most notable in the last episode when she said Casey’s dish wasn’t memorable and Eric Ripert disagreed with her, boy she sure took that back fast! Forgive me, I digress. What I truly love about this show is the way these talented chefs are forced to think quick on their feet and produce delicious dishes on the spot. Sure, they often falter, fail even and sometimes serve raw chicken! But in each episode, someone rises to the top and creates a dish that makes you want to reach into the television and taste it. Since we’re not that advanced in our technology yet, the folks at Bravotv.com have kindly posted the recipes for us to re-create at home. So in honor of tonight’s Top Chef finale, I am posting my attempt at one of Tre’s creations.

A few weeks ago I had a dinner party and was searching for a new starter to try. I remembered the episode where the chefs had to feed hungry nightclub-goers at 3 in the morning, out of a roach coach no less! Tre created a scrumptious looking dish of Bacon Wrapped Shrimp on Cheesy Grits with a Chipotle-Tomato Butter Sauce, and subsequently won the challenge. I decided this would make a lovely start to our meal whilst forcing me to finally try a Top Chef recipe! I did make some changes, mainly substituting a grilled sun-dried tomato polenta cake for the grits due to time restraints. This dish is a real winner! Succulent, sweet shrimp enrobed in a crispy, salty bacon blanket was met by the smoky spiciness of the chipotle butter sauce. A match made in heaven! The polenta added a nice contrast of textures, crisp giving way to creamy. I look forward to making this again when time allows me to make the Cheddar, Chile and Corn Grits as they sound delicious.

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp on Polenta Cake with Chipotle-Tomato Butter Sauceadapted from Tre, Top Chef Season 3, Bravotv.com

For the shrimp:

  • 18 large shrimp, peeled and deveined but tail on.
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 9 bacon slices
  • grapeseed oil

Season the shrimp with a little kosher salt. Heat a grill pan over high heat and sear each shrimp for a few seconds to impart grill marks, they should still be uncooked. Allow to cool. Wrap each shrimp in half a slice of bacon and then season with freshly ground black pepper. Sear each shrimp in grapeseed oil until crispy on both sides. Set aside until ready to plate.

For the Chipotle-Tomato Butter Sauce:

  • 1/2 a yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbs garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 tbs chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt

In a saucepot, melt a dab of butter and saute the onions and garlic over medium heat. Next, add the tomatoes, chipotle peppers and peppercorns. Continue to cook for another three minutes. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and lower the heat. Cook for five more minutes and then pour into a blender. Allow the liquid to cool slightly before blending, then puree until smooth. Place liquid back in saucepot and back over low heat. Next, mount the sauce with the butter, whisking in a little at a time until the sauce emulsifies and has a nice sheen to it. Then season with lemon juice and salt and then submerge the cilantro. Turn off the heat and allow the cilantro to steep for five minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve and reserve, warm until ready to plate.

For the polenta:

Slice the polenta into rounds about a 1/2 inch thick. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat and grill the polenta until marked and crisp on both sides.

To assemble:

Place the polenta cakes in the middle of the plate and drizzle the sauce around it. Lay three bacon wrapped shrimp on top of the polenta and garnish with finely chopped cilantro.

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