So, let’s just dive right into this: Resting Bitch Face.
Yeah, I said it.
And I still can’t believe that it actually made it into the episode. But I think it gave a little more insight into who I actually am.
I want to come off as a warm and friendly person, but I’m realizing that even if my intentions are there, my face doesn’t always show it. So I’m trying to work on that, because I really don’t want to come off as a cold heartless soul.
But aside from educating the world on resting bitch face, I really wanted to nail down the definition of my POV in this episode. I set out as the star de la mar, but in the past few challenges I haven’t really had much of a chance to explain myself.
In this competition, a culinary point of view is extremely important. I knew I had to work my coastal background into my concept, but I was very resistant to just being the fish girl.
Don’t get me wrong. I love seafood.
But I love lots of other foods, too.
So to be pigeonholed into just making fish?
Seafood is a big part of my culture and my culinary repertoire, but the food I cook is not solely from the sea.
So I can understand why people would hear “coastal cuisine” and think it’s too limiting. That it’s something reserved only for people who live on the coast, and not accessible to those in landlocked parts of our country.
That’s exactly why I really wanted to drive home my definition of coastal cuisine in my demo. It encompasses so much more than just fish.
Sure, I didn’t relate my dish back to Mexico and connect the dots to my POV, but I’m hoping I was at least able to clear the lens on what the heck coastal cuisine is, anyway.
At one point in the competition, Giada asked me what made coastal cuisine different from California cuisine. My answer is simple. California cuisine IS coastal cuisine. Just like food from New England, the Gulf Coast, the Eastern Seaboard, Florida, and the Pacific Northwest, California cuisine is just one example of what coastal cuisine is.
I took a look at the food from all these different regions, as well as the coasts of Latin America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and Asia.
While all of these cuisines vary greatly in their ingredients and preparations, they all share a few common threads.
The food is light, fresh, and simple, with flavors that pop.
Coastal cuisine is not dense or heavy. It is not low and slow. It does not stick to your ribs.
It is not extravagant, complicated, or pretentious. There is no sous vide or liquid nitrogen in the coastal kitchen.
Coastal cuisine is food that makes you feel light on your feet. It’s the kind of food I love to cook AND eat.
So without further adieu, my official definition of Coastal Cuisine is:
Food that’s prepared using simple techniques (grilling, steaming, fresh salsas, simple sautés, vinaigrettes, quick pickling, light frying, raw preparations) made with mostly fresh ingredients (lots of fresh produce, seafood, meats/poultry, dairy, nuts, legumes, and grains- locally sourced when possible), with bright, clean flavors (fresh herbs, citrus, soy, chiles, spices, fruity olive oils).
When we picked cards, I was wishing, hoping, thinking, and praying that I would get a seafood dish. The butcher babe got a steak! But the fish girl wasn’t so lucky.
I was dealt the card of BBQ Pork with Onion Rings. You know, a nice, heavy, low and slow dish. So naturally, I had my concerns about how I was going to be able to tie it back to coastal cuisine.
When I saw pineapple in the (sick) pantry, I instantly thought of tacos Al Pastor: a Mexican pork slow cooked with pineapple and chiles, served as a taco. One of my all time favorites.
I saw the chipotles and knew that would be a great way to impart a slow cooked, smokey flavor in a short amount of time. I saw skewers and thought a kebob would be the perfect twist.
Down here in the summertime, we get together on the beach as much as possible. And someone, somewhere, is always grilling up something.
If its not a hamburger or hot dog, its probably something on a stick. Kebobs are a perfect, easy eatin’ beach food.
I felt my dish was totally keeping true to my coastal cuisine:
The ingredients are fresh. I can’t grow pineapple in NJ, but tomatillos grow like weeds in my garden in the summer. I have three different varieties growing this year. I grow plenty of chiles, and cilantro too.
You know, they don’t call us the garden state for nothin’.
The technique is simple. Marinate, skewer, grill. Easy, peasy.
The flavors are clean and bright. The chipotles give bold flavor to both the marinade and the salsa. Grilling the tomatillos, garlic and onions brings out their sweetness. The pork and pineapple are charred and caramelized on the outside, and super juicy inside. The salsa is acidic, smoky, and spicy.
I thought this was a perfect tie in to my POV. The problem was, I just didn’t communicate enough of that in my 3 minute demo.
But 3 minutes is just so dang short. It’s really hard to get in everything you want to say.
But the judges liked my food, and that’s a big deal. My heart skipped a beat when I heard Bobby Flay say he “just wanted to keep eating” my kebob.
I didn’t find my way into the top, but I was happy to have made one of the best dishes of the day. Christopher, who made the best dish of the day, was the one sent home. This was a little perplexing, but again, this competition isn’t just about food.
Christopher was without a doubt the best chef in the bunch. He knew it, the mentors knew it, we all knew it. Not convinced? Just compare his resume with any of ours.
He smokes us.
Christopher is originally from Philly, but has been living in New Orleans for about 10 years. I’m from Atlantic City but used to lived in Baton Rouge. So we had this interesting, bizarre connection, which gave us plenty to talk about. It’s a unique dynamic moving from the northeast to the deep south, one you truly have to experience first hand to understand.
Want to try my Spicy Pork and Pineapple Kebobs? You can!
Whether you’re kickin’ it at the beach, the lake, the pool, the backyard, wherever, there is still time to make these for your 4th of July bash. The ingredients are all totally accessible, the method is super simple, and the flavors definitely won’t disappoint.
Make the salsa and kebobs in advance, and then grill em up when you get hungry. That way, you can spend as much time as possible getting turnt up with your friends.
Spicy Pork and Pineapple Kebobs
6 Chipotle peppers in adobo, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from can
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into chunks
1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 large red onion, peeled, layers separated, and cut into squares
Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour over pork and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight. If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for at least one hour. Place the pork, pineapple chunks, and red onion on skewers, alternating pieces, and set aside. Preheat a grill to high and be sure the grates are clean and well oiled. Place the skewers on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until they are nicely charred. Serve with tomatillo salsa.
Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa
1 pound tomatillos, husked
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
¼ white onion
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo, (more for a spicier sauce)
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon honey
Preheat a grill on heat and throw the tomatillos, onion, and garlic cloves on. Cover and let cook, turning occasionally, until charred and blackened on all sides. Remove the skins from the garlic and put everything into a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine. Adjust seasoning as needed. Salsa can be made up to 2 days in advance.
Tune in next Sunday night, as I try to lasso my inner gourmet cowboy, and it doesn’t go so hot.