“Top Chef” Recaps: Episode 4.13 “Puerto Rico”

Soak up the sun —
Padma tells the final four that this is the start of the “end game.”
It sounds ominous, but coupled with the beautiful blue sky and the even more
beautiful Padma, it sounds like a game I’d be more than happy to play. She
tells them their Quickfire Challenge is to create frituras, a Puerto Rican fried snack that is best served with a “cold,
cold beer.” Mmm, beer, mmm.

The chefs will have
40 minutes to create two different frituras using native plantains. Padma tells
them they can use anything on the table brimming with plantains in front of
them and anything they find in the small kitchen they will cook in behind them.
As she gives the chefs the ready- set-go, Richard, Stephanie and Antonia run
toward the plantains. Lisa, on the other hand, runs into the kitchen.

I have to say,
smart move. Lisa says she wants to see what proteins are available and make
sure everything is fresh first. She picks chorizo and duck before anyone else
has even had a chance to peek into the pantry.

The chefs share cramped quarters in the tiny seaside shack
of a kitchen. The facilities are a little rickety. The big red official timer
wobbles as the chefs slice and dice on their unsteady stations. Then Richard
goes to turn on the gas stove. See that fire? See that thing sticking out of
the fire on the right? Yeah, that’s his arm.

Richard: You
smell my eyebrows?

Possibly horrifically scarring kitchen accidents averted,
the chefs plate their frituras as the
clock ticks to zero.

Cholesterol, what cholesterol? — Padma and Wilo toast with their nice cold
ones and prepare for their artery-clogging fried feast.

First up is
Stephanie. She serves tostones
with seared tuna and pork and shrimp fritters. Padma licks her fingers
afterward. That is always a good sign, not to mention just good — period.

Antonia is next.
Her dishes are crispy oysters with cilantro plantain jam, and fried plantain
with spicy slaw. No finger licking, bummer. Come on people, serve up tastier
food. I want finger licking!

Lisa serves up
tostones with pan-roasted duck and plantain, onion and chorizo fritter with a
spicy chutney slaw. I guess it was really spicy. Just look at Padma chug.

Finally, Richard
comes out with his fried concoctions. He has pork meatballs with plantain sauce
and green plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa. His ripe plantains are raw
in the salsa, which raises an eyebrow from guest judge Wilo.

So, how did Wilo
rate their deep-fried goodies? He says they all did fantastic and he loved all
their neat little relishes, sauces and chutneys. But, of course, he loved some
more than others.

The worst: Antonia
(unintegrated slaw and slimy jam) and Richard (raw plantains and dry
meatballs). The best: Stephanie (well-balanced and nicely portioned) and Lisa (nice
tostones and well-executed).

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