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In cooking for this week’s Star Challenge, Team Bobby’s Michele Ragussis was not exactly happy as a clam. She decided to create New England clam chowder as part of her team’s American-inspired seafood spread, and was banking on picking up a few bags of chopped clams — those that have already been cleaned, shucked and diced. However, as Star luck would have it, the market only had fresh clams in stock, forcing Michele to accept the trouble and time of prepping them herself.
On top of that, Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian stopped by with a mid-challenge secret-ingredient surprise, and asked that one finalist from each team work chicken livers into his or her dish. Michele took one for Team Bobby and accepted that task, choosing to adorn her chowder with a chicken liver toast. A bit overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done, Michele said, “I get stuck with chicken livers and I still have to shuck my own clams, so it’s just gonna take me forever.”
Though time-consuming and perhaps even downright annoying to use in a two-hour challenge, the fresh clams may have been Michele’s chowder’s best feature. The judges appreciated the natural flavors of the shellfish and complimented her use of such fresh ingredients. In fact, Susie Fogelson called the dish “one of the best chowders I’ve had.” She praised its texture and taste, saying, “I love the use of the clams. I love the creaminess of it. It’s got tremendous flavor.”
Star viewer Michelle Dee earned our Fan Post of the Week with her comment on Food Network’s Facebook page. She predicted that the fresh clams were indeed the best clams for Michele to use, even remembering that judges prefer fresh ingredients above all else. After all, no one wants to relive Orchid Paulmeier’s canned-oyster fiasco from last season of Star.
Who’s your favorite finalist still in the running? Don’t forget to cast your Fan Vote up to 10 times per day and tune in to this Sunday’s episode at 9pm/8c to see who from #TeamAlton, #TeamBobby or #TeamGiada goes home next.