Expect to see a lot of fresh faces popping up on Ming Tsai's public television cooking series this fall. The celebrity chef and host of “Simply Ming” was in the Chicago area last week taping segments for his sixth season. Guest chefs included Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo restaurants, Shawn McClain of the Spring Restaurant Group and Gale Gand and Rick Tramonto of Chicago's Tru and the Cenitare group of restaurants based in Wheeling.
Tsai wrapped up production in Frontera's upstairs test kitchen with chef Rick Bayless, who is host of his own public television series, “Mexico—One Plate at a Time.” The old friends were in high spirits, joshing and swapping stories with each other, their assistants and the television crew as they prepared two recipes for future shows.
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At one point, the two climbed up onto the roof garden of the building to shoot a scene that would set the action in Chicago. And it sure did. The downtown skyscrapers rose dramatically into the blue sky as Bayless showed off his 45 self-watering containers in which peppers and tomatoes are being grown. Tsai, whose early gigs included a stint at the InterContinental Chicago, was delighted to see the hotel in the distance.
Bayless and Tsai first produced a skirt steak with Swiss chard, avocado, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and kochu jang, a Korean hot pepper sauce. Then they made molasses-glazed scallops with a roasted tomato coconut cream. The two recipes were developed by Bayless according to guidelines given by Tsai to all the guest chefs taking part in the series: Each recipe had to contain an “East” or “West” ingredient recommended by Tsai. The recipes also had to be simple, cooked in one pot and reflect the cooking of the guest chef.
Gand prepared two dishes with Tsai at her Riverwoods home, a buttermilk panna cotta with caramelized figs and shaoxing rice wine, and a sorbet made with fizzy moscato d'Asti topped with lychees tossed in lime, cilantro and black pepper.
At Tramonto's Vernon Hills home, the chefs made Madras curry-grilled chicken with green olive and preserved eggplant panzanella.
Tsai also visited McClain's new Logan Square home. There, they steamed greenshell mussels from New Zealand and served them with dashi broth and parsley.
While in Chicago, Tsai dined at McClain's Green Zebra restaurant; the two chefs go back to the InterContinental days. Tsai also stopped by the Seasons Lounge at the Four Seasons Hotel for thin-crust pizza and ate at one of his old late-night haunts, Bijan's Bistro. At last week's taping, he was eagerly awaiting lunch and one of those signature margaritas at Frontera Grill before boarding a plane back East.
But don't expect Tsai to be home long at his Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Mass. NBC's “Today” show has added him to their line-up during the Olympic games. He'll appear on the show from New York City this Thursday and then will fly to Beijing to do two more reports for the program.
The sixth season of “Simply Ming” premieres nationwide the week of Oct. 4, but in Chicago the season opener isn't expected to air until Oct. 11. The series is shown at 1 p.m. Saturdays on WTTW-Ch. 11.
SEARED SEA SCALLOPS WITH ROASTED TOMATO-COCONUT CREAM
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Chef Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo restaurants in Chicago created this dish for an upcoming episode of chef Ming Tsai's public television series, “Simply Ming.” Bayless prefers large sea scallops for this dish, about 1 1 / 4 pounds total.
3 tablespoons molasses
1 canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce, seeded, minced
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from the can
16 sea scallops
1 / 4 teaspoon salt
1 / 8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 1 / 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1 / 2 cups roasted tomato salsa
1 / 2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the molasses, chipotle and adobo sauce in a small bowl, stirring to combine. Set aside.
2. Season the scallops with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; place the scallops in a single layer in the pan, in batches if necessary. Cook scallops until browned on one side, 1-2 minutes; turn. Cook until lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer scallops to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; set aside 1 tablespoon of the molasses glaze. Brush scallops with the remaining glaze. Bake scallops to desired doneness and glaze is set, 3-4 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, return the skillet to the heat. Add the salsa, coconut milk and reserved tablespoon of the molasses glaze. Cook, stirring, until the sauce has reduced to the thickness of cold whipping cream, about 5 minutes.
4. Remove skillet from heat; stir in the lime juice. Ladle a portion of the sauce onto four plates. Brush scallops with any glaze that has collected on the baking sheet. Divide scallops among the plates; sprinkle each with chopped cilantro.
Nutrition information per serving: 301 calories, 44 percent of calories from fat, 15 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrates, 23 g protein, 868 mg sodium, 2 g fiber