contenders return this week with aprons in hand, ready to dazzle America with their latest culinary designs. The group's been cut down to size, and only the best home cooks are left to contend with this week's main ingredients: lamb and langoustine. The chefs impress this recapper, personally, even if a few of them leave Gordon Ramsay spitting seafood and grits into the nearest trash can. I guess that's why they pay Gordon the big bucks. He never fails to leave a lasting impression.
The audition process is mostly wrapped up when this week's episode begins, but there are still a few cooks to meet before the competition heats up. Howard introduces himself first, presenting a bourbon peach blackberry cobbler and a personal history that makes me root for him from the start. The judges note that the army veteran (who served as an assistant machine gunner in Afghanistan) shows "a lot of courage" presenting a dessert on a reality TV cooking competition. Yeah, that charmingly rustic cobbler really took bravery. How did he manage that? Of course, Howard is chosen for the competition.
Next up is Jonny, who serves lobster crackerjacks -- possibly the strangest snack I've ever craved while watching a FOX reality show. The popcorn, caramel, coconut and lobster combination actually had me wishing I kept lobster and caramel around the house. (Salmon kettle corn was the closest I could come with what's in my pantry, and somehow that didn't seem as appealing.) Jonny's crackerjacks get him to the next round.
Once all the aprons are given away, Gordon ratchets up the horror level a few notches beyond what I'm personally comfortable with, presenting a lamb to the chefs and making the unsavory suggestion that a bloodbath's on the horizon. A gate is opened and hundreds of lambs stampede through the studio, bleating for their lives. I reconsider vegetarianism and look into PETA donations. Gordon says that the chefs must cook a lamb dish in sixty minutes, and half will be weeded from the competition like lambs to slaughter (a simile that my husband calls "a little lamb-handed" because we're all about the puns in this household). Chopped chefs include Brian the beaver tail connoisseur, Brian who cooks in medical scrubs, Gabriella, James, Nancy and Seymira. The remaining lucky cooks will move on to the MasterChef kitchen, otherwise known as the kitchen of dreams!
Kitchen of Dreams
The remaining contenders wander into the kitchen with starstruck wonder, taking in the stainless steel appliances, sharp knives and walls of wine before putting those game faces back on for real. They're thrown right back into the competition, faced with the "mystery box challenge," which includes cooking with tomato, bacon, chocolate and potato. Gordon calls combinations like bacon and chocolate a disaster, which is odd since I saw chocolate-covered bacon on plenty of menus back in 2009 or so, but whatever. Praise goes to Bime's poached eggs with hash and Krissi's frittata, but the main prize goes to Natasha for her gorgeous lemon pie tart. Natasha reminds us again that she's a beautiful threat who's here to win and, oh yeah, she really hates Krissi.
For winning the mystery box competition, Natasha gets to sit the next challenge out, and she also gets to make it super tricky for her competitors (and enemies -- like Krissi). The judges let Natasha choose from three refined ingredients: first-cut veal chop, langoustine and Stilton bleu cheese (which, fun fact, is only produced in five farms in the world). Natasha chooses the shrimpy lobster thing she's never heard of.
When the judges announce the challenge, the chefs seem dumbfounded over the langoustine. They scratch their heads and wonder, "A Lou? A Who? A giant shrimp?" I honestly don't know anything about cooking langoustine, but the judges tell us that it's very easy to overcook, which makes the langoustine challenge a recipe for disaster. It is for Sasha, Howard and Malcolm, anyway. Howard spends the whole time making a basic salad with an imaginary vinaigrette that the judges call an utter waste of their time. (Hashtag #watseoftime appears in the corner of the TV screen.) In an effort not to overcook his langoustine pasta, Malcolm serves his semi-raw and Gordon spits it out dramatically. Considering that, Sasha's crimes against langoustine don't seem all that terrible. She makes a home-style langoustine and grits dish that Joe says turns fifty dollars' worth of langoustine into a fifty cent meal. Gordon just says it looks like poop on a plate. Nice.
In the end, Sasha is dismissed, Jessie wins with langoustine tempura and Natasha eyes the competition. Next week on MasterChef, the chefs cook for a playground filled with hyper-critical third graders. After getting criticism like "this looks like poop on a plate," they should be well prepared.
(Image courtesy of FOX)