On this episode of MasterChef Junior, “Head of the Class,” the home cooks prepare an incredibly difficult dessert, but it’s the pork dishes that will help the judges to decide who will move on to the finals. It’s down to the final four, and after tonight, only two will move on to the finale and battle it out for the title of “MasterChef Junior.”
A Taste of Home
The kids enter the MasterChef kitchen and are greeted with a bit of a disturbing surprise. They are presented with four clothes and underneath are the heads of the semifinalists’ parents! (Relax, they are alive) The parentals offer up words of encouragement, but it’s a bit macabre nonetheless.
The special guests have one more job before they go: they have to present their kids with a gift box. The picks are random, and after the “presents” are dispensed, the parents leave and let their offspring do what they do best – cook.
MasterChef Junior Recap: Who Makes it to the Semifinals? >>>
Who “Rises” to the Top?
Amaya’s box contains dark chocolate, Avery has strawberries, Zac gets milk chocolate and Addison receives blackberries. Christina informs the mini chefs that their task will be to prepare one of the hardest desserts to master in the entire world, a souffle. They will have Christina’s basic recipe to go by, but a souffle scares even the most experienced of chefs. The chefs have 45 minutes to execute the perfect souffle showcasing the flavor contained in their boxes.
Christina lets Graham and Gordon know that timing is key. A souffle must cook in a 425 degree oven for 18 minutes, not for one minute more or less.
Instead of being called up one by one, the judges taste the desserts simultaneously. The judges don’t give much away, but after the taste test, Gordon does offer up a “Wow!”
Gordon asks Amaya if she tasted the mix before it went into the molds, and she answers no, to which Gordon responds “Interesting.”
Graham points out that Avery was the last one to get her’s in the oven, and that she cut it close. Avery wound up with four finished products and chose the two best to present.
Christina asks Zac what the ratio was of melted milk chocolate, to pastry cream to egg whites in his souffle. Zac went by taste and color because he knows chocolate is very sweet, so he had to cut down on his sugar.
Gordon wants to know if Addison tasted her blackberries before cooking, and she replies that she did. They were perfectly sweet, so she added less sugar and more lemon juice to give the dish some acidity. But Addison didn’t sample the souffle before she offered up her final concoction.
The judges confer, and Gordon comments that he would serve Amaya’s in his restaurant and Graham thinks the presentation is gorgeous. It’s crispy on the outside and gooey and delicious on the inside.
Both Addison’s and Avery’s are beautifully high, and Christina comments on the tempting aroma of strawberries wafting from Avery’s souffle.
Zac’s souffles weren’t as visually appealing, but the flavor was there. He just kind of fell short, or flat, when it came to technique.
Addison is declared the winner. Gordon feels her souffle was perfection.
Addison will still have to cook in the elimination challenge, but Christina assures her that Addison’s advantage should be enough to propel her into the grand finale.
Go Pig or Go Home
So what is this advantage? Addison gets to distribute various cuts of pork to herself and her competitors: pork belly, pork loin, ribs and pigs’s ears. Each portion of the porker has its pros and cons.
The results are revealed: Zac gets the pork ears, Avery, the pork belly, Amaya lucked out with the loin and Addison chose the ribs for herself. The cooks quickly gather up ingredients from the pantry and get to work. They’ve got 60 minutes to blow the judges away.
Christina thinks Addison used her advantage well, but she is a bit concerned about Addison’s choice of ribs. Cooking ribs in 60 minutes well can be tricky, but the payoff can be worth the risk.
Graham believes Zac arguably got the hardest cut with the pig’s ears,and all the judges know Addison made this choice based on the fact that she believes Zac to be her stiffest competition. Unlike the other cuts that can stand alone, pork ears need help.
Gordon is excited to see what Avery does with the pork belly. With the right finesse and technique, this could be a five-star dish, but if cooked poorly, it could become a horrible, chewy mess.
Amaya looks to be in trouble. She begins to slice her pork before it’s had time to rest. Realizing her mistake, Amaya puts the meat back in the over, but Gordon comments that loin doesn’t do well being cooked twice.
Time runs out, and it’s time to see who prepared their piggy part the best.
First up is Addison. Her dish is a soda-braised rib with a summer strawberry salad and potato salad. Gordon isn’t impressed with the plating. It looks like BBQ fare, and he’s used to seeing more from Addison.
Luckily, the ribs are cooked to perfection, practically falling off the bone, and the seasoning is good as well. Gordon isn’t a fan of the fruity salad.
Christina loves the ribs, calling them “impossibly tender.” She feels Addison’s personality really comes through on the plate. Christina’s only criticism is that the ribs could have used a bit more sauce.
Zac prepared a frisee salad with braised pig ear and a quail egg. The dish looks beautiful, but after taking a bite, Graham tells Zac the pig ear is undercooked. He equates eating this undercooked protein with gnawing on a “dog toy.” But because the pork is crispy and well seasoned, and the flavor of the vegetables is so amazing and complex, he’s able to overlook the chewiness of the pork.
Avery offers braised pork belly with a sweet potato mash and beetroot chips. Christina says this is one, if not, the most delicious dishes she’s tasted in the kitchen. The pork is perfectly braised and crisp, the sweet potatoes are earthy and the chips on top are a great finish. Christina thinks Avery has raised the bar for the other cooks. Graham calls the meal “intense.” If there was a time to peak, this is it.
Amaya prepared pork loin with mushroom farro (rice) and a green apple marmalade. Gordon says the pork needed more time in the oven, but he loves the rub on the pork.
Christina loves the Arabic flavors, but agrees with Gordon that Amaya’s big misstep was how she cooked the pork.
And the Finalists Are…
Avery and Addison are the two finalists which means a girl will finally take home the title. Whoo hoo! Girl power!
The MasterChef Junior finale airs Friday, January 29 on FOX.
(Photo courtesy of FOX)