Thursday, May 30, 2013

Master Chef Season 4 Episodes 3 and 4 Like a Lamb to the Slaughter, Sasha Gets Out FOXED!

This evening's two episodes of Master Chef set the scene for what can only be anticipated as an amazing season. And once again, Master Chef has managed to unearth an incredibly talented group of home cooks! In order to get there, though, they had to complete this round of auditions; starting with the first cook of the night - Howard - a former Assistant Machine Gunner with the US Army in Afghanistan.

Howard prepared a delicious looking Bourbon Peach Blackberry Cobbler with a crumble topping made with Graham crackers and Panko bread crumbs, and although Chef Ramsay disliked it because he felt the alcohol was too strong, Chefs Elliot and Bastianich both gave it the nod.

Joe enjoyed it so much that he walked out of the kitchen and presented Howard his apron in front of his jubilant family and the person Howard says most inspired him in the kitchen - his  lovely grandmother.

Once again proving my theory that Joe is, indeed, The Tin Man.

Underneath that steely blue stare beats a heart of gold - or at the very least, wrought iron - and its fun to see him champion contestants he thinks are worth the effort. A word of caution, though, don't let him down if he's gone to the mats for you.

More on that later.

Meanwhile, and in keeping with my Wizard of Oz obsession theme, I'm dubbing the next cook to come out (Jonny) as this season's Scarecrow.


Because this carpenter by trade and last home chef to audition, served the judges a creation he called Lobster Cracker Jacks consisting of fresh lobster, popcorn, coconut, nuts, and caramel.

I know.

The fact he survived that and then went on to prepare chocolate mashed potatoes (and got away with it) should tell us all this scarecrow has far more in his head than straw.

Like Lambs to the Slaughter

Speaking of straw, when the chefs were given their aprons and season 4 was officially kicked off, it was done in a glorious spectacle featuring the releasing of lambs. People, this ain't no Next Food Network Star! On Master Chef cooks are expected to get up close and personal with the food they prepare and, throwing all vestiges of compliance to health codes dignity to the winds, the home cooks were stampeded by hundreds of bleating lambs.

Graham Elliott explained that, not only is lamb currently the most popular meat in the world, it's gaining popularity for its unique flavour in North America - as such, the home cooks were given an incredible array of cuts to choose from along with complete access to the Master Chef pantry.

Contestants were told by Ramsay, or, the man I will call The Wizard: "Shine and you'll move on. Make a mistake and you'll be like a lamb to the slaughter - you have just 60 minutes to cook us the best lamb dish of your entire life."

The Cooks are Divided

When the first cook off was over, the remaining chefs were divided into three groups. One group already impressed the judges enough to move straight into the Master Chef Kitchen. A second group was sent home, and a third group had to compete for spots.

Which brings me back to the hay, and the home cook I am dubbing as "Dorothy" this season: Beth who cooked a Lavender Hay Roasted Loin of lamb with sweetbreads that not only knocked my socks of with technique and originality, the dish looked beautiful.

Pretty much, if Somewhere Over the Rainbow was going to be performed this episode, it would have fit in nicely with the emerald green and cheerful artistry of Beth's plate. 

Not to be outdone, however, Luca, who cooked a Lamb Loin Roulade filled with sweetbreads gave the viewing audience our first dramatic Master Chef moment of the season. It was beauty vs personality as both lamb/sweetbread dishes went head to head and as the smart girl who never got picked to dance, I admit I was rooting for Luca.

 But after much dramatic pausing, crashing music, and an insufferably long commercial break, viewers across North America celebrated from our collective couches as beauty and brains (or in this case, sweet breads) prevailed. Beth was given the first nod, and Luca, a stay of execution, becoming the last cook standing as we headed into the next episode...

 The Mystery Box Challenge!

The games began with the first mystery box challenge of the season! The cooks were charged with having to prepare one stunning dish using the contents found in their mystery boxes - which today contained bacon, one tomato, a handful of chocolate, and a russet potato tasking the cooks to create with the basics.

The top three dishes came from boxing coach Bimie for his beautifully poached egg over hash, along with arch rivals Natasha and Krissie who were none too pleased to be in the same category together. Natasha, who lets us know every chance she gets how pretty she is, and all of the ways her beauty isn't going to interfere with the competition,  put together an incredible lemon pie tart that Joe said could be served at the best patisseries in France or three star restaurants in new York.

On the other hand, Krissie made a frittata that Joe said was as good as his mother's - which is saying a lot considering his mother is Lydia Bastianich! On that note, Gordon said to Krissie: "You're the one to watch."

Beauty, in this case, prevailed over brains though, and Natasha won - giving her a huge advantage going into the next round. She was invited into the Master Chef pantry and given control of the first elimination test. Tasked with choosing between three ingredients for the competing cooks: langoustine, first cut veal chops or, stilton blue cheese, Natasha chose langoustine - a shell fish popular in Europe that could be most simply described as a cross between a lobster and a prawn - as the ingredient du jour in the hopes of tripping Krissie up and sending her home.

But Krissie was having none of it. Our tough talking Italian mom, went straight to work creating a langoustine mac and cheese, that although ex army gunner Howard thought would be the losing dish, anyone who's been paying attention knows of Gordon Ramsay's love with Lobster Mac and Cheese, making this a very smart dish indeed!

Howard's End?

On the other hand, though, we'll cut Howard a little slack as it doesn't sound like he's had a lot of time on his hands over the past few years. A memo that our Tin Man, Joe, obviously didn't get. Remember when I said "Don't let Bastianich down if he's gone to the mats for you," - well, Howard unfortunately did just that and the reaming out he got for his dish had him almost in tears and had me thinking Howard would be going home tonight.

But in a SHOCKING twist ending Sasha Fabulous Fox and her Langoustine Cheese Grits was sent home! This is disappointing to me on three levels. First, I really enjoyed watching Sasha and would have loved to see what else she can do in the kitchen. Second, her dish seemed like a delicious twist on shrimp and grits, and third, she was the only chef on the show close to my age range - it's not fair that the majority of people cast are so young.

But that's Hollywood for you!

When Sasha was asked who she thinks will win Master Chef, she said Krissie - but I have to tell you, I have my eye on Dorothy Beth.

And now, what would I cook? I actually just cooked some beautiful Herb Marinated Pan Seared Lamb Chops. Would you like to learn how to make them? 

Missed last week's recap? get caught up here: "You're a bit of a freak for the Beaver!"

Until next week, happy cooking everyone! Be sure to subscribe to my blog for all the latest scoop, Cocktails and Gossip is coming up over the weekend, my popular web saga Cherry Hill on Sundays, and, of course, all of the recipes and how to videos from my web show CHARMED with the Kitchen Witch!

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