Reprinted with permission from www.healthywaytocook.com
This again? Mystery Boxes. They’re filled with food from all fiftyish of the states, and the cooks are divided into teams of two (Luca and Natasha on the Blue Team and Krissi and Jessie on the Red Team) must prepare a three course “restaurant quality” meal.
The Blue Team’s three courses starts with a seafood trio with avocado puree and mango sauce. Joe calls it “unusually weird,” but the fish is cooked very well. For an entrée, Natasha and Luca made rack of lamb with parsnip puree. Gordon gives it a “good job.” The dessert is a strawberry tart with vanilla pastry cream. It’s falling apart and a little thick, but Graham thinks that the flavor is there. The Red Team bring their dishes forward and…the plates are full. Lobster salad with citrus vinaigrette. Jesse says that although Krissi made the vinaigrette, she had to redo it at the last minute. Rack of lamb with swiss chard. Gordon notices that it’s not cooked properly. Jesse launches into a “Krissi sucks” monologue, and “I had to do everything myself blah blah blah are the cameras on?” In the end, the lamb tastes delicious. For dessert, there’s an apple tart with Chantilly cream (without the crust due to lack of time).
To nobody’s surprise, the Blue Team are safe from elimination and go on to the top-three-finale-oh-please-let-there-be-a-finale-I-can’t-take-it-anymore. So Krissi and Jessie go into a Pressure Test.
So what’s this Pressure Test I’ve been hearing so much about? Jessie and Krissi will have seventy-five minutes to perfect chocolate mousse, chocolate molten lava cake, and chocolate soufflé. Melting, baking, freezing, and Krissi is a little behind schedule getting her soufflé into the oven. In the final ninety seconds, Jessie’s molten lava cake is barely holding together and Krissi puts her plate down on the table at the very last second.
Krissi’s soufflé is undercooked while Jessie’s is “phenomenal.” Both mousses look the same though Krissi claims that hers is “more airy.” Graham agrees that Jessie’s is too dense. Both of their lava cakes are “preexploded,” and more raw than molten. After much sighing and hand-wringing, Jessie is moving on to the semifinals. Wait, what? The semifinals? How long are they going to drag this out for? Well, goodbye, Krissi. At least Joe invited you to Del Posto.
The three chefs face a Mystery Box containing…different ingredients. The contestants will have sixty minutes to remake an elevated version of whatever dish they made on Day One. Natasha made empanadas with skirt steak, Luca made broccoli rabe ravioli, and Jessie cooked sea bass en croute.
Natasha presents her audition dish that is plated beautifully if you like your food separated into quadrants on a giant cutting board. Joe calls it “a fun way to sample a lot of different flavors.” Luca made a prettier version of his ravioli dish. Graham enjoys the flavor and calls it “way better,” but he’s not a fan of the sauce. Gordon also criticizes Luca’s sauce because “why cheese sauce?” Jessie plated the same dish, only she sliced the fish. The judges go ga-ga over it, for some reason that is lost on me. Oh but don’t worry, nobody is getting eliminated today. No, we will have to contend with three cooks for quite some time. This competition determines who gets an advantage in the next competition. And the winner is Jessie.
Jessie gets to pick what ingredient she wants to cook with, and that ingredient will be unavailable to Luca and Natasha. Natasha had the second-best dish, so she gets to choose from the remaining ingredients, and Luca gets stuck with the leftovers. The ingredients are grana padano cheese, kobe beef, and Alaskan king crab. Jessie picks the beef, Natasha selects the crab, and Luca gets that delicious grana padano cheese. They grab the remainder of the ingredients from the pantry and have sixty minutes to cook something not disgusting.
Jessie’s grilling a steak, Natasha’s steaming a crab, and Luca’s wrapping his cheese in veal. Jessie asks to borrow a tablespoon of butter from Natasha, but she declines. Luca, however, tosses her the butter. Aaaaand time’s up!
Luca presents a local northern Italian dish of pancetta wrapped veal with grana padano and frico. Joe’s only criticism is that there are a lot of rich things on the plate so it could have used a bit of acidity. Gordon thinks the dish has excellent balance of cheese and veal. Graham thinks it tastes good but looks gross. Natasha presents a cold king crab yakisoba salad with vegetables. Gordon uses his favorite word—phenomenal. Joe doesn’t love the raw peppers, but he likes the way the dish showcases the crab. Graham blathers on about harmony. Jessie is last, and presents seared kobe beef with ponzu butter and noodles. Joe calls it “a good dish.” Graham likes the flavor of the beef and doesn’t think it needs the ponzu butter. Gordon finds the noodle greasy. Jessie decided to keep her papaya salad off of the plate because she found it confusing, but when the chefs taste it anyhow, they find it delicious.
After a long, drawn-out blah blah, Natasha moves on to the finale. The other chef is…Luca. Yes! Whoo hoo! Go home, Jessie! You and your Botoxed forehead.
Next week, something called a finale, which I’m hoping means the end.