An all-new MasterChef returns this week with a gigantic mystery box. The box raises, and out steps Eva Longoria. She picks the ingredients for the challenge, and there's pork tenderloin, shrimp, avocado, mango, corn, jalapeño, tomatillo, garlic, onion, Mexican chocolate—a clear homage to her Mexican roots. Being a Texas gal, I'd be excited to work with these incredibly flavorful ingredients. I'd grill the shrimp and serve them with fresh guacamole, mango salsa, and spicy roasted corn on the cob.
With so much choice produce, it's no wonder Bri the vegetarian wins the challenge. Back in the pantry, she is presented two baskets. One basket contains baking ingredients: strawberries, bananas, eggs, milk, sugar, flour, butter, baking powder, and lemon. The other basket has ingredients for an entree: sweet potato, cauliflower, tomatoes, rice, avocado, bell peppers, collard greens, and a huge ribeye steak. Bri gets to pick one person to cook with one of the baskets, and everyone else will cook with the other. And the twist (there's always a twist) is whomever ends up with the baking basket gets a full hour to cook, while the cook(s) with the entree basket gets only thirty minutes. Yikes!
I'd normally prefer the entree basket (as desserts are not my forte), but in this case, I'd much rather have the baking basket. I'd make a strawberry and banana crepe (and pray that there's dark chocolate or Nutella available for added oomph). Bri employs some strategy and gives Natasha the entree basket. "Because Natasha's a strong baker," Bri explains.
But this doesn't foil Natasha. Instead, it's Lynn that gets booted from the competition with what Gordon deems as the "worst dish in the four years of MasterChef history." Ouch! Poor Lynn — he was obviously one of the strongest cooks, always being the first pick for team challenges. But as I know well from being on the show myself, you're only as good as your last dish. And so we bid Lynn farewell. Even though I can't see, I've been told by many that Lynn's dishes are extraordinary art. I have no doubt that Lynn will succeed in his culinary pursuits.
Jessie, who finishes on top yet again, gets to divvy up the teams to her liking in the next field challenge. She picks her dream team of James, Eddie, Bethy, and Natasha, electing Savannah to be opposing captain to Luca, Bri, Jordan, and Krissi. The judges enter by water (we get a glimpse of Graham in a sexy Speedo) to tell the teams they'll be making fish tacos for over a hundred hot surfers at Huntington Beach. My family is from HB, and I have fond memories of skipping high school to spend afternoons in the sand soaking up the SoCal sun. But with starving surfers just a few waves away, the cooks don't have any time to enjoy the beach. Jessie's blue team gets busy with a menu of grilled mahi mahi, chipotle ranch slaw, and a roasted pineapple habanero salsa. Over on the red team, Krissi batters and fries cod (which is how I would've liked it), but the team decides it's too heavy and opts for a blackened application instead. They top their tacos with pickled cabbage and a cilantro-lime sauce. While red team's sauce sounds amazing (I didn't get cilantro tattooed in vain), I think the blue team's overall menu is more enticing.
And a majority of the surfers agree—the blue team wins. Before the red team goes into the pressure test, the judges make them decide as a team who to exempt from cooking in the pressure test. All hell breaks loose between Krissi and Bri, and I'm embarrassed to see it on national TV. I know it's stressful during pressure tests, but you really need to turn that negative energy into something more productive. Shouting mean words at one another is never productive.
Jordan gets the pass, and he joins the other five upstairs. The challenge is chicken breast three ways in 40 minutes: sautéed for Gordon, fried for Graham, and stuffed for Joe. The difficulty of cooking a good chicken breast is underestimated; as it often comes out dry. First, I'd tenderize all three breasts with a meat mallet. Then I'd soak the one for Graham in buttermilk. Then I'd prep Joe's breast with the mozzarella and prosciutto and get it in the oven. Next, I'd dust Gordon's breast with flour, oregano, and garlic powder before sautéing it with mushrooms, butter, and marsala wine. Meanwhile, I'd remove Graham's breast from the buttermilk and batter it with Ritz crackers (I hope they have those in the pantry!) and deep-fry until golden.
The only successful cook to survive the pressure test unscathed is Krissi. Luca, Bri, and Savannah all get reprimanded for their raw chicken, but it's Savannah whose MasterChef journey ends. Good luck, Savannah — not many people can say they're one of the top 10 home cooks in America. Keep your head up.
Top eight! It could be anybody's game. What do you think of the drama that transpired this week? Do you think Jordan should've been the one saved?
Tune in next week on Wednesday, July 17 at 8/7c for an all new MasterChef on FOX.
-Christine Ha, follow me on Twitter @TheBlindCook