There's only nine cooks left on MasterChef. Underneath this week's mystery box is something much less glamorous than Eva Longoria — it's a meat grinder. The remaining cooks are tasked to make a stunning sausage to be featured in an entree. There are all kinds of proteins — including tofu, which was what I'd been wishing for underneath a mystery box all last season because I knew it'd pose a challenge for many of my fellow contestants!—and a jungle of fresh produce. I have never used a meat grinder before, so this is one of those challenges where I'd have to wing it and hope that I had just enough culinary experience and common sense to get by. I would naturally reach for pork, as its versatility and fattiness would be more forgiving than, say, chicken (brave choice, Natasha!). I'd throw in some fennel seeds, garlic, paprika, and red chile flakes to make an Italian sausage, and then toss it in a creamy soup with potatoes and kale.
The top three sausage dishes belong to Natasha, Eddie, and Krissi (who, incidentally, makes an Italian sausage). But the ultimate winner of the sausage challenge is Eddie for his pork links with braised purple cabbage and apple chutney. Eddie is shown to the pantry where he chooses which contestants will work with fresh ingredients and which will have to cook with the canned alternatives. From the selections of ham, mushroom, and shrimp, Eddie chooses mushrooms. I personally don't abhor canned mushrooms (though I've never cooked with them at home)— I think so long as you surround them with bold, complementary flavors, the dish could stand on its own. The challenge, of course, is making the canned mushroom the highlight of the dish. So how would you go about featuring the canned mushroom yet masking its less desirable flavors and textures? I applaud Natasha's strategy in cooking them with pancetta and stuffing them in ravioli with tarragon and aged gruyere. And if I were to get fresh mushrooms, I'd likely sauté a variety of them in butter, and then add herbs and just a little bit of cream before tossing them with fresh pasta (which I've recently been churning out at home—see my blog for a simple fresh pasta recipe).
Eddie gives James and Jordan, two cooks he deems as tough competitors, the fresh mushrooms with the belief that they will over-think the challenge and screw up. Sure enough, neither James nor Jordan has a top dish. Instead, the top two dishes go to Natasha and Bri for her grilled mushrooms with sage and a beet and goat cheese salad. (See my New York Times best-selling cookbook, Recipes from My Home Kitchen for the beet and goat cheese salad recipe I cooked on Season 3.) Joe calls it a "hipster dish" that belongs in Brooklyn, and he means it as a compliment.
The bottom three mushroom dishes, unfortunately, belong to Jordan, James, and Bethy. And it's Bethy who is asked to take off her apron. She made a Sichuan noodle dish with her fresh mushrooms, and the judges say all they can taste is sesame oil. As an aside, I cook with sesame oil on occasion, and a little bit goes a long way — it's likely Bethy had just put a few too many drops, and this made all the difference. Before Bethy leaves the MasterChef kitchen, Joe says out of all the cooks left in the kitchen, she's the one he would hire in a heartbeat to work in one of his restaurants. (What is this supposed to mean?) And when asked who will be the next MasterChef (which is a question every person leaving the kitchen is asked but which has been mostly edited out this season), Bethy answers, "My girl, Jessie."
Jessie has indeed been one of the strongest contenders for the title this season, having scored more top-notch elimination round dishes than anyone else and having led her teams to multiple victories. Do you think Jessie will be the one to take the MasterChef Season 4 crown? We're getting close to the end — who will it be? Tune in next week for a new MasterChef at 9/8c on Fox.