MasterChef 4: To get to the Final 8, nothing like simple mushrooms to complicate a dish

Norman Byrd's picture

Ever made home-made sausage? Neither had most of the home cooks on "MasterChef." And yet... But when all is said and done, one home cook's advantage seems to be an ability to accurately size up the competition. Still, advantage or no, will the cook he wants eliminated take his allotment of mushrooms to go?

The nine remaining home cooks on "MasterChef" Season 4 stepped into the kitchen with another Mystery Box challenge before them in Episode 15. Well, actually there was one at each of their stations and one very long Mystery Box at the front of the room. So what did the judges have in store for them?

A quick reveal and the cooks found that they had meat grinders at their stations. The "MasterChef" judges -- Chef Gordon Ramsay, Chef Graham Elliott, and restauranteur Joe Bastianich -- lifted the box top up front and exposed a running smorgasbord of meats and proteins, including a few that Bri Kozior, the show's lone vegan, could appreciate.

Mystery Box Challenge

The challenge was to make sausage, then cook it in a dish that would please the judges, win the challenge, and secure the advantage in the next Elimination Test. The nine had sixty minutes to complete the task.

Although there were some nice looking dishes when all was said and done, the top three belonged to Natasha, Eddie, and Krissi (who is steadily moving along, despite having won the animosity of almost everyone in the "MasterChef" kitchen). Natasha Crnjac produced a simple breakfast sausage that featured chicken, bacon, and apple as well as red chili flakes and Sriracha for heat. Eddie Jackson, the former NFLer that the judges have labeled a "master of the grill," presented pork sausage with braised purple cabbage and apple chutney. Krissi Biasiello offered a spicy Italian sausage with peppers and polenta. In the end, the judges noted that the winner would be someone who had won the Mystery Box Challenge before (which automatically eliminated Krissi, who has not won a Mystery Box Challenge yet). For the second time this season, the judges declared Eddie the winner.

The Elimination Test

As Eddie and the judges adjourned to the next room, he learned that he would gain the advantage of not having to cook in the Elimination Test; therefore, Eddie had made the final eight. He got to choose from three selections for his competitors -- all ingredients with which the judges personally liked to cook: Ham (Joe), wild mushrooms (Graham), and shrimp (Gordon). When he chose wild mushrooms, the judges informed him of another advantage. Half the cooks would have to use canned mushrooms -- and Eddie got to choose which four that would be.

When the cooks ran back to the pantry, it was discovered that Natasha, Jessie, Krissi, and Luca would have to develop something with the watered-down, canned variety while James, Jordan, Bethy, and Bri would get wild mushrooms to use in their dishes. Eddie showed his flare for judging his competition. Looking to hopefully eliminate Jordan or James, Eddie thought that they might overthink their dishes and kill the star of their presentations. (This marked the second time Eddie has gone after Jordan after winning the Mystery Box Challenge.) As for those with the canned mushrooms, he knew they were strong cooks and taking away the wild mushrooms might trip them up.

Bethy had problems right away. The judges questioned her choice of doing Szechuan style with her mushrooms (spices being strong enough to perhaps overpower her mushrooms, which are to be the star of the dish). In preparing for her dish, she had forgotten a key ingredient: Sugar. So she rushed around and asked if anyone could loan her a little. Luckily, after almost all said "no," she found that Jordan had taken some sugar from the pantry. He was gracious enough to loan her some, stating to the camera that if he won "MasterChef," he wanted all the cooks to be at their peak in the challenges. (Noble, but it could get one eliminated, worst case scenario.)

Natasha and Bri had the best dishes. Natasha made mushroom-stuffed ravioli with crispy panchetta with a creamy mushroom puree. Bri presented a well-plated dish she called a "Walk Through The Forest' (which got a roll of the eyes from Krissi): Grilled sage and wild mushrooms with a beet and goat cheese salad. The two earned the titles of team captains for the next challenge.

The bottom three dishes showed that Eddie hit the mark with his choices for the wild mushrooms: Jordan, James and Bethy landed in the bottom trio. James prepared wild mushroom chowder by slow-cooking his mushrooms with arugula and other herbs. The mushrooms were lost in the flavor. Jordan actually did overthink his dish, producing a mushroom ravioli with a mushroom beet cream sauce and fried mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese and honey. The judges hated it. Bethy's Szechuan noodles with wild mushrooms featuring ginger and pepper got her where the judges expected her to go. Then, as James' dish was considered the best of the worst, he was found safe and in the final eight, leaving Jordan and Bethy in the bottom two.

Bethy's dish was ultimately deemed worst because the flavors overwhelmed the mushrooms, just as the judges had feared at the inception. Still, before she left, Judge Joe Bastianich told her he wouldn't mind offering her employment in the future.

For the second time, Eddie had nearly knocked out Jordan in an Elimination Test. For the second time, Jordan had been saved by a worse dish.

With Bethy's elimination, the remaining cooks moved into the final eight spots on their way to becoming the Season 4 Master Chef.

"MasterChef" airs on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. (EST) on Fox Television.

(photo credit: RickardA, Wikimedia Commons)