MasterChef 2021, Episode 17: Mushroom Rondavel

Nothing in the world can convince me that Le Gavroche isn’t haunted by this portrait of Michel Roux Jr.

It’s the penultimate episode and after being whittled down to a trio, the cooks face a particularly gruelling challenge: Michel Roux Jr.’s mental costing!

A Classic Twist

In order to decide the finale three the contestants will each have to reinvent some sort of a classic dish, which surprisingly didn’t yield a Sticky Toffee Pudding Off again. There’s obviously a lot at stake and we know this means serious business because of the slow zoom in on Tom as though he’s a supervillain watching his evil plan unfold

We’re only missing an evil laugh.

With any reinvention test there are a number of pitfalls to avoid, the main ones being Cheesecakes and Sunday Roasts are off limits, so it was a real OH NO! moment when Laura announced she was taking on her favourite sunday roast and that on top of that she was going to be using The Dreaded Lamb Rack of Doom

Laura was sadly not immune to the Lamb Rack Curse and even after searing it off and roasting it the lamb was still raw on the inner most cutlets

I am very curious to see how MasterChef 2022 plays out in terms of the amount of lamb dishes that get cooked. In the words of Tyra Banks in the midst of an iconic meltdown: “LEARN SOMETHING FROM THIS!”

As for the rest of the dish she was making a pea and herb risotto which seemingly had Gregg wincing in pain

I am no proponent of risotto as an accompaniment but that’s a lot of emotion for rice.
And if you were wondering how Laura’s obsession with all things circular was going, she sliced her asparagus into tiny little disks

We appreciate strong branding decisions in this household.

Her sauce was also a touch weak but it wasn’t quite “serving slightly warmed sous-vide blood” levels of weak. I’LL NEVER FORGET YOU AARON!
It may not have been a perfect dish but at least John and Gregg got 1 edible cutlet each and Laura kept her cool and plated it all up despite being stalked by John like a raw lamb invigilator

Mike, the newly dubbed “Meat Maestro” (we’ll workshop that title) was also taking inspiration from a hearty British classic, the Beef Wellington which in his case involved absolutely no beef. Instead he was pushing the MasterChef budget to the limits with both venison and lobster, which yes he was both wrapping in pastry like he was catering some sort of debauched Victorian supper club where I imagine the starter was owl. That is not a challenge for someone to cook owl. By all verifiable accounts it tastes awful.
The best thing about Mike’s dish though is the fact he has practiced it at home and his girlfriend as you might remember from previous episodes doesn’t eat fish and is specifically allergic to shellfish. So I imagine the tasting went down a bit like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer buys the lobster and eats it alone while everyone else has to watch him

It’s quite the flex Mike.

It’s another heavy workload for Mike, maybe not as many ingredients but the preparation of the Venister wellington and the stress of whether or not it works can take years off your life, and he also had a busy schedule of acting like an octopus in the back of other people’s shots

Shout out to the cameraperson that framed this, I love and appreciate your hard work.

You will also be delighted to know that Mike has decided to embrace greenery and chucked on a pile of pea shoots

baby steps!
Gregg thinks the centre of the venison is too raw for him and I don’t blame him for being wary because at this point the amount of raw dishes they’ve been served does start to look like an assassination attempt. His pastry however is perfect all round and there is not an ounce of sogginess to be found! The star of the show though is his Tarragon and Peppercorn sauce which did look rather amazing

It’s always a good sign when your sauce has more of a sheen than Gregg’s head.

Taking us further afield for his inspiration, Tom was making his take on Khao Soi, a traditional and very popular noodle dish in Thailand with variations across South East Asia. Gregg of course did promptly reduce to being “just a bowl of noodles” – apparently they’ve learned nothing from The Rendang Incident of ’18. Remember that? Remember how the Malaysian Prime Minister called Gregg out on Twitter? What a time to be alive.
In order to give himself slightly more to do than just making his own noodles and the coconut sauce he was adding crispy fried noodles and a beef short rib, which John was very concerned over how they were going to manage to eat. I imagine just like you ate Mike’s in the previous episode? With a knife and fork? It’s not like he had left it in one gargantuan piece, he’s not coming for Mike’s gig, he had cut it up

It is at least all very well cooked and flavoursome, if a little bit too cumbersome for John Torode who has suddenly decided to have the table etiquette of a Massachusettsan debutante who can’t possibly be seen to be eating chunks of meat bigger than gambling dice while in public.
I do think the bone marrow and Thai herb salad on the side that looked a bit like the front garden of the house at the end of a cul-de-sac that’s killing the suburban utopia vibe of everyone else’s well manicured lawns was a touch unnecessary

I think we can stop serving things in bones now. We’re only one step away from a lamb skull full of soup. That, unlike the owl, is a challenge for next year’s batch of cooks.

Lastly we have Alexina who was taking us into the Middle East with her take on Fesenjān, a pomegranate and poultry stew that is traditionally served in Iran on Yaldā Night, a celebration of the longest and darkest night of the year. It’s usually a rich stew made from pomegranates and ground walnuts with a Persian spice mix including rosebuds.
In classic MasterChef style Alexina was deconstructing it to a dish of Roast Duck with Walnut and Pomegranate Puree, a trifecta of Jerusalem Artichokes and a sauce made with enough, what to me looks like, Maple Syrup to knock someone out

Do whatever it takes to get to the final!

John has a number of concerns for Alexina because this is the most amount of ingredients and elements that she’s put on a plate and she’s had a few timing issues in the last couple of episodes so while Alexina seems to be having a great time, John is on the peripheries of a nervous breakdown

and the final dish was nothing but a success story

Her cooking of the duck is excellent, it’s perfectly pink and rested so it hasn’t bled everywhere like the ducks of the past tended to do but it also manages to hold its own against the potentially overwhelming pomegranate sauce.

The final elimination is always the hardest and in some ways it was a bit of relief that someone had messed up slightly more than the others and like Laura said, it was only her first real misstep in the MasterChef kitchen after several extremely good dishes she she can certainly go home with her head held high knowing that she invented The Apple Crumble Sandwich

You can follow her on Instagram at LauraMichaelCooks.

Michelin Star Mayhem

For their final challenge ahead of The Actual Finale, Alexina, Mike and Tom will get a taste of cooking in a Michelin Star restaurant. Their destination? None other than Le Gavroche, home of Michel Roux Jr. and such wonderous creations as this mushroom rondavel

You know what? Suddenly I understand most of Stefan’s choices.

They’ll each be cooking one of the restaurant’s famed dishes for many acclaimed chefs including Steve Groves who won MasterChef: The Professionals so long ago they show no archive footage of him doing so, Michel’s own daughter and son-in-law which seems a little nepotistic but sure and MOST IMPORTANTLY, Thee Monica Galetti

Nothing by respect for MY president.

Alexina found herself in charge of the starter which was a Lobster Mousse moulded inside a case of spinach leaves and served in a Champagne Beurre Blanc Sauce

The dish was apparently on the menu in 1982 when the restaurant was awarded it’s third record smashing Michelin Star and looking at it you would kind of know. All the ingredients are very luxurious but it does have that faint hint of those jelly salads that were all the rage in the 60s and continue to be so in Middle America which is by sheer force of will, still trapped in the 60s.

The main task Alexina faced was having to sieve the damned lobster mousse through an incredibly fine sieve which I imagine gave her forearms like Popeye because she was at it for A WHILE. Then when she was done she had the audacity to nearly throw away a minor scraping’s worth of lobster, Michel Roux Jr. appeared out of thin air like a father does when you turn up the thermostat to remind her that lobster is incredibly expensive!

Not going to lie, Exasperated Michel Roux Jr. is my personal favourite edition of Michel Roux Jr.

Alexina’s plating of the dishes goes far better than you would expect for someone that has never before covered mousse in a thin layer of spinach leaves, with her only having a tiny patch of mousse showing through while everything still manages to hold its shape

This one error of course gets served to Monica, who as it turns out would also have liked more vodka in the sauce (no surprise there) and then Emily Roux gets the one piece of lobster shell (which she ominously calls “a fragment of its carcass”) in her mousse. We’ll chalk it up as a win regardless.

Tom was in charge of the main course and was doing a distinctly un-Tom dish in the form of a Veal Fillet with a Sweetbread Pithivier and a Sauce Bercy, which is a sauce intended to be served with fish so for the evening veal is an honorary fish

He was obviously very nervous about the veal and so spent a lot of time with his head pressed against the door of the oven like me watching soup heat up in the microwave

as well as his first time cooking veal, it was also his first time cooking sweetbreads, which for the hundredth time ARE NOT TESTICLES. It’s lamb neck AND VERY EXPENSIVE, Michel will have you know!

Tom has the most successful plating of the lot with the one complaint being from a lone diner who would have liked more sauce on the plate. Other than that it’s unanimous praise for him and Gregg looks like a proud parent

Tom was very much the calm before the storm as taking us into dessert was Mike who for his first dessert on the show will be a dessert served in a 2 Michelin Star restaurant. It’s a real 0 to 100 moment

The first sign of things going slightly wrong.
This was a mean dessert to lumber him with – a three layered chocolate pudding that requires absolute accuracy in its plating

*Laura seethes in Circular Rage*

Then because most of the chocolate pudding’s assembly seems to be in the pre-production phase, they can’t have Mike sitting around doing nothing but waiting so they have him make some Madeleines, the trap being that these are apparently a very important legacy to the Roux family. Telling him that was a bit like telling someone on the edge of a building to not look down.

He gets on remarkably well with the chocolate puddings, beyond the plating bit where he scuffs one of them a little bit

It’s the madeleines where things go wrong as Mike tries to gently bash them out of the tray and panic truly sets in the moment they don’t all pop out

which of course immediately summons The Haunting of Michel Roux Jr. who watches in agony as Mike commits war crimes against The Family Madeleines

It wasn’t Mike’s finest hour but I think the chocolate pudding was good enough to redeem the fact he may have accidentally started a generations longs feud with the Roux family. All I’m saying is thank God the cameras were rolling when Michel cornered him after the service

Sleep with one eye open Mike!

And then the next recap is the final!

One thought on “MasterChef 2021, Episode 17: Mushroom Rondavel

Leave a Reply