Yeah, that’s my reaction when Spotify throws 3 rock covers of All I Want For Christmas onto my Discover Weekly the second we enter November.
Exactly 4 sardines were harmed in the making of this episode.
Come Sardine With Me
For his Skills Test, Marcus was having his pair of chefs butterfly a pair of sardines to serve on toast along with a Tapenade and a Tomato Sauce – and given the things that have happened during fish prep skills tests in the past, this was mostly alright, sure Jonny went at it like an anxious wolverine because he just wanted to get it over and done with as quick as possible, but at least it was like an anxious wolverine who had had a modicum of fishmonger training and it felt like he knew what he was doing! The cooking of the sardine was much less successful as he attempted to griddle the incredibly tiny fish which almost instantly adhered their flesh to the incredibly hot pan, sending Anna into an emotional downward spiral as she basically watched the skin slough off a sardine every time Jonny attempted to flip it over
and now whenever Anna closes her eyes at night all she sees is The Post-griddled Massacre
Who will survive and what will be left of them?
Jonny also seemed a little bit confused as to how the plating of the dish was meant to work with everyone becoming increasingly concerned that his tomato sauce was just stagnating in his frying pan and clearly not reducing down to a spreadable consistency
before Marcus decided to give the man a break and point out that the tomato sauce had to be served on the toast, which Jonny seemed genuinely surprised about
and now I’m a little bit sad that I didn’t get to see Marcus Wareing trying to dunk a sardine precariously balancing on a piece of toast into a slightly warmed bowl of passata that Jonny was trying to pass off as soup
but despite the errors and the late stage soupy U-turn, it wasn’t terrible and he had miraculously managed to get a depth of flavour into the sauce.
Brendan was next and went about the preparation of his fish absolutely beautifully – butterflying them and cleaning them pretty damn flawlessly and in an effort to keep him on he straight and narrow, Marcus asked him “Are you going to put the sardines on the frying pan, the griddle or THE SALAMANDER?” but despite Marcus’s best efforts, Brendan flopped them straight on that griddle pan
and he suffered much the same fate as Jonny with Gregg asking after the sardines’ wellfare just as Brendan accidentally ripped off one of their tails
and just to make things worse, for the required “pepper seasoning” on the sardines, he had completely missed the selection of fancy pepper varieties on the workbench
and just cracked a whole load of ordinary black pepper over them instead. Sadly the seasoning across the board was pretty bad for Brendan with his tomato sauce looking like barely altered tinned tomatoes
but most damningly of all was the fact Anna had to tell him that his toast was barely toast because he had tried to fry it after dumping an entire lake of olive oil on top of it
but don’t worry Brendan, it’s somehow still not as bad as the two chefs who completely failed to make a chicken sandwich for their skills tests in 2018.
New Kidneys On The Block
Anna’s Skills Test asked Owen and Beatriz to prepare Veal Kidneys in order to serve them alongside a potato rosti and a mustard sauce – I’ll admit, I had no idea that veal kidneys came looking like they had been packed in styrofoam for a cross Atlantic mailing journey
and yeah, watching the two of them paw and hack the fat off of them was both incredibly off-putting and a little bit relaxing to watch – although neither of them should have used a knife because you should be able to tear it off, but it did give Marcus the opportunity to tut about a pair of young chefs not being versed in the Culinary Classics while imaginably sharing a Minions meme on Facebook about it
Owen did immediately curse himself by admitting to Anna that he currently has a Potato Rosti on the menu of the restaurant he works at, and sure enough the rosti came out of the pan a little scorched
we’ll blame the conduction hobs Owen, it’s fine! I can’t help you find an excuse for the fact you left the membrane on the kidneys but at least we can preserve your rosti reputation!
Beatriz had similar issues with her kidneys and just seemed to be sticking the knife wherever she thought it needed to go like a rookie stage magician, but unlike Owen she had tried to render the kidney fat down in order to cook the rosti and livers, but her pan was a little too hot so all she was really doing was cooking chunks of fat
and then proceeded to do the Hokey Pokey with the kidney fat as she took it and put it back in again when Anna hinted that what she was doing was actually correct – and if nothing else, Beatriz was at least the most fun contestant to watch so far, she was very candid and engaged well with both the kitchen and Anna, it was just unfortunate that her dish wasn’t great
and I could have seen her being a bit of a favourite in terms of taking her on a journey through the classics that Marcus loves to do every year.
Pretty much everyone had quite a bit of grovelling to do after their Skills Tests so there was still the potential for this episode to go any which way – but I was particularly worried for Jonny when he starting high-fiving a rack of lamb
which does usually result in at least one the judges being served a piece of still bleating lamb, however somehow he had managed to actually almost overcook his lamb
which would probably have earned him more derision from Marcus had his attention not been divided by the inclusion of a Side Taco
which also happens to somehow be a more problematic taco than anything they made on Bake Off’s incredibly ill-advised Mexican Week given that this was actually a parmesan tuile holding a spoonful lamb tartare so it’s only really a taco in that Jonny forced some raw lamb into a taco-shaped hole. Gregg loved the taco, obviously.
While Jonny had managed to avoid any incidental rawness, he had transferred the curse onto Brendan who was putting a spin on the Chicken and Chips he loved so much as a kid. His plan being to cook the breasts on the crown, which is brave given they only have 90 minutes to do this in and he had some turkey-sized chickens to get through, a gamble that did not pay off as he carved into them to find a really rather raw chicken which he did his best to play down
Mate, that chicken is still laying eggs.
He tried his damndest to recover from it by finishing them off in the frying pan but it mostly became a game of Brendan cooking his chicken, checking it, Marcus telling him his chicken was still too raw and Brendan having to whittle it down to less and less chicken
and he had very much run out of time to fully plate his dish but they very generously let him finish plating it all up, mostly because it was pretty glaring by this point that he’d be going home and it would be mean to kick a man while he’s down
the chicken was a complete loss, unsalvageable dry and better of being given a Viking funeral but the potato fondants were alright and his sauce received extremely positive reviews. I do think we’re over the whole serving granola with a main course trend though.
It wasn’t just his chicken that gave Brendan issues, with the mixture for his White Chocolate and Tonka Bean Parfait splitting very early on – I’m choosing to believe it was all part of the “inspired by that time I had my tonsils removed” narrative that he forced upon this pudding
and then I can’t imagine having to remake it while Marcus Wareing toys with the discarded corpse of your parfait like a sadistic cat playing with a dead mouse helped his nerves very much
and because he had been distracted by The Great British Chicken Whittling competition he had inadvertently entered himself into, he couldn’t devote much care to the presentation of his pudding and we were treated to the classic MasterChef trope of demoulding a set dessert and watching it spill over the plate
at least the texture of the parfait was good? Even if it was a little bit too sweet.
As for Jonny’s dessert, I’m still kind of trying to work out what it was
it’s obviously a play on jam on toast but it seems underdeveloped to the point where it’s kind of still just jam on toast – it could be a very cute little dessert but it feels like the dessert that never makes it to the judges on Great British Menu because it needed to be more elaborate.
While it usually serves you well to play it incredibly simple and pretty straightforward in these early rounds, Owen was busy throwing fine dining spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks with his main course of Halibut with Curried, Coucous’d (it’s not a verb mate) and Pureed Cauliflower, a Grenobloise Sauce AND a Cumin Veloute split with curry oil
all of it was mostly very well made, save for the burnt cauliflower, but he could have probably afforded to Sophie’s Choice the Grenobloise or the Cumin Veloute.
His dessert was a similar script of unedited ideas as he clearly couldn’t decide if he wanted to make a Frangipane Tart or a Chocolate Torte for his signature dessert so he kind of just smushed them into one idea and then threw a brandy snap on it like Marvel films throwing on a mid and post-credits scene just to trick you into watching the distributor credits
the issue was mostly that the almond flavour didn’t come through, which is kind of a big issue when you sell someone a Frangipane Tart but Gregg did make sure to heartily praise the fresh raspberries just to remind everyone that his credentials on this show are that he was a greengrocer at one point.
Lastly we have Beatrice whose main was a porkchop and cassava dish inspired by her Brazilian heritage, but in a twist, despite being introduced as The Big Meat Chef during her introductory insert
the cassava was the star of the show and, in her words, the porkchop was a garnish
the judges felt that the dish didn’t feel particularly complete which is entirely fair because it was just two things on a plate and she could have borrowed at least one of Owen’s seven superfluous components to tie it all together.
Her dessert was similarly minimal, with it consisting of a Coconut Cake and some Guava Cream
the guava cream was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, but the texture of the coconut cake was even more unforgiveable than the fact she had coated it in a cashew praline like a caddis fly larvae
but they did appreciate the fact that she had brought in some Brazilian ingredients and elements that we don’t see very often, even if it did mean that Anna and Gregg had to both awkwardly try and sidestep the pronunciation of Urucum
it’s a South American spice that’s kind of similar to Paprika but like Kashmiri Chilli Powder can be used to make dishes a more vibrantly red colour – the word “Urucum” literally translates to red colour and the same plant is used to make red body paint by native South American peoples.
A Signature Dish Ranking
1. Jonny’s Lamb and Side Taco
2. Everything And The Curried Cauliflower Sink
3. Owen’s Genetically Spliced Tart
4. Fancy Jam on Toast
5. Beatriz’s Porkchop Garnish
6. Brendan’s Chicken Whittling
7. Beatriz’s Caddisfly Cake
8. Brendan’s Heartfelt Ode to His Missing Tonsils
It wasn’t the most stellar Signature Menu for any of the chefs which is probably why they announced the eliminated chefs rather than the safe chefs, with Brendan leaving first, followed by Beatriz, who I was particularly sad to see leaving because I could have had a lot of fun with the fact she kind of looks like Isabelle Fuhrman in Orphan, alas, the things that shall never be. But this does mean Jonny and Owen move on to the first of the quarterfinals
I have already started confusing Owen and William in my head despite them looking nothing alike.
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