New critic, who dis?
How much do you like Parma Ham?
Snap! Crackle! Pop!
For their Invention test, this week’s quarterfinalists lifted the lids of the ominous crates to reveal 4 sets of joke shop teeth
but instead of having to cook a dish that makes Rylan’s old teeth the star of the show, they were having to create a dish that was all about texture with the ingredients on offer, including a rabbit that Wilson couldn’t make eye contact with
and so instead he gravitated towards the tiger prawns which he was pairing with a carrot puree, a ball of carrot yarn and a toupee of deep fried noodles
the actual prawn and the carrot puree went down very well with the judges but they did question if he had pushed himself hard enough, a critique he had doomed himself to the moment he told Marcus he was playing it a little safe this round
it’s basically Reality TV 101 that you NEVER say that! Luckily he was going to come back strong with an entire Shakespearean sonnet about Parma Ham.
Andrew also went with the prawns, because it turns out he’s a big fan of punishing crustaceans in cruel and unusual ways
he was also going a little safe with the decision to make a Thai-inspired noodle salad that Anna and Marcus did try desperately to get him to elevate beyond mostly just layering up well chopped cucumber and peppers on top of rice noodles, his takeaway from Anna just about flying a biplane over the studio with a banner reading “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD ANDREW, TEMPURA SOMETHING!” trailing behind it being to make some crispy shallots
it did not go down brilliantly, he had prepared everything beautifully and by all accounts it tasted good but it does just feel a little bit like the sort of thing you might make with a box from Mindful Chef.
On the other end of the effort spectrum was Chris who was making various textures out of chicken and sweet potatoes, which of course did mean stretching chicken skin over a wire rack like he was drying it out to make a pair of chicken skin boots
it’s one of my favourite things that almost only exclusively happens on MasterChef: The Professionals.
As for the potatoes, he had promised 2 different elements – a puree and a fondant before deciding on a super secret third texture with some Sweet Potato Crisps, which if they didn’t work at least he hadn’t told Marcus about them and he’d also have some fancy Doritos for the ride home
See Wilson and Andrew, that’s how you under promise and over deliver, as the crisps did make it to the plate
it’s a very good plate of food, even more so because it’s an invention test – very rarely do you get a dish out of it that could go straight onto a restaurant menu but this feels like one of those rare moments, and it was only just the beginning of a very successful episode for Chris.
Lastly we have Gabriella, who was being particularly daring in making a dessert based around the textures and flavours of a Bakewell Tart, taking on a classic like that is always a bit of a risky move, which in this case mostly paid off
the presentation isn’t great, it looks a bit like an abandoned scone, but the challenge was about textures and in that she had been successful – Anna making sure to praise the simplicity of adding a new texture by freezing the raspberries, while making direct eye contact with Andrew and his diced cucumber.
A Textural Invention Test Dish Ranking
1. Chris’s Chicken Skin Boots
2. Wilson’s Toupeed Prawn
3. Gabriella’s Abandoned Afternoon Tea
4. You Don’t Win Friends With Salad
The Critics Chamber
For their last bid for a place in Semi-finals week, the chefs had to cook a 2 course menu for 3 Food Critics, this week being Leyla Kazim’s MasterChef debut
and she seems lovely so she can stay and she was joined by Grace Dent
and William Sitwell
Andrew had other ambitions.
Getting the ball rolling was Chris who had a rather elaborate 2 courses ahead of him, the first being a play on everyone’s favourite flavour combination from MasterChef’s late 2000s era: Scallops and Black Pudding, with the Black Pudding being turned into a bhaji, which as far too big a fan of black pudding, is the only thing I want to eat right now
I did find it a bit odd that William was so concerned about the Curry Oil being on the menu considering there was also a bhaji and scallops are entire fatless so do often required some sort of sauce or dressing – but I think he just needed something to say, it’s the Gregg Wallace approach to airtime: you just look directly to camera and ask “What’s beurre noisette?”.
They loved the dish – the black pudding bhaji being the star of the show, but the scallops were well cooked too.
For his second course, Chris was making an Open Lasagne – so as it turns out, I owe an apology to Mel Blatt on Celebrity MasterChef for making her own open lasagne – ALTHOUGH DO I?
I would say there’s a thin line between “Open Lasagne” and “dropped lasagne”, Chris’s effort very much falling on the Open end of the spectrum
it’s just a very striking plate of food – the nori wrapped turbot, while triggering my trypophobia something fierce, is a very cool way of serving the fish, I’m still not converted to Caviar Sauces, not on like a culinary level or anything (I simply cannot afford to drink the expensive sauce), I just find them to be aesthetically nightmarish
he still earned the highest of praises from the judges, all touting him for a very good future career in fine dining, where his caviar sauces shall go better appreciated than on a blog written by a woman who just ate a £1.20 sausage roll.
It was a tough act to follow, the poor unfortunate soul trying to outdo a piece of turbot that was just dubbed Michelin Star being Andrew who was once again trying to set a fish on fire
at least he wasn’t ripping it in twain this time, instead he was just gutting Anna like he gutted a crab
and this has absolutely nothing to do with Anna just about chasing Andrew out of the kitchen as he fell a little behind in the serving of his starter of Torched Mackerel and Remoulade
it did stand out as starkly simple amongst everyone else’s menus, which isn’t always a bad thing, but in this case it was a bit of a bad thing as nothing about the dish particularly sung, least of all the slab of mackerel, and the Gin Mayonnaise mostly caused everyone to very quickly turn on Andrew like he’d gone and kicked all their children in the knees.
Andrew’s main course didn’t go a lot better for him, but my God was he having a great time getting some anger out as he slammed the carrot ketchup onto the plate like Kane performing a flying clothesline in a WWE Grudge Match
very current and trendy reference point, naturally.
Unfortunately for Andrew, nobody really enjoyed the carrot ketchup and he had put A LOT of onto the plates
it’s also just a little bit dated – I think splatted and slammed sauces are a little bit early 2010s. But most damningly of all was his duck, which was described as “halfway acceptable” by Grace Dent.
Wilson’s starter was all about Parma Ham, with the dish featuring 4 Parma Ham flavoured elements, the Parma Ham Jam sounding like something Dr. Seuss would have made up
and even then, it might be 5 because I’m not entirely sure that the “parmesan” isn’t a typo
the dish may have been a little bit salty, there was after all an entire pig’s worth of parma ham in each tiny bowl, but they really enjoyed the dish and the fact he had managed to balance the saltiness at least a little bit.
Wilson was also going with Turbot for his Main Course and doing it in the most chaotic way he possibly could, having not filleted it prior to serving the starter, seemingly in an attempt to set the record for the fastest gutted turbot in the world – and my God did I love the editing of this whole bit as it cut between Grace Dent talking about how much she loves Turbot and Wilson going at that fish like it was a contracted assassination for a mafia family
I am now just particularly upset that he wasn’t gutting a turbot in his Skills Test because I would give anything in the world to see Marcus Wareing hooting and hollering in the pantry over it, because it was perfectly done
and it was a hit with the critics, who despite having a great piece of turbot on their plates, were mostly raving about the nut crust he had covered it with.
Gabriella was once again bringing her Italian heritage to the kitchen, and seemingly risking it all by making a Potato Risotto, the regular Risotto’s evil twin that lives in the attic
it is a pretty technically demanding dish, first of all you have to devote god knows how long cutting potatoes into teeny tiny equally sized cubes and then make sure they don’t turn to mashed potato while you cook them, which Gabriella had managed to avoid, and her addition of apple and of course the scallops adding the necessary extra bits needed to elevate a risotto to a competition standard.
Her main course was one of the rabbits that Wilson and Emma hadn’t got their mitts on, turning it into a Porchetta with the last remaining pieces of Parma Ham in existence that hadn’t made their way into Wilson’s starter
everyone was worried that the rabbit would be a bit dry, Gabriella’s solution to this being parmesan laden cannellini beans and an Agrodolce Sauce
the colour of that agrodolce sauce is stunning – the whole dish was very good and it’s certainly a dish I’d be very drawn to on a menu – in fact this Critic’s Round was very good for that, even Andrew’s less successful dishes were intriguing enough to make me contemplate ordering them.
A Critics’ Chamber Dish Ranking
1. Chris’s Open Lasagne University
2. Gabriella Doing It For The Rabbits
3. My Quest For a Black Pudding Bhaji Starts Now
4. Wilson’s Turbot Assassination
5. Wilson’s Ode To Parma Ham
6. Gabriella’s Potsotto
7. KETCHUP SMASH!
8. Unholy Mackerel
This judging had me on the edge of my seat, it wasn’t a big surprise that Andrew got sent home – and I hope for nice things for him, he’s got a lot of big ideas, he just maybe needs a little more time to build the confidence to put behind them.
Chris was VERY obviously going through and is at this point the one to beat
which left a decision between Wilson and Gabriella, I have made it no secret that I am acting president of the Gabriella Fan Club, but Wilson really impressed me in the Critics’ Chamber and Gabriella had had the not quite so successful Invention Test – luckily they’re really leaning into the Wicked Wango Card this series, so both of them went through with Chris
it’s a slightly early Christmas miracle!
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