MasterChef S9E12: Frying Tonight


In this MasterChef episode, can the top thirteen survive a deep fried mystery box and a sweet or savory showdown? Which controversial home cook rises to the top tonight?

The MasterChef competitors enter the kitchen to face a mystery box challenge. The boxes reveal two containers of oil and a deep pot. They all have forty-five minutes to make a composed dish where the star is deep-fried, and the winner earns a big advantage.

But wait! Before they start cooking, Gordon announces that they will be “cooking along with three incredible guest chefs- us!”

As the clock starts, everyone hurries to the pantry. Well, the judges are a bit more leisurely, and Joe is downright relaxed. He gathers a few items in his basket and then creates a spread on a table in the panty- a bottle of wine, a large chunk of parmesan, fruit. He hops up on the table himself and calls out to SJ, “so you want a glass of wine?”

SJ is clearly too busy, so Joe directs Emily to grab him some shitake mushrooms. He then reclines on the table like an emperor and tells Farhan to pass him leeks, zucchini, snap peas. I assume he thought this was funny, but I frankly found it disrespectful to the home cooks. They were trying to conceive their dishes and gather ingredients and had to stop to hand him groceries.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Julia and judges Joe Bastianich and Aaron Sanchez in the “Frying Tonight” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, August 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting

Even Gordon seems to think Joe has gone too far. As Joe wanders to his cook station with another bottle of wine Gordon tells him, “Joe, come on! We’re busy!”

For the most part, Gordon seems most focused during cooking. Aaron and Joe take time to check in on the home cooks. Aaron is concerned about Ralph’s chicken thighs, which are bone-in and basically raw with twenty minutes left.

Time is up and everyone gets to sample the fried dishes the judges have created. Gordon has made tempura fried squash blossom with crab, vadouvan spice, apple, and caviar vinaigrette. Vadouvan is a sort of French Indian curry spice blend.

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  • Aaron has created a fried oyster taco with habanero aioli and chayote-jicama slaw. I’m a little amused about his habanero aioli because Gordon teased him in the pantry that he would need sriracha mayonnaise.

    Joe presents fritto misto with fried scampi, calamari, lemon, and zucchini. Emily points out that all three dishes prove that you can elevate deep fried food to fine dining, which I think is the trick in this mystery basket.

    Much to her surprise, Shanika is the first of the top three to be called forward. This is her first time in the top three and also her first time of being speechless. She is so pleased and surprised that she stumbles over her words. Her pancetta and apple risotto cake with kale and tomatoes is a hit. The rice is perfect and the combination of apple and pancetta is complex.

    Ralph is next in the top three with his fried chicken adobo with coconut curry rice and fried vermicelli. He course-corrected with his chicken to be sure it was cooked and has managed to serve different cuts that are perfectly cooked.

    Chelsea rounds out the top three with her goat cheese arancini with beet salad and lemon vinaigrette. The judges love the crispy exterior and creamy center of her arancini.

    MASTERCHEF: L-R: Judge / host Gordon Ramsay, judge Aaron Sanchez and judge Joe Bastianich in the “Frying Tonight” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, August 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting

    Shanika wins the day and she gleefully interviews, “I’m getting the recognition I deserve. Y’all better watch out ‘cuz I told y’all I was coming!” All the other home cooks will need to create a dish featuring citrus. Shanika’s advantage is to decide if each cook will do a sweet or a savory dish.

    Each cook takes their turn telling Shanika their preference. Gerron is up first and tells her he wants sweet so that he can prove himself after the last baking challenge. She of course assigns him savory instead, and then he announces he really wanted savory after all.

    In general, Shanika attempts to target the cooks she considers strongest, giving them sweet or savory depending on whichever one she sees as their weakness. She particularly targets Emily and Cesar, giving Emily savory and Cesar sweet.

    In general, the sweet cooks seem to be in the most trouble. Many are out of their comfort zone and yet have planned overly ambitious desserts. Ashley has placed enormous pressure on herself with her plan to make a double layer lemon cake with lemon curd, coconut pastry cream, and a lime zest cookie garnish. They only have sixty minutes! She is also from Florida so she feels she has to do well with citrus.

    Ralph is so flustered making his dessert that I have no idea what he is making until it is presented. He can’t articulate his plans to the judges and he is sweating profusely. SJ is pushing himself with a tricky torte.

    Time is up and Gerron presents his savory dish- blood orange jerk chicken with coconut cauliflower puree, bacon, and brussels sprouts. The judges love his velvety and unique puree as well as his flavorful chicken.

    Poor Ralph presents next. He has made a Brazo de Mercedes with mixed berry calamansi coulis. I had to look this one up. It is a traditional Filipino dessert consisting of a rolled cake, meringue, and custard. Calamansi seems to be a fruit familiar to Filipino cuisine that is a cross between a mandarin orange and a kumquat.

    While his dish sounds delicious, it honestly looks half eaten the way he has plated it. He confesses that it usually takes two hours to make, so probably not the best choice in a sixty-minute competition. His meringue is not well made and the cake is doughy and raw.

    MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Ashley and judge / host Gordon Ramsay in the “Frying Tonight” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, August 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting

    Ashley has also been overly ambitious with her dessert and does not present everything she planned. However, she still delivers a beautiful lemon layer cake with lemon curd and blueberry sauce and white chocolate whipped cream. Gordon is very impressed, telling her it looks like it came from a top patisserie shop. He then heaps on the praise, calling her cake “bloody delicious” as well as magical, vibrant, and her best performance so far. She has done Florida proud.

    Cesar has the misfortune of following her with his slice of cake on a plate. Aaron asks Shanika what she thinks of it as she tells him it isn’t appealing. Aaron tells Cesar it looks like a slice from a bigger cake that he left behind somewhere.

    Cesar has made lemon chiffon cake with pecan marscapone filling and whipped cream. Though he has used lemon and kumquat, the marscapone and cream have masked the flavor so that Aaron can find no citrus taste. Aaron tells him it is a “diner cake.”

    Samantha would have preferred dessert but she was challenged with savory. She elected to do a lime-marinated stead with roasted bell peppers and chimichurri. She seems to have done well, though not remarkably so. The same can be said for Emily’s chile lime shrimp on corn salad with avocado crema, and Taylor’s ricotta stuffed ravioli with lemon cream sauce.

    SJ approaches, fearfully feeling he did not do well. His plate frankly looks like he dropped it, or as my husband said, like he served it with an ice cream scoop. Gordon takes one look and says, “Oh my god! What is that?”

    That is a meyer lemon torte with lemon marinated strawberries and caramel topping. It has no citrus flavor and the caramel is not well made. Gordon asks SJ if he is done. SJ looks utterly defeated.

    The good news is that Gerron and Ashley have come out on top. In the bottom are SJ and Ralph. When asked, Gordon votes for Ralph to go home, as does Joe. Joe felt that Ralph simply didn’t have the technical skill to pull off that recipe. Aaron agrees so Ralph is sent home. He still hopes to open a Filipino restaurant someday.

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    We have officially pared the original twenty-four down to just twelve. Gordon leads the pack with five cooks followed by Aaron with four and lastly Joe with three.

    Next week, Gordon will show us all how to filet a halibut perfectly and it sounds like two cooks may go home!