MasterChef Season 10 episode 20 review: One Hour, One Pot, One Dish


In this review of MasterChef, the top eight receive a mystery box that is at once open to interpretation and limiting. In a surprise twist, immunity it not on the table.

To start this MasterChef episode, everyone immediately dons their black apron and for the first time this season, everyone is in an elimination challenge. Daphne Oz comes out to introduce the mystery box. She is perhaps best know for her years hosting The Chew.

Clearly very competent and comfortable in the spotlight, Daphne takes over from there. She directs them to lift their boxes to find a single cast iron pan. She explains the challenge- create a one-pot-wonder using their cast iron.The winner will earn having their recipe on the Family Circle website. The loser will go home.

Bri is immediately nervous as she tells us she doesn’t own a cast iron and doesn’t cook in just one pan. I am initially surprised about not owning a cast iron, but she is young and I think many young cooks have not learned the wonders of the cast iron. To help anyone else stymied by the one-pot-wonder, Daphne will demonstrate a possible dish.

She begins by using her pan to crush coriander. She uses this as well as fresh thyme to season chicken thighs. She adds those to her cast iron pan, and then next to the thighs puts in a handful of broccoli rabe.

She mixes up a simple biscuit dough, cuts out two biscuits, and adds those to the pan too. She adds cloves of unpeeled garlic and sticks the pan in the oven.

MASTERjudge: L-R: Host/judge Gordon Ramsay, guest judge Daphne Oz, judge Joe Bastianich and judge Aarón Sánchez in the “One Pan Wonder” episode of MASTERjudge airing Wednesday, Aug. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Once cooked, she plates the thighs, broccoli rabe and biscuits. She then peels her roasted garlic and mashes it in her pan to get up all the yummy fond. This goes on top of her chicken and she is ready to serve.

Her dish looks delicious, I am impressed if it really all cooked together, and I love the idea of the roasted garlic. However, I am not clear if this challenge is meant to feed a family, which is what I usually think of when I consider a one pot dish, because Daphne’s would not feed more than a family of two.

Everyone will have one hour to make any dish they want but they can only cook in the cast iron. However, they seem to be allowed to use their food processor and blender, so I again don’t feel like this is a true one-pot-wonder. To me, the whole point is that it dirties just one pan.

Everyone races into the pantry and is out again in the flash except for Dorian and Subha. As he stands, nearly alone in the pantry, he tells us he is planning better time management and doesn’t want “the usual Subha running around.” I despair that he will never understand kitchen time management, but then we see him stirring in his cast iron while also stirring something in a bowl.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Subha in the “One Pan Wonder” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

The judges begin to circulate. Remember poor Kenny? He really wanted to impress Joe but Joe just laid into him during his cook and then he was promptly eliminated. I remember thinking Joe went above and beyond in terms of vitriol that day.  Well, it seems Micah is now the recipient of Joe’s wrath.

I’m personally annoyed to see Micah crushing pepper with his pan. He was such a copy cat during the Grant Achatz challenge and now we seem him performing the exact move that Daphne just demonstrated. Joe approaches him to ask what he is making.

Micah is planning a pepper crusted filet mignon, braised kale, and fingerling potatoes. “So…steak and potatoes?” asks Joe. Micah tells him “no, sir” so Joe points at the steak and the potatoes on his station.

Clearly annoyed, Joe goes on, “I just have to say something. We were just talking before among the judges and when they asked me what I wouldn’t do, the one thing I said is sear a filet in a cast iron pan.” To be fair, he actually said he wouldn’t sear a filet or a piece of fish.

Also, I recall the debacle during the team challenge in which they had to replicate dishes from Joe’s restaurant. Sam insisted on cooking fish in a non-stick and kept ruining the fish skin until other team members stepped in to cook fish in a cast iron. I also recall the nastiness when Evan refused to use a cast iron for his steak, telling Joe he won his apron using non-stick and if it wasn’t good enough, he wouldn’t be here.

What I’m saying is that, in other episodes this season, the judges have pushed for cast iron cooking of fish and of steak, so Joe’s complaint seems really arbitrary here. Micah defends his dish, telling us that “a good chef doesn’t always need to justify his food.” His food will speak for itself. Apparently on a roll of berating Micah, Joe tells him he is going to burn his bacon and garlic and then gives him a sarcastic “good luck” as he walks away.

Immediately after this encounter, Joe visits Subha. “Subha-doo! What’s up, buddy?” The difference in his interaction with Subha just highlights how grumpy he is being with Micah. Joe goes on to tell Subha that today is his day and gives him a hearty good luck.

For another interesting comparison, he stops by Sarah’s station. She is making steak and potatoes too. Joe tells her in a mild voice that her dish seems “pretty straight up,” which I think means simple. But he also tells her that a great pan sauce could make it work. He makes no mention of the horrors of using a cast iron for a filet.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Bri in the “One Pan Wonder” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Aaron does wonder if “just searing things in and out of a pan, I don’t know. Is that defeating the purpose?” He’s concerned that they aren’t really rising to the challenge and using the pan fully. The judges are also worried about Bri.

They fear her salmon dish sounds dull. Joe notes that half the time is gone and she has nothing in her cast iron, but we did see her use it to cook corn earlier, and Daphne points out that her fish will cook quickly.

When Bri does go to cook her salmon, the skin sticks to her pan. She runs to the pantry for a new salmon filet and starts over. This throws off her timing as she wants to get the fish cooked before working on her carrots.

Right at the halfway mark, Joe remarks on the difficulty of the challenge. Gordon tells him he could do this in half the time, so Joe challenges him. It is such a coincidence that they have this conversation at 31 minutes left so they can stop the clock at thirty to put Gordon in the competition. He immediately starts work on a pot pie.

MASTERCHEF: Host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “One Pan Wonder” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Joe tells the other judges he will be impressed if Gordon can pull off a pot pie in thirty minutes. Would you let him know you are impressed, Daphne asks? “No. Not over my dead body I’d let him know that I was impressed with anything he did.”

The judges visit Micah again only to find him burning shallots. They point this out so he dumps them and adds new butter to the pan. Joe yells at him for not wiping out the pan to get out the burned bits and then says, “let’s leave him” as if Micah is a total lost cause. Judging will almost certainly not go well for him.

As time winds down, Dorian is worried about the cook on her rice. She keeps talking to it, “come on, Mr. Rice!” She also keeps lifting the lid which isn’t helping. Before you know it, time is called.

MASTERCHEF: Contestant Dorian in the “One Pan Wonder” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Gordon brings his lemon scented chicken pot pie up first. Of course the judges love it, even Joe. They then call for Bri’s dish. Bri presents her crispy skin salmon with corn puree, candied bacon, roasted baby carrots and pickled shallots.

It’s a very pretty plate, as usual. Her puree is delicious but her carrots are not properly cooked and her salmon is raw. Daphne complains that she doesn’t really sense the cast iron in the dish. There’s no char on the carrots, for instance. I’m also interested that Bri’s dishes never seem to have a personal connection, so I have a feeling they are a little soulless.

Sarah is up next with her filet mignon, sautéed broccolini, fondant sweet potato and cabernet pan sauce. This is a meal close to her Texan heart and something she makes at home. Joe tells her that she has made meat, potatoes and vegetables and they are really looking for more at this point. But after a taste, he tells her “it’s kind of perfect in its simplicity.”

Subha is next with a dish his sister taught him- shrimp biryani with apple, cucumber and date salad. Gordon loves his plating for once and they love the flavors. Joe warns everyone that Subha is one to watch.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Noah with judge Aarón Sánchez in the “One Pan Wonder” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Noah continues to surprise me with his depths. Last time we heard about his sister in Ireland. This time he tells us about his Chinese girlfriend. His Chinese frittata with anchovy and black bean pate and broccoli rabe yogurt sauce is a tribute to her. I am immediately concerned when he brings the dish up. It reminds me of Kenny’s very ugly plate that sent him home.

Noah’s dish features a chunky green sauce in a wreath around the edge of the plate. Inside the wreath is a brown sea on which sits his frittata. Joe pulls no punches and says the plating is horrendous.

Gordon tells him, “I respect the Chinese culture but you just need to be more careful because a little knowledge is dangerous.” No one really likes his dish. They think the whole thing doesn’t go together flavor-wise or texturally. Aaron tells him it is unsophisticated, unevolved and out of balance. Poor Noah says he feels like he has disrespected his girlfriend and her family.

Dorian is up next and she is worried about her rice. Her smothered herb peach chicken with rice is a homage to her family. The judges love the char on her chicken and her flavors but the rice is indeed under-cooked. Daphne does wish for more texture (under-cooked rice has texture, you know!). Gordon calls her dish flat, I guess in terms of texture as well.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Nick, guest judge Daphne Oz and host/judge Gordon Ramsay in the “One Pan Wonder” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

Nick fares better. His clam chowder, a reminder of childhood clam digs,  is universally praised for its color contrast, texture, and hearty seafood flavor.  Shari is back to her Indian home cooking with her Indian chole with garlic naan. The judges love it. Shari tells them this is Tuesday night at home, so Joe invites himself over for Tuesday and Wednesday dinner.

MASTERCHEF: L-R: Contestant Shari with judge Joe Bastianich and guest judge Daphne Oz in the “One Pan Wonder” episode of MASTERCHEF airing Wednesday, Aug. 21 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Greg Gayne/ FOX.

It’s Micah’s turn at last. He brings up his pepper crusted filet mignon with fingerling potatoes, braised kale and bourbon shallot sauce. Sadly, his steak is a mess. It is too brown on the outside and raw inside.

Joe tells him the dish is a series of missteps and mistakes. Micah says he thought his dish would speak for itself but it had nothing to say. It seems to me it had plenty to say, but most of it not good.

Clearly Noah, Micah and Bri are in trouble. On the positive side, Subha has won the day and will have his recipe featured on the Family Circle site. Sarah, Nick and Shari are praised for good dishes. Dorian is told hers was good enough.

Given his disastrous plating and the comments on his dish’s composition, I am sure Noah is going home and I am so sad. I love Noah. Instead, they finally send Bri home. No hard feelings toward Bri, but she has been sitting at the bottom for weeks.

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So who wants to go make Subha’s dish? If you would rather try Gordon’s chicken pot pie, it is easy to find online as well. If you have a favorite one pot dish, feel free to let us know!