Masterchef US, Season 6, Episode 5: Crabs and Corn

*19 cheftestants remain as they enter the Masterchef kitchen. They face live crabs in their mystery box. For the elimination challenge, corn is on the menu but they must cook it either in a savory or sweet dish. Choosing the wrong type of corn sends yet another hopeful home.

Dungeness crab Photo: Public Domain (U.S.Fish & Wildlife Service)
Dungeness crab
Photo: Public Domain (U.S.Fish & Wildlife Service)

*The Mystery Box has lots of crabs–big ones like the Dungeness and small ones such as Blue. The small ones seem more active. You can tell by how most of them react to live seafood they have never worked with them before probably getting crabmeat at the store or having it prepared in a restaurant. Interesting fact: not all crabs live in the water. Some spend their entire lives on land such as the Coconut Crab. And yes it does eat coconuts (one the ground that is, it does not climb up to get them!)

*Olivia does the wise thing rather than flay about and asks Gordon for his advice on how to properly dispatch one. I think she is the first person to actually do that. She is initially fearful of the crabs since they look like giant bugs. Fortunately she conquers her fears and her dish–Crab Benedict–is one of the top three. Joining her are Amanda with her Seattle inspired Dungeness crab cakes and Jesse with his Crab Dumpling in a spicy broth. Olivia’s is the best presentation of them all but Jesse wins the round

*Time once again for the Magic Mystery Tour time on Masterchef. What is inside that box? It glows mysteriously when opened giving it that Steven Spielberg effect from one of the Indiana Jones movies (or perhaps something extra-terrestrial). No trip to the pantry needed today. The cheftestants will not learn what the secret ingredient is until they get to the pantry. And the entry ticket is shopping cart from Jesse. He selects who gets to cook it savory or sweet.

Photo: Fox
Photo: Fox

*The cheftestants learn they are cooking corn. Rows of corn, bags of popcorn, and even sickly sweet corn candy as well. And yes there is also the canned version as well (an evil temptation). Savory is certainly easier than sweet in this Elimination Round. In corn challenges of the past, the sweet ones have a greater chance of going wrong.

*Corn (maize) is from the Americas and the Spanish brought it back to Europe. It is one of the most widely grown crops in the Americas. And used for a lot of things. Although wheat flour is used in northern Mexico and in the U.S border areas, corn is the primary bread in Central and South America. It can also be made into a sugar (corn syrup) and even a biofuel.

*When a judge offers polite advice, it is wise to listen to it. Justin was working on a concoction that involved profiteroles, sweet caramel corn, and even candy corn. Christine said it needed more salt but Justin seemed oblivious to the comment. Graham ominously wonders if he is on his last moments in the kitchen. The gong of  doom is sounding loudly here. It does also for Veronica who is trying a corn crème brulee.

*Most of the dishes tasted passed muster. The two winners, Shelley and Stephen have the top two dishes. Shelley brought up some delicious Shrimp Tacos that wowed the judges. Stephen, who seriously needs to control that inner voice but otherwise a good guy, had Corn Tamales with Chorizo that wowed the judges as well.

*Charlie, being from New Orleans, ought to have nailed the shrimp and corn grits. It was a total fail. The shrimp was done fine but the grits were underdone. Gordon made an unfortunate comment about grits that got bleeped.

*Veronica came up like she was serving the best dish in the course. Her corn crème brulee looked nicely toasted on the outside but when Christine dug into it, it did not look creamy. I think she really had to control herself considering how bad it must have tasted. It had been cooked at too high a heat and too much fat. There was nothing good to say about it except she nailed the crackled look it was supposed to have.

*Justin. Well this was predictable. His profiteroles were underdone, it was sweet on sweet but worse he used canned corn. In a room full of fresh corn he choose the canned.  As the Germans say, dummkopf!  No surprise he was on the bottom with Veronica and Charlie. Charlie’s saving grace is that his shrimp was cooked right, so he got sent back to his station. And if you have a choice between someone who at least tried and failed with a fresh corn dish versus someone with raw pastry and canned corn, it was not hard to say as Jesse noted who should go home. And so Justin ends up leaving Masterchef.

*This goes back to a cardinal rule of reality food competition. Unless you are specifically told to use a canned product, if the fresh one is available use that. Most trained chefs have good palates and are going to tell the difference in flavor between fresh and canned. Charlie made the mistake of treating his corn grits as an add-on rather than as a centerpiece and it suffered. And Veronica overthought her dish and her overconfidence blinded her to its defects.

Next week: Las Vegas. Hopefully we will not have an elimination challenge on a rooftop again.