July 16, 2015 | Posted in EPISODE RECAPS, REALITY TV | By

“Rice, Rice, Baby!”

Rice Rice Baby

Screen cap from the July 15, 2015 episode of MasterChef. Episode available at Amazon.com.

Last week we said goodbye to Kerry, one of the contestants we barely got to know all season up until then. Who will it be this week, one of the last remaining “background” contestants, or one of the “early favorites”? I have my guess, but we’ll have to wait until the end of the episode to see if I’m right.

As this episode begins, Tommy enters the MasterChef kitchen first showing off a  dazzling neck-piece. It’s pretty flash. He’s never won a Mystery Box before so he wants to shine and prove that he belongs here. He’s representing the “Voo Doo” side of New Orleans today, he says.

Meanwhile Derrick is the last one left who has won a Mystery Box before. He wants to win two in a row to prove that he is the “ultimate threat” to the other competitors.

Only eleven remain, just on the edge of cracking into the top 10. Christina reminds them this is not the time to relax or become complacent. It’s the time to focus.

So, what’s in the mystery box this time? They have to lift the tops carefully, and as soon as they start to, what comes pouring out? Rice! Or “Rice, rice, baby!” as Graham puts it.  Hetal is super excited. They eat rice every day in her home, she says. Her parents being farmers from India, rice was often their main meal.

They have all kinds of rice to work with: long grain rice, bamboo rice, basmati rice, brown rice, wild rice, jasmine rice and sushi rice. They will also have access to a limited pantry of other ingredients. They need to make dishes that taste and look amazing because the winning recipe will be featured in the September issue of Family Circle magazine. They have 60 minutes to cook so the race is on.

The judges discuss what they want to see: a dish that really showcases the rice and shows off who the contestants are personally. Tommy is making dirty rice jambalaya that will have traditional New Orleans flavor. Shelly is making curried shrimp with coconut rice and Sriracha maple glaze (does she ever make anything without Sriracha? It seems like it’s in every savory sauce she does on MasterChef…)

Hetal is doing kedgeree, a traditional vegetarian rice dish from where she is from in India. Gordon says it smells delicious. Christopher is doing pineapple fried rice, a dish he remembers his mother making when he was a child so it’s one of his memories of her. Claudia is doing a dish which is basically a Mexican rice ball or arancini. She’s playing to her strengths (as usual).  Derrick is doing a sushi roll-style dish with bacon and quail eggs. He says it’s a throwback to his childhood with his mother coming up with uses for leftover rice. He’s the last chef left in the competition who has won a Mystery Box before, Graham brings up, an Derrick is confident he’s going to win again with this dish.

The judges confer about who they are most excited to taste. Gordon is excited by Tommy’s dish. Christina is intrigued by Derrick’s dish with him having cooked down the rice and adding sweet elements. Graham can’t wait to eat Christopher’s pineapple fried rice and how he’s serving it in a carved out “pineapple boat”.

Time is called and everyone seems excited. Now the judges will pick the top three standouts for final tasting. The first dish was colorful and aromatic, but also unique to them. Not their first time in the Top Three…it’s Hetal. She’s made Khichdi, a traditional rice porridge with peas, cauliflower, roasted tomatoes and almonds. It’s classy and delicious and a great job according to Gordon. Graham says the balance of spices is great and the control is exciting. A little acid to cut it might be good. Christina says it’s stunning and the rice is really showcased.

The second dish they want to examine further is put together by a home cook who shows really clearly where they are from: Tommy. He’s made traditional Creole Jambalaya with Andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp. The rice is green bamboo rice to add a layer of perfume. Graham gives Tommy a high five. Beautifully, yummy, so much story. Gordon says it’s a dream. Gordon wants “to wake up with you…Not with you…(bleep)…!” Tommy has to fan himself while everyone else gets a good laugh. No, he wants to wake up the next day remembering how good Tommy can cook. Nice save, Gordon!

The last dish they want to taste went in a different direction with the rice than everyone else did, the dessert direction: Claudia. Derrick is clearly annoyed. She made arroz con leche molotes with custard and orange marmalade. She used jasmine rice. It’s soothing, delicious and elevated, Christina says. She’s a little speechless. Graham says it’s not finger food, its fist-food. It’s good enough to him dancing. He loves it and he wants more.

So, there were three incredible rice dishes that showed the judges their heart and their story. Who will get the huge advantage? Hetal says it’s got to be tough as all three were so different Claudia feels she deserves it for making the only sweet dish. But the winner this time is Tommy. He’s now in control of the elimination test and he so excited, he feels like it’s the beginning of his dream to write his own Creole cookbook.

And so Tommy heads back into the pantry with the judges. What is the challenge about? Tommy has been married for 4 and a half years now, so Graham says he must believe in the old adage that two is better than one.  Today, he has a choice of two flavors that marry perfectly together. Dynamic duos of the culinary world. The first up is one of Christine’s favorite flavor combos: peanut butter and jelly. Theres so much you can do with them, but balancing them in an elevated dish could be tricky.

Graham has a combo that transports him back to somewhere a bit more exotic: ham and pineapple. Sweet and salty, smoky.

Gordon has a more sophisticated, European combination: tomatoes and basil. Two pillars of Italian cuisine.

So, which will he choose? He is feeling the power and control like being an evil queen on a throne. He is is safe, and has a confirmed spot in the top 10.

Tommy chose the peanut butter and jelly combination. Christopher knows this is limiting especially for the savory cooks who may not have a great command of pastry. And there’s another advantage Tommy gets: he can keep two people safe from elimination. He can choose one person now to be safe, and the other after the cooking is done.

So, who is he going to save first? Claudia is his pick. But she just laughs and shakes her head, and refuses to take it. Shelly wonders if she’s crazy and the others look equally baffled.

They only get one trip to the pantry so they’d better get everything they need in that one trip. Sara is confident working with peanut butter and jelly and she’s going sweet. She’s a baker, she’s got this. Katrina isn’t going sweet so she’s going to do peanut chicken sate and a spring roll because she can’t just do one thing.

Shelly has an overstuffed basket but suddenly realizes she made one huge mistake: she didn’t get peanut butter or jelly. (Perhaps she assumed it would be waiting for them on their stations?) What can she do? She asks Nick first if he can spare any but he says  not yet. Shelly keeps going around asking and she gets some peanut butter from Hetal and jelly from Olivia.

Katrina is confident about her sate, spring roll and grape jelly ponzu sauce dish. Hetal is doing Danish butter cookies filled with peanut butter, and peanut butter cookies stuffed with jelly. Shelly is making spring rolls with five spice seasoned egg roll with a jelly-Sriracha (again) dip. If she got a save from Tommy would she take it? “Hell yeah!” although she says she is “really, really proud” of the dish she’s making.

Claudia is preparing ancho chile and peanut crusted pork chop with a balsamic grape jelly glaze.

Sara is making hazelnut cream and peanut butter tart topped with jelly and fruit. No savory? No Asian. She doesn’t want to go home trying to make a savory when baking is her comfort zone. Nick is making peanut butter shrimp and grits with a jam sauce. Christopher is having problems with peanut butter and jelly tart. Christina says he looks defeated but he says he is just concentrating.

Gordon thinks Katrina’s could be great but he thinks Sara’s tart sounds bizarre, that you don’t put peanut butter and pastry cream together. It’s not inventive, Christina says.

Time is called and now Tommy gets one more chance to save someone. Who will it be? Christopher thinks his dish is a zero so he hopes Tommy picks him.  Nick’s dish doesn’t look up to par to Tommy’s eyes, and he also knows Nick will help in knock out some of the others in the future. Nick is going to take it, because this isn’t “MasterPride”, it’s MasterChef.

First up for tasting is Claudia. She has ancho chile and peanut crusted pork chop over grape jelly balsamic brussels sprouts and buttermilk chive mashed potatoes. Is the pork chop cooked perfectly? Gordon wants to know. He cuts into it to reveal that the pork is cooked…beautifully. The pork is delicious although the crust could have been a little better. It’s got that peanut butter and jelly vibe in a different way and she’s there for a purpose. Graham says the pork is cooked gorgeously, and the one thing he would change is to lighten it up a little because the ancho is a little strong.

Next is Christopher. He’s really worried about his soupy pastry cream. He has a PB&J tart with crushed toasted roasted peanuts with a strawberry-raspberry glaze. The pastry crust is perfectly even. He managed to get a nice nutty essence and she loves the toasted peanuts. She thinks he deserves to be in the top 10 for this dish.

Shelly is called up and she feels really good about her dish. She’s made a peanut butter and jelly five-spice spring roll and a Sriracha jelly dipping sauce. But her spring roll looks like a stuffed condom. Ground beef and strawberries do not ever go together. It’s the first time she’s stepped backwards, Gordon says.

Hetal has jelly-stuffed peanut butter cookies and butter cookies filled with peanut butter and jelly. Graham is impressed with all of the flaky layers in one cookie and how the other is like a miniature doughnut. Screw the top 10, she’ll be in the top 2 with food like this.

Katrina has peanut satay & shrimp spring rolls with grape jelly ponzu sauce. Christina says when she joined the MasterChef “family” she really wanted to see someone rise and rise and shine and she is has found it in Katrina. She is blown away. It’s going to take a lot to beat her.

Last up for tasting is Sara. She’s super happy, she’s made this dish a thousand times before. It’s a peanut butter and jelly, strawberry tart with apricot glaze and peanut butter pastry cream. What did she do with the actual peanut butter, Gordon wants to know. She folded it with some creme fraiche and then folded it into the pastry cream. Gordon says he expects something with a wow factor from her when it comes to pastry and baking. But this is the first dish today that he can’t taste any peanut butter. Sara disagrees, and says to her it tastes like a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich.

Gordon is looking exasperated and insists there is no peanut butter in there. Sara laughs and just says “Okay”. They argue over how much creme fraiche must be in there and he says the color doesn’t even look like peanut butter to him (it sure does to me) She can argue all she wants but to him it’s a strawberry tart with pastry cream. She is laughing and Gordon presses on to ask if she doesn’t care about her performance. It’s bland, she missed the point. Graham says the tart shell is so thick and so undercooked, it gets a little doughy and he’s not really a fan. She says she didn’t think it was that bad, but he says the only person who is going to like it apart from her is Shelly.

Time for the judges to debate. It seems clear that Claudia, Katrina and Hetal had the standout dishes and Shelly and Sara were at the bottom. Even Sara seems sure she’s going home, even if Derrick thinks it will be Shelly.

The judges return to announce that the two stand out dishes of the night are Hetal’s and Katrina’s.  They will be captains in the next team challenge. And since the challenge was all about duos so they only will call down the bottom two dishes: Sara and Shelly.

Shelly knows she got it all wrong from the moment she forgot those two ingredients. The judges say it comes down to who they think they can advise the most, and who is more receptive to their advice? Of course then it’s obvious that Sara is going home. Once again, Shelly gets saved for no apparent or good reason other than the fact that she is the judges’ pet this season and being repeatedly saved when she should have gone home.

All in all, a disappointing episode except for Tommy getting a chance to vamp it up and bring a bit of much-needed humor and style to the show. Of course, why does that give me a dreaded feeling that he’ll end up being the next to go? He generally hasn’t done well in team challenges so he could be in trouble if he ends up on the losing team.

Sara was my prediction to go this week (see my recap of last week’s episode) so this was no real surprise. We’ve barely seen and heard from her all season, only that she is a great baker. But she doesn’t appear to have the personality they want or good drama to promote, so they had to make up a reason to send her home at this point. While some are saying that she went home because of the “attitude” she showed toward Gordon and Graham, I didn’t read it that way. I read her laughing and arguing as coming from the fact that she knew she was being picked on/targeted, so it didn’t matter what she put on the plate, the judges would find fault with it. I don’t see how her tart could have been worse than Shelly’s strawberry and ground beef spring rolls, which Gordon couldn’t even eat. So how could he say that Sara’s dish was the only one he couldn’t get any peanut butter flavor from?

All in all MasterChef just keeps getting more transparent by the week, and that’s disappointing.

Want to share your thoughts on this season of MasterChef and learn more about the competitors? Then check out my MasterChef Season 6 fan page on Wizzley!

MasterChef is back for its sixth season in 2015. Are you ready for another round in this competition of talented home chefs?

sockii is just your typical Jane-of-All-Trades who never has enough time in her day for all of her projects. She has written for many websites online including Squidoo, Zujava, Yahoo! Contributors Network, HubPages and Wizzley. She has been attending and vending at science fiction and media conventions for over 15 years, and for several years ran an art gallery and jewelry store in Philadelphia. Today she is happy to be living in South Jersey with her partner David and their 6 cats. Sockii is a member of several affiliate sales programs including Amazon Associates and Viglink. Products from these services may be advertised on her posts and pages to generate sales commissions.

1 Comment

  1. andrea
    September 5, 2015

    Leave a Reply

    Well, just like season 5’s donut elimination test

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>