MasterChef 4 recap: Eggs and Salmon (S4E18)

(PLEASE NOTE: This blog contains the maniacal ravings of a Season 2 survivor with [practically] no inside knowledge of how this season was produced.  It should be treated as opinion only, and isn’t fit to be read by anyone.)

We’re down to 6…but are we?  Apparently, the producers are pulling another surprise comeback, but this one is just bizarre.  Each of the judges has invited back one formerly-eliminated contestant.  Gordon selects Bri to come back, Joe brings back Lynn, and Graham selects Bime.

This is weird, folks.  If I had been a recently eliminated contestant like Eddie, I’d be furious.  All 3 of these contestants were eliminated before him, but now THEY get a chance to win back their spot, but HE doesn’t?  Of course…that’s assuming that MasterChef is real, which it most certainly is not.  It was at this same point last season that I basically threw in the towel of ever being able to watch MasterChef seriously again…  These moves remove ALL suspension of disbelief that this is actually a contest.  They prove, plain as day, that the producers are completely manipulating the results of the show for dramatic effect.

From one perspective, it’s not fair to allow ANY eliminated contestant to come back.  However, the theoretical format of MasterChef isn’t fair at all…the strongest competitor can get eliminated on a single challenge of the only thing (s)he’s weak on, and while (s)he may be stronger in 99% of challenges than ALL the other contestants, a single falter can get them eliminated.  That’s not fair to begin with.  (The PROPER format for a cooking competition like this is for EVERY contestant to stay the ENTIRE season and participate in EVERY challenge, and the overall winner of the most challenges wins that ‘coveted’ MasterChef trophy.  But then there’s no suspense from episode to episode, so you stop watching.  So you can thank the short attention span of the American audience for driving reality TV to the engineered elimination format.)

But making this comeback colossally unfair is this subjective selection of 3 contestants, rather than the LAST 3 eliminated.

Now that we’re stuck with this infinitely bizarre choice, I personally think Lynn is the most talented sophisticated cook (perhaps in the whole competition), so I’d be interested in seeing him come back most of all.

The contestants are told they have 5 minutes to shop in the MasterChef pantry, and when they dash back, they discover that the only ingredient in the pantry is eggs.  Millions of eggs.  And this challenge will be about producing the perfect sunny-side up egg.

To a lot of folks, this would be a terrifying challenge.  I mean, even a short order cook at a diner usually doesn’t get it right.  To others, this challenge is offensively elementary.  (I mean…it’s really, REALLY easy to cook a sunny side up egg once you know how to do it.)  My 5 year old nephew can do it.

But my first qualm is with Graham saying, “No burned edges.”  Well, eggs don’t really burn unless you’ve got no clue what you’re doing, what he means is, “No browned edges.”  This is one of my biggest gripes with the common chef attitude about cooking eggs.  Eggs brown up just like meat at proper temperatures.  Which means added flavor and texture.  I am fed up with sallow, pale omelets and fried eggs.  I cook ALL my eggs at high temperature so their surface is crusty and caramelized, and they are INFINITELY more delicious this way than when they are cooked at such low temps that they never brown.  However, cooking them with high heat means VERY narrow margins between over-easy and over-hard, so you have to manage your heat and time very well when cooking that way.

Cooking with lower heat that doesn’t brown the egg gives you WAY more wiggle room, and making a sunny side up egg this way is as easy as falling off a log.  And the contestants have 15 minutes to cook as many sunny side up eggs as they can, with 12 nonstick skillets and 2 stoves.

The very first egg from my backyard flock, and the lady who laid it.

Let’s chat eggs, shall we?  One of my favorite subjects, obviously, as I have 11 chickens living in my back yard.  Actually, a proper article on eggs would be an entire book, so let’s just talk about frying eggs.  This is the ONLY application in my kitchen that I use a nonstick skillet for.  If your cabinets are filled with nonstick skillets, donate them to Goodwill and get those outta there.  They’re bad for you, for one.  At high temperatures, the nonstick coating begins to break down at the molecular level and release carcinogens into the air.  (Enough that it can kill your pet parrot dead in a few seconds.)  WebMD and Good Housekeeping tell us, under the authority of a food science professor, that as long as you don’t heat nonstick pans above 500 degrees, you’re fine.  Still…I don’t really wanna be cooking on a surface that becomes carcinogenic “only” at a certain temps.  ?!?  So many years ago, I ditched all my expensive nonstick, except for a single 8″ omelet pan that is used only for cooking eggs.  And I never looked back.  Nonstick is a HORRIBLE cooking surface, in terms of performance.  If you prefer sacrificing flavor for ease of cleaning, you might as well just buy all your food in the frozen section and heat it in the microwave.  Ditch your nonstick and fill your cabinets with cast iron, and clad stainless steel pans with copper cores.

To make the perfect sunny side up egg the way the judges want you to, preheat your nonstick pan over medium-low to medium heat (depending on how hot your stove is).  When you can feel the warmth coming gently from the surface after a few minutes (or have a surface temp around 275F if you have one of those nifty infra-red thermometers), the pan is ready.  Give it a spritz with spray oil, or brush it lightly with melted butter or bacon fat.  Crack your eggs into the pan…or for better control, crack them first into a bowl so you can remove any bits of shell and ensure the egg isn’t rotten or with a bloody yolk.  (A red spot or flake here and there is fine.)  Let the egg bubble gently and keep an eye on the white right around the yolk.  Once that white is completely solidified and is no longer translucent, tilt the pan toward your serving plate and gently shake the egg loose and onto the plate.  Then salt and pepper and serve.

To make a BETTER sunny side up egg, heat the pan surface to 350F or so.  This will give you some caramelization on the bottom of the egg for extra flavor and texture, and the white should cook through in under a minute.

Eggs from my backyard chickens, looking radically different in the pan from storebought eggs

A side note for those of you who are curious…my backyard eggs from my chickens have a white that’s VERY different from commercially available cage-free, organic eggs.  (Well,the yolks are also very different.)  The white has 2 dramatically distinct parts, the normal “runny” white that spreads out in the pan when you crack it (of which there is VERY little in my eggs), and a layer of VERY thick white that encases the yolk.  This white is SO thick that it even forms a layer ON TOP of the yolk as it cooks, so my backyard eggs don’t work well for sunny side up eggs, because there’s still raw white sitting on top of the yolk, and if I cook it long enough for all the white to solidify, the yolks are cooked solid all the way through.  I’m assuming this is because I typically eat the eggs the day they are laid, whereas as a storebought egg may be a week or two from being laid, or more.  The whites break down and become runnier as the egg ages, but my delicious backyard eggs never sit around for that long before being eaten or gifted to neighbors, friends, and family.

I’ve also noticed quite a difference between the whites and yolks of eggs from the different breeds I have.  The Black Australorps lay eggs with almost no runny white at all.  (The eggs in this photo are from my Australorps.)  While the eggs from the Wyandottes have more runny white and less thick white.  The eggs you get at the store are laid by White Leghorns (pronounced “LEG-urns”), if they’re white, or Rhode Island Reds (or sometimes Hampshires), if they’re brown.  So eggs from those chickens are the only eggs that the vast majority of Americans are familiar with.  But there are HUNDREDS of breeds of chicken, and each lay eggs with their own unique qualities.  And chickens which forage for their food lay eggs that differ dramatically by season, based on what their diet is.  In a culinary-wise country, like France, they know which breeds and seasons are best for which applications.  For example, spring egg yolks from Crevecour hens make the best custard.  Whites from fall Faverolles hens are best for making meringue.  But in our industrialized food production system, we move toward something called “monoculture” where we only raise 1 variety of something (which has often been selectively bred or genetically modified to maximize production) so other types of chickens, pigs, tomatoes, watermelons, etc. are becoming increasingly rare.  Monoculture is bad news.  Variety is always best.

The challenge begins and ends rather immediately, and judging begins with Joe throwing away 2 of Lynn’s eggs because they were undercooked.  (He throws the entire plate into the garbage, shattering it.  That’s not wasteful at all, Joe.)  Then he throws away the PROPERLY cooked eggs with br0wned edges…that’s how they’re supposed to be cooked.  More broken plates.  By the time Joe has finished breaking plates, Lynn has 8 perfect eggs left.

Now it’s time to break some of Bri’s plates, and she ends up with 13.  Bime is last, and of his 32 eggs, at least 9 are acceptable, once again bouncing Lynn from the MasterChef kitchen.

Now Bri and Bime will battle to win back their apron by breaking down and cooking 7 portions of Alaskan king salmon, asparagus, and potatoes, and serving them with Hollandaise sauce.

The judges present 2 beautiful salmon that they claim are line-caught off the coast of Alaska and cost $500 each.  That’s a pricey salmon!  Whole wild king salmon on the west coast usually costs between $12 and $16 a pound, which means this salmon must weigh 30-40 pounds, or it was sorely over-valued!

The challenge ends and the plates are delivered to the remaining 6 MasterChef contestants, plus Joe.  We see some shots of fillets with that white stuff squeezed out of the sides.  That’s not fat, as most people think.  It’s a combination of proteins called “albumin.”  The more you cook salmon, the more gets squeezed out.  You can minimize this by brining the salmon for 10 minutes…use 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt per cup of water.  This technique works for ALL steaky fishes, which all exude albumin, but because most of them have white flesh, it’s less noticeable.

The contestants place their votes for the best salmon, and miraculously, it comes down to 3 for Bri and 3 for Bime.  Funny how that ALWAYS works, right?  Without fail.  It ALWAYS comes down to the last vote in every scenario like this.  I mean, those odds are so good, you could bet on them every single time.

The last vote goes to Bri, and she regains her apron to bring the finalist count back up to 7.  It’s lovely to see Bri come back…she’s one of my favorites.  There is, however, a rumor mill that Bri is actually a hired actress and not a real contestant.  (Her social media indicates she’s been friends with upper-level producers BEFORE the show was filmed.)  And she’s been working as a pastry chef in LA since the show filmed, and has been offered a job as a pastry chef at Thomas Keller’s legendary NYC artisan bakery Bouchon.  Such offers have NEVER been bestowed on an amateur chef from MasterChef before…in fact, such an offer is practically unheard of in ALL of competitive food television, including shows with professional chefs.  Which sorta leads me to think that Bri is a professional pastry chef (and her college theatre background is merely how she’s being labeled on the show), and the producers know her well enough to know what a perfect addition she would be to the cast this year.  Her character on the show may, in fact, all be an act.  Check out her professional acting portfolio shots: http://www.starnow.com/brikozior/photos/2216100/#!photo-2216112

(Thanks to fan Nick Shiraef for finding those.  They’re actually great photos, Bri!  But certainly nothing like the pale, geeky vegetarian we’re seeing on MasterChef.  Some people are saying she’s actually not vegetarian at all, which would explain why she cooks meat so well!)

Again…all this is merely rumor.  But more than one MC contestant from previous seasons were beginning to doubt the authenticity of her spot as an actual contestant BEFORE these rumors and Facebook photos started flying around, so it’s certainly not unthinkable.  (UPDATE: Bri has sent me a comment via her Facebook account that she would like included here, so you can read her side of the story in the comments below.)

But one thing is certain…Bri’s character on the show is totally adorable, and I’ll be glad to see more of it, whether it actually represents her authentic self or not.

Let me know what you thought of this episode on the comments below, and relish these last few blog posts, because once I hit the road for Burning Man on the 17th, I won’t be watching or blogging about MasterChef until AFTER the show has finished airing, when I get back in late September!  Only one blog left until then…

130 Responses to MasterChef 4 recap: Eggs and Salmon (S4E18)

  1. Smart_third_worlder

    The sheer wastefulness of this episode (broadcast today in my country) disgusted me so much that I no longer wish to follow this series.

    Food wastage is not an acceptable value to promote…. Even if (particularly,since) the series is primarily meant for residents of one of the world’s richest countries. Which reminds me of this article that I read sometime back on food wastage in the US http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-10/living-in-the-united-states-of-food-waste

    • Thanks so much for this comment. This, also, was the straw the broke the camel’s back for me. Wasting food intentionally is a crime.

      • indeed, sadly it is still so widely spread that one can just wonder. I think it is important to start in the own household and be honest about it. We have never wasted much food but still too much. We have tried to reduce it to a minimum by making a weekly cooking plan, better coordinated shopping and doing more dishes that use leftovers. SOmetimes the odd tin escapes my attention and while I use most of the stuff after its expiratory date some have to go to the bin. What really freaks me out are reports of our army which seem to htrow away tons of food on a daily basis….or local supermarkets…cause everything has to be super fresh and spotless! I get strange looks each and every time when I ask for ripe bananas (which tend to be not so yellow anymore) as I really love banana bread…..but you have to have ripe ones…..and the list would go on and on and on…..it is shame and tv-series should be more aware that they are kind of role models.

  2. Finally, someone likes browned sunny-side eggs with crispy bottom just like me! I’m Vietnamese and back in my hometown, everyone want their sunny-side eggs that way. When I came to MC and heard how the judges want theirs, I just thinked: “Well, after all it’s not a Vietnamese plate. Maybe it’s the way the ‘original version’ is.” LOL
    So good to know I’m not (or we, Vietnameses, are not) the only one who likes crispy sunny-side egg. 😉

    My dad use to sprinkle the hot oil in the pan over the layer of white egg to cook it. I don’t know how thick this layer of your egg is, maybe this tip works? In the worse case, you’ll only have a fried version of the poached egg LOL

    And for Bri, for the same reason why we should not judge Krissi by what being edited and shown on the TV (because we din’t know her true-self), I think we should not discuss about Bri or judge her just because of some rumours either. We don’t know for sure her true-self, neither her relations with the producers. Judging her when you know nothing at all like this hurts as much as bashing Krissi.

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