Unlucky 13. Mystery box challenge. Bri wants veggies, Luca wants shellfish. It’s a pig’s head. Even Krissi’s turned off. Must be a family member. They don’t have to break them down, tho. It’s been done for them. They have ears, tongue, cheeks, and snouts to cook with. I’ve had cow tongue, and it’s not too bad. I have no idea how it was cooked, tho. I think it was boiled, and I’m not sure it could be done in an hour. Crispy fried pig ears (sliced into strips, and maybe treated like calamari re spices and some kind of aioli) would be doable, IMO. Braised cheek? No clue what to do with the snout. Oh, they have 90 minutes, which helps. But the pantry is limited.

Gordon says he’d blanch and braise the tongue. OK. He thinks vegetarian Bri will struggle. I agree. She has the head covered up, but a good plan. Joe tries Lynn’s broth and evidently he finally has the seasoning right. Gordon likes Johnny’s flavor profile. Jessie’s going Mexican/Southern. Hmm. Gordon calls five minutes and tells them to think about plating now. The judges seem pretty happy with their discoveries, and I haven’t heard them yelling at anyone or expressing any disappointment. Sixty seconds and everyone’s plating. Once time’s up, the judges do a quick walk-through to pick the final three.

The first person called up is Lynn. They’re quite happy that he’s finally shining. He made braised tongue and cheek with parsnip puree. The palate is Asian. Gordon’s impressed with the fineness of the puree. He says the dish has class. Graham tells him good job. Joe says it’s an incredible fusion and it’s either a $24 appetizer or a $36 entrée.

Next up is Jessie. Johnny was hoping he’d be called up. Jessie’s got braised cheek and ear with black-eyed peas and roasted corn. Graham tries it first. He says it explodes with flavor and the pork is tender and delicious. Joe says it has the right amount of seasoning. Gordon says it’s seasoned beautifully.

Johnny is called up. He made tongue and cheek tacos with tomato jam, according to the chryon, but his description sounds even better. Joe leads off this time. He says it’s just really good and Johnny’s on top of his game. Graham says it’s awesome, like he’s tailgating at the Superbowl. Gordon says it’s delicious and shows restraint. He says it’s Johnny’s best dish so far.

I’m thinking Johnny might win. Or maybe Lynn? As Gordon drags it out and Johnny interviews that it’s going to be him, we go to commercial. And Lynn is the winner. He follows the three chefs into the pantry. Graham says they’re not going to tell him what the theme is; they’re bringing in a special guest. So we know it’s Christine. She looks good. He gets to choose from her three favorite ingredients: chicken, catfish, and a live Dungeness crab. I believe the catfish will be most difficult. Lynn doesn’t have to cook, and can assign one cook a different ingredient from everyone else. He picks catfish for Krissi. Good choice! And of course, we don’t get to see what he chooses for everyone else. I guess it depends on how many people he wants to challenge. If it were me, just in case Krissi has a Southern relative, I think I’d throw crab at everyone. Chicken has got to be one of the easiest meats to prepare. Although, they’d’ve had to butcher it.

The judges go out and introduce Christine. Beth is happy to see her and calls her inspiring. Gordon describes the twist, and then Lynn comes back down to escort Christine up to the mezzanine. Krissi claims he bleeped with the wrong girl. Bri’s not too happy about cooking with a live crab, either. Christine announces a final twist, which is that they’re all going to be blindfolded. They have 60 minutes. Everyone puts the blindfolds on, then start attempting to set out their ingredients and killing the crab. I feel even sorrier for Bri. Lucas manages to kill his crab, I think. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a joke. After only a couple minutes, Gordon calls a halt and tells them to take the blindfolds off.  Natasha and Savannah voice their newfound respect for Christine.

Krissi’s determined to do a good job on the catfish. She’s serving it with mashed potatoes. Lucas is struggling a bit with shelling the crab. Gordon visits with James and asks him about Krissi. James points out you don’t usually serve mashed potatoes with catfish. Joe goes over to investigate and is unimpressed. He tells the other judges she’s doing a Sunday leftover dinner. Lynn escorts Christine downstairs, where she and the rest of us learn she’ll be a guest judge.

Krissi is up first. She made bacon cheddar mashed potatoes, which would completely overwhelm the delicate flavor of catfish. That’s better for a stronger tasting fish, like salmon. At least the steamed asparagus should be OK. And she left the skin on, which is how she’s always had it. Again, no. Christine says it needs to be more elevated. Graham calls it a $6.99 blue plate special. Joe spits it out. He says it tastes like mud. He’s over her. Of course, she’s convinced it’s because she had a fight with Joe, and mutters something as she goes back to her station. Joe calls her out, and she claims she was agreeing with him. We go to commercial.

When we come back, she’s telling everyone around her her fish tasted great, not muddy. Natasha’s up next. She did ginger crab cakes with a beet salad. Joe tells her they always expect crab cakes and they judge them harshly. Christine likes them, and so does Joe. Bri is up with a summer crab stack with pea and avocado mash and corn puree. Graham tells her pea and crab are a good combo, and corn and shellfish work. He likes it a lot.

James brings up a spicy crab creole with rice and seafood broth. Christine likes the heat at the end and says there’s levels of flavor. Gordon is very impressed. Beth has a mascarpone crab cake with grilled peach and avocado salsa. Interesting. Sounds like they’d go well together, although I wouldn’t touch the salsa, personally. That’s just two flavors I don’t do. She says she also made a lemon and herb crème fraiche. Joe spits it out; it’s completely raw. Christine has to agree with him. Krissi may be safe. Seafood is a rarity for her, unfortunately.

Luca carries a bowl up and puts it down. Gordon asks him to describe his soup to Christine. Luca says, “Actually, it’s a risotto.” He made a mistake in the presentation. The chryon says it’s a crab risotto with asparagus and lemon. Gordon manages to scrape a spoon together for Christine, who finds it too salty. Gordon tells him he screws himself when he slips back into his Italian safety net. Joe calls it an embarrassment. Turns out he added fish sauce. Oh, dear. Krissi’s definitely safe, I’m afraid. But if Beth goes home over Luca, I’ll live. Luca’s appropriately embarrassed.

As the judges discuss, Christine makes a case for Krissi, but the fish sauce is also mentioned. Natasha is called out as a winner, but the best dish of the night belongs to James. Before they call up the three worst, Gordon says “at least” one is going home. Judging from the title of top 13 and top 12, it’s only one, tho. Luca, Beth and Krissi step forward. Luca is bawled out first. But the other two dishes are deemed worse. Krissi’s called out for her poor attitude. My fingers are crossed, but Beth is going home.

The dirty dozen. For the team challenge, some unlucky couple will have them catering the reception. Thankfully, when the montage show us the pressure test participants, I see both Jordan and Krissi sweating it out. That makes me happy. One, because maybe we’ll get rid of them. Two, because whichever team they’re on I already know is going to lose, so I can skip recounting a lot of the melodrama.

Anya, a foodie, and Aaron, a food scientist, are introduced. When Gordon reveals that everyone’s going to their wedding the next day and they’ll be cooking the food, the cheftestant’s are flabbergasted. The bride hauls out a LOOOONG list of Nos. I’m not going to rattle any of them off. Gordon announces that Graham will be doing the appetizer and he’ll be doing the dessert. The next day, Joe adds that there’re 15 vegetarians at the wedding.

James and Natasha come forward. They’re the team captains for Blue and Red, respectively. James says it has to taste great AND look good, and he thinks Lynn has the biggest edge in that. Natasha picks someone she hasn’t had a chance to work with to be her co-captain: Eddie. James picks Jessie. Natasha picks Jordan, and I rejoice. I didn’t think Lynn and James could be on a losing team. James says he’s going to go with “Big John”. Natasha claims Bethy will be her right-hand woman. Ah, a three-headed monster. That spells failure, all right.

James picks Bri, Natasha picks Savannah. James gets the final pick, which will determine the teams. He picks Luca, which makes Krissi happy since she doesn’t think James is a strong enough leader. When Gordon asks him, Luca says the same about Natasha, which of course pisses her off. But yeah, it was an insult, you know? So it’s okay that she’s pissed off, and calls him a joke. Even tho I don’t like her, she’s got a right to her feelings. Yes, it helps that I know she’s going down. Hell, Krissi has a right to her feelings, but she’s more obnoxious about pushing them on other people than Natasha is. While I feel compelled to point out that this IS a reality show, so Frankenediting abounds, Krissi’s one of those people where, unless they took what she says one word at a time, she really is the asshole she’s being portrayed as. She doesn’t really need a producer feeding her lines.

But now Joe tells them they each have to pick one person to not cook, and if they lose, that person doesn’t have to cook in the pressure test. Surprisingly, she picks Krissi. James says one person is a hair behind the rest, and picks Bri. She and I both agree that when you’ve got 15 vegetarians to cook for, getting rid of the vegetarian is a dumb move. I want to know why the clips showed Krissi sweating during the pressure test? Either they decided to give Natasha an opportunity to put her back in, or someone got injured too badly to continue and Krissi had to rejoin her team? IDK, and I’m not going to worry about it, because it’s time to find out what Graham and Gordon have planned for their dishes.

Graham’s got spring pea essence with whipped crème fraîche, and pink peppercorn and lavender infusion. It also has edible flowers floating on top. Gordon says he thinks that dish is what got Graham his second Michelin star. Gordon’s got a sticky toffee pudding, served with brown bread ice cream and a caramel sauce. Those are not going to be easy to fuse together with an entrée. James shares my concern. He doesn’t really want to do a red meat with that rich dessert, but Lynn (I think) talks him into a rack of lamb with parsnip puree. For their vegetarian offering, they’re going with grilled mushrooms over a goat cheese crème fraiche. I’d want a bit more than that if I were a vegetarian. That’s a side dish. True, I buy vegetarian cookbooks to find more ways of preparing vegetables, but I think Nikki’s (still on The next Food Network Star, which I’ve decided not to recap) idea of meat on the side instead isn’t a bad one.

Natasha overrules her team’s idea of short ribs and goes for halibut with a miso beurre blanc. For the vegetarians, she has an eggplant-tomato stack. Again, that’s the equivalent of serving a side salad, not an entrée. No wonder they lose, and the narrator begins to discuss their downfall. When Gordon goes to talk to Natasha, she pays about as much attention to him as she did to her team. He asks her if she’s really that bleeped arrogant. Yes, Gordon, yes she is. Commercials.

When we come back, the blue team’s entrée is going swimmingly, and Natasha’s team, according to Gordon, has deserted the sinking ship. Graham’s appetizer sends the bride into an orgasm, and Fox tries to make her commentary a hash tag. Not happening, Fox. The narrator reminds us that the guests’ expectations are now very high. And Bri gets to point out there’re a lot of foodies and chefs among the guests. James sounds almost ready to let the lamb rest. The narrator mentions that Gordon’s dish is also a Michelin star dish. Red team is failing miserably; three minutes to go and they’re not ready to serve. But Lynn appears to have fallen down on his presentation duties.

Gordon tells Natasha to stop doing everything and expedite. I have it on good authority (from a former restaurant owner) that not a lot of restaurants actually use expeditors. Gordon calls Blue’s plates back because they’re dirty. It takes seven minutes to get the head tables’ four plates out. The lamb dish also has spring peas and wild onions. The Red team’s chryon says seared halibut with baby carrots. Joe  says they’re “baby roasted carrots” and adds that there’s a prosciutto vinaigrette on the salad. Natasha’s doing well, but Lynn’s sweating onto the plates and not being consistent. He then switches to wiping his face, and then uses the same rag to wipe the plates. Gordon goes off on him, and rightly so. That’s a health concern. Gordon talks Graham into expediting for Blue and they catch up quickly.

The bride and groom liked the visual for the blue team, but preferred the halibut. The narrator says the guests are split down the middle as Gordon serves the dessert. More orgasms. The three factors in determining the winner are the guest’s opinions, service, and how well the two dishes tied Graham and Gordon’s offerings together. Yeah, that right there’s why Blue wins. Interesting that I wasn’t going to recap all this melodrama, but I did and now I’m 20 minutes behind. So I’m going to stop until the pressure test. And I’m completely thrown when the bride announces that the red team won. Must’ve been Frankenediting that got me. Or maybe it was footage from next week mistakenly shown. IDK. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did recap the sturm und drang.

The blue team acknowledges that service sucked, but James was expediting for most of it. Gordon says Lynn’s vegetarian dish had 12 elements to it, and it should’ve been less complicated. Joe announces that they’re not all competing. Gordon says each of the judges gets to pick someone to save. Since the team is five people, that’d leave two competing, so I wonder who gets to pick who comes back in? Because that’d explain Jordan and Krissi. Yay! That thought makes me very happy now. Joe saves Jessie. Graham saves Luca. And Gordon chooses James, saying he was totally engaged. Johnny’s not happy it wasn’t him.

The judges say it’s a culinary battle, and they have 60 minutes to make two different flavored macaroons. They have the same basic ingredients: almond flour, powdered sugar, a vanilla bean, eggs, and sugar. They have to make a dozen macaroons and fit them into a box. As Gordon starts to give them time, the music swells, which should lead to a commercial break, and I note there’s still about 20 minutes left. Which gives us time for the twist I’m still waiting for. Instead, Lynn and Johnny dash off to the limited pantry on Gordon’s “Now!”

Talking heads say who they want to go home, and the judges discuss the chemistry of macaroons, and how to fit exactly one dozen into the box. Johnny says he’s made macaroons before. Graham and Joe check on them. With ten minutes left, they start putting their macaroons together. At two minutes, Gordon tells them to check that they can fit twelve in the box. Johnny appears to be of the “If it doesn’t fit, force it” persuasion, and his end macaroon showers the box and counter with crumbs. They bring them up front.

Lynn has two on top of his box, which is what the judges think Johnny should’ve done. Lynn has five raspberry macaroons and five vanilla bean with salted caramel macaroons in the box. Gordon says visually, it has a wow factor, but he doesn’t like the salted caramel. Lynn put fresh raspberries in the others, which Gordon says is a no-no. But he likes the flavor. Graham agrees about the salted caramel and raspberry. He says it would’ve been better if Lynn had made a raspberry jam for the filling. Joe’s never heard of fresh fruit in a macaroon, either. He gets Lynn to admit the salted caramel is jarred dulce de leche with salt added.

Johnny has a chocolate macaroon with a peanut butter mousse, and a vanilla macaroon with a raspberry mascarpone filling. I’m afraid another one of my favorites is going home. And with ten minutes left, that was definitely a clip from a different show that showed Jordan and Krissi sweating it out. As Gordon opens the box, we can see that the macaroons have pretty much all been smashed together. Gordon tries one and says it has good flavor. Graham also likes the cookie flavors. All three judges are disappointed at his childish display of temper and frustration. I think his flavors will get him through. And Graham notes the cook on the cookies was very nice. I cross my fingers again. And Johnny’s gone.

Next week, Eva Longoria appears out of a huge mystery box and is a guest judge. And there’s a brutal pressure test with a shocking elimination.

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