Sunday, July 23, 2017

Masterchef #9

This was the first team challenge of the series, cooking in a modern Italian restaurant (Gradi at Crown). The owner (Johnny Di Francesco) is a world champion pizza chef! This should work in Pia’s favour, as she’s Italian. Johnny wants simplicity - George kicks off simply - he barges into the group of contestants and splits it in half by pushing them apart. The red captain is Eloise, green is Diana. What they have to do is cook for 250 guests: one pasta, two pizzas and a dessert - sounds not too bad. Green chooses seafood pizza - garlic prawns on one, with pancetta and rocket, buffalo and a balsamic reduction on the other. The pasta is a spicey tomato sauce - arrabbiata. Red team - it just leaves pasta choice to Pia (it turns out to be spaghetti aglio e oilo), one pizza is mushroom, olive and sopressa salami; the other is caramelised onion, tallegio and rocket. Both do tiramisu, with variations. The Green team is making a coffee jelly (Bryan thinks he'll speed things up by putting it in the freezer to set - will they take it too far?).

First make your dough - this takes a couple of hours, and there's not much longer than that until service. Follow the recipe - what could go wrong? Red's well sorted. Half an hour in and Green is not started! Eliza calculating pasta amount - is she right? Using palm for portion control - Johnny not happy. Red for its tiramasu is using pound cake not sponge! Diana as captain worried but doesn’t interfere. Greens still have no pizza dough! Not even two hours until service. Red's first go at a sponge - more like an omelette than sponge! One hour to go. Pia has nailed her pasta. But no pasta sauce yet. Green has the opposite problem to what I expected - its coffee jelly is not setting. But it has to! Try more gelatine. 15 minutes: Green start toppings for pizza. Warned about wet cheese - release of liquid into pizzas if they cook too long, yet use it for both. Johnny gives them a bit of training on dough stretching. Red has nice puffy pizza in wood fired oven. Eloise - "it’s perfect". Diners coming in - 5 minutes.

Both teams ready for service? Seems so - pizzas are go. I'm hungry! Judging - Red pizzas up first. Better than 90% of pizza out there - done well. Green - getting some pizzas back, not quite cooked. Dough not quite as puffy, looks wet - that cheese, then balsamic. Great flavour - but a problem.

Pasta - Red has no pasta sauce! 10 minutes to service! Chili, bacon, roast tomato, olive oil and garlic - shouldn’t be too hard, if ingredients prepped. Benjamin “This is insane!” Greens way ahead on this. Judges - good pasta, bright sauce “yum”! Delicious.
Gary cleans his plate, wants another. They love it. Red - sending out bland pasta as short on ingredients. Doesn’t look as good as judges expect. Pasta good, not enchanted by dish - ingredients not integrated, mixed with pasta. Dull.

Dessert - Red sponge “really dense”, Diana calls it a “hard rock”. What to do? Soak in coffee syrup. Green - how is the jelly? Bryan worried - but it has set, although very strong. They make a deconstructed tiramisu. Red sponges still hard in parts and they're short on syrup. Hope for the best. It doesn’t look like tiramisu - more like doused shortbread, with some ingredients on top. Judges - “interesting”, but not enough to eat. The balance off and it is dry, although Matt's is OK - “a tale if two plates”. Green team - Bryan in his element, calling out orders like a pro! But short of mousse. Maybe more in the fridge? Ad break. Make another batch. Callan on to it. Five minutes to do it. He does it!
Judges - not what expected, but like the look, good step up with presentation. Gary eats jelly by itself. Matt - “love it”. Bryan - “good on him” from George. Amazing job all round. Best first team challenge.

Elimination: Johnny “congratulations” “amazing job”. Bryan and Samuel - players of the day. Red team - great pizzas, pasta great, not ingredients. Green - pizza good flavour but wet. Pasta “a triumph”. That’s Sarah. Green dessert - big thumbs up. Green shoe in for the win.

The episode leaves me keen to visit Gradi and to have arrabbiata - something I can make myself. I did actually go to La Porchetta earlier in the week: the pasta tasted like dried store bought, and there was very little chicken or mushroom. Today I was down at St Clair for a late breakfast at Starfish - people had glorious looking pasta at the Esplanade, so I must pay a return visit. My breakfast was good - a bowl of fried potatoes, bacon, spinach, poached eggs and hollandaise. The only other notable food of the week was from my visit to Harry's Kitchen - a couple of months ago, there were no Korean Fried Chicken places in town, now there are two! Harry's looked better in terms of its seating arrangement than Miga, which is why I picked it. The chicken itself was great - but it was just wings and it was in a very crunchy coating. I'll have to try the other place, to see if they do the real thing.  


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