There's A Fungus
Among Us

Week 8 of MasterChef may have started with Eddie mastering a meat-filled mystery box, but by night's end, Bri proved vegetarians are no pushover with a mushroom dish that had even Joe singing her praises. Chef Graham Elliot fills us in via email on the art of sausage stuffing, Bethy's bad day, and not being the only fun guy in the room.

Chef Graham ElliotSheKnows: So... that was a whole lot of sausage! What’s the trick to making successful links?

Graham Elliot: You need to season the mixture before it goes into the casing. Mix it properly, cook a bit off and make sure it's what you want — then move on to the next step.

SK: There were tons of different kinds of proteins — everything from alligator to tempeh — yet you and Gordon both said you would have gone for something simple. Was there any one thing on the table you specifically would have avoided (and why)?

GE: I tend to stay away from lean meats, meaning game, chicken, turkey, etc. The key to a juicy sausage is fat, so pork and beef tend to do well.

SK: Eddie "The Meat Man” won the sausage challenge... did you kind of expect that?

GE: There were so many yummy dishes... everyone did a pretty good job but, far and away, Eddie's was the best.

SK: As part of his advantage, Eddie got to choose whether his competitors would cook ham, mushroom or shrimp. Which would you have chosen?

GE: I probably would've gone with the mushrooms also. The fresh ones need to be handled with care, delicately cleaned, cooked, seasoned... the canned are really bad and need a lot of work.

SK: Eddie also got to stick four home chefs with canned mushrooms as opposed to fresh. Had he chosen ham or shrimp, would half of the home chefs have had to work with canned ham or canned shrimp? (Canned shrimp? Yuck!)

GE: Yes, the challenge was the same regardless of what he chose — fresh vs. convenient.

SK: Should someone find himself or herself at home, saddled with canned mushrooms, what should he or she do to elevate the ingredient?

GE: The best thing is to rinse and dry them thoroughly. Then, sauté them with butter and garlic and use accordingly.

SK: In the movie Julie & Julia, she mentions "overcrowding" the mushrooms. Is that a real thing?

GE: I'm not sure... maybe they were talking about too much product in the pan? Doing that cools the pan down and keeps the mushrooms from getting caramelized.

SK: Man, you can tell Eddie is a true competitor because he is so calculated and strategic. Would you have picked to give the canned mushrooms to any different home chefs than Eddie did?

GE: I think Eddie nailed it — he picked the right ingredients for the right people, chose wisely, and let them get in their own way. Well played, indeed.

SK: He’s apparently some kind of mind ninja, because he gave Jordan and James the good mushrooms and somehow still managed to mess them up. What went wrong for them?

GE: I think they focused on making complex dishes rather than let the mushrooms speak for themselves.

SK: Well, sweet Bethy got the boot for her mushroom szechuan. You guys made the comment that the kind of mushrooms she had didn’t really lend well to Chinese dishes. Can you give a quick rundown of what types of cuisine different mushrooms work best in?

GE: It's a textural thing: Meaty mushrooms can withstand harsher cooking techniques and spices, while some are more delicate and pair better with lighter fare.

SK: Before she left, Bethy got a huge compliment from Joe, who said if he had to choose any person in that room to work in his restaurant, he’d choose Bethy because of her work ethic. Do you feel the same?

GE: I think Bethy was a rock star. She could cook, lead, take direction... anything. This season we have a huge roster of talented individuals, so it's hard to pick a single one out.

SK: Next week looks wild, literally! What kind of surprises can we expect from the camp cooking excursion?

GE: This is far and away my favorite we've had yet on the show — truly outta the box, working with the elements, understanding the craft of cooking... all around bada**.

SK: So... where did you judges sleep while the contestants roughed it?

GE: The three of us slept in a tent, once Joe finally put it together.

SK: Should we count on fireworks between team captains Bri and Natasha?

GE: You never know! Each has their own style and personality, but it's the teams they pick that makes for a fun time! :)

More on MasterChef

INTERVIEW: MasterChef's Graham Elliot on Eva Longoria and Week 7's shocking elimination
INTERVIEW: 5 Qs with MasterChef's fallen frontrunner, Lynn Chyi
INTERVIEW: MasterChef's Graham Elliot says "I do" to Week 6's pig heads & patisserie treats

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Top image courtesy of Matt Hoyle/Fox

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