Believe it or not, we were down the final four going into Wednesday night’s episode, which began with the chefs still reeling from the elimination of their apparently presumed front-runner, Stefan. They disembarked in Alaska, freezing, and were immediately met by Padma Lakshmi and notable Charleston, S.C., chef Sean Brock, of Husk, and they got right into the Quickfire: cook with the most Alaskan of ingredients, crab. They had 30 minutes to use the ingredient in any way they pleased, and the winner would win $5,000.
Here were their dishes:
Lizzie: Crab frittata with cherry tomato, garlic oil, and fried capers
Sheldon: King crab, Dungeness crab "miso," pine-smoked asparagus, and charred corn
Brooke: King crab, sweet corn and leek salad on toast with Dungeness crab butter
Josh: Butter-poached king crab with succotash and bacon
Brock wasn’t a fan of Lizzie’s dish, as it was a little overcooked and too caper-heavy, which overpowered the crab. He also didn’t care much for Josh’s succotash due to a broken butter sauce and unnecessary bacon. He did, however, like Sheldon’s decision to use the innards of the crab, and he found Brooke’s "flat-out delicious." He bestowed Sheldon with the win, and $5,000.
The elimination challenge would "celebrate two of Alaska’s biggest culinary traditions," according to Lakshmi: salmon and sourdough. They would need to make both for the locals, and the winner would win a trip for two to Costa Rica.
They were gifted with some 30-year-old sourdough starter, and made their dough that evening in order to let it proof overnight. While they waited, we learned that Sheldon is a good ukulele player, and that Josh’s wife was now two days overdue.
The next morning, they headed to the rainy docks to choose some fresh salmon (in a few different varieties), and legitimately seemed to be enjoying themselves up there. From there it was on to the Gold Creek Salmon Bake, where they had three hours to prep and cook their food.
The judges, including Hugh Acheson, Gail Simmons, Emeril Lagasse, and Brock, dropped by to sample the food, and quickly noticed that there was a large bear in the tree directly above them. Only in Alaska!
Here were the dishes:
Brooke: Sockeye salmon and seafood broth with mustard seed caviar and dill sourdough
Sheldon: Smoked sockeye and Chum salmon and pea soup with green tea and chive sourdough
Josh: Roasted garlic sourdough soup with sockeye salmon and black olive croutons
Lizzie: Citrus- and beet-glazed grilled sockeye salmon slider with poppy seed butter and pickles
After the meal, the judges went around and chatted with some locals to get their takes on the dishes served. I may be mistaken, but that’s the first time I’ve seen that happen after an Elimination Challenge.
Lizzie: Colicchio loved her sourdough rolls and the fact that she made individual loaves, but he felt that her salmon wasn’t seasoned enough. She didn’t taste the entire sandwich together, though, which Simmons thought she should have done, due to the bread’s density.
Sheldon: Lakshmi told him that the locals use chum "to feed their dogs," and that not all the components of his dish played well together. Brock thought his salmon was over-smoked to the point of being bitter, but overall the guests thought it was delicious.
Brooke: Simmons loved her broth, and the amount of time she put into it was apparent, but the salmon, which was cooked to order, was a little overcooked. Brock "was crazy about" her bread, though, and really liked her dish overall.
Josh: Lagasse liked strong flavor of garlic in his soup, along with the croutons, and while Acheson thought his salmon was perfectly cooked, it "was ensconced with these flavors that had so much boldness to them that it kind of got lost." Simmons and Colicchio found the delicate salmon to be off-balance with the strong garlic.
Brooke’s dish took the win, and with it she won a trip to Costa Rica.
While each chef made errors that could have potentially sent them home (Lizzie not tasting her too-simple, under-salted sandwich, Sheldon not handling the salmon properly, Josh’s overpowering garlic), in the end it was Lizzie who was told to pack her knives and go. At this point in the season, serving an under-seasoned, much-too-simple sandwich was an unforgivable error.
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.