Thursday night was a great night for many new Canadians, who got to see themselves on-screen during the field challenge of MasterChef Canada. But it wasn’t so dreamlike for the team that Miranda Wasstrom led.
In the end, it was their runny curry dish and disorganized teamwork that led to the team’s loss, forcing the competitors into a test where they had to recreate a fresh squid ink pasta dish with a soft-boiled egg. Unfortunately, Miranda saved herself when given the opportunity, which sent the shrimp queen, Kimberly Duffus, packing in the end.
We caught up with the cook after her loss to find out the real secret to making mouthwatering, tender shrimp and a killer curry.
What went wrong with your team’s curry dish?
I personally feel like what was wrong was the fact that I was not put on making the curry. I was put on salads and maybe if I was put on the curry we might have won. But, it didn’t work out that way.
What’s your secret to making a killer curry?
Lots of spice and a nice green curry base with ginger and maybe some bamboo root. What else? Some coconut milk. I wouldn’t put — I think there was zucchini in it? And eggplant? — I would have stayed away from that and gone with some potatoes if it was going to be vegetarian curry.
Did the zucchinis make the curry extra watery?
Yes. Yes. We should have used a stronger thickening agent instead of water-based vegetables.
What kind of spices do you recommend using and what’s your actual process?
I am Jamaican, so when we make a curry we use ginger, green onions, thyme, pimento seeds, seasoning salt, black pepper and that green curry base. Basically the way my mom taught me is you always fry the curry first just to bring out some of the flavours and then you can add your protein. Then you let it all simmer down. If I’m making a goat or lamb curry, I simmer it down with the meat for maybe 30 or 40 minutes and then I add fresh seasoning just to make it more vibrant and bring those flavours out.
Let’s talk about that pasta dish; you mentioned you’d only made pasta once before, but how many times have you made it since?
I’ve made it a few times just to practice the different kinds — raviolis, gnocchi. When you fail you should to do your best to improve.
Was it the pasta itself or was it the lack of salt on your egg that ultimately sent you home?
I think it was the salt. I was kind of flustered in the challenge. I completely forgot that it was a soft-boiled egg and I smashed it a bit too hard so it cracked halfway. I saw that and was upset so I just forgot to sprinkle the salt. I thought the pasta came out fine. I had 30 minutes to get it done and I made it by hand. I had to dissect that squid (in order to get the ink) so I think I did pretty well considering it was my second time. I’m pretty proud of myself for that.
What was it like getting the ink out, is there a trick?
It was definitely new. When I saw the squid I thought we’d be making squid. But then we were told we had to find an ink sac, and it’s delicate. It’s very slippery, so it’s so hard. You don’t have enough time to get as much as you want so you just have to stay focused, cut and… well, pull. I haven’t done it since, I think I need a break. I’m a little traumatized!
Speaking of seafood, you proved to be a rock star at cooking shrimp — what’s your secret?
Honestly it’s all about the marinade. Once you get a good marinade on that shrimp, you can’t ruin it. But you also have to know how to cook it. Once it’s pink and it curls up, it’s done. Some people overcook it and it gets all rubbery and that’s not appetizing at all. So timing and knowing your seasoning.
Do you have a go-to marinade?
I usually do garlic, and I’m really big on fresh herbs, basil or sometimes rosemary. I’m a big fan of olive oil, too. And then I just throw it on the barbecue.
How long should you marinate shrimp for? If there’s any lemon or acid it would start to cook itself, right?
Yes, so I would marinade it for maybe 15-20 minutes without an acid. And then, as I’m cooking it on the grill, I baste it as I go just to make sure all the flavours stick.
Did you agree with Miranda’s decision to save herself?
No, I didn’t agree with her saving herself. I felt like it should have been Matt or Thea because they put in the most work with the challenge.
If you were in that situation would you have been able to make that call?
Yes, definitely. I would put myself in. I don’t watch my team sink. If we mess up, as a leader it’s my fault. I should be there with my team.
How has doing this show influenced your dishes at home?
I leave my comfort zone more now. I’m working with different types of meats and seafood that I’ve never worked with before, like lamb. I actually made a roasted lamb with fresh gnocchi the other night and that’s something I would have probably never touched because I’ve never worked with it. I found this whole competition brought me out of my shell and I’m really experimenting and growing more as a cook.
Which judge was the most intimidating and why?
Chef Michael Bonacini. You never know what he’s going to say. You don’t know if he’s going to like your food. Everyone looks at Alvin as the mean judge, but I personally loved him. Claudio gave a lot of good advice. But Chef Michael? He’s very quiet. You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth.
Now that the pressure is off, who are you rooting for to win?
Honestly I love all of them, so whoever wins, I will be happy with that.