To say that we were shocked to see home cook Miranda Wasstrom go home on Thursday’s episode of MasterChef Canada would definitely be an understatement. Between the contestant’s baking prowess, her penchant for bold flavours and her willingness to help others in the kitchen, we thought this cook would be making it to the finals for sure.
But as the judges reminded us all, you’re only as good as your last dish in this competition. And while Miranda impressed everyone with an amazing salmon earlier in the night, her final dish wasn’t the most impressive. Sure, her five-ingredient dinner looked great, but an undercooked steak cut the wrong way (with the grain instead of against it) cost her the title in the end, and she was asked to leave the kitchen and her apron behind.
We have a feeling this won’t be the last we see of the Edmonton native — who’s due to have her first child in September — but until then, she sat down with us to explain how to freestyle a dish as well, as the proper technique when it comes to cooking and cutting a steak.
What was the biggest thing you learned?
About 90 per cent of the time, I was cooking with ingredients I didn’t know or didn’t use often. It pushed me outside of my regular boundaries and made me realize that if I just trust my instincts, I can cook anything. I don’t have to be afraid of things I don’t know. Just trusting my instincts, learning to grow and being adventurous. It’s okay not to know everything; as long as you just go for it, it will turn out.
What does that mean to go for it, in your books?
Flavours, techniques. When you’re at home, you stick to your regular things. Occasionally, you might get a different cut of meat or a vegetable or something, but I would always be afraid to kind of try and make something new and fail. Being in the kitchen, you don’t have an opportunity to be afraid, you just have to do it. Don’t worry about doing it perfect or making a mistake. Throw fear and second-guesses out the window, because things can turn out well.
How do you come up with these flavours? Can you learn it?
For me it’s a natural instinct — going into the pantry and seeing all these things that I don’t really know. I just pick them up and give them a taste. I can kind of taste something and figure out what it might go well with. You can teach yourself how to do that, if you just learn basic flavours and learn what sweet goes with which acid and stuff like that. Experiment and grow your palate. I haven’t been trained! If you want to learn you can. You just have to start tasting everything.
Now that you’ve made a winning salmon dish, what tips would you give to cook it well?
The key with cooking fish is not overcooking it. If the first couple of times you do overcook it, don’t let that shy you away. Just know that maybe four minutes on each side was too much, so decrease it next time. Fish has a bit of a lower sear and less cook time. You want it medium on the inside and not as tough.
What happened with that steak?
I really don’t know. It came out more rare than I intended and when I cut it, I just didn’t turn it all the way. When you’re in that kitchen with all that pressure, the smallest thing turns out to be a big thing. Nobody is in the top five because they’re weak; it comes down to those little details. I just got caught up in the moment. I had a bit of a #SteakFail.
Why is it important to cut against the grain of a steak?
When you cut against the grain, especially for tougher cuts of meat, it makes it more tender and not as chewy as it does if you cut with the grain. You need to shred those little fibres holding [the meat] together.
When you’re cooking a five-ingredient dish like that, what’s the key to making it a success?
You have to be able to use those ingredients in a multitude of ways. You can’t just use corn for corn; I had grilled that corn husk and added it to my sauce to give it a little bit of a smokier flavour. It’s really about using every ingredient in several ways to make it seem like you have this dish that is more than five ingredients, and really highlighting those ingredients. If I were to do it again I would definitely spend more time on the steak; that flank steak was supposed to be the star of the dish, but it turned out to be a flop.