Masterchef Jr: PART 1

My favorite

My favorite

My favorite show is–at the surprise of no one–MasterChef Jr. on Fox. No, I was not hired to write this by Gordon Ramsay. I LOVE MasterChef Jr. I find it very inspiring to watch, plus it gives me great ideas. Last night was the finale, and no I am not telling who won, but I am providing recipes for Andrew and Nathan’s meals. Just in case your mouth was watering too.. The first part is about appetizers. Nathan’s was a Fennel and Gruyere Gratin with Fennel and Grapefruit Salad, and Andrew’s was Roasted Beets with Homemade Herb Ricotta and Pumpernickel Toast. Now, on the ricotta: yes, you can buy it. I won’t judge you for not wanting to make homemade cheese. Just in case, here is a recipe for the homemade version: Yeah, I know, another Smitten Kitchen. Hey, I have the right to obsessively check a website. So do you. Now I’ll stop ranting and actually write the recipe.


Nathan Odom, age 12

Nathan Odom, age 12

Nathan used French ham on top, but I like bacon better. Learn from his mistake and don’t be afraid of overcooking it: the cream will just thicken. This recipe calls for 1/3 cup white wine, but this is a kid’s blog, right? If you want you can use it, but I didn’t.


Adapted from Ina Garten

Serves 4


  • 3  2/3 medium fennel bulbs
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread flakes), or breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup, plus a bit extra freshly grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • French Ham or Cooked Bacon, for the top (optional)
  • Olive Oil
  • Champagne Vinegar
  • 1 ruby-red grapefruit


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Remove the stalks from 3 of the fennel bulbs and discard. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise through the core. Remove most (but not all) of the core by cutting a V-shaped wedge, leaving the wedges intact.
  3. Cut each piece into 2, 3, or 4 wedges, depending on the size of the bulb. Arrange the wedges, cut side up, in a gratin dish just large enough to hold them snugly in a single layer.
  4. Pour the chicken stock over the fennel, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper, and a bit of the cheese. Dot with the diced butter.
  5. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Remove from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees F.
  6. Meanwhile, make the topping: combine the melted butter, panko, gruyere, parsley, zest, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle evenly on top of the fennel and return to the oven.
  7. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until the topping is browned and you can see the cheese bubbling.
  8. Meanwhile, chop the remaining fennel, and slice the grapefruit. Whisk the vinegar and olive oil using a 3 oil:1 vinegar ratio until you have a desired amount. Add salt.
  9. When gratin is done, top with bacon or ham and dress the salad.
  10. Enjoy like a MasterChef!


Andrew Zappley, age 11

Andrew Zappley, age 11

Andrew didn’t put the oil on top, but the judges thought he should’ve, so here we are. If you don’t like beets, substitute parsnips of turnips, and if pumpernickel isn’t your thing, use rye.


Serves 4

Beet recipe adapted from Bobby Flay


  • 3 medium beets, red or gold, or a mix (which will be prettier)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 4 slices pumpernickel bread, crusts cut off
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, bought, or homemade
  • Basil, chopped
  • Mint, chopped
  • Oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest


  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF
  2. Roast beets: Coat beets lightly with oil. Wrap beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and then peel and slice into 1/4-inch thick slices.
  3. Cut the pumpernickel slices in half and toast in the oven for about 5-10 minutes, or until crunchy, but not burned.
  4. Meanwhile, mix the ricotta with the basil, mint and oregano to taste. Add the lemon zest.
  5. Dollop some ricotta on the plates and put the beets on top. Add a bit more ricotta on top and add pumpernickel. Drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Enjoy like a MasterChef!

I hope you guys enjoy these recipes: by the way, Masterchef Junior is on at 8pm on Tues. nights on Fox–but the season just ended! So stay tuned for Season 4. The next Parts of this post will go like this:

  • PART 2: Entrees
  • PART 3: Desserts
  • PART 4: My Meals

I know, a lot of parts.

Keep cooking 😉


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