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Cookbook Watch: Is this the "MasterChef" finale? Or just the beginning?

September 15, 2010 |  3:19 pm

MasterChef_cookbookTonight may be the finale to name America's best home chef -- the first-ever American "MasterChef." But this brand isn't going anywhere.

A second season of the hit Fox show is already in the works. There's a new companion cookbook featuring many of the most popular dishes of the series. And now there's a "MasterChef" iPhone app that features more than 45 how-to videos that offer step-by-step instructions covering everything from hard-boiling an egg to frenching a rack of lamb to making perfect mashed potatoes; 300 Master Class Pressure Test questions that challenge your culinary knowledge (with correct answers leading to more secret tips); and more than 40 exclusive recipes. Cost: $4.99.

So, as for the finale, which is going toe-to-toe with that other culinary contest, "Top Chef"...who's it going to be? Whitney? Lee? Sheetal? David? Some in the blogosphere have tried to read the tea leaves by poring over the new cookbook that accompanies the show: If Whitney has more recipes in the cookbook, does that mean...she won? Could be. Or maybe it just means Whitney has more recipes.

This softback cookbook has over 80 recipes -- all with photos, which is much appreciated -- from the contestants, judges and even guests. Highlights include: Sharone's hazelnut and pistachio cupcake with hazelnut cream cheese icing, Whitney's profiteroles with vanilla chantilly cream and caramelized bananas, and Iron Chef Cat Cora's halibut with sweet corn zabaglione and fava bean salad.

And for those MasterChefs in training, the cookbook has several handy primers -- must-have cookware, a guide to necessary spices -- plus tips for stocking your pantry. There are also wine notes by judge (and winemaker) Joe Bastianich, who urges you to get comfortable with making wine notes of your own: "Take tasting notes...the objective is to create a database of wine experiences that you can refer to when seeking out a specific wine or trying to evaluate a new one."

I would say that this cookbook would make a cook holiday stocking stuffer, but I doubt "MasterChef" fans will want to wait that long. 

You know what's the first recipe I looked for? Chef Graham Elliot's Texas-style chili. (Click here for the recipe.)

That's the dish that completely stumped contestants during an early "pressure challenge." Among the ingredients that the players couldn't seem to name: dark beer and cinnamon. I'm definitely putting this recipe on the "will make" list.

--Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Credit: "MasterChef" cookbook photography: Vanessa Stump