Carla is shucking corn as she explains that her family was from a lot of different Southern states, and she wants to pay tribute to them. She remembers her grandma's old beat up biscuit cutter, so she wants to make biscuits. And she's using liquid nitrogen! Blais is surprised but thinks that it's great that Carla is pushing herself this close to the finals. It is cool, but it also reminds me of the sous vide disaster that kept Carla from winning her season, so I'm torn.
Tiffany is working on a dish that they would regularly eat at home, and it includes stewed okra. She knows that Tom isn't a fan, but she hopes she can make it in a way that he will like anyway. Carla tries a little bit and thinks it tastes great. Then again, she's Southern, so she's kind of predisposed to like such a Southern dish.
Antonia explains that her father is undergoing radiation treatment for prostate cancer and she wants to make a dish to honor him, so she's going with braised veal. Blais, meanwhile, is combining his meat market ancestors with his chemist ancestors and making braised short ribs, fried bone marrow, and pickled glassworts. What are glassworts? They are sea beans, according to Blais, although my quick Google search doesn't reveal anything about that. But glasswort is a great word, and Blais recognizes that.
Mike explains that he's never cooked Italian professionally, but he learned it all from his grandmother. This is almost making me root for Mike. I love grandmas. Meanwhile, Carla is trying to get her biscuits done, but the oven isn't getting hot enough, so she's worried. Antonia is making a risotto, which is a tough dish to make exactly right. Remember Tre? Remember how he went home for the wrong texture on his risotto? Yeah. Exactly. Blais is nervous about his food, but you wouldn't be surprised about that, because he's always nervous.
The judges arrive at the table along with the family members of the cheftestants that we met earlier. Judges for this round are Padma, Colicchio, Gail, and the aforementioned Dan Barber. Isn't it going to be weird, criticizing the cheftestants in front of their family members? I feel like anything negative would be met with blank stares or dirty looks. Although, probably at this point the family members are used to the cheftestants' food being critiqued.
Mike serves first: potato gnocchi with braised pork shank ragu and burrata cheese. He explains that his great-grandfather was from Naples, and this dish is something his grandmother cooked for him when he was younger. Colicchio asks when Mike started cooking, and his mom says that he started at three, but his grandmother was the one who taught him. Colicchio tastes the food and then says that there has been a lot of trouble with gnocchi, on this show, but Mike nailed it. Antonia's mom and Carla's husband agree. Dan Barber thinks that gnocchi can be heavy, but this is light and airy, and Mike's mom admits that it's better than his grandmother's gnocchi. That's saying something. I would assume. I never had Mike's grandmother's gnocchi, but grandmas are usually pretty good cooks, especially Italian grandmas.
Antonia's mom talks about Antonia's cooking background. Her parents owned a restaurant and she got behind the counter at ten years old, and has been cooking ever since. She plates her risotto and it spreads out on the plate, so Colicchio will approve. She made braised veal, rapini leaf with fava bean risotto. Antonia explains that her inspiration was what a wife would cook for her husband when he got home from work back in the '60s or whatever. Blais's wife compliments the fava beans and Mike's mom loved the risotto. Colicchio says that both Antonia's and Mike's dishes were not about fancy things or "bells and whistles" but both were packed with flavor. Antonia's mom and Mike's mom jokingly argue about whose dish was better.
Tiffany reminds us that this is the round where she went out in her season, so she's nervous, especially since she made okra, which Tom doesn't like and which can be slimy. Tiffany serves braised short rib with mustard greens, stewed okra, and oxtail marmalade. Tiffany's mom thinks it's delicious and says it's a dish that she made at home. Padma loves the pig's feet and Mike's mom says it's done perfectly. But what does Colicchio think about the okra? He LIKES IT! Blais's wife and Carla's husband both talk about how it's a great example of Southern food, and both admit that they're feeling nervous for their spouses, since all the food has been really good so far.
Blais is plating and says that he's most nervous about cooking for his wife, because she's really competitive and might want him to win more than he wants it for himself. He explains that he went with a steak and potatoes theme for his Irish/English roots, and added corn to pay tribute to his Midwest roots. He made short ribs, potatoes, fried bone marrow, corn puree, and pickled glasswort (sea beans). Colicchio says it was all right, and Blais's wife kind of panics, but he meant that all of it was right, so she relaxes. That won't be the last time someone uses words in a way to make a Blais panic, so fair warning. Carla's husband liked the fried bone marrow and Mrs. Blais enjoyed the corn puree.
As they wait for the next course, the other diners ask Carla's husband about her. He says that he's sure she has her game face on and does a funny imitation of what that might look like. It's a meaner face than I think Carla is capable of making. Then someone asks how they met, and Carla's husband admits that they met on match.com. How long until they do a commercial? They should. If I were single and I thought I could meet people like Carla or her husband online, I'd do it. Her husband is cute. Padma is really amazed that they met online. I bet that Padma isn't a big Internet user. She seems very, "So you type words into this, what do you call it, computer? And then you get like, what, matched up?" While they are having this fun conversation, Carla is plating, and she's worried that her plate doesn't look as good as she wanted it to.