Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cablevision Customers – This Is What You Missed On Iron Chef America's Super Chef Battle - Super Fresh Vegetables And Just A Touch Of Mario’s Spit

Part One - The Chefs Gather and Cook

Alton is not my favorite, but I thought he was charming at the beginning of Iron Chef America - Super Chef Battle.

He stands by the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial in DC waiting for his orders. A secret service type guy hands him a dark folder with instructions. An envelope says Open Later and there’s a video device with a message from the Chairman. It tells Alton to report to the place of work of one of the combatants - 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Kind of cool.

Alton gets into the back of a black car and is sped through town and then let out. He’s across the street from the White House. He says he THOUGHT it sounded familiar.

Oh my. There’s Mario in his very orange clogs AND socks strolling across, well, actually marching across, the lawn of the White House with Bobby and Emeril. (Bobby is looking quite trim these days. He’s hot. Are socks and clogs proper White House attire? I guess if you're Mario, then yes.)

There’s a quick interview with Bobby telling us, “It’s a lot to take in….It’s the White House.”

Alton is greeted by White House Chef Cristeta Comerford (with an absolutely gorgeous haircut, by the way). He says he doesn’t quite know why he’s there.

Mario says he doesn’t know what the chairman has in store, but he assumes it’s official government business. I’m loving this. They are not dropping their this-is-as-serious-as-all-get-out attitude for even a second.

Emeril tells us he cooked in the White House a long time ago. That doesn’t surprise me. Heck! He should have his own monument somewhere in Washington as a culinary hero to millions.

The chefs and Alton stand on the driveway, when the First Lady comes striding out. She’s wearing a lovely orange dress (meant to coordinate with Mario’s footwear?) with a baby blue sweater emblazoned with a bright orange poppy (pin?).

Mrs. Obama welcomes them and says she want them all to be a part of spreading the message about healthy eating.

The First Lady reveals with much fanfare (well, actually, a bit of dramatic music was about all there was) that their secret ingredient is…ANYTHING from the White House Garden.

That’s exciting, but not terribly taxing for these grand chefs. How about saying their dishes have to be less than 300 calories or they have to make a replica of the White House with chervil? No? The chefs nod in approval. Of course, they do. THIS is easy.

Bobby needs MORE from the first lady. (I told you this was too easy.) He says if there was an ingredient he should NOT pass up, what would that be? Without hesitating, she says sweet potatoes. Hmmm, veddy interesting.

She bids them farewell and Alton takes the note from the Chairman out of his pocket. He tells them who they’re paired with. Bobby is with Chef Comerford. Mario and Emeril are together. And the Chairmen tells them that more surprises await them in Kitchen Stadium.

They go to the garden to gather their ingredients. WOW, that is one amazing looking garden. It looks Martha Steward-esque. Really gorgeous.

Alton tells them to tread lightly. (WHY isn’t he bothering me today? Maybe I like that he seems to understand the import of the occasion.)

There are tomatillos too??! Mario predicts Bobby will heading for those. He tells us there’s a defensive way to go vegetable picking. He and Emeril grab the cauliflower before Bobby, as well as anything else they think Bobby could use to his advantage.

They finish gathering their vegetables. Alton pronounces, “A hungry nation awaits the fruits of your culinary labors.” This false pomposity is so right up my alley.

Cris tells us that when the three chefs were at the White House they were in awe of everything that they saw. She says that’s the same way she felt when she walked into kitchen stadium – completely awed.

Back at Kitchen Stadium, Alton, tuxedo-ed now, introduces the Chairman…on video. He says,” I challenge you to create a meal that makes America go MMMM!!!

The Chairman continues, “Let the battle begin,” as the table is uncovered, revealing EVERY type of protein they could want - all produced sustainably within 100 miles of Kitchen Stadium – scallops, pig, cheese, heritage turkeys (watch out, they can be dry, says one of my favorite bloggers), pork shoulders, blue point oysters, bay scallops, goat cheese and eggs. There’s also a special cider vinegar AND honey from the White House beehive.

The chefs must create 5 dishes, with each dish highlighting an ingredient from the White House garden. The Chairman continues (on video tape), “These meals must inspire America to eat fresh, to eat local, in short to eat well.”

Close-up of Emeril thinking, “There go the beignets!”

No Chairman there, so it’s left to Alton to say, “Allez Cuisine!” The chefs run to select their proteins from the “altar”.

Kevin Brauch joins Alton, and so does Ted Allen, to help with the blow by blow of the action. Mario tells us that he and Emeril have decided to do two dishes each and then a collaborative dish. Emeril tells us that Mario brings a solid foundation of Italy and he hopes to bring a bit of New Orleans.

This is interesting. Chef Comerford is splitting sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and putting them on a baking sheet, lined with Silpat. Hmm.

I have never baked sweet potatoes like that and I never thought to use Silpat. I don’t love Silpat, but it would cut down on the foil I normally use to line baking sheets.

Bobby appears to be making a barbecue sauce.

Chef Comerford adds cinnamon sticks, a little butter and lemon halves to the sweet potatoes, before they go into the oven to roast. There’s star anise too, Alton says. (Why does she have to ruin it?)

Tommy Kurpradit, from the White House, is Bobby and Cris’s sous chef. He’s adding tons of the cider vinegar to collard greens, before pressure cooking them. Is that normal…to cook collard greens in vinegar? I’ve never seen that before.

Emeril is processing an interesting looking mixture of chicken livers, onions, scallions and hot sauce.

Ooh, there’s Anne Burrell sous-chefing for Mario and Emeril. She’s making pasta dough…by hand.

Mario is butterflying the breast from the heritage turkey. I hope has a better time rolling it up than I did.

Bobby is juicing some mangoes. OH, I LOVE that idea. I have NEVER juiced a mango. I just eat them, but how delicious that would be in THESE recipes, for instance!

(By the way, this mango barbecue sauce is amazing and served with the coconut sauce, it’s heaven. I may substitute some mango juice for the coconut milk in the coconut curry sauce. And I never use low fat coconut milk here or, actually, anywhere. It’s nasty. Use real coconut milk and just cut down on the amount, using stock or juice for the rest.)

Bobby says he’s also using carrots from the garden. Did he mean that he was juicing the carrots too? Can you imagine how awesome that would be – carrot and mango juice? I might add a thick slice of ginger too. I don’t even care what he’s making. I love these juicing ideas.

Kevin introduces the judges. Nigella is one of them. Oh goodie! She looks beautiful in a black décolletage-baring dress. Jane Seymour is next. Last is Natalie Coughlin, Olympic swimmer with 11 medals (3 gold). That’s great if we were judging backstrokes (or whatever she swims), but this is the Iron Chef.

I’m wondering why there is only one food professional. I guess if the Chairman couldn’t even make it, maybe this was a busy time for foodies.

Emeril adds that puréed liver mixture to rice. Alton predicts that will become a dirty rice. Bobby uses White House cherry tomatoes. Chef Comerford appears to be handling the sweets. Mario is chopping icicle radishes, which apparently get sweeter as they cook.

Okay, we have to do a fast forward, there IS 2 hours of this after all.

There’s a commercial for this FN show about the worst cooks in America. I’m not sure if that’s such a clever idea, since many people believe that some of the current FN hosts could fit that category. It’s probably best not to draw attention to all the bad cooking on the Food Network, with a show that actually highlights it.

OH! Anne tells us she’s using carrots in a beignet, so I guess they just couldn’t resist making them.

Nigella thinks the icicle radishes are poetic. Alrighty then. Jane, speaking with great authority, I’m being serious actually, says nothing tastes as good as something just picked from a garden. Ted asks Natalie how she would do in this cooking setting. She says these chefs are ridiculously accomplished, doing as much as they’re doing in such a short time. She actually sounds okay.

Holding the honey jar a full arm’s length away from the tabletop, Mario drizzles honey over the quail. Alton describes is as “busting a Super Chef move.”

Chicory coffee is being brewed. Tommy, on the other side, is making ice cream. As Chef Comerford is RUSHING around, Ted asks her how this compares with cooking for the leaders of the world. She says it’s a different kind of pressure, but pressure nonetheless. You want to do your best, she says, and have everything that you planned for work for you.

Emeril is adding ingredients - Creole mustard, mayonnaise, celery root, green peppers, onions and ketchup - to a food processor for a rémoulade sauce. (YUM!)

Mario is adding sweet potatoes to the local goat cheese and ricotta mixture for raviolo.

This will be an amazing array of dishes. I just can’t figure out what why its going to take another hour and a half.

I like this dish of Chef Comerford. She’s shredded potatoes and put little flat piles of them on plastic wrap. Then she adds a small spoonful of scallop mousse on top and then an oyster. We’re not sure how it will be cooked.

Emeril is actually making 3 different rémoulades. I could eat just that.

YUCK! I’m not happy with THIS. Mario mixes the raviolo filling with a spoon, gives Emeril a taste, PUTS THE SPOON BACK IN, tastes it himself and PUTS THE SPOON BACK IN AGAIN. So, in fact, the judges will be getting Mario’s (and Emeril’s) saliva in their dish.

One reason this is taking so long is that after each commercial, Alton gives us a rehash of why we’re here today and what they’re doing. We GET that the ingredients are from the White House garden.

The beautiful turkey breasts are being stuffed with Emeril’s dirty rice and the collard greens. He’s rolling it up and having a much easier time rolling and trussing than I did on Christmas. Emeril is deep frying the turkey roulade. I wish they had shown the rolling more.

Mario is making a caponata with pears in place of the eggplant.

Mario opens a jar for Emeril and says he’s cooked with Emeril a lot at different events, but never anything that was judged.

They only have 30 minutes left and there’s still so much to do.

Bobby tells us he told Chef Comerford not to be afraid to use her Filipino influence, because those flavors are wonderful. She’s making a mixture of broccoli, lemongrass, butter, ginger and garlic. Interesting.

Emeril takes out the roulade and it looks way overcooked. BUT it stayed together, which is the part I’m impressed with.

Emeril takes its temperature and it’s only 110°F or 115°F, which is way below the 160°F or 165°F it should be. Maybe all is not lost. I suppose the oil was too hot and the outside got too brown too fast. To finish the cooking, he puts the browned turkey roulade into a big sauté pan and pours over what looks to be hot stock. He wants to braise it to doneness.

Bobby moves on to his collard green tamales.

Alton thinks Emeril is going to fry oysters and then serve them with 3 different rémoulades.

Kevin Brauch visits with some VIP visitors to Kitchen Stadium. They’re all in chef’s whites. The Assistant White House Chef, Sam Kass, is there. Kevin reminds us that this is the first White House Garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden. Chef Kass says they’ve already taken out more than a thousand pounds of food. WOW, that is impressive.

(The Clintons wanted to plant a vegetable garden, but were told that it wasn’t in keeping with the formal nature of the White House grounds. They grew some vegetables in a rooftop garden.)

We learn that the winning team will receive a $25,000 dollar donation to the charity of its choice.

The ice cream turns out to be ginger. Fantastic!

Kevin talks with the Executive Pastry Chef of the White House, Bill Yosses. Can you imagine living in a house where there’s someone who could make palmiers at a moment's notice? Chef Yosses says they’re using a lot of the honey in the desserts nowadays, instead of refined sugar.

Emeril is "making the oysters happy" by marinating them in buttermilk and Creole seasoning. Mario is wrapping thin slices of lardo around the honey marinated quall. I like just saying that.

Emeril is sticking cloves into a LONG strip of orange peel. Alton immediately figures out that the beignets will be served with a café brulot, which will be flavored with that long orange peel strand. Alton cannot wait to see Emeril put it together – the first time ever in kitchen stadium. Hot diggity dog, Alton says.

Chef Comerford is beating the sweet potato purée in a KitchenAid with other flavorings. Far be from me to comment on the chef's methods, but I have NEVER NOT put sweet potatoes through a food mill. It has stringy bits. It worries me that she didn’t do that.

Tommy is having a huge problem rolling out the dough for the sweet potato tarts. It was so cold when it came out of the fridge, that he had to beat it down to soften it. That’s why I ALWAYS roll dough between plastic wrap, right after it’s made and THEN refrigerate it, contrary to every pastry chef in the universe.

13 1/2 minutes and the ice cream machine is JUST being filled up on Bobby’s side. Bobby is beginning to plate with 11 minutes left. There ain’t no way either team is going to be finished. The sweet potato tarts still aren't in the oven with 10 minutes to go.

Emeril slices the turkey. It looks beautiful.

There is no way Bobby's tamales or Cris's sweet potato tarts will be ready.

This food looks so fresh, so complex, so pretty. I want to go to THAT restaurant.

Chef Comerford put meringue on top of the sweet potato tarts and puts them under the salamander. There are only FOUR minutes left! They’re quenelle-ing the ice cream with 60 seconds to go!

It’s over! All the chefs hug.


Kathy and Judy said...

Mario Batali's kitchen hygeine just gags me. A year or two ago on ICA they showed him raising a blender carafe to take a taste of whatever-it-was, and then using the rest! EEEUUUWWWWWW! Aren't there, you know, rules about that in kitchens? I just cook for my family, but even I don't do that...

Sue said...

Hi Judy,
YES! There are rules about that, laws even, in restaurants.

I think, especially if you're on television or doing a class - just in the public eye in general, it's critical to observe good food hygiene. It really isn't rocket science. You don't spit into food that other people will eat! Drinking from a blender or re-sticking a spoon in something is the equivalent of spitting.