Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cablevision Customers – This Is What You Missed On Iron Chef America's Super Chef Battle

Part Two - Let The Judging Begin

Since there is no Chairman there, Alton gets to sit with the judges and taste the dishes. Kevin reminds us that the winning team gets $25,000 given to the charity of its choice.

Emeril says the White House garden was “strictly inspirational”. He says they wanted to focus as much on the “god-on” as they possibly could. Oh, I think he means “garden”.

Mario says, “Each dish will have one giant aria behind it and then a couple of high notes and low notes.” (Oh, I hope not.)

Mario And Emeril

Scallops With Radishes And Fennel Salad

THIS was the dish with the little icicle radishes cut to look like scallops. They were blanched (I think) and then sautéed, but some look a bit too sautéed…i.e. burned.

Mario says the base of the dish is a fennel soubise. How wonderful! When was the last time anyone made a soubise? AND I love the addition of fennel.

Nigella: “It looks like a garden.” Natalie: “I like the mixture of the raw fennel and the cooked fennel. The texture of the sauce (the soubise) is so lovely, nice and velvety. It’s beautiful.” Hmm, she sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.

Jane: ”I like the way you get fooled to think you’re eating more scallops and you get a vegetable.” Nigella: “Yes, it’s like a little food pun.”

Oyster and Salad Trio

The oysters are crusted three different ways and each is served with a different rémoulade – celery root, New Orleans style rémoulade and a red rémoulade with tomato and horseradish root. Okay, just give them the win right now.

Natalie: ”I love the combination of the freshness (from the salads) along with how rich the oysters are.” Jane didn’t care for the first oyster, but LOVED the last one. Whatever and harrumph!

Sweet Potato and Ricotta Raviolo

Mario: “The aria…is the sweet potato. The egg in the center is the surprise that becomes the sauce.“ Mario, you had me at sweet potato. He’s also using guanciale in the dish, which is the bacon made from the face of the pig. Okay, maybe that sounds kind of awful, but it looks amazing.

Jane: “Oh, my goodness me. This is not of this planet.”

The truffles are good says Nigella, but “the sweet potatoes are radically fantastic.” This sweet potato from the garden “had a lightness to it that…whispered its presence rather than really shouted it,” Nigella continues.

Alton asks if that’s because the flavor hasn’t been concentrated by the aging process. Nigella says exactly.

Duet of American Birds

They’ve prepared quail, marinated in White House honey with a touch of red wine and cider vinegar. Underneath the bird is a pear capanata and it’s served with a vincotto – unfermented grapes, using concord grapes.

The turkey is stuffed with the dirty rice. Emeril says it was fried first and then braised in homemade Worchester sauce. (Oh, I thought that was stock.) Emeril doesn’t mention that the turkey roulade was undercooked and that’s why it was braised at the end. Good for him! Never apologize!

Natalie: ”The acidity in the vinegar really cuts through the fat nicely.“ Nigella: “I like the musty taste of this wine sauce. It’s rather bright and deep.” Jane: “I like having the vegetables inside the bird too."

No one has commented on the liver in the dirty rice.

Nigella: “I like the way the vegetables have kept their bite.” Nigella likes that the vegetables in the stuffing are not “flabby”. Natalie and Jane like the quail more than the turkey. Nigella LOVES the vegetable stuffing in the turkey and they agree that both are wonderful, but that the turkey featured the vegetables more.

Sweet Carrot Beignets with Café Brulot

Mario says they took some of the beautiful White House carrots, grated and cooked them lightly and added them to the beignet batter and deep fried them. Mamma Mia, how crispy and luscious they look.

Mario asks Emeril to describe “the New Orleans tradition of hooched-up coffee.” Emeril says it’s from the late 1800’s and that the key is the orange peel, which has been studded with cloves. (Alton called it.) That peel is basted with brandy and orange liqueur while it’s flamed. Then chicoried coffee is poured overtop the alcoholic liquid.

The judges are invited to shake their little white paper bags to distribute the cinnamon sugar more evenly on the beignets and to dunk the beignets, if they wish, in the coffee. Jane says it tastes like fried carrot cake. Alton and Emeril agree that folks at home shouldn’t try this coffee preparation without chicory coffee.

Chicory coffee was very common in South Africa and I never liked it. It tastes like hay has been added to the coffee, but maybe with all that alcohol, it would be palatable.

Oy, five more dishes to come. I haven’t actually tasted a thing and my palate is tired. The second team to go is at a tremendous disadvantage unless the judges can come back the next day and taste.

Bobby And Cris

Bobby says he and Chef Comerford were determined to use as many vegetables as possible and make them the stars of the plate. He says when you pick your own vegetables, you’re much closer to them.

Bobby admits that the reason they almost didn’t finish is because they used SO many different vegetables and different techniques in cooking them.

Fennel and Apple Salad with Oyster

Natalie: “I absolutely love the play of the textures in the salad. The salad is really lovely.“

Fresh Garden Salad with Lobster

The sauce is made from fresh carrot juice, habanero chilies and star anise. It’s served with an agrodolce eggplant and the lobster and squid is dusted with rice flour and deep fried.

Nigella: ”The heat is there from the off, isn’t it?” Bobby acts like he understands what she means and agrees.

Jane: “This is so fresh, you can actually hear the bees buzzing around.” Nigella: “And the crispness is so great.”

Natalie: “This is really, really beautiful. I love the combination of the herbs and the vegetables.” Nigella says she wouldn’t have thought she would liked that much sweetness with the seafood, but she was won over by the heat and the freshness of the vegetables.

Broccoli Clam “Chowder”

They used broccoli as a base to do a spin on a clam chowder.

Natalie: “The color is so beautiful.” Nigella: ”A healthy chowder is a happy chowder.” Jane: ”It wasn’t actually my favorite. The potatoes weren’t cooked enough.” And she thought the green sauce was bland.

An American BBQ

They used seven different vegetables with pressure cooked barbecued pork, including a slaw, collard green tamales and cauliflower gratin. Plus they made watermelon radishes into pickles.

Nigella says cauliflower and cheese is a British dish. Jane loves making her own, but says Bobby’s version is unbelievably good.

Jane says who would ever want to have noodles, when you could have cauliflower? Alton says, “Hold on just a minute,” which is funny because his mac and cheese is number ONE on the Food Network’s Top 10 Dishes of 2009.

Natalie says this might be her favorite dish. I’m not sure if she meant the cauliflower and cheese or the entire dish.

Nigella: ”I have a certain sort of psychic problem with it”…in the same way she does with buffets. There’s too much to choose from and which thing should she try first? She says it didn’t come together for her as one dish.

Mario and Emeril are sooo going to win. Jane thought it was “an amazing celebration of the garden.”

Sweet Potato Tart with White House Honey

Cris says this is the coup de grace of their meal. It’s served with a ginger ice cream, which is milk infused with ginger and pineapple sage. (Mmm, neat.) Plus it has a caramel bourbon sauce and crème fraiche with molasses AND candied cranberries. Jane: ”Delicious combination.” Natalie: ”Really beautiful.”

After the chefs leave, Nigella says a highpoint was the potato covered oyster. Oh, yeah, what ever happened to that? It was in the salad, and the oyster was covered with the potato shreds and deep fried. Too good.

Nigella thought Emeril’s rémoulades had too much vinegar. Jane’s highlight was the raviolo. The low point was the chowder. Natalie’s favorite dish was the raviolo.

Nigella feels “a deep, deep envy for that garden.”

The Chairman comes back on video to thank the chefs. Alton announces the winners: Chef Comerford and Chef Flay. I am really surprised.

These were the scores:


Taste 27

Plating 15

Originality 13


Taste 27

Plating 12

Originality 11

Citymeals on Wheels will get $25,000 on behalf of the winning team.

I think the powers that be just wanted to be invited back to the White House, so that team HAD to win.

We get more one commercial for the White House message of eating fresh and local. It ends. It was kind of anticlimactic. And I really thought Mario and Emeril took it.

What I AM left with is the vision of all those vibrant colors and textures coming together in gorgeous harmony. The purple cauliflower was stunning; the watermelon radishes were show-stopping; and the chefs’ imaginations in dealing with this divine produce was inspiring. I really have to make a soubise again one of these days and I just may add some fennel to it. Brilliant idea.


DebCarol said...

My Aunt used to say ~ a little disagreement adds spice to a friendship . . . A first for us Sue! This challenge just didn't set off any fireworks for me, I really think a lot of it had to do with the 2 hour format and the fact that I just didn't click with the judges, except for Nigella. I actually enjoy Iron Chef when it is a one on one battle (maybe Comerford vs. Lagasse for example), rather than team vs. team. Your recap though was perfect :^)

Sue said...

Your aunt is right. And honestly, if I had been sitting through the whole thing in one go, I probably would have been tearing out my hair too. It DID take me days to get through the entire 2 hours. BUT I loved the actual food and I loved all the different techniques they used. Plus not one of them sous-vided anything!

Emily said...

I finally got to watch this today. I'm not a huge Iron Chef fan, but this seemed like a good episode.

I would have given this to Emeril and Mario. That raviolo looked to die for! And I love the idea of a carrot-cinnamon sugar beignet. No thank you on the chicory coffee, though. I'll take your word for it.

Great recap!!