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Four chefs will create a three course dinner... with one chef eliminated after each course.

Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN

Host Ted Allen
Creators Linda Lea
Michael Krupat
Dave Noll
EP Linda Lea
Dave Noll
Packager Notional Productions for Food Network
Origins Food Network Studios, New York City
Web foodnetwork.com/chopped
Airs 10p Tues, Food

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Can't Catch Me, I'm the Gingerbread Lobster!

It's the holidays in the Chopped kitchen. The stockings are hung by the Chopping Block with care, in hopes that one chef will find ten large there.
Jonny Giordani
New York City
executive chef, Boom
Renita Mendonca
Cambridge, MA
culinary instructor
Rachel Klein
executive chef, Seaport Hotel
Bun Lai
New Haven, CT
chef owner, Miya's

Tonight on the panel of three wise men... (well, two wise men and one wise woman).

- New York bistro proprietor Marc Murphy
- Esteemed executive chef Alex Guarnaschelli
- Latin authority Aaron Sanchez

And included in the creativity leitmotif of the contest, your dishes must center around a holiday theme.

Round 1: APPETIZER (20 minutes). The first gift box of the night has... lobster, harissa, candy cane beets, and one complete gingerbread house.

... and you have a 20-minute gift card, redeemable... NOW!

Jonny: Lobster Catalana
Renita: Sautéed Lobster with Indian Spices
Rachel: Sautéed Lobster with Sweet & Sour Beets
Bun: Lobster Sushi Two Ways

Twenty minutes is hard to deal with both a lobster AND a gingerbread house, not to mention the harissa paste.

At the end of the cooking, we have a bit of discovery. Here's a hint. That ain't harissa on the palm of Bun's hand.

Jonny's lobster tail is kept whole, which is perfect for the panel. The tomatoes aren't going over with the judges. Texturally, they don't contrast. The gingerbread could've been used a little more creatively. Renita's dish was genius with gingerbread butter and other deep flavors. But the dish could've used more salt and more of a holiday theme. Rachel's lobster is undercooked to the point where Alex would send it back. But the beets are the star of the dish. The gingerbread is kind of gummy in the salad. And Bun created a maki roll and sashimi with beet salad. Unfortunately, due to Bun's injury, the panel can't in good conscience eat it.

... and that comes back to haunt. BUN is the first chef chopped.

Round 2: ENTREE (30 minutes). One down, two to go. Next on the merry menu... Rack of lamb, ruby port, Brussels sprouts, and white chocolate chips.

Half an hour to make magic happen.

Jonny: Scottadito Italiana
Renita: Oven-Roasted Lamb Chops
Rachel: Pan Roasted Rack of Lamb

Cooking a rack of lamb whole may not achieve the desired result. It needs time to rest, to get all those juices macerating.

Renita brought bacon into the dish. Brussels sprouts and bacon work well together. Port, white chocolate, buttermilk, and drippings from the lamb do not. Rachel's lamb is a beautiful medium to medium rare. The parsley bolsters the freshness of the sprouts, but the sauce is too sweet. Lamb is perfect for Jonny. The sauce works. The sprouts boiled with the wine are accentuated, but where does the crostini fit?

We have three chefs and only two spots on Santa's nice list for the dessert round. The next chef... to be chopped... is... RENITA. She developed amazing flavors, but the buttermilk sauce didn't come together and the lamb was overcooked.

Round 3: DESSERT (30 minutes). Twas the round before Christmas, and all through the kitchen, two chefs stand firm, and two also-rans missin'. Jonny and Rachel have one more gift under their tree (or in Rachel's case, under her menorah), and inside of it... Plums, candy canes, fruitcake, and hot cocoa mix.

We're half-an-hour away from a big money monent. GOOD LUCK!

Jonny: Candy Cane Gelato
Rachel: Fruitcake Pound Cake

Alex's strategy... Make a vanilla ice cream, and make a sundae. Rachel is giving us flour and fruit... on top of a fruitcake. That cake... won't cook in time. Time for Plan B.

Rachel: Griddled Fruitcake with Plum Compote & Cream

Rachel's dessert has a lot of textures, but it's missing a candy cane component outside of a garnish. The cream has a lot of the cocoa inside, but we'll see if it's worth $10,000. Jonny's gelato is one of the best made in the series. The mousse is a smart way of making the cocoa work. The fruitcake was too much, and it needed an alcohol undertone.

We had a lot of fun flavors and a lot of tradition tonight. It seems like Jonny's dessert evoked the holiday theme the best, but there was no textural variance. Jonny's appetizer and entree hearkened back to his roots, but his appetizer didn't do justice to the other ingredients in that basket. Rachel gave us the best cooked entree, but could the other courses come back to bite her?

The final chef... to be chopped... is... RACHEL. Just a collection of little errors.

So the dessert round decides it again, as JONNY GIORDANI will be walking in a winter wonderland with the sound of $10,000 jingling in his pockets.

So who's next to bring it home? Find out next week when four more chefs compete in three more rounds. One of them will get paid. The others will get... chopped.

To see extras from this episode, or to apply to be a contestant on "Chopped", visit the official website at www.foodnetwork.com/chopped