"Bayless vs. Flay:
Battle Buffalo" -
Editor's Note: What follows is a
televised-move-by-televised-move recap. Because a
sixty-minute battle, intro, and judgment has to be
edited into 45 minutes of airtime, not every move will
be shown. Also, this series of recaps is dedicated to
Stephanie Masumura, whose ironchef.com recaps were the
best on the web... until she closed down the site and
was never heard from again. IronSteph, wherever you are,
this one's for you...
The Challenger: Rick
Bayless, a Chicago kid from Oklahoma City (or the other
way round) who brings new respect to Mexican cuisine, as
he has spent a lot of time honing his skills in old
Mexico. He's "completely ready" for this debut match.
The traditionalist challenges Iron Chef Flay, a New York
renegade who does whatever he wants. Gentlemen...
prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
Anthony Fusco and Brian Ray, sous-chefs
Tracey Vowell and Brian Enyart, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
American-breed buffalo, two cuts - ribs and loins
primal - for each chef.
The Rules: Each chef
must create a five-course meal, with each course
utilizing the theme ingredient, within 60 minutes. The
judges will score the dishes on a 20-point scale: 10
points taste, 5 points plating and presentation, 5
points creativity and use of ingredient. The chef who
best articulates the theme ingredient through his dishes
The words of
the Chairman's dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
The Battle: Rick
Bayless starts with something wrapped in newspaper, as
both chefs utilize garlic to some extent. Bayless: "I
feel really lucky going up against Bobby, because we're
going to take the judges down similar paths." Flay:
"Rick is one of the great practitioners of authentic
Mexican food in this country, and I cook contemporary
Southwestern food. It's amazing how two people can cook
with a lot of the same ingredients and they can be alike
and different in such a huge way."
Kevin notes that both chefs
may use the same pantry ingredients. The use of the
buffalo, which is leaner than your usual beef, will
determine this battle. Meanwhile, Bayless has pasilla
and guajillo chiles being de-seeded, while tomatoes are
being roasted in the salamander. He's going to be
concerned with aroma. That can be seen in his prep of
corn with lard.
Meanwhile, Flay will be cooking no less than three
sauces. He is also roasting with a dry rub of brown
sugar, white pepper, oregano, and chile powders. Also
has molasses and honey, but is it for some rib-eyes?
We'll see. Right now, they're working on tartare.
Bayless: "My food is about
a place, a people, a history, and I like to weave that
into every dish that I do. I hope that history will
stand me in good step for this challenge, because I
think people will taste this refinement that only comes
with authentic dishes."
Fire on Flay's side with
his bourbon. Sous chef Anthony has skewers going, as
over on the challenger's side... we still don't have the
contents of that newspaper.
The Judges: Ben
Schmerler: senior editor, the Zagat survey/Zagat Wire.
Julie Chen: news presenter for CBS' "The Early Show";
host of "Big Brother"; recently married
Jeffrey Steingarten: author, "It Must Have Been
Something I Ate"; culinary critic for Vogue magazine;
the resident Asako Kishi
Back to Battle:
"Rick is so calm, I'm hating this!" says Bobby. "I'm in
my zen mode, okay?" retorts Rick. While Flay gets a
mango chutney going, Bayless has a ceviche of sorts with
the buffalo. Over on the Iron Chef's side, we're seeing
peppers stuffed with Monterey jack, goat cheese, and
chopped buffalo meat. Bayless is making some tortillas
with some masa (or something with masa involved).
Meanwhile, the sous-chefs are frying plantain.
Going to the judges' box,
Julie is glad to see some fruit involved on both sides.
Jeffrey thinks that buffalo is a different brand of
critter from your usual beefsteak. Ben is pleased to see
that there is no "timid flavoring" going on.
Bobby's got a stick blender
(and quite a big one) going at the half-way mark with
Anaheims, poblanos, tomatillos, and rellenos. Over on
Bayless' sides, corn masa, peppercorn, meat stock, and
huitlacoche (fungus that grows in the ears of corn,
treated with the reverence of truffles) are being mixed,
while over on Flay's side, we have a problem with the
mango chutney. That's going to have to be tossed, but
can they make another in 30 minutes?
Update on the chutney,
we're going with another one. Over on the challenger's
side, a stuffing of herbs and cheese is going into some
empanadas, while we churn out some sweet potato to be
assembled with the huitlacoche. Flay has a poached egg
coming out of the stove.
Quick chile lesson: poblano
chiles are very perishable, so they are stored as dried
ancho chiles. As for heat, people tend to think that
jalapenos are pretty up there, but they don't
necessarily have the capsaicin to confirm that claim.
Rule of thumb: the smaller the pod, the higher the heat.
Flay is barking
orders as the clock winds down and the plating begins.
We also see the skewers being brushed with hoisin sauce
(Asian influence? Hmmm). Beer-battered chile rellenos
and some corn masa are deep fried. On the challengers,
ribeyes are being grilled and the banana sheets are out.
Flay finished up the paillard with a roasted red pepper
sauce. Ten minutes to go, and the challenger uses the
banana leaf as a kabik.
Flay plates a filet with a
pomegranate and mint-yogurt sauce. Bayless' tartare is
finished with some queso. Two plates now finished. Five
minutes to go and finishing touches are set. Bayless
slows down, while we have yet to see Bobby's fifth dish.
Wait, here are the sauces for the fifth dishes. And the
mango chutney is... good. Simply put, both chefs have
gone down similar paths, so this will be judged on
presentation, both sides of which have been phenomenal.
three... two... one..." And Battle Buffalo is over! Now
Judgment (Bayless): "When I looked at that bison, I
knew that the flavor was going to be pretty intense, so
I thought why don't we pull inspiration from all of
these regional dishes that focus on game." Dishes: carne
tartara marinated in lime juice, empanadas de tasajo,
honey & fava bean crusted buffalo with dollops of goat
cheese, buffalo kabik mixed with sour orange juice,
buffalo in salsa huitlacoche with sweet potato garnish.
Julie likes the balance of
the tomatoes with the succulent meat. Ben likes the
non-greasiness of the fried item. Jeffrey doesn't enjoy
the crusted buffalo as much, simply because he wouldn't
know whether or not it was any good, not having buffalo
before. Ben wanted more aggressiveness with the
seasonings. Jeffrey disagrees, thinking that it was
Judgment (Flay): "I thought that Mr. Bayless was
going to really hone in on Mexican ingredients, so I
wanted to do something different." Dishes: grilled
buffalo cowboy breakfast on a blue corn tostada, buffalo
& goat cheese chile relleno, curry glazed buffalo steak,
deconstructed buffalo salad, Native American buffalo
likes the cowboy breakfast - except for the buffalo.
Julie likes the presentation with the chile relleno,
coupling with the crispiness of the texture. Ben likes
the pomegranate in the presentation of the steak. The
judges think the salad is creative and fun. Julie
finally gets some heat going on in her mouth.
And now, whose cuisine
reigns supreme? The verdict....
... 50-49 in favor of
Iron Chef Bobby Flay. Until next time... I bid you good