"Armstrong vs. Flay:
Battle Squash" - February 27
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
Govind Armstrong, a former apprentice to retired Iron
Chef Wolfgang Puck who brings his world view and warmth
to Californian Mediterranean cuisine. Today, fighting
for his deposed master, he challenges the de facto
leader of the ICs, Bobby Flay. Gentlemen...
prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
Wayne Harley Brachman & Brian Ray, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
pumpkins, Hubbards, ton gua gourds, butternuts and
other variations of winter squash.
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: Flay
gets his sous-chefs to work on pumpkins while Armstrong
plays pitch-and-toss with his team. Armstrong is dicing
his squash, as Kevin notes that he started working with
Puck at age 13. He's known for going for straightforward
flavors ("As long as we can stay organized and focused
and not feel any pressure, we'll do fine."), while Flay
has techniques in mixing and contrasting flavors ("This
is going to be a tough battle."). And contrary to what I
said in the last recap, Flay ALSO uses the left kitchen.
Bobby is splitting and seeding the butternut squash,
which comes from the Algonquin word for eating something
green. Flay now roasts the butternuts for its sweetness.
Meanwhile, sous-chef Wayne,
a pastry chef in his own rite, is getting out cinnamon,
while opposing sous-chef Christian is boiling squash.
Flay has OJ along with a chicken broth/chile/star anise
concoction, while Brian has some fruit meal thing here.
Govind is slicing tuna. Flay counters with squab, very
young pigeon. Wayne has problem with slow burners, while
Govind is slicing sausages. Lobsters come out of the pan
on Flay's side as he arrests the cooking with ice water.
As he slices blanched scallions, it seems that he isn't
on his A-game. Could hurt him. Meanwhile Goving is
expertly cutting into some foie gras.
Flay almost gets injured
again (we all remember the Webster Hall battle on the
original series with him being electrocuted).
The Judges: John
McDonald (NYC entrepreneur; owner, Lever House
Restaurant and City Magazine): "I'm curious to see how
they incorporate the sweetness and textures."
Cady Huffman (Tony-winning actress for "The Producers"):
"I'm a big fan of men in the kitchen."
Jeffrey Steingarten (author, "It Must Have Been
Something I Ate"; culinary critic for Vogue magazine;
the resident Asako Kishi): "I wonder what Govind is
going to do with his foie gras."
Back to Battle:
Armstrong is working on a squash panna cotta, while his
sous-chefs are working with duck breasts and chorizo.
The Iron Chef is mixing chicken stock with onions,
broth, and pumpkin puree. The corn meal is going into a
tamale, while Flay is scooping up the roasted butternut
for a dessert, maybe? It's sweet enough.
Govind deglazes his dish
with a little wine while working on a roux. Flay is
working on a risotto, as his sous-chef is going for
honey into his butternut. Butternuts are usually used
for pumpkin because they're easy to get year round.
Lobster stock is added to risotto, while Wayne gets the
ice cream machine ready.
Govind is using
huckleberries for a relish. Maybe a dessert or a
compliment to a meat. Flay takes his squabs out of the
oven while Govind is prepping his pumpkin/chorizo for
the oven. He's making some sauces with sugar and apple
cider vinegar. The ramekins are being docked with docked
puff pastry rounds. Also some spaetzles going over on
Wayne is scoring a giant
pumpkin, while Flay is putting the squab back into the
oven. Pumpkin seed oil is out on Armstrong's side.
Papaya is being sliced for a salad. Wayne meanwhile is
making a meringue for his ice cream. And Flay begins to
plate with a brioche and foie gras. Speaking of which,
Armstrong is countering with foie gras and a pancake.
"Fifteen minutes to go."
Flay is cutting the squab
with cranberry relish in a dig on the Thanksgiving
dinner. Armstrong has started to plate with cabbage and
duck. He's integrated squash into a duck dish. Now we
have seared tuna and the apple vinegar. On top of the
foie gras brioche, allspice butter. In a saucier:
balsamic vinegar with figs, maybe for a syrup. We also
have roasted pumpkins for pumpkin soup bowls. "Ten
minutes to go..." ... and Armstrong needs more pumpkin.
And the burners on Flay's side aren't any faster!
... but everything's okay.
Govind's going with spaghetti squash, and we have the
smaller pancakes as the side. Or maybe the other way
round. The tamale is out on Flay's side with under seven
Flay is pleased with his
vinaigrette puree, but what's it for? The tuen is going
into Govind's salad, and shiitake is going to saute.
Truffles going into Flay's risotto, and that's done. The
panna cotta is coming out... and down. They plated
perfectly. "Five minutes to go." "Too much time."
Armstrong is plating his final dish, while caramel is
smashed with Flay. And soup's on. And so is ice cream.
We're almost done on both sides. Topping the soup with
Flay's trademark, blue corn tortilla. We have two
minutes left... and Govind Armstong is done! Flay is
still plating with 30 seconds left. We have four dishes
on the side, and fifteen seconds to go... There's the
three... two... one... Time's up" And Battle Squash
is history! Now
Judgment (Armstrong): "When I saw the squash, I
knew that we were going to stick to the game plan. What
we do in the restaurants." Dishes:
spaghetti squash salad with seared ahi and vinaigrette,
pumpkin griddle cake with seared foie gras, pumpkin pot
pie, Hubbard squash spaetzle with seared duck, butternut
squash panna cotta.
Cady is not crazy about the
mushrooms, Jeffrey doesn't like the squash, and John
likes both. John likes the cake, but doesn't get the
pumpkin in it. They all like the pot pie and the panna
Judgment (Flay): "I like to do things that
people recognize, and then twist it up. My opinion, when
life gives you pumpkins, you make pumpkin soup." Dishes:
roasted sugar pumpkin soup, roasted butternut squash
risotto with lobster and white truffles, pumpkin French
toast with foie gras, acorn squash tamale and squab with
cranberry relish, giant pumpkin sundae fantasy
Cady likes the soup, but
thinks that it's a little bit rich. She also isn't a big
risotto fan, but likes it. Jeffrey thought it was a bit
overpowering. Good notes all around on the breakfast,
the tamale, and the ice cream. Of course, it helps that
Bobby's first job was at the Baskin-Robbins. The
chairman praises the Iron Chef while Cady and Jeffrey
play Paula and Simon. It looked like it could've gone to
Govind, but now, it's even pegging...
And now, whose cuisine
reigns supreme? The verdict....
... 48-36 in favor of
Iron Chef Bobby Flay. No contest as Flay is now 5-2.
Will Armstrong return to even the score? Only time will
tell. Until next time... I bid you good