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"Cora vs. Fraser: Battle Pork" - January 22

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.

The Challenger:  Neal Fraser, who earned his chops working in New York and California, working for chefs like retired Iron Chef Wolfgang Puck. He opened his own restaurant Grace in Los Angeles. The Chairman draws for him the femme fatale of the ICs, Cat Cora... Prepare for battle...

The Crib Sheet:
Adam Timney & Lorilynn Bauer, sous-chefs
Greg Bernhardt & Jason Bowlin, sous-chefs
13 years EXPERIENCE 15 years
Greek/Aegean COOKING STYLE Modern American
2-1, won last battle against Sam Choy BATTLE RECORD Challenger

The Theme Ingredient: Several sides of pork.

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 wins.

And now, with an full heart and an empty stomach, the words of the Chairman's dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"

The Battle: Looks like we have an entire pig available for the picking. The challenger is soaking woodchips for later, while the IC is pressure cooking aromatics with pork shoulder. Cora is slicing cutlets, while the challenger is frying pork belly and making spaetzle.

Fraser: "As a rookie on Iron Chef America, I'm just trying to go in and do what do best, trying not to reinvent the wheel. If you focus flavors and everything's plated well, we should do pretty well." As previously thought, his woodchips are going to smoke something... IC is grilling peppers and marinating pork parts, while Adam is working on a cilantro dipping sauce.

The spaetzle is done on the challenger's side, and after eight minutes of battle... THE ICE CREAM MACHINE IS OUT! The Chairman is looking forward to bacon ice cream.

Fraser is moving pork butt and belly into the smoker, while the IC is boiling riblets and making a "monster mixture" with some peppers. Lorilynn has dried pineapple rind and apples working.

"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." The challenger is rendering fatback from the lardonnes, while he's also making cherry sauce. Taking a second out to meet...

Tonight's Judges:
TV host Harry Smith (CBS' "The Early Show")
Culinary critic/writer Jeffrey Steingarten ("It Must've Been Something I Ate")
Author/wine columnist Jay McInerny

Back to Battle: Ten minutes later, Cora is brushing and grilling pita bread while carving out mangoes. Fraser is working on pancetta with some cabbage. He also has a risotto in the works

Semi-educational moment coming: once again, this one needs a graphic...

Across the back is the loin and the baby back ribs. The side are spare ribs. Back is the ham. Front is the picnic ham. Belly is the... err, belly, and the front of the back is the butt or shoulder. We're not working with ham today, because there is no way that we can cook a ham in 60 minutes.

Back to battle, the challenger has chicken stock and cream for a polenta. The Iron Chef has aromatics in a saute pan and another dipping sauce. Fraser is working on loin at the griddle. Greg is working on chorizo. Adam is working peanuts, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Greg is slicing lomo. Next to the wok, the Iron Chef is working on stir-fry pork. Shallots and black forbidden rice is being cooked on the challenger's side. The Iron Chef has ginger, marmalade, and orange zest working.

"Thirty minutes have elapsed". Now the IC has spanakopita in rice paper while her ice cream mixture is cooking. The challenger is moving his grilled pork into the oven. Cora is now working kebabs for grilling, while Fraser is making a kumquat mixture.

Jeffrey: "Whoever uses bacon in every dish I will vote to win."

Meanwhile, the challenger is whisking goat cheese into his polenta.... and the ice cream is in... Meanwhile, the challenger's cabbage/pork/apple mix is being cooked into some wine... and the ice cream is out. "Twenty minutes to go."

Fraser is sauteeing hominy, while cooking pork chops. His risotto is ready to plate, while Cora is working ouzo into her stir-fry. She adds the pork and olives. Fraser returns with plates.

Ti leaves are being used on Cora's spanakopita. The corn and hominy on the challenger's side is cooking with pancetta. Fraser is working on his seared pork, which is now in the convection oven.

Only 10 minutes left, as Fraser is plating the polenta with corn hominy and pancetta, while the IC is stir-frying pork, while plating her spanakopita. Lorilynn adds a side salad of fennel. She's plating some more like crazy with less than seven on the clock.

Lorilynn is now working on a pork-loin panini, while the challenger is plating a rib chop. Fraser takes out a belly and a butt from his pressure cooker. Fraser moves them to the salamander, while Cora is plating her kebabs. Fraser's looking for ring moulds, while Cora's blueberry panini pork is out, as Cora adds some sprinkled dough. Looks like a bit of a crumble. Fraser's working on his third dish. Back to the IC's kebabs, which are getting some pomegranate molasses for a finisher.

Fraser's pork loin is finally finished, while Cora is finally plating her bacon ice cream. And she's done, breaking out the ouzo, while the challenger is still finishing two more dishes with 1 minute and change to go. Hey, chef, you got time to lean, you got time to clean....That goes for the challenger as well as Fraser is almost done.  Take it...

"Three... two... one..." Put it down.. walk away. Battle Pork is history. And now, judgment day.

Judgment (Cora): "Basically to span the whole Mediterranean, really bring in the excitement of those foods and some of the influences." Dishes: Lettuce Wraps with Wok-Glazed Pork, Glazed Riblets with Fennel and Orange Slaw, Garam Marsala and Chili Barbecue Pork Skewers, Ouzo-Flamed Pork Shoulder and Spanakopita, Panini-Pressed Pork with Bacon Ice Cream.

Judgment (Fraser): "I just wanted to stick to dishes that I could put out in an hour." Dishes: Sautéed Fillet of Pork with Risotto in Wine Sauce, Braised Pork Belly with Forbidden Rice, Grilled Pork Chop with Corn & Hominy Polenta, Roasted Loin of Pork with Chorizo-Lomo Home Fries, Pork Tenderloin with Spaetzle and Bacon Cabbage.

Jay thinks that Cora's pork wraps is a good starter and the smokiness of the riblets. Jeffrrey thinks that the skewer is "ridiculous" and the pork is overdone. The ouzo-flamed pork and dessert win the judges, though. "This should be declared illegal in most countries," Harry says. Now to the challenger, as Jeffrey says that the pork is tough, but makes it up with the braised belly with its crispy skin. "Skin to win." The pork chop gets "high marks for simplicity". Jay's happy to get a bacon fix. Harry loves spaetzle and the cabbage.

Whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict is...

Taste 27 19
Plating 10 12
Originality 10 10

... 51-48 in favor of Challenger Neal Fraser. The Iron Chef had some wonderful plates, but in the end, it was the taste of Fraser's wares that had the judges eating like pigs...

That'll do it for this series of ICA. Thanks for reading. Until next season, we bid you good eating.

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