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"Flay vs. Burke: Battle Lamb" - January 15

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: At 26 years of age, today's challenger is the first American ever to win France's highest culinary honor. Considered a pioneer, he is known for pushing culinary boundaries. Head of the kitchen at David Burke and Donatella in New York City, master chef David Burke. He draws Mr. New York and the de facto leader of the Iron Chefs, Bobby Flay. Gentlemen... Prepare for battle...

The Crib Sheet:
Brian Ray & Dan Mihalko, sous-chefs
Chris Shea & Jason Tillman, sous-chefs
22 years EXPERIENCE 25 years
Southwestern/American COOKING STYLE New Modern American
6-3-1, tied last battle with the Two Hot Tamales BATTLE RECORD Challenger

The Theme Ingredient: several different sides of lamb.

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: A very common ingredient for these chefs, but not for Americans at large, who consume less than a pound a year. Burke starts by pureeing.. shrimp? He's also getting spiky and rocky. "We don't really play it safe at the restaurant. I'm a little risky. I'm a little highwire."

Flay: "I think Iron Chef was made for David Burke, because he thinks along a line that no one else does. I'm a little intrigued to see what he does." The IC is processing lemon juice and chick peas, while he's smoking chips. The challenger has out tapioca. Both chefs are breaking down their own lamb, while we go back to that rock salt on the challenger's side.

Looks like Fly is preparing a rack of lamb by frenching the ribs. Kumquats, peppercorn, wine vinegar, and star anise are in a pot on the challenger's side. The IC is smoking a loin, while Brian is mixing his chickpea puree into some corn meal, adding cumin to what looks to be a rack of lamb. "TIME!" Forty-eight and change, Iron Chef. The challenger is working on brik dough, it's like phyllo dough. The IC is skewering lamb and lobster. Surf and turf? Of course! Meanwhile, the challenger is also working on a lobster, while the Iron Chef is adding a spice rub to a second rack of lamb to sear.

"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." (C-Note: I've been typing "to go" for a while, and just realized my mistake). Time to meet...

Tonight's Judges:
Musician/poet/actress Jewel
Editor-in-chief of Food & Wine Magazine Dana Cowin
TV anchor Lara Spencer ("The Insider")

Back to Battle: The Iron Chef is making a "chipotle maple syrup" with sweet potatoes for an au gratin. The challenger is adding wine and chicken stock to his lobster mire pois. Meanwhile, Burke has pastrami sheets, a sheet of plastic with all the spices and cures for pastrami. Flay is making a mole.  Jason is using a ricer to make mashed potatoes. Flay is breaking down his leg of lamb, while the blackberries are stewing. Burke is grilling lemons. Same with the Iron Chef.

Jason is now grinding lamb while the Chairman begins to make watch. Burke is flattening a loin of lamb. Possibly a lamb sashimi. Burke is creating another mire pois with celery, carrots, and onions. Flay is working on a sauce with mustard, red wine, vinegar, and olive oil Meanwhile, the challenger is making lamb meatballs. Meanwhile, the pastrami racks are searing. The polenta chickpea mixture is going into the blast chiller... "Thirty minutes have elapsed."

Flay has taken his racks of lamb off of the stove and into the oven to roast. Meanwhile Burke is straining his lobster and raking out his French fry rings. His meatballs are added to a soup terrine. It's starting to look like a minestrone with 23 minutes to go...

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

Toward the back is the leg (sirloin), then the loin for steaks, the ribs for racks, shoulders for long roasts, shanks for osso bucco, and breasts. The tenderness lessens from loin to shoulder, and that's mostly due to the amount of connective tissue involved. The leg is only a little tough. "The wonderful thing about lamb? There isn't ANYTHING that's too tough."

Back to battle, the Iron Chef has quail eggs and a blackberry/onion mixture with horse radish. It looks like the challenger is working on his lobster for a crust. Weird? Maybe. He's taken tapioca and rolled them into balls for steaming. The IC's hickory-smoked steaks are being grilled. The challenger is laying his sashimi out on the giant rock. Brian is straining mole sauce, while the quail eggs are being fried. Back to the minestrone soup, the challenger has encased it in dough and grated Parmesan cheese on top before bringing it to the convection oven.

And Flay is plating loins onto home fries. We've still have 18 minutes to go. The challenger is stewing ground lamb and veggies, while the Iron Chef is carving his rack of lamb. And the challenger is working on langoustine, cooking off in oil & butter. The Iron Chef's sous-chef Dan is working on a hollandaise sauce. The brik wraps are being fried on the challenger's side.

"Fifteen minutes to go." Horseradish/blackberry sauce is off, the polenta is being deep-fried, and the challenger is skewering lemons to plate. Flay's surf and turf is checked. The brik wraps are being skewered on the challenger's side. Burke, adding the lobster, needs "an angry sauce", or arrabiata. Flay is plating his quail egg for "green eggs and lamb". Well, eggs and lamb, at least. Oh wait, there's the green. The challenger has plated his fry rings, as he adds his mashed potatoes. Burke has taken his pounded lamb and added his langoustine. "Three minutes to go." Over on the challenger's side, we see the minestrone is done. The sweet potato au gratin is done on the IC's side, while the pastrami lamb is being plated on the challenger's side.

Same with the Iron Chef, who's also plating pomegranate/yogurt mixture and the grilled lemon halves. All but the grilled lamb and mole sauce are plated. Burke has his five done, with poured consommé into a cognac glass.  The Iron Chef has taken a lamb of leg, skewered it with an asparagus spear, and covered it in mole sauce. Fifth dish is done. Now it's all a matter of the finishing touches.

And here's the angry sauce on the lobster arrangement on the challenger. Take it, timekeeper...

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

Judgment (Flay): "lamb is actually an ingredient that I love to work with. One of the things I decided not to do was to mask the flavor of the lamb too much. I'm just trying to enhance it a little bit." Dishes: Green Eggs and Lamb, Lamb and Lobster Skewers, Lamb with Peanut Mole Sauce, Cumin-Crusted Rack of Lamb, Spice-Rubbed Rack of Lamb with fresh horseradish.

Judgment (Burke): "We did five courses, the first being an appetizer course." Dishes: Lamb Sashimi, Lamb Minestrone, Angry Lamb and Lobster, Minute Steak Lamb, Pastrami-Spiced Rack of Lamb.

Flay: "I love this panel." And the panel loves you today, giving him points for the complexity of the flavors. Jewel loves Greek yogurt with the cumin rack of lamb. Lara thinks differently. She also is petrified by the lamb sashimi. Lara: "The angry lobster steals the show." Jewel on the same dish: "The lamb was almost an afterthought." But again, big marks for the flavors. This may be a close one...

Oh, and Jewel's glad no one did ice cream. Houston, we have a fangirl. Whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict is...

Taste 19 27
Plating 15 12
Originality 14 12

... 51-48 in favor of Iron Chef Bobby Flay. David Burke had the first perfect score in Kitchen Stadium America with his plating design, but the judges overwhelmingly approved of the Iron Chef's flavors over those of the challenger. Taste wins this one in a heart beat. Until next time, I bid you good eating.

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