"English vs. Batali: Battle
Pizza Dough" - July 10
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
Chef, writer, and restauranteur Todd English, who began
his cooking career at age 15 and rose to the ranks of
head chef and owner of no less than 17 restaurants, his
most notable being, of course, where he hangs his hat,
Olives New York. He was also one of the superchefs cast
on UPN's horrific adaptation of the "Iron Chef" series
(again, out of continuity) and, to wit, is the only chef
on People's 50 Most Beautiful People of 2001. The
Chairman sets him against Iron Chef Batali, a wily,
creative, adventurous sort, who is just getting off of
his second loss in Kitchen Stadium America. Gentlemen...
prepare for battle
The Crib Sheet:
Mark Ladner & Anne Burrell, sous-chefs
Michael Crain & Victor LaPlaca, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
Pizza dough. Straight-forward, but not.
The Rules: Still the
same. 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
with an full heart and an empty stomach, the words of
the Chairman's dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
The Battle: First
words out of Batali's mouth: "Nice!" And hey, is that a
royal box? Nice! This is the first time in Iron Chef
history that a procedure (or in and of itself, a recipe)
is the theme ingredient. Batali begins by punching the
dough. Because you have to let the air out first. Sous-chef
Anne looks like she's making a straight-forward pizza.
Will English do the same? We'll see. Sous-chef Mark is
opening a can of whup-ass...err, anchovies.
Over on the challenger's
side, English rolling out dough like pasta, while sous-chef
Michael is working vanilla beans and Victor is salting
water for lobster. Batali is working onions and celery,
while English is flattening his dough some more. His
thoughts? "It's an amazing challenge, because there's so
much to think about and there's a lot to do, and you're
preparing everything from scratch. There's no
On the challenger's side,
we have lobsters, half and half, morelles, garlic, and
Batali is eating saffron, jar and all... No, he's just
out of hands. Victor also has lamb sausages, while
Batali is working aromatics. Mark is working on seppia,
while Mike purees vanilla and walnuts. We're thinking
ice cream. Ice Cream Pizza?
Anne is pan-frying pizza
dough... but it was too thick. Batali seems fine with
that. Ground veal, ricotta, bread crumbs, and eggs are
mixed. Meatballs? Ingredients are coming together early
on both sides. And ramps on the Batali side? "I love
ramps." On the challenger's side, half and half, mint,
and frozen peas in the saucier with sautéed shallots.
Mike is quartering figs.
"Fifteen minutes have
elapsed." You know what that means. Time to meet...
Restauranteur Donatella Arpaia
Culinary critic/writer and America's answer to Kishi-san
(the Simon Cowell of the original Iron Chef)
Jeffrey Steingarten ("It Must've Been Something I Ate")
Writer Ed Levine ("Pizza: A Slice of Heaven")
Back to Battle: On
the counter, pork butt. Before the break, Mark flipped a
pan over downside up on the stove. He's using the back
of that pan to cook a cuttlefish. Basically making
himself a panini grill. On the challenger, the pork butt
is going to the pan. Corn is also being prepared.
Both sides are working on
lamb chops now. Challenger has ice cream machine
activated, while figs come out of the oven. English's
lamb is coated with zatar, while Batali's side is just
searing lamb chops. Batali was working the ramps for his
spring vegetable soup and gnocchi fritto.
The original dough that
Anne was working on is out, cubed, and processed into...
well, bread crumbs. Challengers have soft-shell crab
out... and alive. More dough going into the pasta
machine as we hear Ms. Disembodied Voice say.... "Thirty
minutes have elapsed." And brown sugar dough" is ready.
Sounds like breadsticks. Yummy. The Chairman looks
pleased. Oh, and so does that Chairman in the expensive
Batali is working now on
squid ink and lemon juice. Mark rolled dough for
mini-pizzas, while the peas & mint on English's side are
pureed. What that means right now... absolutely nothing.
It's ice cream time. The consistency, though, Alton
says... is disturbing. Me, I just think it's way too
soft to be of any use as an ice cream. Better hope that
KSA has a blast chiller somewhere...
Now for your
semi-educational moment. Take a piece of good bubble
gum. Chew it up real nice, and blow. Stop it up once you
get a good size. That is what a good pizza dough should
be like. A good pizza dough should be plastic and
elastic. Also, a good block of caked yeast insures
maximum growth for minimum time. Not too often you see a
living organism in brick form, isn't it? "One cousin
away from this, and you're making beer." And if Alton
looks scared, it's because there're only... "Twenty
minutes to go."
Anne is slicing asparagus,
Mark is deep-frying meatballs, and Batali is spreading
the onion/anchovies onto the dough. They're baking a
tart. Over on English's side... Balloons. Mozzarella
balloons. Meanwhile, Anne is making testaroli, which is
pizza dough flattened, fried, sliced, boiled, and served
as pasta. This is for the veal. English is working
flattened dough with the mint purees and more morelles.
Anne is zesting lemons, while Mark is still doing
something with cuttlefish. The lobster is going onto
English's mint puree, while figs is working with
gorgonzola. To go with the brown sugar dough? Yes! Mark
is wrapping lamb in ramp in dough to fry. Batali is
making his pasta, while Anne is arranging chives.
Quote of the night goes to
Ed: "How could you not fall in love with lambchops fried
with dough around it?" Donatella agrees. Batali is
plating his spring vegetable soup with the cuttlefish on
top. And now he's plaing the testaroli. And meatballs.
"Five minutes to go."
And the challenger's crabs
are going to the friolator. Will they go with the mozzie
balloons? And elsewhere, lamb sausage ravioli. His pizza
dough mint boats are still baking at three and counting.
At Batali's counter... three platings. And he's lost his
pesto. Wait, there it is. He's plating dish #4. English
is hurrying his boats onto plates, as well as the
balloons. "One minute to go." Batali is plating his
final dish, while English is almost finished as well.
"Thirty seconds to go." Last-minute saucing and
garnishing, and we're at the final countdown!
"Five seconds. Three...
Two... One... Time's up." Flare from the Iron Chef and
Battle Pizza Dough is history.
Judgment (English): "I wanted to show a global
interpretation of what you could do with pizza." Dishes:
Mozzarella "Balloon" Tomato Salad, Lobster Falukka Tart,
Soft-shelled Crab Pizza Taco; Lamb, Artichoke Salad, and
Chickpeas on Flat Bread; Walnut Ice Cream with Fried
Jeffrey would pay for the salad, a compliment. Donatella
calls the balloon the surprise. Ed likes the lobster
with the mint, but it's tough. Jeffrey calls the second
dish "shoe leather". Ed's not so sure with the
gorgonzola two ways. Donatella agrees, but likes the
Judgment (Batali): "My approach was to use (the
pizza dough) as many ways as possible, as far from the
most obvious." Dishes:
Gnocco Fritto, Spring Garlic Soup with Cuttlefish and
Squid Ink, Testaroli with Veal Polpettine and Goat
Cheese, Pissaladiere with Anchovy-scallion Salad,
Stuffed Baby Lamb Chop
Ed likens the gnocco fritto
to a wonton, calling it great. Jeffrey would pay for it.
That's two tonight. Jeffrey likens the soup to gazpacho,
trying, but not being able to say something bad about
it. Donatella on the testaroli: "Boy this has a kick to
it." She thinks the pissaladiere is delicious. Jeffrey
agrees, but thinks that it's greasy. Ed: "Why can't the
lamb be less done?" He's just not that into it.
Ed's just hard to
please, isn't he? Well, he, and Jeffrey, and Donatella,
have a tasty decision to make. Whose cuisine reigns
supreme this day? The verdict...
... 47-45 in favor of
Iron Chef Mario Batali. Batali's originality countered
English's plating, but the overall edge in tasting went
to the Iron Chefs' column. The honor of the Gourmet
Academy is upheld once again, as the four Iron Chefs and
their trusty Chairman await their next challenge. Until
then, on behalf of everyone here at Kitchen Stadium, I
bid you good eating.