"Choy vs. Cora: Battle
Clam" - August 14
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
The Challenger: Sam
Choy. Born and raised on the island of Oahu, Hawaii,
Choy is now the master of nine restaurants in and around
his native island. A master of Hawaiian regional, he
prepares a fusion of Hawaiian, Asian, and European
cooking. He draws the youngest in age and stature, Iron
Chef Cora. And although the Chairman also comes from the
808, don't expect him to play favorites. Prepare for battle...
The Crib Sheet:
Elizabeth Falkner & Lorilynn Bauer, sous-chefs
Aurelio Garcia & Aaron Fukuda, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
Clam. Three varieties (quahogs, littlenecks, and
steamers), all from the eastern US coast.
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
with an full heart and an empty stomach, the words of
the Chairman's dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!"
The Battle: Choy
starts grilling the clams in order to pry them open.
Cora starts to rinse the clams. Sous-chef Aurelio starts
shucking clams, while Cora starts cutting lemons. Choy
starts chopping pineapples and mangoes. Cora loads
aromatics into the wok (alongside a few beers) and adds
potatoes. Choy starts dealing with bacon. The clams are
off the grill and the liquids are being drained.
Semi-educational moment as
Alton displays all three types, the hard shelled quahogs
& littlenecks, and the soft-shelled steamers. IC's sous-chef
is pureeing mint. Choy is frying bacon, adding onion and
celery, while his sous-chef is preparing ramekins for...
a clam dessert.
And Choy is eating on the
job. Good stuff. He believes that food has to be through
the eyes, through the hands, and from the heart. Cora
says that he is a legend in Hawaii, but she'll do her
best as well.
Cora's working some more
seaweed (which is later blanched), while Choy is
sugaring his fruit. The mint puree is being strained,
while the sous-chef is working on a cerviche of sorts.
"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." The IC is adding baby
corn and littlenecks for a clam bake. Choy cuts quahogs,
while Cora is making a mint foam with clams.
Culinary writer Ted Allen ("Queer Eye for the Straight
TV chef/author Martin Yan ("Yan Can Cook")
Culinary consultant Karine Bakhoum
Back to Battle: Choy
fills his ramekins with a clam flan? Could be. Fruit
getting sliced on the Iron Chef's side. Choy is slicing
tomatoes, as Aaron is making simple mint syrup for the
flan. IC is making a mix of seeds and apricots & dates.
An aromatic sauce is in the works on the challenger's
side, while the IC likes skewering things. Aurelio is
making some clam ravioli, while Aaron is pureeing
peppers. Cora is sauteeing clams and veggies and... uh
oh... her ice cream maker is on. "Anybody for clam ice
Meanwhile, Aaron is
preparing potatoes and clams into risotto, and you
remember the ravioli from earlier? Wontons. "Thirty
minutes have elapsed."
IC Cora is grating cheese
onto pureed clams for a take on clams casino. Choy is
doing the same thing, albeit without the cheese. Both
sides with the clams on the half-shell.
Choy is adding eggs and
bread crumbs for a clam cake, while the ice cream
machine is emptied on Cora's side. It's good. "It's a
frozen bloody Mary!" Meanwhile, spinach, cream, and
coconut milk equals a Hawaiian luau sauce. The Iron Chef
is removing clams from her wok.
And Choy is starting his
plating with clams and Hawaiian pepper juice, while Cora
is seasoning her corn with herbs and lemon juice.
Elizabeth is working on an avocado puree for the
tomato-clam juice sorbet. Cora is plating her clambake.
"A little Szechuan butter tossed in." The challenger
chops rice noodles or "yaki soba". Croutons are out on
the IC's side. Very hot. Ouch. And Karine is still
scared of dessert.
Choy is sauteeing clams
with ginger, cilantro, and juice. "Fifteen minutes to
Cora is plating her first
two dishes. Elizabeth working on pineapple, onion, and
ginger, while Cora is shaving black truffles on her
clams casino. Choy works on his cakes, while sweet
potato risotto is almost done. Little time remains. Choy
is spooning luau sauce into a bowl with his wonton. The
clamcake goes into the risotto. With ten minutes left,
he's as cool as a... well, you know. The Iron Chef is
moving frantically, while Choy is plating dish #4. The
clam flan is out of the oven and into the blast chiller.
Cora's making a bloody Mary to go with her sorbet, while
her sous-chefs are steaming clams for... well,
something. "Five minutes to go." Choy is just waiting
for his flan to finish.
The Iron Chef is plating
her sorbet now on top of the avocado mix and topping off
with a skewer. Fritters are also coming out of the IC's
side. Sam Choy is cleaning up while he's waiting for his
flan to be done. He's going very simple in his approach
and at three minutes, he's done.
The Iron Chef is almost
finished plating, as is the challenger, and we're
nothing left to do except ... hold on, some mascarpone
cheese is added at the last second on the Iron Chef's
side as an appetizer, and that's where the mint foam
Overstepping his bound at
Kitchen Stadium, Alton asks for one more dish from the
challenger... and he's just kidding. Unfortunately the
Iron Chef's foam is a bust at 10 seconds. Will it hold
for judging?! "Three! Two! One! Time's up." And now to
Judgment (Cora): "Retro, retro, retro. We're
actually going back in time and bringing back some
Dishes: Clammy Mary, Black Tie Clams Casino, Vongole,
Shaking Like Elvis! Clambake, Trio of Clam Cocktails.
Judgment (Choy): "A little bit of Hawaii. Just
a blend of island favors." Dishes:
Hawaiian Chili Pepper Shooter with Lomi Lomi Tomato,
Fried Clam Wonton with Luau Cream Sauce, Pesto Clams,
Clam Cakes with Sweet Potato Risotto, Clam Flan.
The judges like the clammy
Mary and the clambake on Cora's side, while the
contrasts created by Choy in the shooters, the wonton,
and the clam cakes (with bell pepper in honor of the
original Chairman). This looks like it could go either
way, but for the Iron Chef, a must-win not only for
herself, but for the ICs as a whole, who, counting the
tie, dropped the last two matches. Whose cuisine reigns
supreme? The verdict...
... 51.5-47.5 in favor
of Iron Chef Cat Cora. Choy's simple approach could not
complete with a juggernaut of flavor and texture. The
Iron Chefs have been vindicated for now, but with every
match comes a new challenge for the Chairman's army to
overcome. Until next time... we bid you good eating.