"Bernstein vs. Flay: Battle
Sweet Onion" - September 11
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
Former dancer Michelle Bernstein, who grew up in Miami
immersed in the kitchen and all things Latin, including
her mother. A student of culinary skills in Washington,
DC and New York, she currently mans the kitchen at MB in
Cancun, Mexico, where she combines Latin flare with
Asian and Caribbean twists. She will face the de facto
leader of the Iron Chefs, Bobby Flay. Pretty much an
"estrogen vs. testosterone" match. Prepare for battle...
The Crib Sheet:
Brian Ray & Dan Mihalko, sous-chefs
Hedy Goldsmith & Lindsay Autry, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
Sweet onions, four varieties (Texas sweet, globe,
cipolin, red pearl)
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: The Iron
Chef, ever the gentleman, loads his challenger's tray,
while Alton explains that Texas sweets, which you may
see at Chili's deep fried, are larger, softer, and with
a greater moisture content. Winter onions like the
globes, are just the opposite: dry and thick skinned.
Both chefs are slicing and dicing away at the sweet
onions, while Hedy goes to work on pineapples, Dan
starts chicken breasts, and Kevin mispronounces
"paprika" in Flay's BBQ sauce.
Flay's view: "Usually an
onion takes a supporting role to a dish, but to make it
a focal point, you really have to think about how you're
going to do that."
Bernstein: "My biggest fear
is not being able to finish five dishes in the time
given. I want to be proud of my dishes." Cipolinis are
going into hot water on her side, while Brian is
hollowing out Texas sweets. Bernstein is working red
wine and aromatic. Flay is working on crabs and
croutons, not necessarily together. But how about French
onion soup? Bernstein is sweating onions and bacons,
while Lindsay pulls out puff pastry; looks like a
dumpling. Flay is making onion medallions, while we have
crabmeat mixed with panko.
The BBQ sauce from earlier
is brushed on the hollowed-out Texas sweets. Flay is
working on a similar mix of aromatics and onions with
water. Bernstein is cooking heavy cream, onions and
thyme. Over on the IC's side, crab meat and panko are
being put on salmon. Bernstein also has fish, tuna to be
exact. "Fifteen minutes have elapsed."
Actress Julie White ("War of the Worlds")
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")
Culinary critic/writer James Oliver Cury (Time Out New
Back to Battle: I
believe there is an onion tart in our future, while the
sous-chefs are slicing more Texas sweets. Brian is
stuffing more sweets with a corn meal puree. Also we
have sliced onions for a ... blooming onion? Maybe...
Bernstein has sweet bread out (they're really the thymus
glands of veal). Hedy is working with sugar, lemon, and
vanilla beans, while Flay is working on rice flour with
Lindsay is shucking
Kumamoto oysters, while sweetbread is soaking in
buttermilk. Cilantro and garlic are mixed on the Iron
Chef's side. He's got two stuffed onion dishes. The
cream mix on Hedy's counter is going into the tart.
We're adding crab meat to that as well. Beef consomme
proves that we're going for a French Onion Soup on the
"Thirty minutes have
elapsed," and phyllo dough is out on the challenger
side. Flay is toasting croutons, while Dan is seasoning
shrimp and boiling them with lemons. And pineapple
slices? No idea.
Looks like we're having a
horseradish sauce on the IC side, while the challenger
is working on oyster liqueur and creme fraiche. Brian is
slicing blue cheese for another dish. Flay is also
piping ricotta cheese into squash blossoms. Bernstein is
coating the sweetbread in fennel flour. Flay is dredging
the blooming onion in rice flour. And it's in the
The challenger's onion
tarts are in the oven while the phyllo dough is sliced.
The cipolins are out of the oven, and it looks like the
Iron Chef is a little frazzled as his sous-chefs are
making a chile puree. The shrimp is ready on the IC
side, while Bernstein is ready with the fennel
sweetbread. the phyllo dough slices are out of the oven,
while Flay is back with the quail eggs... and so does
the challenger! What are the chances?
The red pears are cooked
with the quail egg yolks, while his corn meal onions are
also out of the oven. Meanwhile, Bernstein is working
conch clams into a slice. Onion tarts and the fennel
sweetbread are out. Looks like we're having a Napoleon
for dessert for the challenger. And we have piping the
vanilla mix with goat cheese. Flay is just being a bit
too delicate. Meanwhile, Bernstein is frying up her
quail eggs. She's starting to plate her conch mixture
into a seafood onion stew, while Hedy is piping her
Napoleons. Flay is plating his first dish, tapas.
We have some picking going
on the challenger's side. Also, the Napoleons are nearly
done. Bernstein is plating the sweetbread, while Flay is
plating the corn meal onions. Both are working quickly.
The BBQ onions are being stuffed with the marinated
tomatoes. A Cobb salad, maybe?
The challenger is finished
plating. All that's left is the final touches. "One
minute to go." Flay is in whirlwind mode. The salmon's
done. The blooming onion's done. Bernstein's just
watching and waiting. "Ten seconds to go." Flay is on a
high scramble. Will he make it in time? "Five seconds...
three... two... one... Time's up." And he's... done?!
Impossible. Time to judge.
Judgment (Flay): "I thought that sweet onion
was actually quite difficult. To bring it to the center
is just a bit more challenging."
Dishes: Three Onion Tapas, Roasted Onion Tamale, Sweet
Onion Salmon, BBQ Onion Cobb Salad with Chicken Breast,
Judgment (Bernstein): "I like to attack
everying with a very simple approach. I don't want to
throw too many ingredients into one plate. I like to
define the palate with whatever it is I want the onion
to be the center of." Dishes:
Oyster and Onion, Tuna with Pickled Onions, Onion Tart,
Sweetbread with Bacony Onion, Pineapple Onion Napoleon
Julie plays the role of
"confused bimbo" this week. Flay's flavors are coming
together nicely with the exception of his quail egg. The
final blossom dish goes over well. Over with the
challenger, we have a contrast of flavors that has Julie
gushing. Can we discount her vote? No? Okay. Jeffrey's
portions are too tough. It's called chewing, man. Look
So which one of these
chefs will be crying to the tune of a win? Whose cuisine
reigns supreme? The verdict...
... 47-41 in favor of
Challenger Michelle Bernstein. Plating was a dead heat,
but otherwise, Bernstein swept the panel in taste and
creativity, which creates a problem for the Iron Chefs,
who are now 1-2-1 in the last four matches! Come on,
Tetsujin? What's up with you? Well, if form matches,
Morimoto should be called next, and he gets a little bit
feisty after a loss or a tie, so until next time... we
bid you good eating.