"Murphy vs. Batali: Battle
Crawfish" - October 16
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
Tamara Murphy, a New York native who moved to Seattle to
head the kitchen at Campagne. Today, she is the maestro
of Brasa in Seattle, where her Mediterranean Rim cuisine
continues to draw crowds. Today, she draws just the
opposite: a Seattle native who moved to New York... Iron
Chef Mario Batali. Prepare for battle...
The Crib Sheet:
Mark Ladner & Anne
Mary Lokar & Jake Crenshaw, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient:
live red swamp crawfish.
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: Batali
dumps a huge huddle of crawfish into various pans to
start, while Murphy grabs a plastic container to fill
her stash. Mary gives the challenger duck confit.
How will that go into crawfish? Anyone's guess at this
point. Both chefs with respect for the theme and for
Murphy: "My biggest fear
going into this competition is Mario Batali. I think he
does amazing food." Batali: "Tamara Murphy was the chef
in Seattle in a restaurant called Campagne, and I had
some of my best meals on the whole west coast there. So
she is certainly a force to be reckoned with."
The IC has polenta and
aromatics. The challenger has roasting peppers. The Iron
Sous-Chefs are slicing melon and halving crawfish. The
real flavor of a crawfish is in the head, especially
around the hepatopancreas. Meanwhile, the challengers
are breaking down chorizo and adding that to mascarpone.
Batali is making seasoned salt in his processor with
bird chiles. And sugar, right. Murphy, meanwhile, is
mashing crawfish and aromatics into... well, something.
Now for your
semi-educational moment. Red swamp crawfish are the most
common crawfish in the United States. They are in
essence small lobsters. If you decide to go crawdad
pickin', then you should remember to always pick them up
right behind their legs and to keep them moist,
preferably in a chamber with wet paper towels lining
them. Most crawfish can live out of water for up to
seven months, but need water in their gill chambers to
Oh, and never ever put them
in fresh water, lest you want to kill them.
We've got ramps and
crawfish blanching. The ramps are being rooted, while
the challenger is stuffing manicotti with that
mascarpone/crawfish mixture on the challenger's side...
and the mezzaluna is out. "Fifteen minutes have
elapsed." Sounds like a good time to meet...
Actress Cady Huffman ("The Producers")
Restaurateur of Fresco by Scotto in NYC, Anthony Scotto
Senior editor, Bon Appetit Magazine Tanya Steel
Back to Battle: The
IC is looking to make up some sauce with tomato and
sambal. Murphy is mixing for a sauce of his own, while
Anne, wearing a Live Strong bracelet, is slicing
porcinis. The challenger is making a crawfish béchamel
with the appropriate roux. While the manicottis are
being slowcooked, we have currants and raisins. And
Over on the IC side, Mark's
mezzaluna crawfish is being flambéed with sake. On the
challenger's side, duck confit and the crawfish are
getting hammered while the béchamel is topping the
manicotti as it heads into the convection oven. Jake now
adds carified butter to chimichurri sauce. Meanwhile,
Mark is pureeing a mixture for a filling. Murphy adds
goat cheest to crawfish, while Jake skewers crawfish for
Batali purees pine nuts
into a ramp mixture of his own, but not before asking
that all-important question... "Any nut allergies?"
None? Good. Don't want anyone dying around here. "Thirty
minutes have elapsed."
At the half, Batali is
marinating onions in vinegar and crawfish tails are
sauteeing. The challenger has her skewers in the
chimichurri sauce while her crawfish stock is finishing.
Mary is working with phyllo dough. Mark is pounding
crawfish through a pasta strainer. Challenger has
coconut red curry paste, while Anne has cucumber noodles
for the melon carpaccio. The challenger is stuffing
piquillo peppers with goat cheese. Mary is working on a
pastry with duck confit and crawfish. Batali adds fennel
seeds to his crawfish tail mix.
Murphy has Japanese
eggplant. Why? No clue. Mark has razor clams, and
meanwhile, the challenger's b'steeyas are burnt. Time to
salvage and move on. A second go in the mix. "Twenty
minutes to go." Batali has pearl barley into some oil.
Jake has green plantains in the deep fryer, while Batali
is making sweet sausage potstickers. Murphy is making a
crawfish cappuccino from her stock. Of course. She's
from Seattle. "Fifteen minutes to go."
Batali has plated his melon
carpaccio with chili salt and chili sugar (also from
Batali's recent sojourn to Vietnam), meanwhile Murphy's
doing.... a whole lotta frying. Murphy's using tagines
for presentation (those are Moroccan cooking vessels).
Mary is piping a crawfish mousse. The raisin & currant
mixture gets cous-cous, and the whole thing is going
into tagines with crawfish in them. Batali is plating
porcini and ramps, while Mark is frying razorclams.
Jake is taking the skewers
out of his crawfish, while Mark is splitting peas into
his barley. The manicottis are out on the challenger's
side, and we are at the three-minute warning. The
manicotti, chimichurri crawfish, the red curry, and
b'steeyas (which had to be redone) are done. The IC has
the melon carpaccio, porcini mushroom with crawfish,
barley risotto, potstickers, and polenta are done, but
we're at 30 seconds... If it doesn't happen soon, it
won't happen. The razor clams are added to reduced stock
and the potstickers. Looks like an appetizer. Morelles
and crawfish are down in the polenta and the Iron Chef
is done at 10 seconds... "Five seconds... Three...
Two... One..." Put it down, walk away, Battle Crawfish
is done. Murphy didn't know what to expect here. Batali
notices some interesting things to do with crawfish, as
he challenged himself to go out of his bounds. You don't
use it that much in Italian cuisine.
Now to judge...
Judgment (Murphy): "The crayfish is somewhat of
a humble animal, and what I tried to do is bring
together the Mediterranean flavors and make crawfish the
Dishes: Crawfish Trio (crawfish cappuccino, crawfish
mousseline, stuffed piquillo pepper), Crawfish
Manicotti, Chimichurri Whole Crawfish, Crawfish Moroccan
Curry, Crawfish B'steeya
Judgment (Batali): "These magnificent aquatious bugs
are actually very sweet. We tried to dance with the
sweetness, around the sweetness, and against the
Vietnamese-style Crawfish Salad, Crawfish Polenta,
Crawfish Barlotto, Crawfish a la Plancha with Porcini
Mushroom, Crawfish Potsticker
Batali's Crawfish a la
Plancha was voted the weakest dish by Tanya, but will
that factor into the judgment? Who'll get pinched by the
verdict? defeat? Whose cuisine reigns supreme?
... 50-48 in favor of
Iron Chef Mario Batali. Creativity was a dead heat, but
the taste of the Iron Chef's dishes were enough to beat
the perfect score on the challenger's plating. We leave
Alton now with his new best friend Crusty, certainly
given a pardon by the Chairman. Until next time, I bid
you good eating.