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"Flay vs. Two Hot Tamales: Battle Turkey" - November 13

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: Mary Sue Milliken & Susan Feniger, collectively known as the Two Hot Tamales. Friends since 1978, they parlayed a stint in Paris and knowledge of Modern Mexican into an empire that includes four restaurants, five cookbooks, and a show on this very network. They draw their Food Network brethren, Bobby Flay in a west-coast east-coast battle. Prepare for battle...

The Crib Sheet:
Brian Ray & Dan Mihalko, sous-chefs
Kajsa Dilger, sous-chef
22 years EXPERIENCE 24 years
Southwestern/American COOKING STYLE Modern Mexican
6-3, lost last battle to Michelle Bernstein BATTLE RECORD Challenger

The Theme Ingredient: heritage turkey, just in time for Thanksgiving.

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: The bird that Ben Franklin wanted to represent our country takes center stage today. With only an hour to cook a turkey, chances are we won't see a full bird, but that doesn't mean it can't happen. After all, Morimoto steamed an entire turkey in a vessie in the Christmas battle of 1998. 

Meanwhile, Kajsa is grinding for sausage. Meanwhile, Dan is working on lobster with cranberries and OJ. OVer on the challenger's side, we have rutabagas, fennel seeds, and kale. Also: turkey eggs boiling. Some subtle differences. The IC fries up breasts. Challengers are making turkey mousse, while the IC is smoking cedar chips. The Tamales have rigatoni, while Flay is getting his foundation up to speed with more turkey breast and spice rub. It goes right onto his weapon of choice, the grill. Milliken is mixing brown sugar and butter. The mousse is being piped into...something. We're guessing it's the rigatoni.

Meanwhile, Kevin's thinking, "Thanksgiving in November... weird."

"Fifteen minutes to go." Time to meet...

Tonight's Judges:
Culinary journalist Katy McLaughlin (The Wall Street Journal)
Author/culinary critic Jeffrey Steingarten ("It Must Have Been Something I Ate")
MSNBC Journalist Natalie Morales ("The Today Show")

Back to Battle: We've got cranberries and blueberries on the Iron Chef's side, while the Challengers have yams. Bobby Flay demonstrates some more athleticism with a throw of some chipotle to Brian. The Tamales are working on some more fennel seed. Meanwhile Flay is working on a gravy. We think some of his presentations are going to be based on Thanksgiving. Over on the challengers' side, Milliken is flattening her breasts, while over on the IC's side, Dan is deconstructing some lobster and mushrooms... not together, of course. Meanwhile, the challengers' sugar/butter mixture is actually a cookie mix that can be formed before it sets.

The lobsters are going to be used as stuffing, while mango and guava are stewed. The mushrooms are ... well, we don't know what yet. The turkey eggs on the challengers' side are out, ready to be breaded. The IC have some chorizo and ancho chiles. We think he's doing a map of the US.

And ladies and gentlemen... the ice cream machine is on! It's on the challengers' side. "Thirty minutes have elapsed." Halftime, and the spiced turkey breasts are out on the IC side, and the cookies are out on the challengers' side. Flay's calling for habaneros, balancing sweet with heat. Milliken is making "bowls" for her turkey ice cream. The IC is ladling broth into his roasted turkey. Feniger is sautéing rutabagas, while Dan is working on a mire pois for tamales.

And turkey ice cream is out!

Flay is working on four aromatic gravies. Which will go with which? And heh, I was right. Milliken is stuffing rigatoni is turkey. Meanwhile, Kevin tries the ice cream... "Interesting." And Flay has begun to plate rice while he does have some sort of "across America with turkey" thing going on. Milliken is chopping turkey hearts, while Feniger is starting to pick up the pace with 20 minutes to go. Iron Chef has guava puree with the cranberries done. The challengers' rigatoni is being braised in cream. "Fifteen minutes to go." Man.. Thanksgiving is hard.

The Iron Chef is dicing plantains, while the challengers have started (and finished) plating one dish. The plantain chips are being fried while the IC plates his first dish, while the challengers are plating their second dish. Six minutes to plate, Mr. Flay. And that he does. The Southwest dish is done, while the challengers' Scotch egg is done. The mango-glazed turkey is done on the IC side, while the Tamales are plating their final dish, the turkey sorbet. There are five minutes left. Better to wait. They may be a bit premature in their plating. We'll see how it flies on the judges' side.

Milliken has gone ahead and plated her sorbet, while the IC is plating on time as he matches turkey dishes with their appropriate cranberry sauces.

Turkey trivia: did you know that turkey is the first meal to be consumed by man on the moon?

"One minute to go." If it's going to happen, then it's got to happen soon. The turkeys on the planks are out. That's going to be Flay's final dish. Now it's all about the fine touches. "Five seconds... Three... Two... One..." Put it down, walk away, Battle Turkey is history. Now to judge... The Tamales call it "a blast." The Iron Chef welcomes the challenge from these "wonderful ladies."

Judgment (Tamales): "We wanted to make sure we used everything. We incorporated the whole turkey." Dishes: Turkey Albondigas Soup, Turkey Scotch Egg, Turkey Stuffed Rigatoni, Escalope of Turkey, Wild Turkey Sorbet.

Judgment (Flay): "This could actually be my favorite ingredient, because Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. We're taking you on a trip to different parts of the country, Thanksgiving style." Dishes: Red Chile Spiced Turkey, Grilled Turkey Breast, Deep-Fried Turkey, Cedar-Roasted Turkey, Mango-Glazed Turkey

Jeffery didn't really think much of the challenger today, but he liked the rigatoni as the "poor man's foie gras".  As for the sorbet... "You get very high points for originality." As for the Iron Chef... Jeffrey really lets Flay have it this time, while Natalie starts to finally get it toward the end. But one question remains... Whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...
Taste 23 23
Plating 9 9
Originality 10 10

... Needless to say here, but I'll let the Chairman do his job. "It's a tie! Congratulations to both sides!" Final score: 42-42. This is one of those rare times when the scores speak for themselves.  Until next time, I bid you good eating.

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