"Flay vs. Pagano: Battle
Barramundi" - April 30
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
one of the premiere caterers in New York City and the
runner-up of the first US series of "Hell's Kitchen",
the head chef of Fat Ralph's on Sag Harbor, Ralph Pagano.
Looks like Ralphie wants to
go through hell again, as he draws Iron Chef Bobby Flay.
The Crib Sheet:
Brian Ray & Neil Manacle, sous-chefs
Scott Kampf & John O'Connell, sous-chefs
7-4-2, tied last battle
with Susur Lee
The Theme Ingredient:
farmed barramundi fish from Massachusetts.
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: "Live
ingredients always add a little extra texture to the
battle. First you have to catch it, then you have to
kill it, then you have to clean it, then you have to
fillet it. Then you have the raw ingredient. That's
going to take up a lot of time that you're allotted." So
says the Iron Chef.
Meanwhile, the challenger
has forgotten the key step of killing the fish. "I liken
the Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium to full-contact cooking.
This is it, cooking under fire. You know, what can go
wrong will go wrong. To be brought on this stage is very
humbling. To be invited to do so is the pinnacle of my
Okay, back to the IC side.
Catch, check. Kill, check. Clean, check. Fillet, check.
Over on Pagano's side... "What'd I tell ya? WHAT'D I
TELL YA?" He's shouting at a still-very-much-alive-fish.
Meanwhile, aromatic veggies
are being incorporated on both sides. Scott is adding
bones to a fumet, which is a French fish stock. Pagano
adds some lemon grass. Brian is making anchovy and
tarragon butter. Scott is mixing miso and sake. Scott
meanwhile will score the skin of the fish, I'm guessing
to make it crispy.
The IC is frying the outside
of the maters. Neil adds some piquillo peppers. And
Pagano has some mangoes, some potatoes, and some coconut
milk. And some mae ploy. Sounds like a sweet chili
paste. The tomatillos on the IC side are getting a
John, meanwhile, is prepping
a pan with veggies, while Flay is grilling lemons.
Pagano is adding mirin to vanilla. "Time?"
"Fifteen minutes have
elapsed." IC's poached leeks are in the oven. Meanwhile,
the challenger is making sushi rice with enoki and
Food critic/author Ted Allen ("Queer Eye for the
Restaurant critic/author Gael Greene (New York Magazine)
Designer/entrepreneur Marc Ecko (Ecko Unltd)
Back to Battle: Brian
is breaking down two more barramundi, saving the tails.
Marc's votes, by the way, will go to whoever can come up
with fish and chips.
Flay has added fish to his
cioppino sauce, while Pagano has sautéed his shiitake.
And... FIRE! And flying fish. Pagano is zesting oranges,
while Scott is peeling chorizo. Flay is breaking
down another fish, while Neil is making potato peels.
Pagano is breaking down his mae ploy chili sauce. The IC
is seasoning his new fillets, his skin-on fillets with
anchovy butter. It's going into the oven. Pagano's miso-sake
mixture is marinating the barramundi. The fumet,
meanwhile, is boiling away, while Pagano is making thin
slices of barramundi. Brian is making a mango salsa...
"Thirty minutes have
Pagano is making a santuko,
turning garlic into paste. He's also making chorizo and
potatoes in the same pan. And new on the challenger's
side... Lobster tails! On the IC side, Neil is breaking
down more fish, while Flay is scoring a whole fish. It's
a salt-crust grill for him.
Pagano is sauteeing turmeric
barramundi. The leeks are out on the IC side, while John
has pulled out rice paper and glass noodles.
Pagano is straining his mae ploy into a chinois. "Twenty
minutes to go." Clams are out on the IC side. Pagano
added the sauce to the barramundi strips that he was
Semi-educational moment: old
legend. Back in the Dream Time, two lovers ran away from
the village, and as a means of escape, had to become
fish in the water. The dorsal spikes are a
representation of the spears that hit them on their way
into the water. Google "Dream Time" and "aboriginal
legends" for the whole story.
The citrus barramundi and
the miso barramundi are on the challengers side ready
for their final application. Flay is working sourdough
bread and olive oil, while he's working on saffron
sauce. And barramundi are added to the cioppino.
"Fifteen minutes to go."
The dishes are staring to
come together on both sides. Flay has broken out the
spirits for his fish, with 10:30 left, as Pagano breaks
out the banana leaf for his crudo. Also looks like
barramundi spring rolls ready. Tequila, grapefruit, and
quantro are mixed on the IC's side. Pagano is thinking
about plating with less than seven ticks on the clock.
The cioppino is almost done on the IC's side. Pagano
finishes his summer rolls. Both sides have some last
minute cooking to do with five minutes left. Flay has
one, two... dishes. Pagano has three. Flay's en
papillote is coming out. "Three minutes to go."
Pagano is prepping his fumet
for the final application. Flay has four dishes now to
Pagano's three with 1:56 to go. Pagano has three left,
and we have... "One minute to go." We're still waiting
on that fumet. Flay is plating his final seconds to go.
Pagano finally plates his fifth dish in time. Flay has
five, now it's all over but the counting...
"Five seconds... three...
two... one... Time's up."
And Battle Barramundi is
Judgment (Pagano): "Since these are
domesticated fish, but in origin they are from
Australia, we decided to keep the preparation to
Southeast Asian, Thailand giving a little flare to the
dishes." Dishes: Barramundi Miso, Walkabout Barramundi
Soup, Barramundi Summer Roll, Barramundi Crudo, Diablo
Judgment (Flay): "Barramundi is not a fish that
I have had a lot of experience with, so I related it to
dishes I could do with red snapper" Dishes:
Cioppini with Barramundi, Yucatan Marinated Grilled
Barramundi, Potato and Horseradish Crusted Barramundi,
Barramundi Fillet en Papillote, Salt-Crusted Barramundi.
Will Ralph Pagano taste the
bitter pill of defeat for the second time? Whose cuisine
reigns supreme? The verdict is...
... 56-42 in favor of
Iron Chef Bobby Flay. No other way to say it. Ralphie
got smacked. Both chefs wrangled with a fearsome fighter
of a fish, as the Tetsujin notches another one for the
Until next time, we bid you