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"Morimoto vs. Hopkins: Battle Sablefish" - April 8

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: Linton Hopkins, once an anthropology major at Emory and headed to a career in medicine, now heads the kitchen at Eugene in Atlanta, producing local Southern cuisine. He earned his ticket to KSA through a sanctioned event in the ATL. And today, he goes against the OG of the ICs, the White Tetsujin, Masaharu Morimoto.

Prepare for battle...

The Crib Sheet:
MORIMOTO
Ariki Omae & Makoto Okuwa, sous-chefs
VS HOPKINS
David Bies & Bruce Wieszala, sous-chefs
24 years EXPERIENCE 15 years
Neo-Japanese COOKING STYLE Modern American
71-12-1, lost last battle against Homaro Cantu BATTLE RECORD Challenger

The Theme Ingredient: whole sablefish

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 that best articulates the theme ingredient through his dishes wins.

The Kia battle clock is set at 60 minutes, which will start when the Chairman, with full heart and empty stomach, utters the words of his dear uncle.... "Allez cuisine!" And Battle Goat is on!

About the ingredient: Sablefish is usually sold to restaurants as black cod. This particular fish is heads-off already. They call it sablefish because of its small scales giving it a furry texture.

Makoto is using Parmesan cheese for something, while Hopkins is using Kasu. Morimoto has brought his bonito shaver. For what, we don't know. Both sides are breaking down aromatics. Hopkins is also cutting up a beautiful piece of Finchville ham, a country ham from Kentucky. Both sides also have sushi rice. Morimoto is smoking Michocan charcoal. He likes the flavor. Hopkins on the other hand is smoking applewood.

Bruce renders fat, while Morimoto shave skipjack tuna. Challenger, on the other hand, has prepackaged bonito. Hopkins is using one of his trademarks, dried corn, while Morimoto takes an early check. Everything looks good.

"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." Morimoto breaks out the flame thrower to caramelize the surface of his fish before he boils it. Hopkins moves his kasu to a hotel pan, while his parsley is pureeing. Morimoto has buckwheat out, and while he figures out what to do with it, we go to the judges' box.

Tonight's Judges:
Tony-award winning actress Cady Huffman ("The Nanny Diaries")
Associate professor at Yale Michael Auslin
Culinary journalist/food advisor for the Japanese government Akiko Katayama

Morimoto is working on an aromatic mixture with sablefish whose skin was left on. He also uses his blowtorch to caramelize some firm tofu while Hopkins's sous-chef pounds fish for carpaccio. Makoto is curing his fish while Morimoto employs the use of one whole bottle of sake.

Hopkins is deep-frying cipolini onions while Hopkins is making a sachet out of cheesecloth. I think some cream, onions, dried ham, and fingerling potatoes are going into that. The Iron Chef strains some konbu broth while working with Parmesan rind. David is working wiht duck fat for his potato mixture. Challenger is working on bruscetta, while Morimoto is making a pastry of some sort. Ham and fish are getting wrapped with the challenger (and maybe a confit as well), while Morimoto is working on fish bones, filets with sake/soy sayce, and a smoke pit.

Hopkins also has some molasses as well. Why? Dunno. Morimoto is working with parmesan rind broth, perhaps reducing it. Morimoto is cooking his tofu and burdock root. And he's also flaming applewood as well. That goes with the other smokings... and that's all in ice, so his sablefish cure is going to be cold-smoked.

Challenger has a mushroom and fish confit, while the Iron Chef is sauteeing sushi rice for risotto. And look... fried fish... cut bread. Morimoto is making a fish fillet sandwich. With 15 to go, Hopkins has pan-friend his ham-wrapped item, and some more fried pieces marinated in the kasu. Challenger also has sesame seeds in his sushi rice. And what is he going to pair the creme-fraiche with?

Hopkins is making a fish confit and a beurre blanc sauce. Morimoto is working a sandwich and a cheesy fish soup. Omae is working on a salad, while Makoto is toasting some break.

Hopkins has started to plate with a chowder. Makoto is working on a risotto while it's being blanched. Hopkins is making sushi-rice quenelles. Looks like the IC side is pan-frying vegetables while Morimoto is plating his teriyaki sablefish.

"Five minutes to go." Hopkins has rendered ham fat gastrique with creamed corn and fried fish. Morimoto has his grilled chile fish down and his soup. Hopkins is plating mushrooms, taking his time, not being too fussy. We have a fennel salas. Morimoto's risotto... is good. It's rice & buckwheat risotto. Hopkins is working a gremolata. His sous-chef is still reducing that sauce. Morimoto has shaved white truffle on the risotto, while his sandwich is down. All of his plates are done, the grilled, the simmered, the souped, the risotto, and the sandwich. Hopkins...  confit, carpaccio, chowder, marinated, and wrapped. He's got five. Now it's all to making it pretty-like with seconds to go...

Now to the count.  "Three... two... one...." Done. Put it down, walk away, Battle Sablefish is history. Let's judge...

Judgment (Hopkins): "I love sablefish and how versatile they are, so we so we wanted to show multiple preparation, from raw to smoked to confit, different styles." Dishes: Sablefish Carpaccio, Smoked Sablefish Chowder, Kasu-Marinated Sablefish, Ham-Wrapped Sablefish, Sablefish Confit.

Judgment (Morimoto): "I cook with sablefish very often. Today I had the challenge of coming up with new things." Dishes: Parmigiano Sablefish Soup, Fillet of Fish Sandwich, Risotto with Sablefish Confit, Spicy Grilled Sablefish, Sablefish Simmered in Sweet Soy Sauce.

Cady likes the way the flavors mingle in the challenger's dishes. Akiko notes that some of his dishes are a bit oily (if you're playing the ICA drinking game at home, take two drinks). The Iron Chef's dishes are definitely unique in some way.  Andrew thinks his dishes are very complex, while Cady likes the lightness of it.

But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...

  IRON CHEF CHALLENGER
Taste 24 21
Plating 10 9
Originality 11 10

... 45-40 in favor of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Plating and originality were a dead heat, but it was taste where the Tetsujin made his mark of victory. As for Linton Hopkins? We may see him yet again...

Until next time, we bid you good eating...

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