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"Flay vs. Crawford: Battle Peanut" - February 25

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: Lynn Crawford, the executive chef at the Four Seasons in Toronto. One of her eateries, Truffles, received the AAA 5-Diamond award. She's come south of the border for a food fight with Bobby Flay.

Prepare for battle...

The Crib Sheet:
Vicki Wells & Dan Mihalko, sous-chefs
Robert Bartley & Lora Kirk, sous-chefs
24 years EXPERIENCE 20 years
Southwestern COOKING STYLE Contemporary Canadian
13-5-2, won last battle against Graham Elliott Bowles BATTLE RECORD Challenger

The Theme Ingredient: Runner, Virginia, and Spanish peanuts, raw, shelled, roasted, and blanched, and peanut butter. Hope no one's allergic.

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 their 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 Arachis hypogaea is on!

Thoughts from the challenger: "This is the best shopping in the world!" This being from the Chairman's pantry. The IC opens up with lobsters, ribs, and halibut. Over on Crawford's side, sweetbreads and chocolate left over from last battle.

Both chefs suffer some casualties as Crawford's pot boils over while Flay's peanuts burn. Crawford grings peanuts, dips them into chocolate, and goes into the blast chillers. Looks like Flay is working on a mole of some sort.

"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." First quarter out of the way ... and Crawford's raspberry puree is in the ice cream maker of death! Must be time to meet...

Tonight's Judges:
Culinary author Ted Allen ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy")
Fashion designer/founder of Complex magazine Marc Ecko
Culinary critic Jeffrey Steingarten ("The Man Who Ate Everything")

Flay is deep frying his ribs, while Crawford is smoothing out her peanut butter chocolate in the freezer. Vicki's working on a custard, while Crawford is playing with pai tai sauce. Meanwhile, her sous-chef is smoking peanuts for scallops, while Lora is incinerating cipolinis.

Flay is adding PB to BBQ sauce. Vicki has beer, canola oil, and one whole egg being mixed. Flay has taken out his ribs, getting them ready for braising. Crawford is making some sort of peanut butter cup souffle.

"Thirty minutes have elapsed." Lora has a peanut butter dough working. Flay is working on some breading in the offing... Peanut-coated halibut, greens & peanuts. Crawford has sliced veggies while spreading peanut butter & chocolate on a silicone mat.

Semi-educational Jeopardy!-prep moment: Peanut plants are funny little things with green leaves and yellow flowers. Once the flowers die, the stem, or peg, continues to grow into the soil, where it makes the peanuts. It prefers sandy soil, which is why Georgia produces so many peanuts.

Flay... egg, vanilla bean, and peanut butter mixture... onion bhajas on the challengers' side. Scallops are out as well. And the PB dough turns into pasta. Vicki's making a peanut butter French toast. Flay's working on a peanut butter soup with lobster tails & stock. With 20 minutes, Rob is working veal tenderloins with peanuts, while the pasta is being pressed. Dan purees piquillos for a mustard cream. Peanut butter custards are out. Flay's breading okra for a soup, we're guessing.

Challengers are grilling red curry prawns. Her raspberry sorbet is coming out of the ice cream maker.

Plating is underway on both sides. Crawford is working on a stir-fry, while both sides are plating soups. Flay is plating his halibut. Crawford is making the pasta into a peanut butter pad thai. She plates her sweetbread with the veal tenderloin. "Five minutes to go." The pinot noir is still reducing in the IC's kitchen, while Vicki is making a creme brulee with her peanut butter custard. Crawford's got pad thai, scallops, peanut soup, sorbet, and tenderloins, not to mention the souffle. Flay has a soup, the halibut, the ribs, French toast with the pinot noir reduction, and creme brulee. And the Chairman flips for the dessert...

Countdown!  "Three... two... one...." Done. Put it down, walk away, Battle Peanut is history. Now to judge.

Judgment (Crawford): "Who doesn't love peanuts? We pulled out some favorites, some childhood memories. We just had fun with peanuts, anything we could think about, we went for." Dishes: Inverted Pad Thai with Peanut Noodles, Ants on a Log, Indian Peanut Soup, Peanut Veal Tenderloin with Chocolate Port Sauce, Molten Chocolate Peanut Cake.

Judgment (Flay): "Peanuts is actually an ingredient I really like to cook with, because it's very often able to play off a lot of ingredients, especially chili peppers." Dishes: Peanut Lobster and Grilled Chile Soup, Peanut Crusted Halibut,  BBQ Ribs with Peanut Red Chile Sauce, Peanut French Toast, Chocolate Peanut Creme Brulee and Peanut Beignets.

Crawford's dishes celebrated the peanut flavor. Jeff wants to eat the cake alone. Marc wants to eat the cake... alone. Interplay was key in the Iron Chef's dishes. Ted tells Marc to get a grip on himself after tasting Flay's dishes. "I describe this with a very famous French word... 'Oh-mi-god.'"

But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...

Taste 26 22
Plating 11 13
Originality 14 13

... 51-48 in favor of Iron Chef Bobby Flay. This was a close one. The judges liked the challenger's plating, but taste is where the Blue Tetsujin achieved his margin of victory.  We finish with this quote from HL Mencken: "If one begins eating peanuts, one cannot stop." Will we see Lynn Crawford again in KSA? Only time will tell.

Until next time, we bid you good eating.

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