IRON CHEF AMERICA:
Battle of the Masters
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Our ultimate competition is with ourselves. That is what my uncle told me when I would visit him as a young boy. Now I prepare myself for my most savory challenge. My uncle, the man the world knows as Kaga the Chairman, has decided that although America is a young country, we now possess the proper palate to host our own Iron Chef competition, an American celebration of the world's high art of cuisine.

Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN


FACT FILE:
Host ("The Chairman"):
Mark Dacascos
Culinary Commentator: Alton Brown
Iron Chefs: Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck
Creator: Keiichi Tanaka (based upon "Ryori no Tetsujin/Iron Chef")
EP: Steve Kroopnick
Packager: Triage Entertainment, Fuji Television Network, Food Network
Aired: April 2004


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Web design by Jason Elliott. Logo by Chico Alexander. 

Puck vs. Morimoto - April 25

If memory serves me right, Chairman Takeshi Kaga has sent two of his Iron Chefs - Hiroyuki Sakai and Masaharu Morimoto - to do battle in Kitchen Stadium America against his nephew's own army of Iron Chefs - Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali, and Bobby Flay. American Iron Chefs Batali and Flay took both Battle Trout and Battle Spiny Lobster. Morimoto was the opponent during Batali's bout, so he has an axe to grind with the Iron Chefs. He'll take it out against Iron Chef Puck in this battle.

The theme ingredient is EGGS, everything from salmon roe to ostrich eggs to your standard chicken variety. Reminder: both chefs have one hour to come up with at least five unique dishes that present eggs. The chef that does so the best as judged by the panel of three wins.

"With an open heart and an empty stomach, I say unto you, America... ALLEZ CUISINE!"

And battle is on. Both chefs grab some eggs, and it looks pretty elementary here. Eggs are the most versatile of food items and there isn't really anything you can't do with them. Morimoto begins cracking chicken eggs into a bowl, which is customarily unusual for him. But then again, both chefs are customarily unusual. Only difference is in the numbers: Puck is a California cuisine master of 41 years while Morimoto is a Japanese master of 20 years (and a 65-8 record, having dropped his last match).

Puck breaks out some flour for a pasta, while Morimoto prepares to break open an ostrich egg with a hacksaw. Very standard considering that ostrich eggs are harder than hardrock. While he does that, Puck's going to prepare his pasta dough. Live vote at foodnetwork.com shows the fans giving Puck the nod, 53-47. Morimoto finally cracked his shell, getting its contents in a bowl. Now, they're shaped like footballs, the ones we have in battle, but amazingly enough, they can get bigger. Taste? Like chicken, Alton tells us.

Puck breaks out leeks, only using the white and tender parts. Morimoto plays human blender with his ostrich eggs, converting them into some glutinous batter, possibly a noodle. Puck's sous-chef Sherry is going for some Meyer lemon juice, a little tarter than most lemons. Puck himself is using fresh cream on his ravioli filling. Next on Morimoto's side, foie gras slices and noodles, sliced off the back of a cooking sheet.

"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." Puck flips crepes and sets them down for porcini filling. Kevin reports that Puck's his usual self after initial jitters. Meanwhile Morimoto's no stranger to egg battles, having fought one against Iron Chef Japanese II Komei Nakamura in 1999.

"Twenty minutes have elapsed." Judge time, as we meet one of the men who got whacked on "The Sopranos", Vincent Pastore, someone who whacks with a hammer on "Trading Spaces", Paige Davis, and someone who uses the word "whack" a lot in his food column in Vogue, food critic Jeffrey Steingarten. Back into battle, with Morimoto blanching his noodles in ice water, while Puck peels potatoes and water chestnuts.

Iron Chef Batali's on the sidelines with Alton. "They're both highly aware of the tension going on around here. No question that these are cooks that actually cook" Mentioning sous-chef Sherry, they think that Puck brought out the big guns in choosing her to assist. Another formidable challenger? We'll see, I guess. Omelet pan and Kobe beef (bred to produce intramuscular fat, literally "like buttah") out on Morimoto's side, Morimoto still a 52-48 dog here. Morimoto thins out his omelet with chopsticks, very typical. Sherry starts on custard on Puck's side, adding Meyer lemon juice and sugar at about 34 minutes left.

Puck starts to roll out his dough, while Morimoto puts a blowtorch to what looks like a flan. They go into a steamer. Morimoto starts on carving bigeye tuna, possibly for a sashimi. A meringue, though, is taking form on Puck's side.

"Thirty minutes have elapsed." Morimoto pumps his team up while Puck throws flour at the camera. "Just like basketball, the last five minutes," as Puck describes his team coming together for the final plating later. Meanwhile, Morimoto plays with a red snapper. He's now a 51-49 favorite. Sherry's happy with her custard as she puts it into the blast freezer.

"Wolfgang just made a bit of a mess," Kevin reports as a couple of pots meet the floor. Meanwhile Morimoto pulls out chu-toro, the fatty part of the tuna, and scallops. Ice cream machine also fired up with ostrich egg and vanilla. Puck stops to make a toast, while Morimoto slices tuna for sushi... or a flower.

"Twenty minutes to go." Sherry's working with simple syrup, making candy threads for later. Maybe a garnish? Nope. Using it to candy potatoes. Meanwhile, concern over Morimoto's fish strategy over his egg strategy. Puck fries up wonton sheets. Okay, NOW comes the candy garnish as Sherry makes up some Gossamer threads out of sugar, water, and corn syrup.

"Fifteen minutes to go." Morimoto's omelettes are turning into a hash. Puck finishes up a truffle sauce, while his sous-chef Lee starts plating. Morimoto starts plating as well. Abalone gets diced, while we get sushi rice with vinegar.

"Ten minutes to go." Seaweed and sharkfin go into a bowl. More Gossamer threads out of the Puck camp. The custard on Morimoto's side coming out with duck breast and foie gras. Meanwhile, Morimoto marries toro with pizza dough. The ostrich ice cream is finally done, while Puck's plating is starting to take form. So the custard that Sherry made is being thinned out with milk and used as a sauce for her meringue.

"Five minutes to go." We have a problem on Morimoto's side, as the sushi rice isn't cooling fast enough. They try to use cold vinegar to do the job that really should've been done five minutes ago. Meanwhile, we have what looks like a mini-creme brulee on Puck's side. Morimoto's got an ostrich-shell bowl for his ice cream. Puck is frying dumplings. Egg drop soup is almost done on both sides.

"One minute to go." Morimoto's happy for some reason. Good for him. He's got poached eggs and sukiyaki to be cooked at the judges' table. Wasabe meeting the grind as we countdown. "Five seconds... three... two... one... Time is now up." Puck tells his team that they've done it. Morimoto screams out "Yosh!", which basically means, "We did it." Final preps go down as we go to judge. Remember, each judge gets 20 points - 10 for taste, 5 for presentation, and 5 for originality.

Morimoto's subtheme was springtime in Japan. He makes it no secret that he was going for the ostrich egg: His dishes: Blue fin tuna pizza with quail egg, duck egg custard, Japanese spring wakatake soup with egg, chirashi sushi over Japanese rice and shredded egg, Kobe beef shabu shabu sukiyaki with poached egg, and ostrich egg ice cream with crispy fried spaetzle.

The judges think the dough's a little tough. He rebounds (sort of) with the custard, failing to win over Vincent ("If I was an easy critic, I wouldn't be here."). He does like the wakatake soup, though. But winning marks with the sukiyaki and the ice cream. And Paige thought it was very fun to watch him hacksaw the egg open. But nonetheless, Puck is now a slight favorite.

Puck's subtheme was just playing with so many types of egg. His dishes: ham & eggs, egg bread, and roasted potato with caviar; quail eggs with scallops and black truffles; potato mille feuille with salmon roe; sweet and soup egg drop soup; leek & quail egg open face ravioli; duck egg crepes; and lemon floating island.

Jeffrrey points out that Puck used the eggs as the main course to Morimoto's accessory. More favorable marks for his next three, while Paige has an Iron Chef female judge moment. The ravioli is Vincent's favorite today. Jeffrey calls the floating island a near-perfect dessert. So it's main dish versus accessory. Morimoto could be in trouble. Let's go to the Chairman.

"In two categories, plating design and originality, the Iron Chefs tied, 13 points each. Today, taste has told the tale. With 21 points... Iron Chef Morimoto. With 26 points, Iron Chef Puck has prevailed." And congratulations all around, as there is no disgrace in defeat. Next time, the tag team finale.

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