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January 1

"Our ultimate competition is with ourselves. That is what my uncle told me when I would visit him as a young boy... 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

Host ("The Chairman") Mark Dacascos
Iron Chefs Bobby Flay
Marc Forgione
Jose Garces
Masaharu Morimoto
Michael Symon
Geoffrey Zakarian
Culinary Commentator Alton Brown
Floor Reporter Kevin Brauch
Creator Keiichi Tanaka (based upon "Ryori no Tetsujin/Iron Chef")
EP Eytan Keller
Stephen Kroopnick
Stu Schreiberg
Packager Triage Entertainment & Fuji TV for Food Network
Origins Kitchen Stadium America, Food Network Studios New York
Web foodnetwork.com/ica
Airs 10p ET Sun, Food
@Iron Chef America

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Garces vs. Raij: Battle Tequila & Tortillas
January 15

Today's battle promises to be one with a flavor and twist seen rarely in the hallowed halls of KSA, with the chefs teaming up with top-shef mixologist.

The Guests: Chef Alexandra Raij, owner of el Quinto Pino and Txikito, both in New York City. Having grown up in Argentina, she was exposed to that country's cuisine at an early age. Her philosophy is simple, manipulate food to create more than the sum of its parts. Today will be a like-cuisine affair as she challenges Iron Chef Jose Garces. It'll be Argentina vs. Ecuador in a veritable World Cup of Cooking.

Prepárense para luchar.

Ilse Renee Herrera & Eder Montero, sous-chefs
Dave Conn & Michael Fiorello, sous-chefs
Contemporary Spanish COOKING STYLE Latin American

The Theme Ingredient: bottles of blanco, reposado, anejo, and extra anejo tequila and stacks of freshly made corn, flour, and blue corn tortillas. Also on the altar, bottles of agave nectar and vats of masa harina to make your own.

As an added twist, this will be a dish-and-drink battle, meaning that each dish will be paired with a refreshing cocktail. Each chef will be given a mixologist to add to the team. Tony Abou-Ganim returns to Kitchen Stadium to work with Iron Chef Garces, while Charlotte Voisey will be working stadium right with Chef Raij. Other than that, the rules are more or less the same.

The Rules: Each chef must create a five-course meal, with each course utilizing the theme ingredients, 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 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 Tequila & Tortillas on in Kitchen Stadium. And Raij's side begins by setting blue corn tortillas on fire. A little too much. You know the more color you put on food, the more flavor you bring out of it, but sweetie, that's burned. On the Tetsujin side, we have nopales, the flavor with a bit of green bean overtones. On the drink side of things, Tony says that there's a diversity with tequila, and he's going to show that through prep and variation. Charlotte is going to work on keeping the alcohol content low so as not to ruin the judges' palates.

Both mixers will have heavy menus with light drinks, less on alcohol and more on flavor. It's shaping up to be a classic battle.

"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." The Iron Chef has black beans in a pot with slab bacon & stock and a drink of elderflower liqueur, agave cucumber juice & silver tequila. Raij has a pan of guajillo and onion, while her mixer Charlotte has tequila and white wine.

Time to meet...

Tonight's Judges...
- Food blogger Michael Ruhlman ("Ruhlman's 20: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, A Cook's Manifesto")
- TV host Dina Manzo ("Dina's Party")
- TV host Adam Richman ("Man vs. Food Nation")

And Garces starts the serving with chips & guacamole... and drinks... to the judges box. Certainly a bribe won't hurt.

Ilse is straining a tortilla/sugar/cream mix, added with eggs for an ice cream base, and Eder is slicing Iberico pork. Iron Chef counters with madai, a ceremonial Japanese snapper. And while Eder is crusting his pork with the tortillas, Garces is FIRST to the ICE CREAM MACHINE... eventually.

"Thirty minutes have elapsed." Let's catch up. Garces is adding duck confit to a pan of poblano & onion, and we have a coconut milk/lime juice/agave ICE CREAM! Raij has a food pro with butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla, nopales, and marinating bluefish. Raij is also filling cinnamon molds with that mixture from the food pro. Garces has charred tomato, peppers, spices, anchos, and some Mexican chocolate. That's a mole if ever I saw one.

And now, a break. Kevin and Alton take a moment to show America the proper way to sip a shot of Patron. "The last time you looked at me in the eyes like that... oh never mind." Fifty-seven fanfiction writers just punched the air! "And he beats me again," says Kevin. Make that 58. Meanwhile, Raij looks like she's making a tortilla gnocchi, while Garces is countering with a quesadilla.

"Fifteen minutes to go." Garces is cooking some fresh tortillas while also making a tres leches cake. The first drink is coming from Stadium Left, Tony's apple agave juice. MEANWHILE... Garces has started plating... while stewing braised pig head, frying quesadillas, and finishing black beans. Raij has a mix of tequila and vegetables and scallops. Raij also has an empanada.

Garces has started to plate his cabeza tacos. That's his first dish. Second is the madai ceviche. Raij has her en papillote and her empanada. Also, her pork is frying and her scallops are being turned into ginger ale ceviche. She is also frying bluefish. Raij is making a tortilla frangipane cake. Garces' pigs head meat is going into that black bean mixture. Pork is down on Raij's side as is the ICE CREAM! Garces has a cake of his own and a corn soup. Now to start putting it all together....

"One minute to go." Garces has the duck enchilada, corn soup with lobster, tacos, madai ceviche, and tres leches. Raij has a ceviche, blue fish, gnocchi, prawns en papillote, and the tortilla frangipane. Oh yeah, and the pork number. SHOTS FOR EVERYONE!

"Five seconds... Three... two... one... " That's time. Put it down and walk away, Battle Tortillas & Tequila is DONE!


There is an addendum in the scoring, with drink masters being allotted up to 10 (6 for taste, 2 for presentation, 2 for originality) points in addition to the standard 20. So a perfect 90 is possible.

Raij: "My approach was to create true Mexican flavors and sort of pepper those flavors with either typical Spanish ingredients or techniques.."

- Tapas Trio with Tequila Collins
- Tortilla Gnocchi with Tequila Martini
- Mixiote de Cigala with Pineapple Margarita
- Iberio Pork with Tequila Manhattan
- Tortilla Ice Cream with Tequila Flip

Garces: "Using Mexico for our inspiration for our food and our cocktails."

- Madai Snapper Ceviche with "Circle of Love"
- Sweet Corn Soup with Cucumber Cooler
- Enchilada de Pato with Tequila Apple Cart
- Pig Head Taco with Bamboozle
- Tres Leches Cake with "Tony and Jose"

The ladies went light in both dish and drink, but some were done with the main ingredient - the tortilla - done as an afterthought. But the last two dishes in the meal were no doubt the best of the lot. The home team's drinks and dishes were paired nicely with each other, with light matching deep. Garces was on his game all night, but is that enough to guarantee a win? ¿Cuya cocina reina?

The verdict...

Taste 39 44
Plating 13 20
Originality 14 19

... 83-66 in favor of Iron Chef Jose Garces & Tony Abou-Ganim. They, like Winston Churchill before them, have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of them.

Until next battle, we bid you good eating.

To see this episode in its entirety, go to www.foodnetwork.com/ica.