Garces vs. Raij: Battle Tequila & Tortillas
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.
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
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.
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...
- 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
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
TASTING & JUDGMENT
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.
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
"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?
... 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.
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