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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... 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: Mario Batali, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Michael Symon
Culinary Commentator: Alton Brown
Kitchen Reporter: Kevin Brauch
Creator: Keiichi Tanaka (based upon "Ryori no Tetsujin/Iron Chef")
EP: Eytan Keller, Stephen Kroopnick, Stu Schreiberg
Origin: Kitchen Stadium America, Food Network Studios, New York City
Packager: Triage Entertainment and Fuji TV for Food Network
Airs: Sundays at 10p ET on Food Network


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Symon vs. Rubino: Battle Rabbit
January 1

The Challenger: Guy Rubino, who started his training in upscale restaurants in LA, New York, and San Francisco before returning to his hometown in Ontario, Canada, where he and his brother have opened two restaurants, the newest one being the Asian-themed "Rain." Today, he wants to rain pain upon the black Tetsujin, Michael Symon.

The Crib Sheet:
Derek Clayton & Jonathan Sawyer, sous-chefs
Greg Argent & Robert Gonsalves, sous-chefs
Southwestern COOKING STYLE Asian

The Theme Ingredient: rabbit fryers/roasters and Scottish hare.

And Battle Leporidae is on! Five minutes in and Symon is breaking out the Scottish hare and truffle. The challenger is working chili pepper, shallots, lemon grass, and shrimp paste. It's very much Asian vs. Mediterranean. He's also working dark Korean miso into a saddle. "I typically focus on Asian cuisine, but I don't like to fuse it. If a dish is Japanese, it's all Japanese."

Fifteen minutes into battle, and Rubino is working guinea hens with daikon and apricots, while Symon is working on rack of rabbit and ground rabbit with fatback. "I think with each battle, you get more confident, more comfortable. We just want to keep the momentum and rolling." His pressure cooker is full of rabbit, fennel, carrot, and red wine. Also in the works: mustard vinaigrette. Challenger has rabbit loin and pineapple on the heat.

Tonight's judges:
Executive chef at Butter in NYC, Alexandra Guarnaschelli
Food reporter Steve Dolinsky (ABC7 Chicago)
Editor-in-chief of Food & Wine Dana Cowin

Symon is packing a sous-vide in the VacuPack. The apricots are getting rolled into the challenger's rabbit.

Halfway into the battle, Robert is making a Korean kimchi roll, while Rubino has Thai rabbit, miso marinate, and a spicy chocolate sauce. The Iron Chef has rack ribs, livers sauteeing, and the mustard vinaigrette rabbit is floating in the immersion circulator. His ground rabbit meatballs have hit the fryer. He's frying aromatics in the convection oven while sauteing arugula. Rubino is pureeing rabbit livers, prepping a mango-papaya mixture, and finishing a mint chutney.

"Fifteen minutes to go." The Iron Chef has yet to begin plating his meatballs, risotto, or rabbit livers. The Challenger... also waiting for final applications for rabbit sous-vide and steamed bok choy. But the plating is beginning with braised rabbit, rabbit rack, and risotto on the IC side.

Symon is finishing his risotto with truffle and green olive oil. Rubino is plating rabbit and mushroom with fruity foam. Symon is using every bit of the critter. With six minutes remaining, Symon is saucing his sous-vide rabbit. Rubino's done with his rabbit-puree with bok choy. His sous-vide is done. He's finishing his guinea-hen rabbit dish. Symon has rabbit meatballs, sous-vide, risotto, rack of rabbit with a drummette, and a braised leg. And a screwdriver for Alton. Rubino has rabbit loin with cannolli, kimchee roll, Peking-style, Thai-style, and Korean-style.

"One minute to go." We're all but finished here, and Rubino loves to garnish. He does it to the last second.

"Five seconds... Three... two... one." Put it down, walk away. Battle Rabbit is history.

Judgment (Rubino): "We are going to surf in and out through Asian. You'll see some Korean, some Thai, some Indian as well."

- Hatcho Miso Rabbit
- Korean-Stile Rabbit with Kimchee Roll
- Peking-style Rabbit
- Thai-style Rabbit Curry with Shrimp Salad
- Garam Marsala Crusted Rabbit Loin with Rabbit Mousse Cigar

It's an interesting choice to go smoky to begin. Dana likes the presentation, and Alex likes the way that all the ingredients tie together.

Judgment (Symon): "To use the entire animal. We were very conscious to use different parts of the animal in each dish."

- Carrotini (or "Wascally Wabbit", carrot juice, fresh ginger, and vodka)
- Rabbit Meatballs
- Sous-Vide Rabbit Loin
- Rabbit Dirty Risotto
- Grilled Hare Rack and Fried Rabbit Drummette
- Seared Rabbit Thigh

Opening gambits are delicate, bold, and seductive. As for the rest, there's nothing to hide it behind, and there are some who think that's a good thing.

But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...

Taste 28 20
Plating 13 15
Originality 11 11

... 52-46 in favor of Iron Chef Michael Symon. Chefs tied in originality, Rubino had the edge in his arrangement, but it was the flavor of the Tetsujin's dishes that gives him his second notch in the win column.

Two in a row for the new Iron Chef. Can he make it a hat trick? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, a new battle awaits around the bend. Until then, I bid you good eating.