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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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Morimoto vs. Nicotra: Battle Kampachi
January 20

The Challenger: Fortunato Nicotra grew up in Turin, Italy, and naturally grew fond of Italian cuisine. He moved to New York, where he heads the kitchen as executive chef of Felidia, a three-star eatery and a nominee for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant in the US. Today, he challenges the white Tetsujin, Masaharu Morimoto.

Gentlemen, prepare for battle...

The Crib Sheet:
Ariki Omae & Makoto Okuwa, sous-chefs
Rodrigo Dumancela & Lara Brumgnach, sous-chefs
Neo-Japanese COOKING STYLE Seasonal Italian

The theme ingredient: Kampachi yellowtail, raised in a ranch off of the coast of Kona.

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 his 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 Kampachi is on! Kampachi is a favorite of sushi fans the world over, as demonstrated by Morimoto's plowing through his fish. It looks like Makoto's starting on a batter of sorts while Nicotra already has his plates down.

Morimoto may use the bones of the rib for a broth. We shall soon see. Makoto is going to broil those in olive oil. Lara is prepping to roast the tails.

Meanwhile, it's calm in the Stadium. Lara's working cheese, while Morimoto is carving out the skins. Rodrigo is still deboning fish, while the IC side is making a homemade five-spice and wasabi, honest-to-god wasabi, down on the floor.

Nicotra may have a sashimi in the works, and as Makoto finishes his quick roast, we go to the pot for a broth, while Morimoto goes to the pantry for some lemons. Rodrigo is grating tomatoes... "Fifteen minutes have elapsed." The challengers have brought some herbs, adding that, the fish, and some butter to the food processor.

The Iron chef is blending avocado, red onion, and cilantro while breaking down his kampachi. Plus he's dunked a whole fish into lemon and vinegar to blanch it for another application. Nicotra has matched his fish with tomato and has diced potatoes on the stove. His puree of kampachi and mascarpone is done and waiting for the next step.

Tonight's Judges:
Culinary author Ted Allen ("Top Chef")
TV host Kelly Choi ("Eat Out New York")
Culinary Institute of America professor John Nihof

Ever see someone open a bottle of sake with their teeth? Looks cool. "Thirty minutes have elapsed." Morimoto has dunked his kampachi in lemon juice, candied it with syrup, rubbed it with five-spice, and hung it on a rack. Meanwhile, Makoto is mixing guacamole. Nicotra is making a kampachi sandwich, slicing potatoes, and plating a tomato vinaigrette.

Morimoto's kampachi broth is chilling in an ice bath while simmering kampachi and ginger in sake. Nicotra is grilling his fish while wrapping tomato and mozzarella in plastic and steaming. Plating continues with raw kampachi and sturgeon caviar with some burrata.

"Fifteen minutes to go."

Morimoto is deep-frying his kampachi tempura. His spice-covered whole fish is hanging in the convection oven. The fish broth is being made into consomme. Nicotra has put his potato kampachi rolls under the salamander, and plating continues with his kampachi & avocado sandwich down and roasted tail on Himalayan rock salt.

Morimoto is braising his fish in miso and sake, while he is toasting sesame seeds. Nicotra is wrapping some speck and grilling it. The raw kampachi he made earlier is on a spoon with tomato and lime juice. And we have bacon in the oven.

And while Makoto is straining his guacamole, Morimoto is plating his tempura in a glass block next to wasabi-infused ketchup. Makoto is finishing up a kampachi tartare with mori, sour cream, wasabi, and the guacamole. And the rice crackers, not sesame seeds.

Nicotra is mixing up various ingredients for... something. We have martini glasses out. Hmm... The creamy concoction is down on a plate with razor-clam shells. The potato rolls are down with speck rolls. We also have the grilled number, razor-clam chowder, martini, kampachi tail, a trio, and a dual number.

Morimoto just plated the miso/sake fish, consomme, tempura with cocktail sauce, the hanging spice fish, steamed rice with raw fish, sashimi, and tartare.

And now it's all over but the shaving of the white truffle on both sides.

"Five seconds... three... two... one..." Put it down, walk away. Battle Kampachi is over, and what a quiet battle it was.

Judgment (Morimoto): "The kampachi was very fresh today, so I wanted to enhance the natural flavor as much as I could. So I created a six course meal that starts with an amuse and goes all the way through to the entree."

- Kampachi Tempura
- Kampachi Tartare
- Kampachi Sashimi
- Five Spice Rubbed Whole Kampachi with Kampachi consomme
- Miso Braised Kampachi & Daikon
- Kampachi and Rice Bowl

The flavor combinations are classic and traditional, yet bold. Kelly, though, thought it was more subtle. And in a first, an Iron Chef feeds the Chairman. Ted likes the presentation more than anything.

Judgment (Nicotra): "I tried to use the technique we use in Italian cuisine. I tried to keep it as simple as possible."

- Kampachi Crudo Tasting
- Kampachi Tagliata
- Kampachi & Two Potato Cannelloni
- Kampachi Tail
- Steamed Kampachi with Razor Clam Chowder

The professor is a fan of the texture and the challenge of the palate. Kelly says that Nicotra was true to the ingredient.

But whose cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...

Taste 30 25
Plating 15 11
Originality 14 14

... one point shy of the sweep, 59-50 in favor of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Their approaches to the ingredient at hand were different, but in the end, the overall theme favored the Tetsujin, who gets to add another notch to his belt.

Until next time, we bid you good eating.