Morimoto vs. Marino: Battle Fig
The Challenger: Chef Dena Marino,
born and raised in a huge Italian family in New Jersey. She was brought
up on a steady diet of pizza, pasta, and sausage. Leaving New Jersey for
the Culinary Institute of America, she currently heads the kitchen at
Ellina in Aspen, Colorado, where she interprets modern and classic
Italian cuisine. Today, she'll draw knives with the dean of the Iron
Chefs, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
Prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
Ariki Omae & JoJo Vasquez, sous-chefs
Miguel Diaz & Marcus Wade, sous-chefs
The Theme Ingredient: Several
varieties of fresh and dried fig, including black mission, brown turkey,
calimyrna, and sierra.
The Rules: Each team of chefs 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 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 Ficus carica is on in Kitchen
Stadium! In addition to the figs, Morimoto has fig leaves, while Marino
is breaking down some black mission figs. No protein out yet on either
side, as JoJo is working some Hong Kong flour... and Morimoto has some
wagyu beef tenderloin with the beautiful marbling. Marcus is working on
a fig mixture... it could be savory or sweet at this point. Meanwhile
Miguel is breaking down some chanterelles. Morimoto also has some eel
filleting. That's going in a skillet. Meanwhile Marino is putting that
fig mixture she's been working on in the blast chiller.
"Fifteen minutes to go." And the figs
have been flying. Over the first break, Marino combined tomatoes and
peaches in a bowl, mangoes are broken down, and the chianti vinegar/fig
mixture has been boiling. Morimoto is countering with another dough,
shiitake mushroom, and Michiba's dashi Broth of Vigor is on the heat.
- Restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton (Bon Appetit magazine)
- Food critic Danyelle Freeman
- Food author Jeffrey Steingarten ("The Man Who Ate Everything")
Back to the action, Marino has broken out
the trout and some pork tenderloin... and some quail. Morimoto's
shiitake mixture is being made into French duxelles, while Morimoto is
stewing his eel in port wine, tamari, and some black mission fig. Marino
is making some quattro formaggio... and will stuff some pork. Quails are
going to be stuffed as well with that cheese and that fig.
So far, Marino has stuffed pork
tenderloins, fig marmalade has been spread on trout, and fig & quattro
formaggio is stuffed in quail. Morimoto has simmering eel, pressed fig
in the blast chiller, and Hong Kong dough is getting ready for a steamed
bun. "Thirty minutes have elapsed." The Iron Chef has roasted figs,
strained dashi, and chilling shiitake with figs. Challenger has potato
mash, polenta, and stuffed proteins. Looks like Marino is making some
gnocchi, while Morimoto is frying some nama-fu, which is essentially
wheat gluten with rice. And Marcus is slicing ahi tuna for a crudo.
Meanwhile, Morimoto is chopping wagyu beef for a tartare. Maybe with
Omae's fig mix. On the other end, JoJo is making what looks to be a beef
Wellington with fig and the wagyu beef. And Marino's chilled fig mix is
going to be a panna cotta.
And Morimoto has started plating his
tartare, nama-fu, and chili fig for an antipasto plate. Eel is
simmering, and Beef Wellington is in the oven. Marino is countering by
matching some starches with some proteins, gnocchi and polenta with pork
and quail. "Fifteen minutes to go." Morimoto has mixed red miso, sake,
and egg for later, carrots soaking in water, and Japanese pancake
batter. Marino has her panna cotta out with mascarpone cheese, polenta
out on a plate, and the trout with fig marmalade is in the oven. AND
she's frying medallions of fig.
Remember the fig leaves from earlier?
Morimoto is going to steam those with the steamed bun. Marcus meanwhile
is laying some quail on some vegetables. Morimoto has made a doriyaki
with fig. A nice Japanese dessert.
"Five minutes to go." Challenger has her
ahi crudo, four cheese quail, pork tenderloin with polenta, asparagus
with the fig trout, and the panna cotta with honey mascarpone. Iron Chef
is calling for the Wellington... and pork. Both are not really up to par
THIS late. Morimoto is also making a fig martini. There ya go. The
Wellington is out... and it's not done. How's he going to recover from
this is anyone's guess. Morimoto will have the Wellington with the eel,
the antipasto, the roasted fig with tartare, steamed bun, roasted fig
with prosciutto... and finally, the dessert plate. Looks like both sides
are close to finishing... and Morimoto's dessert with espresso is DONE.
"Five seconds... three... two... one..."
... and so's this battle! Let's go to the table.
Judgment (Marino): "Our inspiration was to
use the figs as natural, fresh as they come, and use the sweetness throughout
- Fig & Ahi Crudo
- Fig & Pancetta Stuffed Quail Over Gnocchi
- Red Trout with Fig Marmelatta
- Fig Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
- Fig Panna Cotta
Judgment (Morimoto): "I tried to bring all
the sweetness of the figs, so it's always the main flavor, even on the side."
- Fig Hassun (Chili Fig, Nama-Fu, Fig & Beef
Tartare, and Fig Martini)
- Steamed Bun with Pork & Fig
- Fig Carpaccio
- Wagyu Fig Wellington with Eel Over Rice
- Selection of Fig Desserts (Cappuccino with Fig Creme, Fig Burrito, and Fig
Both chef highlighted the sweetness of the fig,
but for whom will victory be sweet? Whose cuisine reigns supreme?
... 49-41 in favor of
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Dena Marino put up a heck
of a fig fight, but she was bested in all three
categories by the Tetsujin, who gets to add another
notch onto his victory belt.
Until next battle, we bid
you good eating.
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