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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 Cat Cora
Bobby Flay
Jose Garces
Masaharu Morimoto
Michael Symon
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 Sun, Food
Available In High-Definition Where AvailableStreaming Online

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Morimoto vs. Marino: Battle Fig
January 10

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
Modern Italian COOKING STYLE Neo-Japanese

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.

Tonight's Judges
- 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 the menu."

- 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 Doriyaki)

Both chef highlighted the sweetness of the fig, but for whom will victory be sweet? Whose cuisine reigns supreme?

Taste 24 21
Plating 12 10
Originality 13 10

... 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.

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