Morimoto vs. Wadi: Battle Mackerel
The Challenger: Chef Sameh Wadi, a
native of Palestine who got his feet wet at the Art Institutes
International Minnesota. He stayed in the Twin Cities after graduating,
where he currently heads the kitchen at Saffron Restaurant and Lounge.
His quirky BLT was recently named the best new sandwich in Minneapolis.
His order today: rub out Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. That... is a tall
Prepare for battle.
The Crib Sheet:
JoJo Vazquez & Ariki Omae, sous-chefs
Nicholas "Nick" O'Leary & Kevin Manley, sous-chefs
Modern Middle Eastern
The Theme Ingredient: fresh
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!"
Holy mackerel, Battle Mackerel starts
now! We have three different members, Chub, Spanish, and Atlantic
mackerel. Chub is from Japan, and Morimoto, no surprise, goes for that
one. Wadi, on the other hand, is going for the Atlantic variety.
Morimoto starts by curing his chub on konbu kelp, while his sous-chef
JoJo is prepping a rice-flour mixture of some sort. Wadi is grating and
cutting onions. Nick is cutting off Spanish tails. He's got chilies and
olives also. Looks like we're going all over the world with mackerel
today. This ought to be fun.
Jojo's making yeast rolls... into bagels?
I could use some smoked lox with that. Omae, meanwhile, is starting
sushi rice, while Wadi is working with cardamom, cumin, and garam
marsala toasting. They also have watermelon juice.
"Fifteen minutes have elapsed."
No real idea where either chef is going. Omae is making a fish sous-vide,
as Morimoto marinates his fish in rice-wine vinegar, starts on
sesame-seed bagels, and stewing pacific mackerel bones. Wadi is storing
spiced Atlantic mackerel in the fridge. Filets have been prepped, and
more fish has been boned. Over the break, mackerel gets filleted,
scored, sliced, chopped, spiced, and stewed. Morimoto has a classic
mirepoix, while Wadi has a mix of saffron on the heat.
- Restauranteur and lifestyle expert Donatella Arpaia ("Cooking In
- Chef Michael LaDuke (senior executive chef at Red Lobster)
- Mixologist Kim Haasarud ("101 Mojitos and Other Muddled Drinks")
Back to action, Wadi is putting his
toasted spices under mortar & pestle, while Nick has a blender, its
contents going onto more fish. That's a chermoula. Meanwhile, Jojo is
cutting up bacon to add to his mirepoix. And that familiar sound you
hear is Morimoto's familiar tartar rapid fire chopping.
"Thirty minutes have elapsed."
Morimoto has a fine dice for a tartare, a mirepoix with bacon, and a
mackerel sous vide. Wadi has cured mackerel, diced mackered, and
chermoula-marinated mackerel. Morimoto's roasted mackerel bones are
being strained, his bagels are out, and his mirepoix now has tomato and
potato. This could be a chowder of some sort. Wadi counters with
Atlantic fillets and deep-fried dough rings.
Wadi's going to smoke some Spanish
mackerel, while the Iron Chef is adding red miso to a mix of sake, mirin,
and sugar. That gets some Atlantic mackerel. Wadi is about to fry
mackerel whole now. And to top it all off... we have dueling torches.
Some of the sushi rice on the Iron Chef side is being made into sushi.
Some more is being made into a risotto.
"Twenty minutes to go." That rice is
going on the shiso leaf and mackerel number. He's also working on a
tempura number. And... he's prepping the famous Broth of Vigour. Nick is
prepping more fillets for Wadi's tagine.
"Fifteen minutes to go." Looks
like Morimoto's ready to plate. He and his team of Omae and Jojo know
how to transform these things. They have the mackerel braise, the
mackerel sushi, and the mackerel tartare. Wadi counters with smoke,
tempura, and tartare of his own. The Iron Chef has started to plate his
mackerel roll with wasabi, straining his dashi, and taken out his
Atlantic confit from the immersion circulator. Wadi reduced his
watermelon juice, added to his tagine, and plated his cured Japanese
And Morimoto wants a bagel! Meanwhile,
Wadi is making a trio of mackerel and a trio of sauces. Morimoto has
plated his Manhattan clam chowder, essentially. The fried mackerel added
at the last minute. Wadi has a whole-fried fish going with a cutting
board of sauces.
"Five minutes to go." Tempura joins the
watermelon on Wadi's side... and his trio is also done. Morimoto has a
twist on a classic that he did in his very first battle as an Iron Chef,
a filet-o-fish on a bagel wrapped in the Times. He's also plating the
tartare. Wadi is making a skordalia with potato to join his fried fish.
The braised mackerel is coming out on the Iron Chef side.
"Three minutes to go." ... as
is the risotto and the konbu roll.
"One minute to go." Wadi's menu has the
tagine with the tails, the whole fry, the spanakopita, pan-seared &
tempura, and he'll open with the trio. Morimoto will start with the
roll, then the tartare, the braise, the risotto, and the soup.
"Five seconds... three... two... one..."
And Battle Mackerel is history. Put it down, walk away.
Judgment (Wadi): "We wanted to take you on
a journey with the fish. A lot of the inspiration is kind of like modern
interpretations of classic dishes."
- Spanish Mackerel Trio (Escabeche, Brick, and
- Curried Mackerel Duo (Seared and Tempura)
- Mackerel Spanakopita
- Whole Fried Mackerel
- Mackerel Tagine
Judgment (Morimoto): "The mackerel in
sushi is very light, but the fish here today have more fat and oil than I'm used
to, so I tried a couple of different techniques to bring umami from different
sources and impart that into the fish."
- Mackerel Sushi and Sashimi
- Raw Mackerel and Vegetable Salad
- Mackerel Soup and Bagel
- Red Miso Braised Mackerel
- Mackerel Confit with Risotto
A lot of thought went into both menus. Both chefs
came to play, both chefs came to win. This will be a nail-biter. So who's
cuisine reigns supreme? The verdict...
... 57-52 in favor of
Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. A very close battle on the
tongue, but this was decided by aesthetics, with
Morimoto SWEEPING both plating and originality. Another
win for the Tetsujin.
Until next battle, we bid
you good eating.
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