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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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Cora vs. Ballesteros: Battle Ricotta
March 21

The Challenger: Chef Julieta Ballesteros, a native of Monterrey, Mexico. She came to the US to study at the French Culinary Institute. She heads the kitchen at Crema in New York City. She's been consistently named one of New York's top French chefs. Tonight, she takes on the Iron Maiden of Kitchen Stadium... Iron Chef Cat Cora.

Ladies... Prepare for battle.

The Crib Sheet:
Ed Cotton & Richard Blais, sous-chefs
Angel Martinez & Jaime Perez, sous-chefs
Greek/Aegean COOKING STYLE French/Mexican Fusion

The Theme Ingredient: varieties of ricotta cheese, including salata, two fresh cow milk, ricotta impastata, and a sheep's milk ricotta. Ingredient is revealed remotely by the Chairman, who is, at this moment, dancing...

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 Ricotta is on! Ricotta is more of a byproduct of making cheese. The liquid used to make other cheese is allowed to ferment further before an acid is added and the curds are taken off.

The Iron Chef is starting out with lamb belly, cucumber with Greek yogurt, and speck. The Challenger is working garlic, onion, and butternut squash. Cora is working mozzarella curd, while Angel is taking squash into the oven. Ballesteros is finally working on ricotta. Ed is working on two doughs, the presence of nutmeg separating them. Ballesteros is working on a savory flan with ricotta. And the maseca/ricotta mix is being wrapped in a tamale.

"Fifteen minutes have elapsed." Ballesteros is loading up on tamales and flan, while Cora is working on a mix of ricotta, truffles, and barley powder. She is also making gnocchi and breaking down maitake mushrooms. Challenger counters with pine nuts and grated ricotta salata.

Tonight's Judges
- Culinary journalist Karine Bakhoum (KB Network News)
- Actress Claudia Bassols ("Paintball")
- Food critic & entrepreneur Nina Griscom

Ballesteros is making an herb/citrus concoction, while Jaime is feeding a food processor. Ballesteros is loading up chiles in a food processors. Ed is making Cora's gnocchi. Cora is also making a ricotta flatbread. Angel is adding huitlacoche to a pan. Ballesteros' squash is in a Dutch oven, and it looks like we're going to have a butternut squash soup. Speaking of, Ed is slicing some on his station, while the huitlacoche goes out of Ballesteros' blender and into some cheese.

"Thirty minutes have elapsed." Iron Chef's kitchen has a mix of ricotta and cream in a blender, while squash is being diced and blanched. Challenger counters with ricotta going into the squash soup.

Edamame and lamb comes out of the Iron Chef's vessels, and the challenger is slicing ricotta salata. Halibut is now on a pan there, while Jaime is working tortillas for what looks like an empanada. Richard has LNO for freezing some Mexican chocolate. And it looks like the Iron Chef is making her own mozzarella while Ballesteros is plating her soup and ricotta tamale with halibut. Two dishes there.

"Fifteen minutes to go." Plating has begun full force. Iron Chef has added gnocchi to her butternut squash. Bread slices have been plated, and the flatbreads are in the oven. Ballesteros has blended some cheese plated portobello. And her ricotta cakes are out for a tres leche number.

Cora has plated a burrata of black truffle and ricotta. Ballesteros has plated her tres leche with agave. Cora plates her sponge cake. Ballesteros has plates for a ricotta and crab mixture. And Cora's flatbread is out of the oven and ready for a plate.

Ballesteros is checking over her plates... with a minute to go. Cora has her truffle ball, lamb belly, scallops with gnocchi, and spongecake... and the ouzo is out. Ballesteros has the soup, empanada, flan, halibut with tamale, and tres leche.

And the flatbread is done on Cora's side, and not a second too soon...

"Five seconds... Three ... two... one... " Battle Ricotta is history.

Judgment (Ballesteros): "It was a little challenging, because ricotta's flavor is so delicate, to use it with Mexican cuisine, not to overpower the cheese"

- Cream of Ricotta and Butternut Squash
- Ricotta and Spinach Flan
- Ricotta and Huitlacoche Empanada
- Halibut with Ricotta Salata Pesto
- Ricotta Tres Leches

Judgment (Cora): "I love a challenge. It's somewhat of a bland cheese. You gotta really work with it to bring out the flavor."

- Ricotta Black Truffle
- Grilled Ricotta Flatbread
- Scallops with Ricotta Gnocchi
- Lamb Belly with Ricotta Lemon Puree
- Ricotta Sponge Cake

Empanada versus mozzarella, halibut versus lamb, soup versus gnocchi, and tres leche versus sponge cake. Whose cuisine will reign supreme? The verdict...

Taste 27 23
Plating 14 12
Originality 14 11

... 55-46 in favor of Iron Chef Cat Cora. Impressive battle all around as the Iron Chef adds another win to her belt by besting the challenger in all three key categories.

Until next battle, we bid you good eating.

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