vs. Ballesteros: Battle Ricotta
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
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
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.
- 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
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
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
- 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...
... 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.
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