Hello I am Zin and tonight the chefs are Transforming Canned Meat! Alex: “This is not gonna be pretty.” That is right, but the fun part is in the Showdown! But we have to get there first! Patience!
Transformation: The Challenge :
Alton explains they have to redeem the reputation of canned food through transformation! I think there is something wrong with the use of the word “redeem” in that sentence (which implies that the reputation needs to be restored to its original good standing) but no matter, he points out Spam, corned beef, Vienna sausage (“You have been to Vienna? This is not like that!”), clams, and three cans of different sizes with question marks for the adventurous! Everyone picks, and then Amanda can steal whatever she wants if she is not happy with the can that is left.
Falkner takes one of the question marks, and does not recognize it when she opens it, it is dark brown liquid but she tastes what is in the liquid and it is roast beef! And it is dry even though it is in the liquid! I am not sure how it could possibly be dry – she even has to drain it – but “dry” is what food people say when they do not like something. She starts with the idea of Beef Bourguignon and makes a Bordelaise Sauce using cognac. She roasts root veggies in foil, then makes gougères with truffles (little cheese puffs) to bring to mind Yorkshire pudding. Zakarian loves the velvety winey flavor and Donatella is impressed she made something awful palatable, though the gravy maybe needed some acid burned off. Still it is good and she is the Winner!
Amanda does not steal from anyone but takes the Corned Beef that is left: “Let them go down for what they choose, not what I choose.” She makes these square potatoes that look really cool. She has a terrible time opening the can, it is one of the old-fashioned kind with the keys, but finally she just gets a can opener. She says it looks dog-foodish once she gets it open! Yes, I know what she means! A few years ago I got a can of hash, because I remembered it from when I was little and I thought it was pretty good, but it was an awful gelatinous mess and very greasy. She mixes some corned beef with mustard greens and bacon fat, makes a mustard cream and some rye croutons for an homage to corned beef, a deconstructed corned beef sandwich! Zak calls it five-star camp food, luxurious and extravagant, though the sauce was not reduced quite enough. Simon: “It makes me want to carry you off and make you my chef forever.” Ewwww. Donatella questions whether the corned beef itself is the star of the plate or is more of a garnish, which is interesting, it is really a salad with a little corned beef and bacon sprinkled in. But it is quite good and she is safe!
Mehta takes a question mark can and finds out he has chicken! I so hate canned chicken, when my cat was so sick I tried to feed her canned chicken and it was pretty disgusting, though I like real chicken. Mehta: “I need to redeem canned chicken by making it stand out like a lion.” He coats it in arrowroot batter to remove the canned taste and makes chicken pakora with green curry and rice. He knows the rice is mushy but can not do anything about it now. Donatella likes it a lot, it is perfectly seasoned with beautiful heat and the chicken is juicy and transformed! Zak calls it genius. Simon agrees, but the rice is overcooked. Alton is sure to prompt him (it must not be his turn to be in the bottom): “But it did not ruin the dish, right?” and he says no, not at all.
Nate also takes a question marked can and is pleasantly surprised to find Tuna! But it is dry (again, it is in water, how can it be dry?) and devoid of flavor (how can tuna be devoid of flavor, it smells to high heaven!). He decides to do tuna three ways. He makes tuna putanesca sauce which is appropriate (the name means “of the whore” and was called that because sluts would not go get fresh ingredients but use things in cans), with capers and olives, then purees more tuna into pesto, makes some ricotta gnocchi, then freezes tuna with liquid nitrogen and grates it onto the top to look like parmesan cheese! That is the sort of thing Bobby Flay does, using the Secret Ingredient in every component of the dish! He is worried the pesto is salty. Zakarian likes the idea of the shaved tuna. Donatella does not think the two sauces go together, and so it is transformative, but not all that good. Simon does not like the pesto at all, it has a metallic taste. Still he approached brilliance by shaving the frozen tuna so he is safe!
Alex gets Spam and makes sugar snap pea ravioli with crispy spam, basil pesto and fried sage. Donatella says it is like eating grass, and Simon calls it “Kermit in a blender” but gives her credit for turning the ingredient into something light and fresh. Zakarian says it tastes better than it looks! So even though she served pureed lawn clippings she is safe!
Marcel got to choose first and he took clams! He makes a clam cake, acqua pazza (crazy water – a tomato broth) with the clam juice, and simmers kale in it. He hopes they appreciate his restraint and more mature plating style! But he serves it in a super-wide-brimmed bowl with a little ceramic cloche, so it is still kind of flashy! But at least he does not serve it in the can! Alton is making faces as they all taste; Simon compliments the presentation but it is very salty and is one of the worst bites he has had all season! Donatella agrees, and Zakarian says there is something else unidentifiable in addition to the saltiness. Alton calls it inedible! Marcel: “It’s kind of a major mistake.” Kind of? (By the way, I am watching ICA as I type this and I see a piece of marinated fish on a scallop shell, a piece of fried fish on newspaper, which the challenger must have brought it with him, a copper dish nestled in a bed of salt on a platter, and something in a half orange! Not to mention a big flower served on one dish! And no one complained!) But oversalting is another matter, and he is obviously in the Showdown!
Spike gets Vienna Sausage and turns it into a Vietnamese crepe! Maybe he was matching words? Vienna and Vietnam? He uses mushrooms, ramps, and nuoc cham (a spicy Vietnamese sauce) for his crepe. Simon is worried about the heat (Spike interviews he brushes his teeth with nuoc cham and there is nothing wrong with that sauce) and Zakarian thinks it would have been better as an omelet rather than a crepe. It is missing cohesion! He is in the Showdown!
Oh no! The two buddies have to do battle! Spike says he and Marcel were friends playing frisbee “back when we were nobodies” which makes me so sad that he thinks they are not nobodies any more! But I think they will get the message by the end of this show!
The Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium Secret Ingredient Showdown Challenge:
The Secret Ingredient is revealed: Lobster! It sounds like they used a recording of the Chairman to call out the word, or is Alton imitating him? I suppose since the first challenge had such difficult ingredients, they are using something easier, the opposite of what they did last week when they could use anything they wanted in the first challenge but had cereal for the second.
Marcel and Spike are nice to each other! They yell “I love you man.” How dare they? The other Chefs watching hate it! They get mad! Alex: “This is not a showdown, this is a brodown!” Amanda: “Are they working together?”
It is crazy how they all pretty much gang up on these two Top Chef guys who are clearly outsiders and pick on them for… being friends? It is so strange, the same thing happens on Project Runway when one designer helps another finish a garment, there is always someone who will complain but here everyone is complaining! This makes me really sad because I still remember how Marcel was so bullied on TC-S2, and you know what, now that I think about it, I think maybe this whole bro-thing and outsider thing and all the criticism is playing on that incident! Maybe to make him an underdog, maybe to capitalize on his TC notoriety (a lot of people hate him), it is interesting, because people who felt sympathetic back then will feel sympathetic again, and those who hate him will hate him again, so it is kind of an all-purpose typecasting!
But the real fun starts when Marcel and Spike decide to plate together! Except not really, it is just that the bowl of soup will go on a big plate that contains the salad! It is not like they made a lobster pie and one made the meat and the other the crust and toppings! They are two separate dishes, just in proximity, like soup and salad! I do not get the big deal but the other chefs are outraged!
Nate: They are making a mockery! (This show is all about mockery!)
Falkner: You do not win Iron Chef as a pair! (Anyone ever tell you not to do something?)
Amanda: They are breaking the rules! (Like using the canned corned beef as a garnish?)
Alex: This is unprecedented! (Like a woman heading up a kitchen?)
Nate: It is the worst decision they have ever made! (like leaving a major NY restaurant to work at Chipotles?)
Amanda: It is an act of defiance! (Just like the judges in Japan did not like Bobby Flay standing on a cutting board at the end!)
Mehta: It is a race and only one person finishes! (Yes, Mr. Serial Killer!)
Donatella: It is arrogance! (Can you spell that?)
Zakarian: We are being played (Like going bankrupt rather than pay your employees!)
Alton: Maybe I’ll have to talk to the Chairman about that! (You mean the dancing actor?)
These chefs are really being ridiculous! I think it is fun, and unexpected, the sort of thing an Iron Chef would do! I wonder if the producers have engineered this whole thing! And they are missing the point, they were two separate dishes!
Spike wants to make food that makes people want to go home and have sex! Or fall asleep! Wait, that is not the same thing! He makes laksa and lobster noodles using the meat from the tails pureed with egg and scallions then squirted through a pastry bag into boiling water! He is on a Vietnam kick today! They try to build suspense about whether or not the noodles will work but of course they do!
Marcel makes lobster and mango salad. He makes hibiscus gelee which really takes 48 hours to heat, cool, and thicken it but he is doing the quick version with liquid nitrogen to make a sauce! Then he makes black bean chili sauce! And seaweed (I think someone said it was kombu). Say what you want about Marcel but that is a lot to do in 30 minutes!
Marcel interviews “When I become the Next Iron Chef not only can Spike be my sous chef, he can stand on the podium and go [swoosh-swoosh with his head]. Marcel, sweetie, that kind of comment is the reason so many people hate you!
They play with the whole “you first, no you” thing, but Spike goes first, and that turns out to be a mistake for Marcel! His dish is cold and more delicate, it should have gone first so it would not be affected by the spicy laksa!
The judges hate the plating idea but love both dishes! In fact it is for both of them the best dish they have made! But Marcel wimps out when the judges ask if they should both go home together! That is too bad, they should have taken a stand!
In the end they reward creativity and originality so Spike is out and everyone gets to look smug and superior while clucking at Marcel.
Alton: “No one on the other side of that wall wishes you well.” Wow, they should pay royalties for using his Top Chef persona so much!
Next week: Cow heads! Auction! “I can cook that cow head in 55 minutes!”