Hello I am Zin and today is all about Risk!
This episode starts off with great drama! An aircraft hangar! Chairs! A huge flag! Paddles! Domes! Eighteen wheeler trucks drive in! What can it be? Falkner thinks it is the Hunger Games and live animals are going to come out of the trucks and eat them! Marcel is thinking live cows! None of it is necessary by the way: they could have done the challenge in the same studio, but it would not have been as dramatic!
It is the Auction from last season! The whole episode Alex and Falkner are talking about last time when Anne Burrell won the week before so had the advantage and put Zakarian in the bottom, but then ended up in the bottom herself and then lost to him in the Showdown. So it is all about whether this year will follow the same pattern!
If you do not remember, the chefs have to bid time on each ingredient (“I can cook that cow head in 75 minutes… I can cook it in 70 minutes), but they do not know what all the ingredients are so the longer they wait, the more they risk getting stuck with something they do not want. And the last person gets the last ingredient and automatically gets five minutes less than the least cooking time, so the last person is completely screwed!
After they cook, Falkner will pick someone to be in the Showdown, though we will not know who until the end, and the judges will pick someone as usual! I am not sure what would happen if they picked the same person! But that is silly, of course that would not happen, this has all been carefully choreographed in advance, I am sure.
Item One is a rib of bison, starting at 75 minutes. Nate thinks the butchering is too time-intensive and the ingredient is not risky enough so he ignores it. Alex wins it at 45 minutes. She makes a sauce by pressure cooking the bison and adds some cow tongue and fat she steals from Marcel! “I think if you really want to win sometimes you have to steal a little,” she says! Wait, that is a terrible thing to say! I mean it is fine on NIC, it is all a joke, but she should be ashamed of herself for advocating stealing to win! Of course Marcel was ok with her taking the stuff anyway, so it probably was not stealing, they probably just added that in at the end to ramp up the excitement! She makes spice-rubbed bison steak with pommes Anna which sounds very fancy but is a very simple potato cake made only with potatoes, butter, and salt! But she cooks it with some of the fat from Marcel. Falkner thinks the steak is a little rare. Simon and Zakarian think the use of the tongue and fat worked, and it was cooked perfectly. Donatella tells her the risk is supposed to be what you do with the ingredient, not in stealing something! I wonder if Alex is beginning to feel a little confident, she is the sous chef for Zakarian when he does ICA after all! But she is safe all around!
Item Two is cow heads! Falkner and Marcel bid, Marcel has never broken down a whole head before but he will try, he gets it at 50 minutes. He braises the tongue in one pressure cooker, the cheeks in another, and the leeks in a third! His usual process for tongue takes seven days but he is speeding it up! He makes “tongue and cheek” – hey, Blaise made that for the Top Chef All-Stars finale! He won, too! And when Edward Lee was on ICA, that was his theme ingredient! Or ingredients. He makes them with white corn polenta. Falkner thinks it is pretty tough and needs fat. But Zakarian calls it his most modern dish, and elevated! Donatella agrees, it is well-balanced and delicious! Simon notes that the pressure cooker sometimes brings doom but it is a terrific dish and he is now a serious contender! Aha! Redemption! I wonder why it was tough when Falkner tasted it, I wonder if they have to cook the stuff for the judges after Falkner tasted, like they do on ICA after they make the single plate, so it had more time to cook. Except Alton kept telling them to make sure they made a plate for Falkner. I do not understand the logistics, but I do not think the stuff sits around as long as it appears.
Item Three is paiche, a fresh-water fish from the swampy waters of the Amazon basin. That is true, but I suspect the fish they have there is farmed in Peru, because it is a protected species due to over fishing (!) and there is now a limit on wild caught fish which does not allow for export, maybe, it depends on which website you look at, and only recently has farming been possible. Just what we need, Iron Chefs cooking endangered species! Falkner and Amanda go for it, and Falkner gets it at 50 minutes. She calls it “alligator meat” and “some kind of giant goldfish” but I do not think that is right, it is compared to sea bass or black bass, though it is a fresh water fish. It has these huge scales so she is frying them to make chips, which could work, I have seen that before (Edward Lee again, but on Top Chef Texas). She makes pan roasted filet with the loin smoked and grilled in a ceviche (I do not understand, it is cooked, is that still ceviche?) with a Peruvian corn salad and the chips seasoned with smoked paprika. Unfortunately everyone hates the fish scales, but Donatella likes the corn and Zakarian likes the fish.
Item Four is a huge wheel of Parmesan cheese! Mehta thinks it is the least risky ingredient so he does not bid. Amanda gets it at 40 minutes. The biggest problem she has is getting the wheel open, she pounds and chops and it takes her a while to get it to split. She makes parmesan ice cream and parmesan almond shortbread with basil soufflé, a prosciutto crisp, grilled fig, and pomegranate molasses. I do not understand, ice cream and a soufflé? Is that a meal or just random stuff thrown together? She calls it a cheese course! Falkner thinks the soufflé is slightly underseasoned but applauds the ice cream. Donatella thinks something is too salty (maybe she adjusted after Falkner said it was underseasoned?) but risky, and Zakarian thinks the soufflé is too eggy, more like a frittata.
Marcel wonders: “Mehta, Nate, do their paddles work?” They have not bid on anything!
Item Five is Ostrich Eggs, and now the guys bid like crazy! Mehta takes it at 25 minutes. He has never used ostrich eggs before, but he says the albumin is more watery.He knows Zakarian is a soufflé connoisseur, so he makes yogurt soufflé and ice cream with French toast. Falkner tells him the soufflé is not as successful as he wants it to be! Zakarian thinks the soufflé is bland, Simon agrees but loves the ice cream. Donatella loves the salt and sugar.
Item Six goes to Nate and he will have 20 minutes to make something with a gigantic Mortadella sausage! Mortadella, that is cold cuts! At least it does not require cooking! Nate cuts off “just the tip” (giggle) and goes for mortadella foam! He calls it mousse and says he is putting it in the whipper but it is a foamer! He wants it light and airy. He makes mortadella and polenta fritter with mortadella mousse and a fennel, pistachio and raisin compote. Falkner calls the mousse “not your best effort” which sounds ominous! Zakarian thinks it is tasty and well constructed but an odd dish. Donatella does not like the mousse, and Simon says, “A blessing from the Pope would not save the mousse.” Uh oh! See, everyone makes fun of Marcel and his foams, but he at least knows how to make them!
The judges name Marcel the winner! That is quite a comeback! Amanda is second in spite of her seasoning missteps. Neither of them were named by Falkner so they are safe! Alex made the tastiest dish but she was also the least risky so she only comes in third and she is also safe! Mehta had a bad soufflé but he is safe!
That leaves Nate and Falkner, and she named him as her choice for the Showdown and he is the pick by the Judges as the least favorite, so they are up against each other! And everyone ooohs and aaaahs that this is the same way it happened last time to Anne Burrell!
The Secret Ingredient Showdown:
The ingredient was voted on by viewers at the FN website: Anchovies! That is a good ingredient! I hate them, but chefs like them. They have all the varieties, fresh, white, oil and salt packed.
Nate is ready for blood: “She put me in the bottom, she no longer exists to me now.” Wow, that is heavy! He is most worried about controlling the salt of the anchovies. He makes an anchovy Spanish tortilla (like a frittata or pan omelet) with anchovy romesco sauce and an anchovy aioli and blanched kale. Simon loves Spain and he captured it; the aioli is the best thing he has made in the competition. Zakarian loves it too! Donatella thinks the tortilla is slightly underseasoned and did not get much anchovy in two of the components! I wonder if she is tasting the same thing as the other judges!
Falkner does a classic Caesar dressing with mustard, anchovies, olive oil, garlic, and lemon in the blender, but then puts it in alginate for spherification! Marcel, he is an expert at this, he worries she will not have enough time, because it needs to rest to set the membrane, but it works fine and it looks great on the plate. She calls it Caesar bursts with pasta alla sarde (pasta with sardines) with raisins and pine nuts. Simon thinks the saffron is too strong. Donatella agrees but it is taking her to Sicily. Zakarian thinks the saffron is too much, but she took more risk.
The Final Cut:
Donatella says, “Nate cooked food we want to eat, but Falkner took risks.” So since the theme of the day, Falkner is out! What? That does not make sense! Still they all agreed she had too much saffron while only Donatella thought Nate had a problem, so I guess it does make sense. So the Curse of the Auction remains! And it is all nonsense anyway, I do not believe anything the judges say, it is all a matter of who gets the most screen time. I am surprised they let Marcel stay this long! But I hoped Falkner would be the Next Iron Chef. Oh well, Maybe next year!
A Vegas wedding! Peppermint and Chicken Livers! This sounds like Chopped!