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Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Next Iron Chef: Redemption, Episode 6: Fusion
After a devastating and surprising elimination of Elizabeth Faulkner on last week's episode, and my disgust that the "Bro's" didn't both get sent packing, I had to regain my composure and move on to watching last night's Episode 6: Fusion.
Down to five contestants (Marcel Vigneron, Amanda Freitag, Alex Guarnaschelli, Nate Appleman, and Jehangir Mehta), this episode takes place in Las Vegas. The episode is flaunted as a figurative unconventional marriage of off-the-wall ingredients: The Chairman's Challenge of Fusion.
Alton Brown reveals an eclectic group of components, and begins to act as he is spontaneously pairing them up. Marcel, as the winner of last week's Challenge, gets to assign the "couples" to each of his competitors. He selected the most logical of the pairings, peanut butter & bleu cheese, for his own, as Alton heckles him for choosing the easiest marriage. Then, assigns the remaining vomit-inducing, hideous pairings as follows: squid & miniature marshmallows to Freitag, chicken livers & peppermints to Guarnaschelli, bone marrow & hard, fruit candies (read: Skittles) to Mehta, clams & strawberries to Appleman.
The judges select Freitag's grilled squid with marshmallow horseradish cream and Hungarian paprika sauce and Marcel's blue cheese ice cream, peanut butter powder, peanut butter brittle and peanut butter praline as the best two dishes of the Challenge. Then, they select Amanda Freitag as the winner of the Fusion Challenge.
Alex Guarnaschelli went the salad route, and eeked by for another week. She's my favorite, and really don't want to see her get so rattled and flub up, as she did in last season's Next Iron Chef: Super Chefs. Chef Appleman got dinged based on his undercooked cavatelli in his acqua pazza ("crazy water" in Italian, that is typically a poached seafood dish), while Mehta, justifiably, got placed in the bottom two based on his grilled bone marrow with hard candy chimichurri, pickled fruit candy fennel bread and chile lime fruit candy. Mehta didn't like one of his ingredients, so he did everything possible to un-Skittle them as much as possible! By transforming it from being a hard fruit candy, the judges stated that there was really no "fusion" in his dish. Neither of these two chefs seem to take criticism very well... too bad they didn't think about that before coming onto a cooking competition show!
With the match of Appleman vs. Mehta set in the Secret Ingredient Showdown, I won't be too sad with either going home. (But my wife loves Mehta's voice!) The Secret Ingredient was shrimp, to be cooked on a teppanyaki, Japanese flat-top griddle.
Both chefs seem to cut it close at the end of the time period to get their plates finished. Chef Appleman prepared a shrimp and pea pancake with roasted shrimp head, critiqued as a late night drunk food. His unique shrimp oil earned some praise. Unfortunately, he was also criticized on a technique flaw in the pancake. The shrimp head "flavor packet" he created at the last moment was a stroke of genius, and showed great innovation of flavor. Chef Mehta cooked a mustard and cumin shrimp with mung bean salad. Judge Simon felt the lightly breaded and fried pepper was a bit disjointed from the rest of the dish. Judge Zakarian thought the cumin seed was a bit too pronounced, and commented on some still being stuck in his teeth. Mehta's dry humor/sarcasmic snip of "Just wash it out with some water" didn't quite crack up the judges.
Appleman's Winning Dish
Neither chef seemed to impress the judges, so they felt they had to pick the one that wasn't the worst. In the end, the ingenious shrimp head flavor packet proved to be the most Iron Chef-like quality of the two dishes. Appleman lives on until next week.
Now, there are four... Guarneschelli and Appleman are my odds on favorites. Marcel can get lost, as far as I'm concerned. And I have nothing against Freitag, but she's just mediocre to me. I would love to see a finale of Appleman vs. Guarneschelli.
Coming up next week... Vegas style buffet! Should be interesting!