We enter the final chapter of this season of The Next Iron Chef, and I am torn. On one hand the finalists, Marco Canora and Marc Forgione, are the two that should be here. They have consistently been the best from start to finish and won a majority of the challenges. They deserve to be called Iron Chef based on the sum of their works. On the other hand, with no Ming Tsai, I have lost the low-hanging comedic fruit. I feel like Hitchcock without his muse.
At the top of the episode we are reminded that Canora "has a passion for simple old-world Italian fare," while Forgione "mixes tradition with a modern sensibility."
The episode is like none other in the show so far. Both chefs are set up in the normal Iron Chef set. Yes, it is a battle at Kitchen Stadium.
Masaharu Morimoto and Bobby Flay join the other three judges at the table for this one. You know, it's really close to Thanksgiving. Wouldn't it be cool if this was a timely Battle Thanksgiving?
The Chairman (I actually uncovered his secret identity and he is really actor Mark Dacascos; of course you remember him as Von Griem in the movie Wolvesbayne) raises the food-hiding-metal-box-thing, and it is Thanksgiving-y. Duck, turkey and cranberry abound.
On a side note, do you do mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving? My family never did and my wife's family doesn't. Are we the only two in the word that don't? It seems with dressing that you have the carbs covered.
They have an hour to create five dishes.
Carnoa's menu will include traditional roasted turkey, roasted fennel soup, pumpkin risotto, pinwheel of roasted venison and a pecan tart with cranberry sorbet.
Forgione will make seafood harvest soup, duck sausage wrapped in Swiss chard, butter poached lobster, chestnut stuffed venison and plum cobbler inside out.
Is there a man who earns a paycheck with more ease than Kevin Brauch? He talks 2.5 times an episode and pulls in billions (I am sure). The only other person who has less to do in a regular episode of Iron Chef is Von Griem, er, the Chairman, who can recite, "what was your inspiration for the secret ingredient?" like nobody's business.
Celebrity in the audience spotted: Bryan Caswell gives a little color to the commentary. Is anyone in Houston still watching this show now that he is gone?
Thirty minutes left, and the menus seem to be coming together. This is the first time that both chefs have been able to use their rosters of sous and assistants to prepare the menu.
Canora asks how his sous gravy is going, while on Forgione's side a special-looking cod is being filteted.
Just when I thought I wouldn't be Tsai-ed in this episode, the normally headbanded one strikes. Sitting in the crowd, he's asked how he thinks it is going. I could care less about the answer -- what I am tickled about is the polished, teal, moon-shaped stone that is hanging on a leather shoe lace around his neck. Do you think he has tickets to a Train concert in his pocket?
Lobster has been plated, gravy has been strained, and the cranberry puree is ready. For Forgione, cornbread has been fried, venison is on the heat and duck sausage rolls are getting sliced.
With just six minutes left, plating is coming fast and furious. Canora's pecan tart looks dreamy, while his fennel soup looks a little, well, poopy.
Forgione's duck sausage looks amazing, and his inside out cobbler could be served to me any day.
Forgione is up first in front of the judges, and we are reminded that the Chairman's orders were to honor Thanksgiving. Forgione says he did that by cooking up what was probably eaten at the first harvest festival.
Clam chowder, cod, mussels and sweet potatoes is the first dish, and Simon Mujundar is the only judge that has a bad word to say.
Next is duck sausage with cornbread crouton. The judges remark how good it looks on a plate, and Morimoto is a big fan.
Course three is a butter poached lobster, and Michael Simon and Mujundar feel it isn't his best.
How 'bout some chestnut-stuffed venison with squash? Bobby Flay loves the lemon touches he's put in the squash. He gets raves all around.
Plum cobbler is his finisher, and Morimoto gives it his blessing. Flay commends Forgione on the risk he took not using turkey but says that the food was sensational.
Canora goes second and presents the fennel soup first. All judges aren't fans of the color of the soup (I told you it looked poopy) but they appreciate the flavor.
Pumpkin risotto is the next dish, and Symon says it is cooked perfectly but is a touch too sweet. Majundar doesn't like it at all.
Who wants some turkey and stuffing? The judges do. They all enjoy the dish, but it could use some texture changes.
The venison pinwheels get Canora nice reviews. Four courses in, though, and it seems like this battle will go to Forgione.
Finally it is the pecan tart. For the love of Myles Standish will someone deliver me summa that? The judges agree.
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Now to deliberations. Forgione gets high notes for plating and originality, and it sounds like taste is almost a draw. They both made venison, and the judges feel that Forgione let the flavor of the deer come through while Canora over-herbed it.
Alton breaks down the decision like so: Marco Canora's brilliant unpredictability or Marc Forgione's unpredictable brilliance.
And the winner is... Marc Forgione. While Canora was the best from top to bottom, Forgione's highs were higher. He is the next Iron Chef.
Thanks for reading the recaps. If the Food Network gives Bryan Caswell another show, I promise to do a running diary of that as well. Maybe it'll be some food-related sitcom, and they'll cast Ming Tsai as Caswell's sleazy, toolbag next door neighbor (think Larry from Three's Company). That would be something to give thanks for indeed.