The Random Yak

Veal Sorbet and Clam Flan: Iron Chef America

Filed under: Just Yaks — Random Yak @ 7:00 am on January 3, 2006

Now that I’ve got your attention, here’s the promised wrap-up of Food Network’s New Year’s Day Iron Chef Marathon.

First and foremost, let me say that unfortunately this wasn’t actually an Iron Chef marathon. The original, dubbed, squid-hacking, octopus-chasing Japanese series was nowhere in sight. Instead, Food Network offered five selections from the popular spinoff, Iron Chef America, which features three American “iron chefs” in place of the Japanese culinary samurai.

The American show features the nephew of the original Chairman – himself the “chairman” of the new kitchen stadium (contract conditions, anyone?) – whose personal style lacks something of the style (read: “Liberace flair”) exhibited by his august relative.

Masaharu Morimoto reprises his role as Iron Chef Japanese – a fortunate transplant from the original series, as it wouldn’t be Iron Chef without a man brave enough to put seafood in the gelato maker. He is joined by Bobby Flay (of “Boy Meets Grill” – known for putting blue corn and ricotta cheese in his pancakes), Cat Cora (Greek influence – known for the “clammy Mary cocktail”) and Mario Batali (Italian influence, but also unafraid to use the ice cream maker – and a personal favorite because he cooks wearing shorts).

Little else has changed, although the dishes are largely designed to appeal to an American or European palate and therefore lack something of the gross-factor present when American viewing sensibilities meet Japanese food preparation.

While I won’t detail the entire five-hour New Year’s broadcast (Sadly, I’d seen all of the televised episodes before, and only two would have made my “best of ISA” list) here are my highlights, in the form of lessons learned:

- When the secret ingredient is “cheese” making veal sorbet is just showing off. Corollary: Veal sorbet is nasty, even with cheese (particularly with cheese?)

- Sixty minutes is plenty of time to make four dishes any judge would want to eat – and one that leaves the best of them scratching their heads wondering when they made that unfortunate bet…

- Foie gras creme brulee. (Think about that one for a minute. Then move on.)

- Don’t put fish in the gelato maker if you want to win. (That only works in the Japanese version.)

- Fire burns. So does hot oil.

And the number one thing I learned watching Iron Chef America on New Year’s Day:

- “Clam” and “flan” do not belong in the same sentence, much less the same ramekin.

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