For those of you who haven't been watching The Next Iron Chef all season (everyone but me) you may not know that each episode has an overarching competitive theme. Last night's? HONOR. And Thanksgiving! Who finessed the best?
First, an overview of the finalists—both executive chefs at Manhattan-based restaurants—and a rundown of their Thanksgiving-inspired menus from last night's battle.
He is the executive chef at Hearth Restaurant in the East Village, and wine bars Terroir East Village and Terroir Tribeca. Upon arriving on the New York restaurant scene in 1996 he took up with Tom Colicchio, and has served as executive chef of Craft and helped launch other Colicchio craft-ventures. His focus is on simple, fresh and seasonal Italian-inspired dishes.
The son of Larry Forgione, often called "the godfather" of American cuisine, Marc serves as the executive chef of—wait for it—Marc Forgione in Tribeca. Forgione has worked under his father at the revered An American Place in St. Louis, and was part of the BLT empire here in New York. Forgione is the youngest chef to receive a Michelin star, and his menus focus on seasonal American fare.
His intention was to honor tradition and the conventions of his family's and Thanksgiving feasts at large. The result:
·Roasted Fennel and Winter Squash Soup with Butter-Poached Lobster
·Pumpkin Risotto with Amaretti Biscuits
·Turkey Breast with Porcini Stuffing, Cranberry Puree, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
·Venison Pinwheels stuffed with Juniper, Rosemary & Sicilian Pistachios, Corn Sformato and Huckleberry Sauce
·Pecan Tart with Cranberry Sorbet and Squash Confit with Pumpkin Spices
He decided to stray from customary fare and took inspiration from the original Thanksgiving feast, way back in Plymouth in 1621. The result:
·Clam Chowder with Mussels, Cod and Sweet Potatoes
·Duck Sausage wrapped in Swiss Chard atop a Cornbread Crouton
·Butter-Poached Lobster Tail with Sunchoke-Spinach Puree
·Chestnut-Stuffed Venison with Butternut Squash and Lemon Confit Puree
·"Inside-Out" Plum Cobbler with Candied Walnuts and Vanilla Ice Cream
And without further ado, the winner declared (SPOILER ALERT!):
Both chefs who made it to the finale have (obviously) cooked their way to the top this go-round, but there was an obvious favorite. Chef Canora has consistently won challenges this season, more so than any other chef, and with Ming Tsai booted out of the running last week Canora seemed to be a shoo-in. But in this challenge the current Iron Chefs much preferred the bold approach of Forgione, and the judges along for the whole season-long ride determined him to have created the most memorable individual dishes, as opposed to Canora's customarily delicious but perhaps less risky/remarkable yield.
So, congratulations to Chef Forgione and we'll see you on the next episode of Iron Chef America!
Note: I missed the original airing of TNIC at 9pm and decided to sit through other Food Network gems until the re-airing at midnight, and they spoiled their own surprise by advertising for an upcoming Iron Chef Battle with "The Newest Iron Chef!". If you see this Food Network, don't do that again please.