A delicious meal that is warm and filling, and will hint at the coming of spring

1 4 oz piece of white fish per person

5 cherry tomatoes per person

1/2 green pepper per person

1/4 butternut squash per person

olive oil

fresh basil (or frozen-fresh)

salt

Pepper

Garlic, roasted and chopped

Parmesan

Place the fish into a baking dish. Drizzle olive oil over the top, sprinkle generously with salt,  and grate a little parmesan on top. Slice each tomato in half, drizzle them with olive oil, salt, parmesan, and PEPPER this time (I don’t like pepper on my white fish.) Surround the fish with these tomatoes and roast in a 400 degree oven until the fish is done. You can also sprinkle garlic over the tomatoes and fish.

While that is roasting, saute 1/2 inch cubes of butternut squash drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with mild chili pepper and diced red peppers – the red peppers cook faster, so keep that in mind. I usually do them separately, because Josh doesn’t like red peppers.

Boil penne or spaghetti.

People can put whatever they want on their plate. At my house it’s mandatory to put EITHER the squash OR the peppers, but I recommend both. Also, though it seems like you’re putting olive oil on everything, don’t put very much on any one thing. I think I use two tablespoons all told for everything, but I try each time to use less.

Every year, Josh gets a Harry and David’s box from his workplace. We never can eat it all before it goes bad, and yet it is so delicious! (Except moose munch. Josh gets his dibs on all the moose munch. I’m not a fan!)

Anyway, to aide in the eating of pears, I make stuffed pears. Stuffed pears! There are two methods, both are super-easy. For either method, heat your oven to 350. For method one, slice your pear in half and melon-ball or spoon out the core. For method 2, take a fruit corer and core the pear straight down the middle, but don’t go all the way through. leave about 3/4″ in the bottom. Now, pour high-quality chocolate chips in the core of either pear.

Bake until soft. This will take a mere 15 min if you went with pear method one, and more like half an hour with pear method 2. you get more chocolate with pear method two though. Also, if you make multiple pears, put them all in a baking dish (like for a casserole or a cake pan, whatever you have) and then cover the bottom with chocolate, and put a small amount of milk in. You’ll make extra chocolate sauce to drizzle all over your pears while baking the pears. one-pan delicious.

Oh, it’s battle dessert all right. It’s definitely secret ingredient Sugar. Whoooooo, boy.

So, the setup went that Tyler and Robert (squee!) where the “challengers” and Paula got to pick the chef she challenged them wither. Weird.

WHY IS PAULA CUTTING INTO VELVEETA!? Last Christmas she made a dessert with velveeta, and I remember being utterly horrified. I am no less horrified here. Paula and Cat are wayyyyy too confident.

The girls’ sous have elves. Robert is talkin’ smack with Nilla wafers over his eyes.

Red hots on the girl’s side, pate a choux and bananas on the boys’. Look who’s more traditional!

ROBERT STRIPS! He just yanked off that chef’s jacket. Hot. (red shirt, green apron on underneath, just so you know). Yum! (Josh is now glaring at me, I should stop…)

Paula makes fudge with the processed cheese. Robert sweats, puts his finger in Paula’s mouth (why, I don’t know?) and Paula bites. Hard. Eep!

Judges comment on how brave all these non-pastry chefs must be to come do this. Also, there is comment on how Robert should put the guns away, which is just a silly idea!

The hottest marshmallows ever go into the blast chiller, and Alton lays down a Dominis Vibiscum on those finishing before judging. Whoo boy.

For some reason, Paula is eating her glasses “Surmtherms Ah Neevs dem, sermtherms I dun, Afun!” (Sometimes I need them, sometimes I don’t, Alton?)

For some reason, Tyler starts kissing on Paula. Wonder what Micheal Groover thinks? But then, what does Micheal Groover think of Paula’s X-Rated Party?

A couple different kinds of cookie on the girl side, including Chocolate Cherry Toffee, which sounds quite nice. Cranberry Custard Claufuti sounds more awesome.

Bailey’s heads into the lace cookies Paula makes, and Paula wants some Bailey’s in her. Robert wants to share cocktails with her – obviously confident in the time he has available.

Alton gives us a scientific explanation that sugar is, in fact, the signature ingredient of Christmas. All the hydroxides spell HO, of course? And OH, but he doesn’t mention that part.

BIGGEST LOAF OF CHALLAH EVER. Bigger than Cora herself, I think. Don’t know what’s happening with that, but there it is.

Spiced ginger cake, profiteroles, and trumpet cookies, oh my!

Tarte Tropezziane, is what the challah is. Alton calls it a challah sandwich, which is more accurate. Stuffed with pastry cream and berries.

Tyler’s log falls completely apart. Tyler: “Happy Holidays” Elf: “Bite me!”

There are no dishes on the guy’s side! Three on the girls, none on the guyus, five minutes to go. Girls have quite a bit of cocktail going.

The guys are having quite the problems – no eggnog ice cream, so now it’s becoming a sauce. There is, however, a mini-crocembouche, which is their first dish. Come on, boys!

The girls do have great plating. It’s not looking good for the boys, but there is now figgy pudding!

Seven dishes for the girls. Still, the boys are not done. So worried! They drop the final plate, number five, WITH the buzzer. Oh, that was nauseating.

Judgement. Cora’s strategy was to get through. Paula’s was to spank them. Oh, and Merry Christmas.

The first course is a candy cane cocktail with the magnolia lace trumpet cookies. The drink is the sort of drink that sneaks up on you, according to Tina. Ted loves the 5-pound cookie. Great texture, of course.

Chocolate Budino cake is next with White Chocolate mousse. Katie loves the peppermint bark, and Ted worries about hypoglycemia.

Next is the rum ice cream, with black and red chocolate tuille. Ted comments on the booze that Cora cannot leave out of her dishes. She can’t be a closet alcoholic if everyone knows, right?  Cinamon marshmallows represent Hanukkah. Comments on how soft they are, and how delicious.

Paula tries to pull off chocolate cheese fudge as healthy. Oh, she then covered them in caramel, cream cheese, and nuts. Oh my. They like it, despite all disgusting odds.

The Tarte reminds Katie and Tina of strawberry shortcake. They like this.

Spiced cookies and cognac milk for Santa, which they seemed to think was pretty funky.

Tyler thinks that there were enough bad cocktails, so he brings out the Dom perignon with is corcembouche. Ted loves the spun sugar, Tina loves the sugar-coated cranberries. Robert sasses Paula.

Pomegranate Ginger Spice Cake next. Ted loves it, Tina thinks this is her jam.

Cranberry Claufouti – again, Tyler says the words “light as a cloud” Tina wants Christmas at tyler’s house. Tyler keeps talking. Doesn’t he know Robert is more awesome?

Anyway, figgy pudding next, which the judges seem to think is great. Out with the bouche de noel, which AGAIN is light as a cloud – out of Tyler’s mouth. He needs. To. Shut. Up. Tina is now in sugar coma.

Tyler should have let Robert do/talk more. Things would have come out better.
Battle: Dessert

Oh, it’s battle dessert all right. It’s definitely secret ingredient Sugar. Whoooooo, boy.

So, the setup went that Tyler and Robert (squee!) where the “challengers” and Paula got to pick the chef she challenged them wither. Weird.

WHY IS PAULA CUTTING INTO VELVEETA! Last Christmas she made a dessert with velveeta, and I remember being utterly horrified. I am no less horrified here. Paula and Cat are wayyyyy too confident.

The girls’ sous have elves. Robert is talkin’ smack with Nilla wafers over his eyes.

Red hots on the girl’s side, pate a choux and bananas on the boys’. Look who’s more traditional!

ROBERT STRIPS! He just yanked off that chef’s jacket. Hot. (red shirt, green apron on underneath, just so you know). Yum! (Josh is now glaring at me, I should stop…)

Paula makes fudge with the processed cheese. Robert sweats, puts his finger in Paula’s mouth (why, I don’t know?) and Paula bites. Hard. Eep!

Judges comment on how brave all these non-pastry chefs must be to come do this. Also, comment on how Robert should put the guns away, which is just a silly idea!

The hottest marshmallows ever go into the blast chiller, and Alton lays down a Dominis Vibiscum on those finishing before judging. Whoo boy.

For some reason, Paula is eating her glasses “Surmtherms Ah Neevs dem, sermtherms I dun, Afun!” (Sometimes I need them, sometimes I don’t, Alton?)

For some reason, Tyler starts kissing on Paula. Wonder what Micheal Groover thinks? But then, what does Micheal Groover think of Paula’s X-Rated Party?

A couple different kinds of cookie on the girl side, including Chocolate Cherry Toffee, which sounds quite nice. Cranberry Custard Claufuti sounds more awesome.

Bailey’s heads into the lace cookies Paula makes, and Paula wants some Bailey’s in her. Robert wants to share cocktails with her – obviously confident in the time he has available.

Alton gives us a scientific explanation that sugar is, in fact, the signature ingredient of Christmas. All the hydroxides spell HO, of course? And OH, but he doesn’t mention that part.

BIGGEST LOAF OF CHALLAH EVER. Bigger than Cora herself, I think. Don’t know what’s happening with that, but there it is.

Spiced ginger cake, profiteroles, and trumpet cookes oh my!

Tarte Tropezziane, is what the challah is. Alton calls it a challah sandwich, which is more accurate. Stuffed with pastry cream and berries.

Tyler’s log falls completely apart. Tyler: “Happy Holidays” Elf: “Bite me!”

There are no dishes on the guy’s side! Three on the girls, none on the guyus, five minutes to go. Girls have quite a bit of cocktail going.

The guys are having quite the problems – no eggnog ice cream, so now it’s becoming a sauce. There is, however, a mini-crocembouche, which is their first dish. Come on, boys!

The girls do have great plating. It’s not looking good for the boys, but there is now figgy pudding!

Seven dishes for the girls. Still, the boys are not done. So worried! They drop the final plate, number five, WITH the buzzer. Oh, that was nauseating.

Judgement. Cora’s strategy was to get through. Paula’s was to spank them. Oh, and Merry Christmas.

The first course is a candy cane cocktail with the magnolia lace trumpet cookies. The drink is the sort of drink that sneaks up on you, according to Tina. Ted loves the 5-pound cookie. Great texture, of course.

Chocolate Budino cake is next with White Chocolate mousse. Katie loves the peppermint bark, and Ted worries about hypoglycemia.

Next is the rum ice cream, with black and red chocolate tuille. Ted comments on the booze that Cora cannot leave out of her dishes. She can’t be a closet alcoholic if everyone knows, right?  Cinnamon marshmallows represent Hanukkah. Comments on how soft they are, and how delicious.

Paula tries to pull off chocolate cheese fudge as healthy. Oh, she then covered them in caramel, cream cheese, and nuts. Oh my. They like it, despite all disgusting odds.

The Tarte reminds Katie and Tina of strawberry shortcake. They like this. Last is spiced cookies and cognac milk for Santa, which they seemed to think was pretty funky.

Tyler thinks that there were enough bad cocktails, so he brings out the Dom perignon with his crocembouche. Ted loves the spun sugar, Tina loves the sugar-coated cranberries. Robert sasses Paula.

Pomegranate Ginger Spice Cake next. Ted loves it, Tina thinks this is her idea of a good time.

Cranberry Claufouti – again, Tyler says the words “light as a cloud” Tina wants Christmas at tyler’s house. Tyler keeps talking. Doesn’t he know Robert is more awesome?

Anyway, figgy pudding next, which the judges seem to think is great. Out with the bouche de noel, which AGAIN is light as a cloud – out of Tyler’s mouth. He needs. To. Shut. Up. Tina is now in sugar coma.

Tyler should have let Robert do/talk more. Things would have come out better.

Cora and Deen win it, unsurprisingly. However, they won only by two points, and those two points were won each in plating and originality. You do have to give Deen the originality of cheese in fudge, but I still refuse to believe that it can possibly taste good. The judges felt that the two pairs tied in taste. Oh well. We still got to see Robert takin’ it off!

Go Symon! Not only is it our new favorite chef’s first battle in the blue, it’s the “Chairman’s Annual Fall Classic” – in years past there has been apples, squash, and turkey.

The challenger, Ricky Moore, was specifically selected to battle Symon. He’s the head chef of Agraria, where they daily select their farm-fresh produce. (Oh, also? It’s totally the Battle of the Bald - from the chefs to their sous(s?), there’s not a hair in the house!)

The secret ingredient? Thanksgiving. I hate it when the chairman does this. The last time it was “farm fresh produce” and…well, yeah, of course? Duh?

Both chefs start with the turkey of course, as it takes the longest. Moore ripped his to pieces with his bare hands. Symon used a knife. Also early on are the peelings: sweet potatoes, russets, and apples.

Comments on the groundbreaking nature of the battle, yada yada. Oh! Venison! I love anyone who uses venison over turkey at Thanksgiving. Turkey is nasty. Venison *and* bacon! Delicious.

Symon seems to have an apple crumble of some kind. I love apple crumble. The challenger is going with something involving maple ice cream. Can I put the maple ice cream on the crumble?

Cracklins are in the process on Symon’s side, which pleases Alton greatly. Also there is comment on how very quiet the Stadium is. Tsk!

Symon’s first judges! Ted Allen, who is awesome, Alexandra Guaranschelli, AND JEFFREY STIENGARTEN! He gives thanks for crispy skin, by the way. You know, if you’re surprised.

Symon’s got ice cream too, and a sweet cranberry application. I am hungry! Moore’s cranberries are in stock, which could be interesting.

…Ricky Moore has very vile-looking cornbread stuffing that I would not touch. Symon has “old skool” stuffing. I want Symon to win, thankyou.

There are duck eggs looking to get poached on Moore’s side. Oh, and apparently not entirely the battle of the bald – that particular sous did have a bunch of hair.

Brussel sprouts on the challenger’s side. Ew. However, he does seem to have sweet potato chips, which is a point in his favor.

It is noted that Iron Chef coats have sleeves, which Symon does not normally wear. Symon cries out with heat.

Interesting! The challenger is putting his mashed potatoes through a fine mesh seive to mash them. Symon used a potato masher. Once again, I prefer Symon’s method. The only points that the challenger gets is the sweet pototo chips and the venison.

Symon loses an egg! This is why they make extra – and Symon’s got all his plates in motion. The challenger, whose been yelling about plating for 15 minutes, still doesn’t have a one down, according to Alton. Moore is not doing so hot! Oh, there is a pumpkin soup now, with mushrooms and bacon.

OH NO! Symon spilled the grappa into the apple crumble! Oh, but he seems okay with it. Maybe it was going to go in eventually?

Moore’s venison is still raw. Moore is not doing so hot at all. 3 minutes to get that up to a servable temp! It will be pretty sad if Mike wins his first battle on forfeit.

Symon, DONE! He’s wiping plates with 30 seconds left to go. Challenger is darn unhappy, but he’s got to plate with 10 seconds left. Happy Thanksgiving??

Moore’s food was inspired by growing up. 1st course: Pureed pumpkin soup, with apple ragu and bacon. The judges love it.

Cornbread dressing and braised turkey, as inspired by his mom. Awwww. Alexandra doesn’t think the sweet addition wasn’t necessary. Ted likes the stuffing.

Deep fried turkey with zinfandel cranberry sauce. Ted appreciates the crispy skin. Alexandra thinks it is bold to have such thick slices, and Jeffrey tells her to say what she means, which, he tells her, is that the turkey tastes like shoe leather. Typical Jeffrey.

Venison wrapped in bacon with potato rubachon, which Alexandra loves – even though she normally hates potato puree. Jeffrey actually likes the brussel sprouts.

Sweet potato streusel is up next with apple cider. Alexandra calls it seduction. Ted likes the ice cream.

Symon’s judgment. He wanted to bring out the nostalgia, and at his house they start with drinks and oysters. There’s that grappa. The oyster was in a strange sauce that sounded okay. The judges are very interested in this – and they appreciate the lightness of the first course that is acidic, to cut the later fats.

Turducken spin next. Duck, turkey cracklins, and chicken somehow. Ted thinks turducken is nauseating, but this, being not bird-inside-bird, is okay. Alexandra likes the liver, Jeffrey likes the crunch.

Mashed potatoes with fried turkey liver. Alexandra thinks the breading on the liver was unnecessary. Jeffrey loved the potatoes.

Braised turkey with squash and cranberries next. Ted thinks that the deconstruction of everyone’s traditions is clever, but not too clever, and thus awesome. Alexandra was pleased that the cranberry sauce was tart.

Apple-fennel crumble and ice cream up for dessert. Ted wasn’t expecting to feel the fennel, and he wasn’t too sure about that. Jeffrey wasn’t as sure about the lack of cinnamon in the dish, either.

Verdict!
SYMON TAKES IT!

Taste 24 – ?? (My computer died and I lost the numbers)
Plating 11 – 11
Originality 14 – 10

Sorry, this is a terribly long review. Four pages, in fact. However, WordPress did not cooperate with my desire to link you directly to where I state the winner, so my best recommendation would simply to scroll quickly. It’s in bold, second-to-last paragraph. 

It’s been a long go of it. There were some bad decisions (How did Aaron make it that far? Why did Traci go so soon? ) and there were some good decisions (Besh and Symon are walking into the Stadium to face each other), but either way, here we are. The Kitchen Stadium, where it all began and where it will all end.

I am pleased with both Symon and Besh. Josh and I think that they are both worthy, and that really, if they had them fight two battles, it would be a tie.

Symon wants Iron Chef more now than he did before. Besh is excited to learn of the secret ingredient. Alton calls it a culinary deathmatch. Now, can we get to the ingredient? No, we have to listen to the accomplishments of Besh and Symon thus far. Impressive, yes, but I’ve seen those episodes already. Can we get on with it?

The Iron Chefs that are remaining, Cat, Bobby, and Morimoto, are also monitoring the battle. Catcalls, anyone?

The battle, this test, is called Attain Greatness. I like it.

The ingredient is swordfish! Alton states they must both have a gameplan in mind. Besh, not so much: I’ll roll up my sleeves! Symon: Don’t mess up in the first 10 minutes.

All of the former competitors are in the audience, watching. Josh and I think that must be awkward, but the competitors might appreciate the support.

Besh is headed back to Louisiana. Is anyone surprised? Word on the street is that there are surprise judges (perhaps the Iron Chefs?) and that might save him – Donatella would not let him live after yet another Weeziana showing.

OH MY GOSH CAT AND PAULA VS TYLER AND ROBERT, KITCHEN STADIUM, DESSERT!

Please excuse my screaming. It’s exciting, okay? Anyway, Josh and I are definitely noticing that this battle seems off to a very slow start – not a good thing for either chef. Thus far, they’ve been given 90 minutes, 3 hours, etc etc, but they’ve had other difficulties. Now that they have only 60 minutes, but the best equipment and all the food they could need, will they flounder?

Besh makes a Nage which sounds vile. Symon has a combo of beets and lamb tongue. Weirdo.

Word on the street is wrong. Dontella, Andrew, and Ruhlman are sitting at the judges table. Well, we can hope Donatella is feeling generous.

Symon is using the sous vide! That’s awesome. He took the other contests to heart. There will be points for that. Ruhlman is excited to see what is going on. Donatella is predictably excited to see the sous vide. Andrew is hoping for boundary breaking, as always.

Symon is already plating! Wow! Not even to the 30 minute mark and he’s already getting stuff down.

Besh is quiet, according to Symon, and Symon claims to be feeling like “a million bucks.” Besh is not agreeing. That spells even more doom for the Beloved Besh.

Symon trying to avoid being a “one-trick pony,” which is by all accounts a smart move. Our judges just hate one-trick ponies. Besh should take note.

There is a new Iron Chef coat coming out. Debbie Johnson and her daughter Tore won a competition for the design of the new coats. Interesting. Anyway. Off of that little interlude…

There’s some roasted pineapple and swordfish on a triangular plate down on Symon’s side. It’s really pretty, and looks really good.

I do hope he’s got something up his sleeve for those being stark freezing cold by the time he gets to judging….Bobby usually doesn’t plate until the dead end for that reason, even though they get 15 minutes or whatever once it’s all said and done to make up plates for the judges. All the things he’s made in the hour will need reheated. I hope they take it well.

Symon is so confident. Besh is so not. Come on, Besh!

Skordalia on Symon’s side. I had never heard of it before, but it sounds delicious. I must try this. Symon has also cut down on the bacon.

Flay things they are doing well, but they can’t get lax. Cora agrees. Morimoto wants dessert. Alton is glad that neither of them went for the ice cream machine.

Besh is going to go for dessert, since Morimoto asked for it. He’s got less than 7 minutes to pull off swordfish dessert. Dang. And it’ll be his SEVENTH dish. I was expecting six, because that’s Besh for you, but holy crap. I mean, the man pulled off catfish dessert. Surely swordfish, being less nasty, can’t be that hard.

Ack! Symon has some pretty amazing dishes, but Alton talks too fast for me to get good notes of what they are. Symon does have six as well, however, plate seven, swordfish dessert, is done on Besh’s side. You still can’t top him in dishes yet, Symon. Even if you do plan to tie.

Alton comments! OH! The iron chefs are going to switch chairs with the judges! As Josh said, there really is nothing more appropriate. The Iron Chefs should be the judges when it comes to entry into this tight little club.

Symon is up first. The first one is a marinated swordfish with sesame yuzu. He did a coktail with sake and yuzu. Bobby Flay thinks it’s a refreshing way to start. Next up, olive oil poached swordfish – this is the one that went into the immersion ciruclator; cora is excited about the plating, but not the spices. Bobby loves the taste.

Dish number three for Symon is a swordfish ravioli. Cora doesn’t like the mousse, calling it gritty, but the broth is nice. Morimoto is waiting for the “punch.” Moving on to spice roasted swordfish! Bobby says it is “just tasty.” Cat says it rocks. Good words for Symon!

Crispy Swordfish up next, with micro beets. Morimoto is impressed with the super tender beets. Cat things the skordalia was bland, and she would know. His last presentation is braised swordfish, in a soup thing. Again, Cat thinks that it’s perfectly iron chef material, and Morimoto loved it. Flay is now a swordfish collar convert. It’s looking good for Symon.

Besh is on the block! He starts up with cold smoked swordfish, served with Louisiana wine, and paddlefish roe over mascarpone. (why is mascaraed recognized by the spell checker, but mascarpone not?) Flay will be stealing the dish. Cora thought it was exceptional.

Second, Swordfish Crunchy roll, which sounds like my kind of time – Lobster wrapped in swordfish. Flay says the focus was not on the swordfish. Morimoto agrees. Up comes Swordfish Brandade Anigoli, it’s a pasta with basil foam and quick tomato sauce. Cora really likes the foam. Morimoto approves of the tender mousse.

Breaded swordfish next! He ran bread through a pasta press for this, served with hollandaise. Sounds amazing. Bobby loves it, but he and Cora agree it needs something – heat or acid, but it’s missing.

Blackened swordfish and shrimp for the what, 5th course already? Cora thinks the shrimp is unnecessary. Flay agrees – swordfish was great, leave it be! Sixth course, Swordfish Picatta with chanterelle and bacon. Bobby thinks treating the fish like meat is good. Morimoto is glad he got to the swordfish steak, but finds the bacon and mushrooms too strong.

Swordfish dessert! Swordfish cream and Brik pastry. Bobby applauds the effort, but he can’t taste the swordfish. Morimoto likes his challenging spirit, and thanks him for making dessert. I agree with Morimoto. This dish was obviously unplanned, and it’s really quite spectacular that he tried it at all.

It looks like it is Symon’s win. Normally I would be excited about this, I love the judging of iron chef battles (they are less dramatic than most, with judging happening behind the scenes) but here I’m more nostalgic. Why did this battle have to come? Why can’t they both be Iron Chefs? They both deserve it.

But here it…oh, how am I not surprised. There is a full panel — all six judges are there, even though Donatella and Co didn’t eat. Weird.

They are here to provide history, since the Iron Chefs haven’t been watching the series, as it hasn’t yet been edited and taped, as of the taping of the Iron Chef battle. Ruhlman says that Symon started poorly, and then truly excelled. Besh startred strong and kept it up. Andrew thinks Besh is cocky. Donatella says that Besh had fewer wows, but he never dissappointed. I would say that, despite the fact that these judges have been repeatedly delusional, that this a good representation of the truth as we were shown it.

Now, the Iron Chefs get a moment to say what being an Iron Chef means to them. Flay says you have to think on your feet. Cora says being a visualist is important. Morimoto things that Bobby and Cora said enough. He “100% agree, Yes.”

Ruhlman was pleased with their fundamentals (having apparently forgotten the consomme incident), Donatella got pushed to the edge (catfish truffles will do that to you), and Andrew felt that he saw the warrior spirit he was looking for (once the chairman beat it out of them!)

….Apparently Morimoto drew all the dishes. That’s awesome! Cora felt that they were both warriors. She also felt that the Iron Chef spirit came out when Besh made the dessert, even if it wasn’t that great. Bobby thought the dessert was a Very Bad Idea and that he should have kept his risks elsewhere.

Now, Alton asks – have they pushed the envelope enough? Everyone knows who they have decided for – they aren’t doing the typical voting, with points for plating and whatnot. No, they are voting for who they think should win.

My guess, now, is that it’s going to be really close, but I still think Symon won.

A commercial break, and then the jury verdict! Of course, there is an obnoxious amount of rhetoric on the part of the chairman, there just to tick the viewer off, I’m sure. JUST TELL US ALREADY!

SYMON! Mike Symon won. Wow. The chairman didn’t flourish toward Symon, he actually turned back to the Wall o’ Chef, and then there was Symon’s picture where Mario’s used to be. Symon kind of stopped, and then he was all, oh look! It’s me! and then they let him step up on his brand-new platform.

Besh is a really good loser, though. He was quite gracious. I hope he comes back to the Stadium. I hope that, when he does, he picks Symon, and kicks his butt.

Oh, Aaron is gone! Dancing and joy! Anyway. Tonight is in Paris (that was totally said in accent by the way) I’m not the biggest fan of French food, as the French defined pretentious, but if the food is good, it’s good, it doesn’t matter where it came from.

Chris, Besh, Symon. They are all excellent, but if the world goes rightly, Chris will leave tonight. Besh and Symon are better chefs.

An envelope is presented to each of them – each with 2,000 euros and a list of the chairman’s favorite Parisian grocers. They have to create a 3-course American meal for 20 people, in France. They are culinary ambassadors!

As Chris points out, they don’t know what sort of kitchen they have available. Thus, they can’t plan to make sure they have all cold, all hot, whatever. However, I can’t imagine that the chairman is going to put them under that sort of pressure again. After all, the Iron Chef doesn’t have to fight in a mud pit, he has to fight in the Stadium.

Chris doesn’t know what to do with American food. He hasn’t made it in a long time, after all – he’s been too busy being a foreign-food traitor (yeah, I know, I’m such a hypocrite!) Besh is super-excited (has he done non-American yet?) but he debates over pulling in all the regions in or sticking with his tried-and-true. Josh and I are rooting for the former option. Symon plans on modernizing the classics, a terribly American move. Besh v. Symon, last episode, check.

Chris is already lost, confused, and irritated with how slow his transport is. He finds Symon and heads on in to the same shop.

GO BESH! He can speak a bit of french, and he’s talking it up with the locals. Rachel Ray would be so proud.

Chris continues to follow Symon! Bad form. He should have done a little more research before going to Paris? Yeah, it’s not hard to get a street map beforehand, look up a few words of French, stand on your own two feet….

Symon is making a twisted hot-dog with lobster. Sounds good. Oh, and guess what? Chris is using lobster too. He claims it’s not a coincidence. Loser!

Chris is dealing with this super-expensive cheese and he wants to make a sauce out of it. I’m with the man at the fromagerie – that’s a waste!

Besh is not concerned with his competitors. As he should be! I imagine Symon wouldn’t be either, but he has a shadow.

They are cooking in a beautiful location, namely Craig Robert Stapleton’s home, the former Rothschild mansion. So, it’s actually American soil, ironically enough. Craig has told the 20 guests they are serving that the best chefs in the world cooking for them this evening. Well, isn’t that pressure!

As for that leadership and inspiration: they each get sous-chefs, whom they’ve never met, handpicked by the chairman for each contestant. Most excellent!

They get 3 hours for 3 courses for their 20 people. They also have to showcase their vision in some kind of display. The judges will be sitting with the guests, and the guests’ responses will actually matter, for once. This is good. I like the guests getting a say – and if there are only 20 guests, it’s quite likely that they are all extremely qualified to judge the candidates anyway.

John likes to cook next to Chris, as then he feels more organized. Yeah, I can see how that would make you feel better! Symon needs to read the cookbook, “How to Boil Water,” as he’s not doing so hot in that arena. Not a good day to have a bad day, Symon, no.

Carmelized onion puree sounds icky. But that could be a personal thing.

Chris cries out in anguish when Alton calls the first hour over. Hmmm.

Holy. Cow. Truffle mashed potatoes, something with blueberries for dessert – Symon’s meal sounds delicious, and I don’t even know what it is yet.

I have never heard of what Chris is doing – stuffing a bottle of vodka in a watermelon for the fourth of July? Okay, I can see that happening, but it’s not really a tradition I’ve ever heard of. Not like, oh, strawberry shortcake, which Besh is making.

Symon is having to talk himself into not quitting! Oh noes!

Guests are upstairs having cocktails when Next Iron Chef returns, and it is coming down to a madhouse downstairs. Yes, I know I mixed metaphors, but you know what? It makes plenty of since if you’re watching.

They are all now starting to create their table displays, which really just look like your standard banquet displays. What can you say, they’re chefs, not designers. At very least, it’s very American. Symon has this really cool blueberries-and-raspberries on a white tablecloth thing going, so that’s pretty and American, if kind of cliche.

“No more foodie touchy” comes along, and everyone was still working when it came along. Whooo, that’s close!

The guests, by the way, were unspecified dignitaries and important French people – well, except for our old friends Ruhlman, Donatella, and Andrew.

Besh starts with a crab meat BLT sandwich with caviar ranch dressing. Frenchman 1 complains that that caviar shouldn’t be hidden behind bacon, but other Frenchman 2 says it was the best BLT ever.

Chris starts with new england lobster roll, with no real mentions yet.

Symon’s beginning was a spin on the hotdog, the lobster hotdog and chips. He comments that you can “hammer it home” like you were at the stadium. Frenchman 1 complains that potato chips weren’t something like tomato chips.

Besh’s second dish was chicken and dumplings, to no real comment as yet.

Symon presented veal meat loaf over truffle mashed pototo Frenchman 3 liked it, Frenchman 1 is a jerk. He also looks like an older Draco Malfoy, but I’m sure that’s just coincidence.

Chris, Philly cheese steak – with onion puree, instead of the usual carmelized diced or strings. Also, instead of a bun, it was lying on croutons. Frenchman 4 liked the cheesesteak, but an American-sounding dude said it didn’t taste right (unsurprisingly). Donatella wanted more croutons.

Chris’s dessert was melons and moonshine, the “play” off the vodka-filled watermelon, which didn’t get any comments that I heard.

Symon presented a goatcheese ice cream float.  Lots of comments that it’s very American, a float. Weird Americans, liking cream and soda. American dude really liked it!

Besh went for strawberry shortcake with watermelon sorbet, which someone commented was tasty. Also, everyone laughed that each of Besh’s children eats one watermelon each per day, so he had to add the watermelon.

Alton reminds the crowd that they shouldn’t pick a winner at this point – “What we have to do at this point is send somebody home”

Josh and I comment, over the commercial break, that it’s kind of sad that the judging always comes down to whose idea of what makes an Iron more important. They never argue over the chefs, they argue instead that this quality is better or more important than whatever you said is important. Then, whoever wins THAT argument says, without further discussion, who wins or loses the competition. These people need to take a course in fair grading – they should have decided long since what things are important, and should be looking for the chef that fulfills those roles the best!

Final judges! Alton explains that they were to lead and inspire their sous-chefs, but also to inspire the guests to new appreciation of American flavor.

Ruhlman calls out early, saying Besh’s appetizer (the BLT) was superior. He also felt that it was more controversial and caused people to talk more than other dishes did.

Donatella thinks that the lobster roll was heavy handed on the mayo, and the weakest dish. Andrew apparently loved the lobster roll, as he immediately jumps to insult donatella – have you ever HAD a lobster roll?, he asks. Ruhlman and Donatella promptly jump down his throat, Andrew gets rolled and Chris loses that portion.

Andrew starts out with veal meatloaf praise for Symon. He didn’t abandon the nature of meatloaf, while still elevating it. However, all three judges agree Symon’s mashed potatos were not so hot. There was a problem with Chris’ Philly cheesesteak; they complained that there were some plates without cheese. Other plates didn’t have croutons. Problematic.  Alton complains that Besh’s dumpling was not actually a dumpling, it was pasta, after Micheal asks pointedly. However, it was “complex and interesting,” so those qualities might yet save it.

Ruhlman felt that the final dish represented them wholeheartedly. Bold and simple for Chris, playful for Symon, complex from Besh. Andrew doesn’t think that the fruit salad was either American or Iron Chef material. Donatella thought the shortcake was great. Ruhlman thought the fruit salad was technically cool, but he “didn’t like eating it.” Well, that’s not good. Symon’s float was well done, they thought, it made people scoff and then they changed their minds. Looks like Symon might have taken it again.

Alton comments on how all four of them are extremely proud. He says that they also felt they had never represented themselves better – that’s a pretty hard insult for the loser! Also, the decision, he says, was tough, but clean. Chris goes home.

Chris’ loser speech had hints of sore loser. Barest hints, but after watching him for weeks, they kind of glaringly stare at you. Symon and Besh both were sad to see him go – relieved that they stayed, but sad to see him go. Typical for both of them, really. They are both really great sports, if extremely competitive.

Cue Alton speech about the Kitchen Stadium battle. It’s obvious that Alton is trying to sow discord between the two, and it’s also obvious that these two are still great friends – competitive friends, but friends nonetheless. It is that attitude that carried them both this far, and it will be what carries them home.

While this is no Asian Chicken Salad, and my guess is that housemate would have hated this salad, Josh and I adored it!

Just take a baby blend of dark green lettuces (not micro-green, just baby), a sweet apple, cranberries, and chicken sauteed with sea salt and paprika, and toss that together.

Next, your dressing. This is the most basic dressing ever! Take equal parts honey and vinegar and blend those together. Add a squirt more honey. Add a pinch or two (or three!) of cinnamon – you don’t want to be able to see or smell that the cinnamon is there, but there should be a faint hint of it in the taste of the dressing. So add accordingly.

Then, add your oil. Go with a flavorless oil, and try to use as little as humanly possible. A blender really helps for cutting down the oil you need to obtain the creaminess you desire.

You can toss with dressing beforehand, or for each plate assembly. Yum!

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