Originality Reigns Supreme on Iron Chef America: Battle Oktoberfest
In a new series of battles on Iron Chef America, two teams of chefs will face battle with an array of themed ingredients. Tonight's Battle Oktoberfest featured a compendium of Bavarian foodstuffs that you'd find at the annual festival in Munich, Germany. Items included pork, veal, pretzels, sauerkraut and, of course, beer — which is always at the center of Oktoberfest celebrations. For the battle, the Chairman teamed up Iron Chefs Michael Symon and Geoffrey Zakarian to battle against challenger Chef Bernhard Mairinger, who specializes in Austro-German cuisine, along with his two sous chefs. The battle proved to be extremely close but only one team prevailed.
For the first course, the chefs had to prepare a dish within 20 minutes to serve to the judges. Chef Symon made spaetzle with pulverized pretzels. He served the dumplings in a sweet and sour broth of ham hock, dried cherries and beer. Chef Mairinger prepared a dish of braised baby gem lettuces with pan-smoked and seared trout, pretzel chips and apple mustard, delivering it with just seconds to spare. Ultimately, the judges awarded the Iron Chef dish a perfect score of 15.
As the cooking continued, Chef Mairinger's team put the loss behind them and soldiered through the dishes, executing like clockwork — that is, until the Chairman revealed the culinary curveball of dried hops. Chef Mairinger decided to use the hops to infuse a cream sauce for his cheese spaetzle, whereas the Iron Chefs decided to smoke slab bacon with it. Meanwhile, Iron Chef Symon ground veal to create a sausage, but he struggled to load the casings onto the sausage stuffer, and then the crank wouldn't work to push down the tamper. Luckily, with sheer will and force, he was able to make it work and quickly turned out perfect sausages, which he braised in beer.
Once it came to presenting, Chef Mairinger offered a more authentic approach to his dishes: cheese- and speck-filled potato dumplings over cabbage, braised pork shoulder with cheese spaetzle, venison loin with pretzel blini and a marble cake with forest berries. The Iron Chefs presented a more modern take with some traditional overtones. Dishes included poached cod with pretzel and sauerkraut sauce, veal schnitzel with pretzel and beer sauce, veal sausage and smoked bacon with Brussels sprouts slaw, and bacon and apple galette with beer sherbet. The judges found that Chef Mairinger made the best use of the hops in his infused cream sauce, whereas the hops-smoked bacon dish from the Iron Chefs didn't offer enough hops flavor.
Though the battle was very close, the deciding factor came down to originality, which earned the Iron Chef team 3 points more than the challenger. The Iron Chefs prevailed, winning with a score of 77 — 2 points higher than the Austro-German team.