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If there's one thing we've learned, however, it's that you always get another chance to prove your Iron Chef-iness on the Food Network, and sure enough, Crenn was back this week to prove her unique Gallic mettle. And if anyone should be able to ace a competition where the secret ingredient is yogurt, it's a European chef, right?
Certainly, if Crenn approached the "coagulated milk protein" -- to use Alton Brown's over-explanation of it -- with a delicate touch, reigning Iron Chef Michael Symon practically bullied it onto the plate, baking, pressure cooking and custarding it until it was front and center.
His flavors and presentation were so bold, a dessert-course tuile threw judge Andrew Knowlton for a loop. "I didn't take you for a tuile kind of guy," he said. Symon's response: "I'm trying to show you my feminine side."
Despite being inspired by his Greek grandma, Symon's yogurt dishes were, for the most part, hearty peasant fare: big meatballs baked in a yogurt sauce; a huge, braised hunk of lamb shank covered in orange sections and yogurt.
Conversely, the slight-but-stern Crenn barked French (or Franglais) commands at her sous-chefs and got all of her dishes out with artful precision. A "walk through the garden" salad of beets, carrots and greens was studded with perfect, deep-fried yogurt balls for contrast. You could almost picture a tiny gardener figurine positioned on the plate.
On another long, rectangular plate, cubes of melon alternated with flash-frozen rectangles of savory yogurt and seared scallops. Topping it all off for texture was a sprinkling of fried quinoa (when was the last time you saw quinoa fried?).
But most impressive -- and fun -- were her squab mini-crepes, a plate in which she encouraged eaters to roll up some yogurt, some pigeon and some eggplant in a delicate pancake, and chow down. The occasional criticism of her flavors notwithstanding, Crenn's plating and "originality" put her far out ahead of Symon in the scoring -- making for yet another surprising upset late in this season of mostly predictable Iron Chef dominance.