Judge Gabrielle on the fried White Castle: "I want to sit in front of the TV and eat these for the rest of the day."Photo: Melissa Hom.
At the conclusion of the first and second stages of the battle between Josh Cohen of Park Slope barbecue joint Biscuit and ChipShop’s fry guy Chris Sell, the latter had moved ahead: Both chefs disgusted judges Ben Schmerler and Gabrielle Langholtz more or less equally when they alternately smoked and fried sushi ("Sushi is owed an explanation and apology by both of these methods," said Judge Gabrielle), and ChipShop figuratively battered Biscuit in the cod challenge. The question going into the final two rounds: Which method of cookery would prevail on rice pudding and (brace yourselves, cravers) White Castle sliders?
Challenge No. 5: White Castle Slider
Judge Ben Schmerler expounds on sliders.Photo: Melissa Hom
Judge Gabrielle: It’s like "Where’s the beef?" except that it’s "Where’s the smoke?" For a split second before I bit, when the exterior of the bread was touching my tongue, I was like, "Oh, it’s smoked," and then as soon as I bit into it, it went away.
Judge Ben: It inspires me to make something like this. But the smoke is too faint. This Maldon sea salt that I’ve been cooking with would crank it up — it imparts power and honesty to the smokiness.
Chef Josh: The smoke only permeated the bread. Maybe if we had tried the ingredients separately. If we were making the burgers ourselves, we would have used smoked paprika, smoked salt …
There are no words to express the glory of the fried slider.Photo: Melissa Hom
Judge Gabrielle: This is totally disgusting, and I want to eat the rest of it! I want to sit in front of the TV and eat these for the rest of the day in a deep depression and watch really bad reruns. I have never experienced crack, but I would compare it to that.
Judge Ben: If we had a different government, I could see this potentially being banned. There’s a total imbalance — there’s a lot of fat and not much flavor
Dessert Challenge: Rice Pudding
Josh Cohen dishes it out; Judge Gabrielle takes it.Photo: Melissa Hom.
Judge Gabrielle: I can finally taste the smoke! And I don’t want it. Actually, what offends me about this is not the smoke, it’s the texture of the rice. It’s so grainy.
Judge Ben: The dominant flavors are the vanilla and the smoke.
Chef Josh: If you smoke rice pudding, it’s going to be bitter. I didn’t want to put a ton of sugar or sweetener — we wanted to keep the flavor. The taste of the smoke comes after the fact; you don’t taste it until it hits the back of your mouth.
The rice pudding critter erupts. Judge Ben: "That’ll impress your 5-year-old."Photo: Melissa Hom.
Judge Gabrielle: I just like the fact that it’s warm. When I eat the batter, all I taste is corn dog and funnel cake. "Uncle!"
Judge Ben: You’d want this in smaller portions. One bite.
With the obvious exception of the ribs, our esteemed judges — despite having no great fondness for fried foods — generally favored ChipShop’s interpretations. However, it should be said that when Biscuit’s Cohen amuse-bouched a deviled egg (an item soon to be added to his menu), both judges went into paroxysms of praise.
— Daniel Maurer