Stay In Full Winter Break-Mode With This Month’s Cooking Battle

The last Christmas of the decade has come and gone. The presents have been given, and, let’s face it, exchanged. And one gift stands above them all: The 2019 Winter Break. Christmas and New Year’s on successive Wednesdays? Cutting two work weeks to shreds and infuriating millions of American employers? F*ck yeah.

Appreciate these lugubrious winter days. Savor them.

With this break feeling longer than any in recent memory, the boys and I barely even feel guilty that our last Cooking Battle of the decade — themed around Christmas movies — is coming out almost a full week after Christmas itself. Like any good meal, it needed time to simmer. Besides, it’s here now. Vintage style — no guest judges, just you and us.

Bring your cruelest burns to kick-off 2020. We’re de-stressed, well-rested, and prepped to handle your worst.

— Steve Bramucci, Editorial Director, Uproxx Life


BLT Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Mac & Cheese Showdown — 1) Vince 2) (tie) Zach, Steve
Taco Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Winter Stew Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Date Night Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Pasta Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Hot Beef Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Shellfish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
BBQ Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Pumpkin Spice Showdown — 1) (tie) Vince, Zach 2) Steve
Thanksgiving Side Dish Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Christmas Dessert Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Vince 3) Zach
Chili Cook-off Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Nacho Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Burger Showdown — 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Breakfast Burrito Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Fried Noodle Showdown — 1) Steve 2) Zach 3) Vince
Fried Chicken Sandwich Showdown — 1) Vince 2) Steve 3) Zach
Christmas Dessert Showdown Rematch: 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Italian Comfort Food Showdown: 1) Steve 2) (tie) Zach & Vince
Date Night Showdown Part II: 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Party Food Showdown: 1) Steve 2) Vince 3) Zach
Grilling Showdown: 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince
Film and TV Food Showdown: 1) Vince 2) Zach 3) Steve
Breakfast Sandwich Showdown: 1) Zach 2) Vince 3) Steve
Thanksgiving Showdown Rematch: 1) Zach 2) Steve 3) Vince


We’re giving three points to the winner and one to second place for each round. All votes are counted equally. As it stands, the score is:

ZACH: 41


I love Scrooged and I love Chinese-American food.

Scrooged is the first Christmas movie I watch every year, usually on Black Friday and then at least two or three more times before Christmas Day. Coming from the West Coast, the old Chinese-migrant American cuisine has a very special place in my heart. In fact, if we wanted to get into the nitty-gritty, Chinese-American food is older than most migrant-American cuisines. Chinese restaurants on the West Coast pre-date the first Italian-American pizzerias by over a half-century. And, to tie it all together, the uniting and re-uniting of Bill Murray and Karen Allen in Scrooged is based around them eating Chinese food in Manhattan, mostly in the late 1960s.

To complete this endeavor, I went deep to figure out what was the hot commodity in Chinese-American restaurants around 1969/1970 when Allen and Murray were smoking dope in bathtubs and making their way through the Kama Sutra while ordering plenty of take out. And, wow, that was an interesting time for Chinese-American cuisine. Spots like Shun Lee Palace in Manhattan were changing the game by moving past the Cantonese roots of the cuisine’s history as migrants from Shanghai, Szechaun, and beyond were bringing new dishes into the fold.

While some dishes remained largely unchanged (fried rice, Chop Suey, sweet and sour), others were exploding in popularity with bolder flavors and a little bit of fire. I decided to bridge the two worlds and, in my mind, imagined Bill Murray’s Frank Cross staying kind of old-school and ordering pork fried rice. On the other hand, the worldly Karen Allen’s Claire Phillips (she wears a Moroccan djellaba after getting stoned in a bath … she’s been places) would be more keen to try what’s new. So I’m making Spicy Orange Beef, a la Shun Lee Palace. This was a recipe the new Chinese-migrant chefs were unleashing in this era. It’s new meets old. It’s what Lumpy and Claire would have been eating back then before and after those Kama Sutra sessions.


Zach Johnston

Pork Fried Rice:

  • 2 cups of refrigerated pre-cooked White Rice
  • Half-cup Snow Peas (chopped)
  • Half-cup Carrots (diced)
  • Half-cup Ham (diced)
  • 4 Green Onions (chopped)
  • 3 Eggs
  • MSG
  • White Pepper
  • Soy Sauce
  • Oyster Sauce
  • Fish Sauce
  • Peanut Oil
  • 1/4 stick of Unsalted Butter

Spicy Orange Beef:

  • For the beef: One-pound Skirt Steak
  • 2 tbsp. Baking Soda
  • 2 tbsp. Corn Starch
  • 1 Egg White
  • 3 cups Peanut Oil
  • MSG

For the sauce:

  • One Orange Peel (julienned)
  • 1/4 cup Orange Juice
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Sake (or grain alcohol)
  • 1/8 cup Raw Sugar
  • 1/8 cup Corn Starch
  • 4 Dried Thai Chilis
  • White Sesame Seeds

White Rice:

  • 18 ounces Jasmine Rice (rinsed)
  • Veg Broth


Zach Johnston

For Fried Rice, it’s always imperative you make a batch the night before and let it rest in the fridge overnight before getting started. And, for this recipe, I’ll need rice for fried rice but also rice to serve with the Orange Beef. So let’s start here.

My method is very old school, from the days before rice cookers. I get a medium-sized pot ready and fill it with about 500 grams/18 ounces of Jasmine rice. I use cold tap water to rinse the rice. Basically, I just fill the pot and wash the water out using the lid to keep the rice in. I do this four or five times until the water is pretty much clear of cloudy starch.

Next, I add in a few cups of half-water and half-broth mix. We’re adding depth with salt here but don’t want the water we cook the rice in to overwhelm with saltiness. I add in enough water to cover the rice exactly the depth of the tip of my thumb to the first knuckle over the rice — around an inch. The amount of broth/water you’ll need will depend on the size of the pot you’re using. Eyeball it. It’ll work.

I cover the pot and bring it to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn the heat all the way down to the lowest setting.

Ten to 15 minutes later, the water/broth should have evaporated. But, wait, you’re not done yet. Open the lid and make sure the water is completely gone and then fluff the rice with a fork thoroughly. Put the lid back on and leave off the heat for ten minutes. This residual steam will finish cooking the rice and help keep it light and fluffy. After those ten minutes are up, fluff the rice again with a fork. It’s ready to serve.

I put this rice away for fried rice and I’ll make another batch the next day for the beef.

Fried Rice:

Zach Johnston

The first step is getting everything ready. I dice the carrots, snow peas, and whites of the green onion (saving the greens for the Orange Beef). I cube the ham. I scramble three eggs and dust them with a pinch of MSG. I get my sauces ready: Soy, fish, and oyster.

I’ve been making fried rice since I was ten, so I can kind of do this blindfolded at this point.

Zach Johnston

I start with the eggs. I do a very light scramble and add the eggs into a medium frying pan with a glug of peanut oil (not too much, a teaspoon will do) on medium heat. I use a spatula to move the eggs around as if I was making an omelet. Then the eggs have just set and not browned on the bottom, I use the spatula to make sure the egg is moving and loose. I then fold over on end and roll it onto my cutting board. There should be no egg residue left in the frying pan.

Zach Johnston

In the same pan, I add about a tablespoon more of peanut oil and turn the heat up to high. As soon as it’s hot, I add in my veg and ham. I splash that with fish sauce and a pinch of MSG. You want to fry these until the carrot just starts to get soft, so maybe three to five minutes.

Zach Johnston

I then add in about two cups of rice, a glug of each soy and oyster sauce, white pepper dash, and the butter (yes, butter and this technique is Chef Roy Choi approved). I mix all thoroughly with a spatula until everything is evenly coated. I then use the spatula to pat down the rice in the pan and lower the heat to the lowest setting.

Zach Johnston

In about the time it’ll take to make the Orange beef, the bottom of the rice will get a beautiful crust thanks to the butter. This is crucial to any good fried rice. You’ll know it’s happening when steam starts to rise from the pan. Give the rice a good mix and you’ll see the beautiful crispy bits as pictured below. Fried Rice done.

Zach Johnston

Spicy Orange Beef:

Zach Johnston

I start off with a one-pound piece of locally-raised skirt steak. You can use sirloin or even rib-eye if you want. Just make sure it’s grass-fed and humanely raised. I cut 1/4-inch slices against the grain of the steak and then cut about one-inch slices from those strips, making bite-sized pieces.

I then cover the steak in the baking soda, cover, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Zach Johnston

In the meantime, I julienne by orange peel and squeeze the juice from the orange.

Zach Johnston

To make the base for the sauce, I combine the OJ, soy sauce, vinegar, sake, sugar, and corn starch and whisk vigorously until a smooth sauce is formed. There should be zero clumps of corn starch.

Zach Johnston

Next, I fish my beef from the fridge and get the peanut oil in a wok and up to 375F for frying.

You have to work quickly here. I add the egg white and cornstarch to the beef and toss. The starch and egg form a paste-like coating over the beef with little white knobs — these will be delightful crunchy bits later.

Zach Johnston

I then fry the beef in small batches for about two minutes, using a wire spatula to turn at least once. The beef is small enough, that it’ll be cooking to a perfect pink inside and crunchy outside in that amount of time. I place the fried beef on a cookie sheet lined with a paper towel (sorry, I don’t have a pic of this) and repeat frying the batches.

Zach Johnston

Once the beef is fried, I remove all but about one tablespoon of the peanut oil (I just pour it off into a pot). I then add in the orange peel and dried chilis and cook for about 90 seconds over the highest heat. You just want the orange peel to start to brown.

Zach Johnston

I then add in the sauce mixture and keep the whole thing moving with a wooden spoon. The sauce should thicken within a minute or so. I remove from the heat and put the beef in the sauce and toss until everything is coated. I sprinkle on a good teaspoon of white sesame seeds and the greens from the green onion and give another toss or two to evenly distribute. DONE.

Zach Johnston


Zach Johnston

I work fast and fill my Chinese take out boxes with white rice, Spicy Orange beef, and fried rice. Amazingly, the beef fits exactly into one box. As does the rice. I’m always happily surprised whenever things work out like this.

Zach Johnston

The beef is a throwback delight. The actual beef is nice and pink on the inside, juicy, and soft as velvet with a little bit of chew. The coating is still crunchy and thin, the perfect counterpoint to the sauce and meat. The sauce is an umami bomb with orange and chili spice as its shrapnel. It’s big flavors that are goddamn delicious. I seriously ate half the box in one sitting. I ate the other half cold for breakfast the next morning and it was still delicious.

Zach Johnston

I love this fried rice. I love it so much, I’ve already made it again this week. It’s texturally interesting and just straight-up delightful. The crunch from the buttery crispy bottom, the soft egg, the crunch of the veg, and the umami of the rice is everything I love about this type of food. Five stars!

The one thing I know:


Altogether, this was a filling meal that hit a huge nostalgia note and brought a smile to my face. It’s also great fuel to recover after a long wintry Kama Sutra session next to the Christmas tree.

Zach Johnston

Steve on Zach’s Dish:

I am on record as loving virtually all iterations of Zach. I like road-weary Zach and indignant Zach and 3 am drunk text Zach and, it turns out, dropping-a-whole-shit-ton-of-sex-references-while-writing-a-mini-dissertation-on-Chinese-food Zach. Somewhere around the time you patiently unpacked how to make Jasmine rice while dropping endless hints that you’re f*cking a lot this break, I said to myself: “I’m all in.”

Tell me more, Zach. Are you a Parshva Samputa guy or more of a Uttana Samputa type?

Food looks good. No huge complaints. It’s unshowy, rich, oil-laden Chinese-American food. I’ve never seen this soft porn movie Scrooged that you keep talking about, but I’m sure your meal would have been a hit with its horny protagonists. Quick question though: Which of these two complete dishes does the guy who has campaigned to disqualify Vince and I on numerous technicalities want us to judge? They both look good — meaning they look exactly like Chinese-American takeout in every way — but why get takeout when you can have Zach serve it up with a bit of personal history, a few movie references, and some sexual fluids accidentally emitted as he patted his rice, oiled his noodles, and… formed a paste to coat his beef with little white knobs?

Vince on Zach’s Dish:

Jesus, will you settle down about the Kama Sutra? Am I going to eat this food or rub it on my chest while I crank my white nob? Look, I have neither the knowledge nor the inclination to quibble much with your technique here. This was more or less how we made orange chicken at the Chinese restaurant I used to work at, and I do love that Chinese baking soda/corn starch fried beef stuff. It’s delicious. That being said, you did like two days of work to make… Chinese takeout? It looks pretty good, but I don’t think I could bring myself to pay more than $8.50 for it. Sorry, man, no one’s performing the Congress of the Cowgirl on you under the Christmas tree for takeout Chinese.


“They’re for my wife, she’s pregnant.”

Same, Carl Winslow, same. Regardless of the source of my holiday gluttony, Twinkies are a perfect food to Chef-i-fy. They’re literally just cream-filled sponge cakes, but the storebought ones are loaded with weird preservatives and supposedly have an indefinite shelflife. My update is every bit as light and airy as the ones in Die Hard — a movie which I have no particular attachment to and won’t wax philosophic on — but better in a million tiny ways.

Allow me to elaborate (but not nearly as much elaboration as Zach just did to explain the process of making serviceable-looking Chinese takeout).

Ingredients (cribbed heavily from these two recipes)

  • Nonstick cooking spray — I used coconut-based spray for a nice toasted coconut note
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Two tablespoons heavy cream
  • Four tablespoons butter
  • Two sliced vanilla beans
  • Five large eggs at room temperature, separated
  • 12 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Dried figs
  • Hercules Mulligan Rum-Rye
  • Almond extract
Steve Bramucci

Close readers of the series will note that the image above isn’t my kitchen. It’s actually an Airbnb in Leavenworth, Washington. Meaning that I made my dish on the fly. Whether this is an act of poor planning or of culinary heroism is for you to decide. Please choose the latter, because I’m falling behind.

The Cake

Step 1 here is to sift all the dry elements — the two flours, the salt, the baking powder — together and set them aside. No need to share a photo of that. Next, it’s egg time. I separate the yolks and whites and start beating the whites, adding sugar as I go.

This is stand mixer work that I did by hand, but it got done in due time. I added six tablespoons of sugar and the cream of tartar to the whites and brought them to soft peak stage then set them aside. In the same bowl, I mixed the yolks with the other six tablespoons of sugar.

Steve Bramucci

The yolks looked like this:

Steve Bramucci

I dropped the whipped whites on top of the yolks, added in the dry mix, and then made a little trough to slide in the butter — which had been melted and had vanilla beans steeping in it.

The key here is to keep the cake airy/ spongy — so the whole mix is stirred together for literally five seconds. Then it’s into a makeshift Twinkie pan which I made by shaping a tin pan left at the Airbnb with a bottle of Loganberry liqueur. I could have made a better replica with a spice jar but I like my cream-filled cakes thicker and longer than you’re probably used to.

Into the oven at 350 right-a-freaking-way — time is the enemy here.

Stephen Bramucci

You’ll see that this is ridiculously overloaded with vanilla bean. If you find me a cake that someone says is “too vanilla-y”, I’ll eat my hat and their cake. More vanilla bean is always better. Always.

Here’s a hack for you: You can buy awesome vanilla beans on eBay straight from Madagascar. The quality is better than the two-beans-for-seven-dollars you get at the store and the price is about 1/4 (you get a bean for a buck).

While the cakes baked, I made my filling. Here I diverged from the available recipes. I had about a half of one beaten egg-white left, added a few glugs of heavy cream, a fair bit of sugar, the vanilla beans fished out of my batter, and two capfuls of almond extract. The cakes fall under the heading of “baking” — that’s science. This bit was “cooking” — which is done by feel. I tasted as I went and landed on a sweet-but-not-overly-sugary whipped-cream-more-vanilla and nicely-almondy filling. Then I whipped it until it was pillowy and spooned it into that ketchup squirter that you see in the ingredient photo.

My Twinkie came out with misshapen ends, so I trimmed them. I wish I hadn’t — they looked funky. On the other hand, no regrets about not buying a $12 silicone Twinkie tray on Amazon. This way was free and easy. I pumped my cream into the Twinkie in an effort to make a better dish than Vince and to have a higher frequency of overt sex references than Zach.

Steve Bramucci

You can literally see the cake inflating as you add the cream. Kinda cool.

My last step was an insanely simple whiskey-fig-salted-caramel. I needed something to cut the sweet and the whiskey and the salt did that. This was just butter, those two rescued vanilla beans again (the gift that kept giving!), dried figs, two glugs of Hercules Mulligan Rum-Rye (it’s both!), and enough salt for me to really get a sense of it. When it was boiling and just about to reach soft-crack stage, I turned the heat off and added a glug of heavy cream.

All right, fine. The ends of the cake look kind of dumb and maybe even ugly. My little mandarin orange shavings don’t save it. But my god. This cake was everything that a Twinkie wants to be: Fluffy, hugely vanilla-laden, spongy, buttery. The almond added a nice layer and the fig caramel cut the sweetness a little.

Is it as close to the movie version that inspired my recipe as my cohorts got? Nope. I didn’t recreate someone’s food, I took something pedestrian and elevated it. Just like Bruce Willis and Co. did with what could have been an all-too-standard action flick in Die Hard.

And there’s your button, folks — hand me my crown!

Stephen Bramucci

Zach on Steve’s Dish:
Okay. It must be the Christmas spirit or something because I’m having a hard time poking holes in this dish (Kama Sutra aside).

My biggest critique is that I probably would pass on this as a dessert until someone explained it to me and all the Die Hard references. I mean, yeah, this all sounds solid. Again, though, I might have gotten diabetes just reading this. Was the “glaze” necessary? I don’t remember John McClane looking for spattered glaze in that tower…

Vince on Steve’s Dish:

What, no cross section photograph to show the filling? Come on, man, this is like a porno without a money shot (too many sex references yet?). This looks like a sheet cake wrapped around a paper towel tub drizzled with lemon pepper dressing. How do I know there’s cream in there?

Honestly, you kind of lost me at “Twinkie.” Am I snob if I care not for store-bought cakes? I can barely bring myself to eat home-cooked cakes, let alone the unrefridgerated kind sold at gas stations. Sponge cake with white frosting gets a resounding shrug from me, dog. Though I am impressed with the pure Stevishness it took to fit both dried fig and a rum/rye hybrid (?) into a recipe for Twinkies. What, no herbs? Just because you got taken by a Madagascar scammer on eBay (textbook Madagascar scam) doesn’t mean I’m going to overlook this shameful dearth of herbs (won’t someone think of the grassy notes?!). Thank you for reminding me of this Die Hard scene though, I do love watching two mustachio’d fat guys trade snark.


Vince Mancini

Just to be clear, I did not know Zach would be making Chinese food for this challenge. It’s just that the first “Christmas food from a movie” that came to mind was that Chinese restaurant duck from A Christmas Story. That’s when the neighbor’s dogs who hate The Old Man romp through the house and eat the Christmas turkey and the family has to go out for Chinese instead. Partly I remember the ensuing scene because it’s kind of racist (the waiters singing “fa-ra ra ra ra ra”) but also because that duck looked delicious.

Thing is, I’ve never made Peking duck. Hell, I’ve never even eaten it at a restaurant. True, I did work my only real restaurant cooking job at a Chinese restaurant, but we only had “tea-smoked duck” and the owner got mad at me for writing down the recipes one time (what did he think I was going to do, spread them to everyone on the internet 15 years later? Asshole.). So my sources for this recipe were this, this, and this. The main things seemed to be getting the skin dry and tight, so that it would turn into hard crackling when roasted (then served with little Chinese tortillas and sauce).

This dish has a million steps, so I apologize in advance.

Pre-Production On The Duck

Not only do you have to cook the duck, you have to prepare the duck. In this case, that required washing the duck, spicing the duck, shoving some aromatics and a spice rub up the duck’s asshole (or its body cavity, whatever), then sewing it back up to sit uncovered for 24 hours. Wait, let’s back up. “Chinese five-spice” isn’t actually a single spice, it’s a mixture of: star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorn, fennel seeds, and sometimes Mandarin orange peel. I actually had some Mandarins sitting around so I thought what the hell, and dried my own peel to add to the spice blend. It smelled delicious.

Vince Mancini

The full spice blend (basically cribbing from this guy on YouTube) included the five-spice, sugar, garlic powder, white pepper, salt, and powdered ginger — added to a hoisin sauce base and rubbed on the inside of the duck, with some green onion and sliced raw ginger. Then I sewed up the cavity with a skewer to be airtight and left uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours.

Prepare The Duck Skin

The skin on a Peking duck takes a lot of work. You have to pump air between the skin and muscle to make sure it separates (I have an air-powered wine opener that came in very handy — also makes a great gift), then you have to blanch the skin with boiling water to tighten it, then glaze it with sweet stuff, then hang it to dry.

For the boil, I added a handful of star anise pods, some Mandarin orange peels, and then I just threw in the whole orange with some cloves studded into it to ward off the plague. This would make a good hot toddy.

Vince Mancini

I boiled that for 15-20 until the water got dark and then added some five-spice powder. Then I used it to blanch the duck all over to tighten the skin.

Vince Mancini

Are you tired yet? I hope not, because we still have to glaze this thing. I bought some maltose for this, which I would not recommend. The stuff is so sticky it doesn’t even pour. It seems more like building material than food, or something you pour on loose teeth to extract them.

Vince Mancini

You have to mix it with boiling water so that it’s usable, and once you do it tastes basically just like honey. Next time I’m probably just going to use, you know, honey. Anyway, I mixed that maltose water with honey, five-spice powder, vinegar, soy sauce, and lemon juice, and meticulously poured it all over the duck. Then I pumped some air into the duck and strung it up like Braveheart.

Vince Mancini


Vince Mancini

I departed from the recipes I’d seen here. Don’t ask me why. I just wanted to make sure the skin would be crispy. So I smoked it for 40 minutes on my stovetop smoker.

Vince Mancini


Now comes the tough part: a restaurant would cook this bad boy hanging. But I have neither an oven big enough for that nor a hook. Solution? The ol’ beer can chicken method, where you shove a can of beer (or in my case, water, because I wasn’t about to waste a whole beer) up the duck’s asshole (body cavity) and stand it straight up to cook.

It worked… surprisingly well, actually.

Vince Mancini

The Pancakes

Hey, tortillas! I know how to make these! I used Ming Tsai’s recipe I found online. Flour, boiling water, salt, sesame oil, and peanut oil. Actually, these boiling water/sesame oil tortillas were easier to work with than the Mexican lard ones I’ve made. In either case, what I’ve learned is that you want to roll them until they’re thin enough to see the work table underneath and then keep the pan you cook them in at a constant temperature (hot enough for vegetable oil to smoke after a bit, so work quickly).

Vince Mancini

The Sauce

Sorry, I know this is getting long. This is just hoisin sauce, lime juice, vegetable oil, and a little honey.


Chopped scallions and cucumber. Raw. I know Zach is going to be like “you shoulda pickled the veg!” but nah. Raw green onion and fatty meat is a beautiful combo, plus something so fatty and rich needs a fresh element.

Cook that duck at 400 for about 35 minutes.

Vince Mancini
Vince Mancini
Vince Mancini
Vince Mancini

Oh shit, it’s delicious. Crackling skin, juicy meat (like your mom), served on a delicious pancake with fresh, crunchy garnish and sweet sauce.

Vince Mancini

Not to be blasphemous, but I kind of don’t want to eat any meat that isn’t served inside a flour pillow with sauce and fresh veg ever again. This was far and away my best first attempt at any recipe.

Steve on Vince’s Dish:

I have been very public about my love for Peking Duck. And, as a purveyor of the form, this all seems very legit. You lost me somewhere between all the baths, bastes, and smoke outs (a problem your mom and I are often plagued by), but your MO seemed to be: When in doubt, add five-spice and some sweetness.

That works just fine, in my book.

I wish you had roasted the duck with beer — simply because I’m curious if the effect would have worked (could have complimented the maltose syrup!). Somehow the meat in that plated image looks a little tighter and more together than I’m used to, I wonder if its delicate tendons would have melted more with a beer in its deepest cavity (another conundrum I’ve addressed with a few of your blood relatives). Anyhow, without a taste, it’s tough to judge this and the herculean effort is definitely creditworthy.

I’d love a little heat here, but that’s not really the dish, I suppose. Instead of complaining, I’ll let you and Zach battle over prep times and hope that if I offer to teach you how to butcher poultry properly you’ll invite me to your next duck feast.

Zach on Vince’s Dish:

This might be the most work Vince has ever done for this competition. And, still, he gives me shit for my one, maybe two hours of prep and execution, by saying “you did like two days of work to make Chinese takeout.” No, I made rice one day (which took 15 minutes) and then cooked for like 30-45 minutes the next day. Per Vince, he then straight-up says you need to prep this duck for 24-fucking-hours before you even cook it. Come on. Hello Mister Kettle, meet Mister Black.

Look, I can’t deny any of this technique. It all looks fine. But, fuck man, please get someone else to plate your food. Please. It looks like you used a machete to hack at the duck and then threw it at the pancake without a care in the world. Overall, I’d give this a B+. It could have been an A if the duck was a little less over-cooked and the presentation was on point.

At the end of that day, you’re going to be in the kitchen, toiling with this duck while I’m performing the Kama Sutra on your mom with my Spicy Orange Chicken under the Christmas tree because my dish(es) don’t take two days to make.