I sure hope the first rule of Chopped Club is not “Don’t talk about Chopped Club” because if it is, I’m about to be in serious trouble!
What is Chopped Club? It’s a very exclusive, very elite society of top chefs who must utilize mystery ingredients in their food preparations. By exclusive and elite, I mean Tim and me. Let me back up. One of the major perks of working in a school is having summers off with Tim, and now also with Wes. Since Wes was just a newborn this summer, we stayed pretty close to home most of the time, with the exception of frequent walks around the neighborhood. As you may already know, I’m a Food Network junkie, and in short order, Tim and I both became sort of addicted to the show Chopped. Four chefs are given a basket of seemingly random or weird ingredients that they must utilize in their courses. They have time limits, and over the course of three rounds (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) one chef is eliminated each round until there’s only one chef left, who is awarded $10,000. It’s pretty intense. I decided one day it would be really fun if we did a (loose) interpretation of Chopped at home! Tim, being the good husband that he is, humored me, and we set the following ground rules:
- We would go to the store at the same time, and separately shop for the other person’s four basket ingredients.
- After the basket ingredients were revealed to the other person, we were free to shop for additional ingredients needed for the meal.
- No giving the other person really gross things or things they wouldn’t normally eat anyway. (I’ve seen episodes of Chopped with some pretty, ahem, “interesting” ingredients…cow’s tongue, rocky mountain oysters, chicken intestines… Plus, it doesn’t behoove you to choose gross things for the other person, because you have to eat it in the end!)
- The baskets must include one protein.
- One person would cook that night, and the other person would cook the following night.
- No time limits.
So, off we went to the store with open minds! And maybe there was a little bit of silent evil sneering going on, a la Dr. Evil.
There are so many really “good” things you can choose for another person to have to cook with! It took a while of wandering up and down the aisles to narrow it down, but finally I decided what to choose for Tim: Precooked Canjun chicken sausage, canned German potato salad, celery root, and canned blueberry pie filling – clearly the curveball. Muhuahahaha.
Then I got my basket from Tim: Wheat grass, (wheat grass, really?!), Basmati rice, ligonberries, and lamb chops (I don’t eat lamb – a clear violation of rule number 3! But… I dealt with it.). Ok, so the rice – good deal. The ligonberries were a jam-like substance, kind of a cross between cranberries and raspberries. I could go with this.
So we both formulated our plans and headed home to begin the culinary adventure.
Tim volunteered to cook the first night, and I think he did a great job combining the basket ingredients with his “Pigs in a Pig Blanket.” (They always name their dishes on Chopped.) He cut the sausages into about 1 inch pieces and wrapped them in bacon, then stuffed a piece of celery root in the center. Then he topped each of those with a reduction of the blueberry pie filling and red wine. I loved the combination of the sweet with the salty! He also made a puree of the potato salad and celery root, along with some other stuff he added in. That’s something they do a lot on Chopped that no one actually does at home – make a puree of ingredients. Tim’s puree wasn’t bad. You could definitely taste the tang from the vinegar in the potato salad. Finally, he melted some goat cheddar cheese (remember, no cow’s dairy for me) onto some pita chips for use with the remaining blueberry red wine reduction. Again, I loved the sweet and salty, and the crunch of the pita chips was a nice textural addition! All in all, a job well done! And I think he got bonus points for ambiance, don’t you?
The next night it was my turn. I used my prior knowledge of the judge’s likes and dislikes to my advantage. Tim loves spicy food, so I made a ligonberry chipotle glaze for the lamb chops, which I just simply grilled. I decided to use the rice to make risotto, so I wasn’t just putting white rice on the plate. I pureed the wheat grass along with some parsley in the chicken stock I used for the risotto. In the end, I stirred some thinly sliced purple asparagus and pecorino cheese into the risotto. I think the risotto turned out pretty successful, and Tim really liked the lamb chops! Not too shabby!
In the end, Tim declared that I was the winner of this round, though I didn’t really think of it as an actual competition. It was a lot of fun, something different to do for dinner, a way to get our creative juices flowing, and pushed us (especially me, I think) outside our comfort zones.
But I’m still waiting for my $10,000. 😉
Stay tuned for Chopped Club the sequel!