My husband and I first saw the Food Network show Chopped shortly after getting married. We were vegging in a hotel room, flipping channels, when we came across the show in all its intense, creative, culinary glory. We both sat bolt upright and said, “We must do this!” A few weeks later found us in our neighborhood grocery store, each armed with our own shopping basket, ready to befuddle the other.
If you haven’t seen the show, here is how it works: four chefs are given four mystery ingredients with which they need to create a dish. There are three timed rounds–appetizer, entree, and dessert–and one chef is eliminated (chopped) after each round, leaving one victor at the end. Competitors can use anything they find in the pantry to create their dish, but they must include all four ingredients and impress the judges with their creativity, execution, and presentation. I highly recommend the show, even if you aren’t an avid cook. The show focuses on the creative process, and it is easy to get hooked.
In our DIY version, we pick out four mystery ingredients for each other, with one of us assigned to an entree and the other to dessert. Anything goes in terms of ingredients, though the choice is tempered by knowing I have to eat this too. We don’t have a time limit because that would be neither practical nor fun. We go to the store and split up to look for the mystery ingredients. We reconvene and present the other with our devious choices. We then split up again, collecting anything we think we might need that we don’t already have in our fridge or pantry. Once at home, we get to work.
I’m gonna brag a little now, so be warned: Josh once had me make dessert with dates, yogurt, raspberrry sauce, and CACTUS. Read: dessert with cactus. What would you do? I made whoopie pies! I whipped up a cactus mousse filling swirled with raspberry sauce and sandwiched it between two date cookies made with yogurt. I am still really proud of that one.
I am also proud of our most recent Chopped challenge. This time, my friend Jill came to visit and surprised us with four Chopped ingredients as a gift. We went to the store and got other mystery ingredients for us all to play with. Josh was assigned the appetizer, I had the entree, and Jill had the dessert. Here is what we did:
Mystery ingredients: Lamb steak, parsnips, pickled ginger, and blood orange juice
Result: Stir fried blood orange lamb with snow peas and parsnips two ways (french fried and candied ginger parsnip chips)
Mystery Ingredients: coconut flakes, toasted marshmallow-flavored hot cocoa mix, fortune cookies, and canned goat milk.
Result: Individual flan pies with a coconut cookie crust and topped with a chocolate ganache