Thursday, December 16, 2010


Last night on my way home I had an idea.  I called J and challenged him to a Chopped style food challenge.  Chopped is one of our favorite shows.  The premise, if you've never seen an episode, is that you have four chefs and three rounds: appetizer, entree and dessert.  Each chef receives a basket of four mystery ingredients that must be incorporated into the dish in some way.  After each round, the dishes are critiqued by a panel of three judges and a chef is eliminated, so that at the end there are two chefs going head to head in cooking their desserts.

Not only is cooking a Chopped style meal one of my 130 Before I'm Thirty goals (number 25), but we happened to have a small turkey breast and some cooked ham that my grandparents had sent home with me (it was for the luncheon that got canceled because of the weather) and a lot of random ingredients laying around.  I thought this would be a fun way to spend a Tuesday night (and it was!) and a great way to use up some of our leftovers.

After J accepted my challenge, I went to the store and picked up a few more ingredients for our "pantry" that all Chopped contestants have access to.  They have all sorts of ingredients--I picked up just a few staples: 2 limes, 2 oranges, 1 Poblano pepper, 1 Anaheim pepper, 2 green bell peppers, one bag of mixed greens, 2 apples, 1 yellow onion, french bread and a bottle of white wine.  I tried to select ingredients that we could use later this week if we didn't use them last night.  For example, I figured we could either cook with the wine or drink it with our meal.

When I got home, I pulled out the ham and a few other ingredients.  We each chose which course we would like to do.  I chose appetizer and J chose entree.  Then we picked the four mystery ingredients for the other person and wrote them down on a piece of paper.  We then exchanged lists and got to work.

My mystery basket contained:
French Onion Laughing Cow Cheese

J's mystery basket contained:
Cannelloni beans
Black olives
Poblano pepper

Woods tried to convince us to let him be our judge but he is never allowed to have human food (as much as he would like to) so he just watched.

Sorry Woods I didn't take a very flattering picture of you.  He's not that huge, I swear!

I made a fresh green salad with warm crisp ham, caramelized red onions, sliced celery, sliced almonds and crumbled laughing cow cheese, tossed with a orange vinaigrette and served in a carved out orange with a side of toasted bread.

J made an Italian-Mexican fusion dish with a ham, Poblano, red onion, provolone cheese and cannelloni bean casserole topped with paprika.  This was served with an Italian side salad of olives, Anaheim peppers (they tasted a lot like peppercinis) and parmesan cheese which was tossed in a garlic olive vinaigrette.

 He created a garnish that married the two cultures: an olive stuffed with garlic on one end and an olive stuffed with a jalapeno on the other.

We didn't really time ourselves like they do on the show (we are not trained chefs after all) but we did try to have our dishes done at the same time so that we could sit down, eat and critique our dishes together.  We each got two burners and were better about sharing ingredients and equipment than they are on the show.  Normally I share recipes on this blog, but because we were making them up as we went along and trying to get the dishes done so we would both finish at the same time, we didn't really have a chance to write them down.

My work station
J's work station and our mutual work station

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that we both were able to take ingredients and create tasty dishes from scratch without the internet or a cookbook to help us and we both agreed that it was a great way to spend an evening. In fact, we may just have to have another Chopped challenge again soon!

Anyone else tried a Chopped style or another style of food challenge at home?  Inspired to try it yourself?
If you do, please send me pictures/details: ktrefinishingschool[at]gmail[dot]com!

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