Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Family's Version of CHOPPED

I am a BIG fan of the FoodNetwork program, CHOPPED. On this program, four chefs compete for a $10,000 prize by creating a three course meal consisting of appetizer, entree and dessert from a basket of unknown ingredients that they get to open at the beginning of each round. They must use and transform each ingredient in the basket in their presentation.

On the program, one chef is eliminated each round, until there is just one chef left standing. The rounds on TV are appetizer = 20 minutes and entree and dessert, each 30 minutes.

Our family's version took place during a regular "family style" Sunday dinner. Just like on TV, there were four chefs. Our "take" was to do the appetizer and dessert rounds as a competition. The regular, family style Sunday dinner was prepared in advance by the host family (and without any competition) That would be the middle course, the entree.

Our prep times were strictly controlled by the "judges" and, to tell the truth, because I was one of the contestants, I didn't pay any attention to time. I think the prep time was between 20-30 minutes. As a contestant, I didn't pay attention to anything except getting my offering prepared and plated and presented to the judges. I didn't even look to the right or the left to see what the other contestants were doing.

One thing I do know is that we made the most colossal mess ever. There were spills and crumbs wall to wall. The labradoodles were in "heaven"  trying to keep it clean. If you never got to meet these puppies, I had the pleasure of spending a week with them one time. Check it out here: My Week Went To The Dogs

The basket ingredients were chosen by an impartial individual. For the appetizer round the basket ingredients were: Canned Vienna chicken sausage, pickled jalapino peppers, dill pickle chips, and stove top stuffing.

Each contestant had a cutting board at their very tight station (remember-this is a family kitchen not a commercial one-we are stuffed at the counter like sardines), plus knives, aprons, etc. and liberal use of pantry and fridge.

As soon as the clock started on the appetizer round, I dove into my basket ingredients, chopping up those strange looking sausages, adding about a tablespoon of drained jalapinos to get chopped up too. Into a bowl that went along with some stove top stuffing. I added a beaten egg to that and formed it into a "slider". Crushed some of the dill pickle chips onto my cutting board and pressed the crushed chips onto both sides of the sliders. Then browned them in oil in the grill pan. All my secret ingredients were transformed and in use. All I had to think about now was attractive presentation. I sliced up a tomato and layed the crispy slider on top of it. The dish looked unfinished. I took a green bell pepper from the pantry, sliced it into circles, put them into the grill pan and browned the edges. Set those askew onto the sliders, put a spoonful of ricotta cheese into the middle of the pepper circle, salt and peppered it and dolled it up with a sprig of parsley. Done!

These are the appetizers made by the other contestants. All using the exact same ingredients but each dish totally different from the other three.

Laney's dish - sausage~stuffing~chips~pepper hash on bed of arugula topped with fried egg

Michael's: Hushpuppy with same ingredients (pulverized)~Handmade Jalapino catsup~pickle from pantry

Sorry, I did not get a picture of the forth dish. It was an empanada made with hand made dough which the contestant made using the potato chip and stuffing basket ingredients plus pantry ingredients. The deep fryer was in use for the hush puppies so she had to pan fry her empanadas. Unfortunately this happens on the TV show as well and the contestants have to think on their feet. This entire contest was conducted in the most military, rushed atmosphere that there was little time to snap pix as well as cook. The main reason for rush - 3 babies, ages 3,1 and 3months who had one parent in the contest, and the other was a judge plus the babies all had to be in bed by 7PM or the parents turn into pumpkins.

Unlike the TV version, two contestants were eliminated in round one. Between round one and dessert, we had the already prepared grilled dinner which everyone (14 people) ate together.

In the final round of our family CHOPPED competition, there were two contestants. Myself and the nephew. The ingredients we discovered in our baskets were: a golden yellow honeydew melon, Neopolitan Soy Ice Cream, French fried potato chips, and crescent rolls.

Again, not paying any attention to the other contestant, I peeled and chopped up melon, added sugar, flour and cinnamon to it then opened the crescent roll tube, floured my board and rolled out the dough triangles and put a tablespoon or so of the melon mixture into the center of each. Folded them up so no filling would escape, sugared the tops and put them into the oven. Next I made a chopped French fried potato and chopped nut brittle. I melted some of the ice cream in a separate pan, to use for a sauce, adding a bit of ricotta to it to make it less sweet. When I had two minutes left on the clock, I removed the tarts from the oven onto a plate (by this time we were using plastic plates), Put down some of the sauce on the side of each tart and garnished with the brittle. Here it is. The winning dessert !!

This is the nephews dessert. Because I was so crazy busy, I had to make some phone calls to find out about it. He flambed then pureed the melon adding a bit of the ice cream to it to make a sauce to pour over the  rolled and deep fried dough. He crumbled the French fried stix to use as a topping.

The unwinning dessert

According to one participant: "we have to do this again, this was the most fun we ever had at a Sunday dinner".


  1. I would eat both of your dishes, Rita! Well done.

  2. What fun! I love to cook but don't know that I can think on my feet in that frenzy. Congrats on the win!