Anna and I are really getting into the show Chopped as of recent – it’s a Food Network show (which is porn for fat people, as we know) that throws 4 chefs into a 3 part challenge to create meals from mystery ingredients. So you might have for the appetizer round celery, tuna fish, calf liver and some Mediterranean vegetable no one ever uses. Chefs get 30 minutes to whip that up into something people would pay top dollar for.
Frequently, while we’re watching Anna gets into berating the contestants about falling back on the same ideas every episode. “I’d totally be grabbing bacon right now.” “Just crumble it! Use it as a topping!!” And so on. So I finally said on a lark, “OK, we’re doing Chopped here at home.” She’s all into cooking and baking, so the idea intrigued her.
Yesterday I swung by Publix to pick up the mystery ingredients, trying to keep it somewhat mixed but not crazy difficult for a first go. And so, here goes the first Anna Chopped:
I grabbed by basket of ingredients, debated the groupings, and settled on the 4 I’d give her:
- Peaches, fairly ripe
- Provolone cheese, “smoke flavored” (I use the quotes gingerly)
- Sour cream and onion Pringles
It ain’t exactly a softball lob, but doesn’t require too much imagination to use these together.
First thing we quickly realized is the time element really makes the show hard. I took it easy on Anna and gave her 40 minutes for the appetizer (think the show gives 20) to account for kid interruptions I can’t intercept and to make sure she doesn’t cut her fingers off in the mad rush. After 40 minutes, she needed another 5 minutes to let the flat bread fully cook.
The second thing we realized is you need some chef training to come up with good names. I asked, “so what is this?” Anna replied “Flatbread” with a smile. OK, flatbread annndd…? We’re still not settled on a decent name.
To help the dish, she added prosciutto (we didn’t have bacon) and some basil from the garden. After eating it, I really liked everything together, and actually would have liked more peaches, oddly enough. But, I’m a sucker for pizza, so this was a winner on flavor front. The only thing I could criticize was the originality – flat bread seems like the go-to idea. Sounds harsh, but Ted Allen would agree.
Flavor, 5/5, presentation 3/5, creativity 2.5/5
The flatbread was really filling, so we skipped to dessert. I modified the second group and came up with:
- Corn chips
- Dates (my aha!!)
- Cream cheese
Again, not too hard really, and Anna can make anything given cream cheese. The result:
Again, Anna wasn’t thrilled with her presentation aspect. I told her she needs to squirt green stuff on a blank white dish to surround anything she’s plating. It what I see constantly on those artsy cooking shows.
The only failing of the dish was the abundant sweetness. She added sugar to the custard part, and with the honey in the corn shell + brown sugar and the powerful sweetness of the dates in the pudding really made the dish way sweet. I ate it, it was delicious. Anna and Babcia got through a little, but not too far before stopping to avoid sugar coma.
I was feeling jaunty about the dates – I don’t really know dates well, and Anna really didn’t know what to expect with dates. But, they really made a nice topping to the whole dish. I really liked the pudding – almost like a sweet plum pudding. I suspect Anna has a predilection toward these creme-brulet cups, so it’ll be interesting to see if she is able to incorporate new containers for her future desserts.
Flavor 4.5/5, creativity 3.5/5, presentation 3.5/5
It was damn fun, actually, and I got a dinner out of it. Anna was feeling like I was treating her by helping her cook for me. That’s a rare win / win scenario any husband would endorse. We’ll see where this goes, but it’s feeling like a good way to get Anna more acquainted with new ingredients and cooking methods.
I’m already preparing our next round. Wonder how long before I can incorporate oddball fruits from the international farmer’s market?