Monday, February 6, 2012

My "Chopped" Challenge

My very sweet friend Maureen had once told me she wanted to host a party that featured a home version of the Food Network show "Chopped."  She invited me to judge the competition while other friends prepared the food to be tasted.  I was thrilled, as it sounded like so much fun!

Unfortunately, the entertainment has been postponed.  But I understand completely - this would have been difficult to coordinate.  And, of course, how many dirty dishes would there be to deal with by the end???  Spare the stress, grab some popcorn, and just watch the show!

But the notion of a personal spin on this game has rather struck my fancy, after finally watching a few episodes; I hadn't yet seen it when Maureen first discussed the plans with me.  I had to get a t.v. in order to watch baseball playoffs and football games this past fall, not to mention the upcoming Oscars - the only things I bother with besides royal weddings!  So then I gave "Chopped" a few viewings, since the opportunity was finally available.

For those who are unfamiliar with the premise, here 'tis: four chef contestants are given surprise baskets of goodies with which they have to prepare an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert in successive rounds.  They may use other ingredients available in the pantry, but they must use the required elements and, ideally, transform them somehow into something fabulously creative.  Oh, and by the way, they're given only 20-40 minutes to prepare their dishes, depending upon the round.  For each course, the chef who offers the least enticing creation is chopped - eliminated - until only one contestant is left to win the $10,000 prize at the end of the show.

Each time I've watched the host recite the required items - say, combine licorice, frogs' legs and popcorn to make an appetizer - I've tried to determine what I might do with them.  I'm tickled when one of the chefs makes my idea, though truly, in real life, I'd be there for the full 20 minutes trying to figure out my options before I could even start cooking!

"Chopped" reminds me of the suspense of receiving a weekly farm share, and never quite knowing what one might find in the bags each week - potatoes? leeks? basil? corn?  What's in season?  What's had a difficult time because of weather, vs. another item that thrived in those very same conditions and is in peak form?  You take the produce home and only then can try to decide what you'll have for dinner.

So I've been trying to figure out how to do my own version of "Chopped," but without terrible expense or having to fly to Mongolia to acquire a particularly unique ingredient like yak's milk.  (I would actually love to visit Mongolia, which strikes me as a fascinating place; but my passport has expired and I'm phobic of flying anyway.)  We've got good grocery stores and lots of ethnic markets - Middle Eastern, Indian, Brazilian, Polish, African, Latin, Asian -  in the Ann Arbor area, as well as lots of gourmet specialty shops.  I know I can't get everything here, though.

But I think I've come up with a basic premise, which is subject to my whimsical changes if I find there's something I should have considered but didn't.  So here's my "Chopped" challenge:

1. I'll take suggestions for ingredients to use in a dish - 3 items per round, please - for an appetizer, an entree or a dessert.  (You can comment below, on my Food Floozie Facebook page, on my personal Facebook page, or by email.)  I'll then rack my brain and test my skills by trying to create a fabulous and delicious offering with these items.

2. Let me know which course you're asking me to make with your suggested ingredients.  I would likely presume that hot dogs belong in an appetizer or an entree, but you might very well have wanted to laugh at me while I tried to incorporate them into a sorbet.

3. I'll take all of the suggestions and pick randomly to make 4 different dishes for Monday through Thursday posts.  (Friday, of course, is Frugal Floozie Friday!)  Today is Monday, February 6; I'll pick my challenges on Friday, February 10.  If only four people take me up on the challenge, then I've got my four dares already without having to risk anyone feeling left out.  I hope I get a better response than that, though!

4. I'll aim to get my posts about the dishes ready for the last week in February, depending upon how hard you make this for me and how many brain cells pop while I try to figure out how to make something edible with a bizarre set of foods.  I reserve the right to maybe post in March, though I'll try valiantly to stick to my schedule.

5. While still suggesting intriguing items, please don't demand anything terribly expensive or outrageously exotic; there are limits upon my time and funds when it comes to seeking out ingredients.

6. Although our recent weeks of 40-50 degree weather and utter lack of snow would tend to make me seem like a liar with this next statement, we actually do, theoretically, get a winter in Michigan.  Therefore, "fresh seasonal produce" essentially means "oranges flown up from Florida."  Grocery store basics - apples, bananas, citrus, lettuce, broccoli, onions, dried fruits, etc. - would be readily available.  Something like peaches, though, would be either non-existent or they would be rocks shipped in from South America ... or they would come in a can with heavy syrup.

7. Don't necessarily suggest the obvious - I'd like to be nudged into thinking outside the frying pan a bit with unusual combinations.

8. However, that having been said, I'm not interested in eating anything like crickets.  They may be an important source of protein in some places, and they may be readily available at pet supply stores, but ... ewwww!!!  Be nice.  You can make me think and you can make me work, but please don't make me gag.

9. I have no food allergies.  I'm neither a vegetarian nor a vegan, and I don't keep kosher.  There are no dietary restrictions to bother about.

I think that's it.  I'm excited!  I can't wait to see what you suggest, and then try to figure out what to do with it all!


Unknown said...

Oh my gosh, what a great way to challenge yourself!! Wow, let's see.... I'll suggest dark chocolate in the appetizer round. :) Good luck!!!

Cranberry Morning said...

And I'm suggesting basil pesto in the appetizer round. I was going to say in the dessert round, but you did ask us to be nice. :-) And why basil pesto? Cuz I LOVE THE STUFF!!
Good luck, Mary!♥

Judee @ Gluten Free A-Z said...

What a challenge Mary!
I'll suggest feta cheese in the appetizer round.

Yenta Mary said...

Jeremy just dared me to make an appetizer with shrimp, bacon and Co-Jack cheese ....

Angela said... about harissa, oranges, and bacon...

Sarah said...

Oh this is so much fun! My husband and I joke that so often our kitchen often resembles a "Chopped" kitchen since I will go to the pantry and come up with something, even when it seems like there is nothing in the house that could even resemble ingredients for a full meal. I have been thinking about this since yesterday morning and have come up with the following challenge - for the dinner round - orange faygo pop, ground turkey and barley. I can't wait to see all of the scrumptious dishes that you come up with!! Time starts now . . .

Rachel (Diary of a Recovering Chocoholic) said...

What fun! Lu and I are thinking of having a mystery ingredient challenge on our baking blog- this sounds similar.

Dessert (because its my favorite!)? Carrots, Chocolate and Rum!

Candace said...

How fun! I can't wait to see what you come up with. The harissa, oranges and bacon grabbed my interest. :)

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