I need a another TV obsession like I need a hole in the head. I already watch too much. And a new show (especially one where I haven’t seen any of the OLD shows) is very dangerous for me. But all that aside, I got sucked in anyway…
So what is this new to me show? Breaking Bad? The Wire? True Blood? Nope… despite my love of all things dramatic, none of those stellar shows appeal to me in the slightest. My newest obsession is…CHOPPED. The cooking wars on Food Network. Basically four chefs (quite often famous ones from the network) face off over three rounds. Appetizer, entrée and desert. The twist is that they must work using the ingredients uncovered in each round’s basket.
For instance things like tripe and prickly pear cactus or strawberry leather (fruit roll-ups for those of us not limited to using non-product names). And that’s for a desert. It’s really wild. And I’ve learned a lot about some foods I’d never even heard of; like, Umeboshi (pickled plums from Japan), Pepitas (pumpkin seeds), Jaggery (unrefined sugar in a cone shape), Ramp (wild leek), Pomelo (citrus fruit from Southeast Asia).
The four chefs start out with the appetizer basket. They must combine the mandatory ingredients (usually between three and four) and compliment them with
things taken from the Chopped pantry (which is pretty very well appointed). The only pre-prepared things are a large pot of boiling water and an oven heated to 500 degrees. Other than that, they’re on their own with a very short twenty minute cooking time.
Once the dishes are complete and plated (which isn’t as easy as it seems), the chefs present them to a rotating panel of judges including Alex Guarnaschelli, Amanda Freitag, Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Samuelson and Marc Murphy. Ted Allen is the host. The judges comment with an amusing soundtrack highlighting the bad and then vote on which chef will be “Chopped” from the round.
The remaining three chefs then move to the entrée round. With only a little more time, they open a new basket and proceed until again one of them is “chopped”, leaving two to face-off for the desert round and the prize of $10,000. Needless to say these are some really creative people. And it’s great fun to see how they combine ingredients you’d never expect to see together in new and exciting ways. It’s equally fun, I’ll admit, to see them fail.
But unlike a lot of reality TV, their failure isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Just luck of the draw ingredient-wise. Recently on Chopped Grilled (the newest episodes) one of the ingredients was green plantains. Apparently, in order to peel them and get them soft enough to be edible, you must first boil them and then prepare them. Only one of the chefs in the round was familiar with plantains (and for him only because he’d seen it on another episode of Chopped) so the others treated them like bananas. A mistake since eating them without proper cooking can cause some serious indigestion.
All in all, if you’ve got an evening to spare—I’d highly recommend watching an episode or two—or three. It really is addictive. Gochujang* anyone?
Do you watched Chopped? What is your favorite cooking show? Have you used some wild and crazy ingredients in your cooking?
*a savory condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt from Korea.