We watch too much TV. And a lot of Food Network. I should state that right up front. Anyway.... we decided that it would be incredibly fun to do a "Home Version" of the Food Network show Chopped. For those of you who haven't seen it, the chefs are given baskets containing a selection of "mystery ingredients" that they must use in some way in their dishes. There are three rounds: appetizer, entree, and dessert. Each round has a time limit (usually 20-30 minutes), and is judged by a panel of three "experts".
For our home version, we dropped the time limits and cut the rounds down to entree and dessert. We also allowed each other $20 to buy additional ingredients, since we don't have a fully stocked food network pantry. We chose three mystery ingredients for each other, with one overlapping ingredient between courses.
Entree: Beef Steak, Canned Pumpkin, "Brown Bread" (Pumpernickel)
Dessert: Canned Pumpkin, Mascarpone, Golden Grahams Cereal
Entree: Cream Cheese, Catfish, and Funyuns (forgot a couple in the pic... oops)
Dessert: Cream Cheese, Apple, and Whole Nutmeg
We actually managed to stay out of one another's way shockingly well considering the space we were cooking in... Here's a progress shot:
It was a crowded workspace.
Ready for the finished products?
Dante's Entree: Brown Bread and Steak Sandwich with Pumpkin Sauce and Bacon
(I'll let Dante add comments here in the morning!)
Dante's Dessert: Graham-crusted French Toast with Pumpkin Mascarpone Filling, Vanilla Curd, and Caramel Sauce
My Entree: Pan-fried Funyun-crusted Catfish and Catfish Mousse "Sushi"
For this, I breaded the catfish in crushed Funyun and pan-fried it with a little bit of olive oil, then served it on a bed of spring greens with a cream cheese/onion sauce. For the "sushi", I sliced a cucumber thin, then topped it with sushi rice that I had pressed into a pan and cut into small rounds with a cookie cutter, with catfish and cream cheese mouse and the cream cheese/onion sauce (which also had funyuns in it) and Funyun crumbs. The sushi was fantastically fresh-tasting, which was a great contrast with the strong onion flavor of the sauce, if I do say so myself. ;-) (by the way, I totally stole the idea of a cucumber-bottomed faux-sushi from a foodie email newsletter I get. Don't remember which one right now or I'd give them proper credit.)
My Dessert: Caramel Apple Puff Pastry with Cream Cheese and Nutmeg Ice Cream
On this one, I overcooked the sauce with the apples and they got super chewy and almost non-existant, and my puff pastry got a tad overdone, but the ice cream was a fantastic success!! (although melting already in this shot) Very easy too, though I'm blanking on the finer details right at the moment. I believe it was cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, half and half, and fresh-grated nutmeg, though I may be mistaken. Unfortunately, I didn't write that one down either. Oops.
And here's a shot of the whole kit and caboodle out on the coffee table (our kitchen table MAY have been covered in cooling racks, mixing bowls, etc that overflowed the counter during our kitchen marathon...).
It was a LOT of food. I don't think I finished a single item, but it was all SUPER-delicious. And amazingly fun. And will probably be repeated many times in the future (including possibly every year at my birthday. This ended up being an AWESOMELY fun part of my birthday celebration this year, and I LOVED it!!).
btw, We didn't actually "judge" our foods or award points or a winner. But I think we both won, since we ended up with an amazing meal and desserts, along with tons of fun in the kitchen, and ideas to use in the future!
So... if you're looking for something fun to do this weekend, find a friend who likes to cook and challenge one another to a CHOPPED CHAMPIONSHIP! It's a blast and a half. :-D