One chef. One course. Only one chance to win. The challenge: create an unforgettable meal from the mystery items my wife bought and put in a basket before time runs out. A distinguished panel will critque my work (my wife and my pug). Do I have what it takes or will I be Chopped?
It was Friday night as my wife and I were doing our normal haggling over trying to decide what to cook for dinner. Being an avid Chopped fan, I decided that we should try something different. My wife went to our local grocer and purchased three (3) mystery ingredients. Of course, I did not know the mystery ingredients ahead of time. Seeing as I have no professional cooking training or experience, I gave myself forty (40) minutes to cook a dinner using the mystery ingredients. We did the unveiling and started a timer...
Eggplant, pickled German sausages, and brusell sprouts! Panic set in as I realized I had never cooked or tasted brussel sprouts in my life. Immediately, I turned the oven on to 350 and began boiling water. I had no idea what I was going to do with any of the ingredients at this point, but I figured it couldn't hurt to have the oven heated up and a pot of boiling water.
I decided to bread and deep fry some eggplant planks, so I put a few inches of oil in a deep pan and began heating it up. I grabbed an egg, onion, and pepper from the refrigerator. "Behind!", I yelled, as I passed by the pug on the way back from the fridge. I cracked the egg in a bowl and whisked it briefly to start my batter. In another bowl, I put bread crumbs, parmeasan cheese, oregano, paprika, and cayenne. After thinly slicing some pieces of the eggplant, I switched my focus to the brussel sprouts and pickled sausage while I waited for the oil to heat up.
I decided to dice up the sausage along with some peppers and onions for a hash (probably not the right word). Diced and in the frying pan they went. Boom.
Now for the brussel sprouts, where I made my first major error. Having never cook brussel sprouts, I simply threw them in a frying pan with some oil and various seasonings (coriander, cardamom, etc.).
As the hash and sprouts cooked, I began breading my eggplant planks with the egg wash and bread crumb mixture. Having my focus divided by three (3) pans, numerous eggplant planks met their demise in the oil before I got the timing down. As I shifted my focus to the eggplant and managed to fry several decent planks, the hash began smoking. The sausage, pepper, and onion mix was now burning!
As my time wound down, I attempted to make a dipping sauce for the eggplant planks. Horseradish, apple juice (?), mayo, and dill weed. I had about two (2) minutes to spare after plating my dish.
I presented the dish: "Pickled sausage hash with sauteed brussel sprouts and a side of deep fried eggplant planks." My wife chided me for not transforming the brussel sprouts. I made some lame excuse about wanting to keep them in their natural state. The eggplant planks were pretty tasty. The dipping sauce was gross; apple juice was a bad idea. The brussel sprouts were equally inedible. Aside from the outer leaves, they were completely raw. I gave the pug a few of the cooked outer leaves of the brussel sprouts. He approved. The hash was decent, but the vinegar taste from the pickled sausage overwhelmed the flavor profile. We were hungry again about an hour after dinner.
Overall, my Chopped home challenge was much harder than I anticipated. I watch Chopped all the time and think, "Oh that wouldn't be that hard, mix this and that..." I have much more respect for those chefs now. Also, it should be noted that when purchasing the mystery basket ingredients, my wife had the advantage of knowing what I know how to cook and what I do not. I learned that brussel sprouts should be boiled before being sauteed. Had this been a real episode, I would have surely been Chopped. But hey, at least I got all the ingredients on the plate!
Try your own home version of Chopped and let me know how it went in the comments.