Since we had so much fun last time, we decided to do this again. Only THIS time, I gave myself 30 minutes for each round. John and I went to the grocery store and disbursed separately – he to pick out the Mystery Basket ingredients, and me to procure flexible kitchen staples like herbs, dairy, and other such things.
We got back to the house, and while I arranged the kitchen, preheated the oven, boiled water on the stove, and heated up the deep fryer John arranged the basket ingredients into our picnic basket.
I put on my chef’s coat, and I was ready to go!
Appetizer Round! The mandatory ingredients: Cucumber, canned tuna, and gluten-free wheat flour.
What. The. Hell was I supposed to do with this? That was my first thought, anyway. One big reason being is Fun Laura Fact #612 – I hate, loathe, ABHOR canned tuna. It’s gross, it smells like ass, and it’s just unnatural. If the world ended and the only thing left was canned tuna and cockroaches, I’d pick the cockroaches.
But hey, it was there and I had to use it.
So I decided to make fish tacos. I drained the smelly, gross cans of tuna (bleh!) and put them in a sautee pan with some peanut oil and added just about every Latin flavoring component I could find in my kitchen – lime juice, cumin, coriander, chili pepper, hot smoked paprika, garlic, onion – EVERYTHING I could to cover up the acrid taste of the tuna (after all, I was going to have to eat this, too).
I then poured some of the gluten-free flour into a bowl with lime juice, milk, and an egg and beat them into a dough to roll out into flat rounds and toss into the deep fryer. The gluten-free flour was just weak, it didn’t want to hold a shape. So I tossed in some regular flour to give it some firmness, and after some gnashing of teeth I finally got a few rounds out and into the oil. I happened to notice that it was almost impossible to get the bread rounds to flex into more traditionally-shaped taco shells, so instead I rerouted the dish into being a mini taco salad. Perfect!
John came into the kitchen to tell me I had 10 minutes to go. WHAT?!? When did I step into a time warp? Crap! I had to move. I got the shells onto a plate lined with paper towels, and I finely chopped up the cucumber and some cilantro. I decided also that the tuna meat needed further disguise (because I hate it that much), So I tossed some cucumber chunks, cilantro, 4 garlic cloves, heavy cream, and salt into the food processor and let it fly. It turned into this really flavorful and tasty froth, and after I tossed the chopped cilantro and cucumbers in with the meat I had 2 minutes remaining by the time I plated the entire dish.
For the dinner round, I made a mini tuna taco salad topped with a cucumber cilantro froth.
The taste – even containing an ingredient that I can’t stand – was pretty damn awesome. The shell was nice and crispy, the spices in the meat really gave some great savory flavor, then the cucumber froth cut through the heat of the spices with a coolness. I really wouldn’t have done anything differently, and I think if I were up in front of the judges on the show, I’d be pretty confident I’d be safe.
Dinner Round! The mandatory ingredients are Jasmine tea, hot Chinese mustard, ground chicken, and green apples.
A little easier, and I immediately know that I’m going to make a sauce involving the Jasmine tea. I grab my French press and poured my tea into it with some green apple I grated with a cheese grater. Then I poured the boiling water in and let it steep. I knew, since I don’t have bread in the house and I made a taco-like dish last round that I had to go the meatball route with the chicken. Following with the Asian theme of the green tea and hot mustard, I mixed the meatballs with some of the mustard, soy sauce, garlic, grated ginger, hoisin and sesame paste. I rolled the balls in a light coating of flour and tossed them into the deep fryer.
Meanwhile, I grabbed some rice noodles and soaked them in a bowl of the boiling water until they were tender. While they were soaking I poured the steeped apple and jasmine tea into a sauttee pan with a little sugar and let it reduce. The I whisked in the hot mustard and let it go.
All of a sudden I had 5 minutes to go. Whaaa…?!? I sifted some corn starch into the sauce to make it thicken faster. My meat balls were pretty done, so I tossed them onto the plate lined with paper towels. The noodles weren’t quite softened yet, so I checked on my Jasmine sauce. It had reduced *fairly* well, so I whisked it and turned off the burner to let it sit and hopefully firm up even more. I then quickly chopped up some green apple and red onion and sauteed it in some butter to toss with the noodles – WHICH were FINALLY DONE!! I strained them, tossed them back into the bowl and tossed the sauce in. I threw in the onions and apples and ran over to my plates. When everything was on the plate, I sprinkled on some chopped basil with 1 minute to spare.
For the dinner round, I made Vietnamese rice noodles tossed in sauteed apples and onions and a Jasmine tea, apple, and hot mustard sauce topped with Asian chicken meatballs.
The noodles were deceiving, because while they look completely naked on the plate they were in fact infused with that tea and mustard sauce I made and were so flavorful. The meatballs were good, but while I mixed a bunch of spices into the meat and tossed them in the sauce as well, they mostly just brought texture to the party and not much else. I guess that’s the nature of ground chicken, though. :-/
I think if this dish were in front of the judges, they may ding me for a couple undercooked noodles (this is true, John and I both had them even though I thought they looked and felt done), or maybe for playing it too safe or obvious (ground meat = sliders or meatballs usually). I think that, if the two other competitors had maybe slightly more creative dishes or had executed their food perfectly I would be chopped. But that’s usually not the case on the show, so I may be safe.
Dessert Round!! We have Bailey’s Irish Creme, avocados, honey, and pine nuts!
Hrm….not a bad basket, but still a bit challenging. I knew my biggest obstacle were the avocados. I put them in the food processor with some mascarpone cheese and a generous amount of honey and hit it. While that was getting fluffy, I decided to do something different with the Bailey’s – I was going to make cookies out of it. I grabbed the ingredients for a normal batch of cookies and subbed the Bailey’s for the milk.
15 minutes! AAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!
I grabbed a sheet pan, spooned the dough onto it lightening fast and tossed it in the oven, hoping they would have enough time to bake and cool a bit. Then I took the pine nuts, tossed them with sugar and salt, put them on the cookie sheet and threw them in with the cookies. I thought about making a brittle with them, but I do not possess a commercial grade blast chiller like the one on the show. I only have the freezer compartment in my refrigerator, and I figured that would not be enough to cool and harden the sugar in such a short amount of time.
5 minutes! I took the cookies out of the oven to cool along with the pine nuts. I then tasted the avocado honey mousse. It was good, but far too honey-tasting. So I tossed in more mascarpone and a little dash of cinnamon. I took out my little Asian bowls (I love these things) and spooned the avocado honey faux mousse into them and sprinkled them with the candied pine nuts, then finished the plating off with the cookie and a small drizzle of the Bailey’s.
For dessert, we have an avocado honey faux mousse sprinkled with candied pine nuts and topped with a Bailey’s cookie.
This was surprisingly good. The avocado at first was a little confusing, but the mascarpone and honey and Bailey’s drizzle all really sweetened the mousse and brought it to the level of being a dessert. The Bailey’s cookie came out P-E-R-F-E-C-T!!!!! It was warm where the mousse was cold, it tasted like Bailey;s, and it was soft but added enough crunch to contrast the smoothness of the mousse.
If the judges ate this, I think they would love it. I’m not being narcissistic, I really do think that this dessert might have been enough to knock it out of the park for me. But who knows, though? I’ve seen people make amazing desserts and then get Chopped.
This was a successful run, especially with my first tango with The Dreaded Clock. I did pretty well, and even when I thought I would for sure run out of time, I squeaked in with maybe a minute or two to spare.
What will happen next time? What ingredients will be thrown at me (better not be more tuna….bleh!)? Stay tuned for the next Chopped Night!
Current Mood: Tired But Happy
Current Music: “Exterminate Annihilate Destroy” – Rotersand