Ever since getting the Food Network, Chopped has been one of my favorite shows to watch. Four contestants have three rounds (appetizer, entrée, dessert) of mystery boxes where they must use all the ingredients in their box in a timely, tasty and creative manner. One contestant gets “chopped” after each round until the final two battle it out over the dessert box. I loved finding out what was in the boxes. What are the mystery ingredients?? And once those came out Skywalker and I would start calling out ideas of how we’d put our respective dishes together. Sometimes one of the contestants would have a similar idea so it was neat to watch how they execute it. Other times we’d be blown away by the way they deconstructed and reconstructed the ingredients. Still other times we’d chuckle at how some contestants fumbled their dish up….or laugh at how we would mess it up if we were there.
The mystery ingredients concept really is how I put meals together. I don’t plan a weekly menu and then buy all the ingredients ahead of time. I buy what is on special for the week as well as whatever “food staples” I can foresee myself using…and then the day before or even the day of, I grab whatever my fridge/cupboards will yield and I put something together. With leftovers, I try to make it into something new so we’re not eating the same thing over again. Watching Chopped really inspires me to try new combinations or transformations with food. Inspiration’s especially needed by the end of the week when I have fewer ingredients and fewer ideas to work with.
But for example, say after rummaging through the fridge and cupboard, I have:
- Pork chops
- Peanut butter
- Egg noodle
I’d marinate the chops in soy sauce, garlic and honey…then pan fry them before cutting into strips. The corn gets steamed, the niblets cut off the ear, and pan-fried in the same pan the pork was cooked in so the flavorful drippings get soaked into the corn. Egg noodle is cooked the normal way. And peanut butter is added to miso paste to make the soup base. And then everything gets assembled into one yummy bowl of pork noodle soup.
Or say I have these leftover from yesterday’s dinner:
- grilled back ribs
- grilled veggies
I’ll de-bone all the ribs and chop up the tender rib meat. I’ll also chop the grilled veggies up. Then find some tomatoes, tomato paste, onions and a few shakes of Tabasco to meld all together into a hearty stew or meat sauce to spoon over pasta or rice.
We don’t have any kids to be the food critic…(they’d still have to finish their dinner regardless!)…so for now, I watch how Skywalker reacts to my experiments. Most times it’s turned out well. =) Sometimes I’ll get a “hmm…interesting” followed by some suggestions. But he always finishes what I make. Thanks Hun! Many more years of experimenting to come!