Blake and I love the show Chopped on Food Network. When Lottie was in the “she-is-cute-to-look-at-but-does-absolutely-nothing” stage, we always looked forward to cooking dinner. We had tapped out our baby staring-o-mometers and we needed something else to entertain us. We cooked every night. Soon, we became bored with that as well. One night when we were engaged in the highlight of our week, the new episode of Chopped, it hit me! We can play our own version of the show.
For those of you who are not familiar with the show. Four chefs from around the country compete in a culinary challenge. Each of them are given a “mystery basket” filled with four ingredients. They are given a short limit of time to create a restaurant-worthy dish to present to judges. The worst dish gets “Chopped”, and the remaining chefs move to the next round until there is one winner.
“Foster Chopped” is a little different. At first, Blake and I competed. He gave me a basket, and I gave him one. We made one small plate each, and made honest judgement and against one another. This form of “Foster Chopped” was ended abruptly when I almost put my precious “cute-to-look-at-but-does-absolutely-nothing” infant in the ER.
Blake opened his basket, and I treated him with flank steak, black beans, gnocchi and grapes. He hit me with Kielbasa sausage, pineapple, peanut butter and habenero peppers. At the time, Blake and I were living in a condo on the lake. Outdoor grills were not allowed so we had an indoor grill pan. Definitely more dangerous. I envisioned myself creating an Asian grilled meal with Thai peanut sauce. I just knew I was going to win.
My plan was simple: heat up the grill pan and start grilling. I always saw the likes of Emeril and Bobby Flay grilling up pretty much anything. They always found a way to get that delightful char on the outside of their peppers. I was going for this. The sausage, coated in its Asian style marinade, went on without a hitch. I cut the pineapple into unique shapes just to show off. “Boom” they hit the grill. On to the peppers…
I decided to skewer a few of them. I knew that Habeneros were hot peppers, but I didn’t know how hot. After skewering them up, I tossed them on the hot grill pan inside our less than adeqautely ventilated condo. I immediately turned to finish my peanut sauce ensuring I make every item in the mystery box a stand out. Within 30 seconds, Blake and I were tearing up and coughing, and Lottie went from a peaceful siesta to a screaming rage. I thought for sure we had been gassed. It was the end of the world. This wasn’t just happening to me, but to everyone in the world. “What do we do? Where do we go? Hold your loved ones tightly people.”
“Meredith, are you serious?” I heard my passive and overly kind husband say to me with an unheard of brusque tone. At the time, I am still running through my memory book, and I am cupping my palms over my sweet girls air passage ways to protect her from the deadly fumes. Blake raced over to the grill pan, turns it off, takes my skewer of peppers to the deck and promptly tosses them into the receeding water levels known as Lake Lanier. He walked back in coughing and grabbed Lottie from my arms. He grabbed my hand, nearly ripped my cooking shoulder square out of the socket and guided our little family upstairs and out the front door.
In my still oblivious mind, I am picturing my neighbors racing out their doors in a panic from the world-wide gassing. I was shocked to see it was just Blake, Lottie and me. I peek over at Blake who is looking into our helpless infant’s eyes to make sure she is ok. She is calm at this point. He looks up at me. His look is abnormally unplesant. “Are you serious about grilling whole Habeneros with the seeds?” he asked me in a belittling tone. I peek behind him, then behind me hoping to see others evaucating. Still just us. “Bobby Flay grills peppers all the time,” I say as I run through my Boy Meets Grill Episode schema hoping to picture him grilling a hot pepper. All I see in my mind of memories is green pepper, red pepper and poblano….nothing hot. “Whoops” I say to my disappointed husband and zoned out infant. I knew I had really messed up. The house was a danger zone. Blake went in to turn on the fans and open the windows. I followed him in thinking for sure things would be fine by now. SIX HOURS later, we were able to return to living within the walls of the condo.
From this point on, I have stayed out of the kitchen. I opt for shopping, finding deals and creating challenging mystery baskets for Blake to prepare. I am forever disqualified from “Foster Chopped”. Blake on the other hand has made some amazing dishes. Here are the recipes from the highlights of each basket.
Last week he was given:
Boom!!! He busted out Bacon Wrapped trout on jalapeno-apple grits and sauteed brussel sprouts. It was amazing!
Bacon Fried Skin-On Trout
- 2 skin-on trout filets
- 4 slices bacon
- Pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder/salt
- Pat the trout dry with paper towels.
- Season the trout on both sides with a little salt, pepper, and garlic.
- Place 2 slices of bacon on each trout filet on the side without skin, covering the filet. Bacon should be trimmed to evenly cover the trout in a single layer, let rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Heat a saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat.
- Place the trout bacon side down in the oil, it should sizzle.
- Cook until the bacon is cooked through and a crispy golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.
- Flip the trout and cook skin side down in the bacon grease until crispy and golden brown, about 2-3 minutes.
The next night he was given:
He created Pimento Cheese scalloped potatoes with a saffron, yes real saffron, cream sauce, fried pickles and okra and grilled pork chops with apricot compote. Really dude? How awesome are you?
Fried Okra and Pickles:
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 tsp salt
- Pinch of pepper, garlic powder/salt, cayenne, and paprika
- 12-16 okra halves
- 4 pickle spears
- Oil for frying
- Mix eggs and milk with a pinch of salt, garlic, cayenne, and paprika.
- Place okra and pickles into the egg and milk mixture and toss.
- Mix flour, panko, 1 tsp salt, pinch of pepper, garlic, cayenne, and paprika.
- Place the soaked okra and pickles into the flour mixture(let excess liquid drain), and toss. Let sit and set up for 5-10 minutes.
- Heat oil to around 375 degrees, until a okra piece really bubbles and sizzles when it is dropped.
- Drop the okra and pickles and let fry until they are floating and are a deep golden brown.
- Remove the okra and pickles onto a plate or in a bowl lined with paper towels and let sit for 2-3 minutes before eating.
Apricot Balsamic Sauce:
- 3 Diced Apricots
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp butter
- Heat butter over medium-high heat in a saute pan.
- Add in diced apricots and brown sugar, stir.
- Cook mixture until it is nicely browned and set, about 3-5 minutes.
- When the mixture is cooked and the pan is nice and hot add in the balsamic vinegar, it should sizzle and simmer rapidly.
- Let the sauce cook together and reduce by about 1/3rd. Add more balsamic if it gets too reduced or thick.
- Serve over meat of choice.
For the final night I thought Blake deserves a really tough basket. I gave him:
Nacho Cheese Doritos
He created Grilled Filets with Caesar Broccoli and zuchini stuffed mushrooms topped with crushed Doritos.
Dorrito Stuffed Mushrooms
- 8 mushrooms caps
- 1 slice bacon diced
- 1/2 zucchini and/or squash julienned (cut into thing strings like pasta)
- 2 tbsp crushed Nacho Cheese Doritos
- Hollow out mushroom caps, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, set aside in a pan lined with olive oil.
- Heat diced bacon over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
- Add julienned zucchini and cook with bacon until entire mixture is browned, about 4 minutes.
- Spoon zucchini and bacon mixture into mushrooms.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Place mushrooms into the oven and cook until they darken and moisten, about 6 minutes.
- Sprinkle crushed dorritos over the mushrooms and cook another 3-4 minutes.
- Serve hot.