Melissa’s Take on the Chopped Basket — Champions Round Four

by in Food Network Chef, Shows, February 8th, 2013

Melissa d'Arabianby Melissa d’Arabian

You know my rules: 30 seconds to decide. Longer to write (but not much).

Appetizer basket: sour-apple martini mix, mortadella, white asparagus and fennel

I love this basket and don’t want to overthink it. The asparagus and mortadella make me think of a chopped salad and I stick to the idea. I peel the tough outer part of the asparagus and poach it in salty water, brown sugar and white wine. I get the fennel sliced up with some cubed onion and tart apple (which will bring play against the sour-apple martini mix that I plan to use in the dressing), tossed with a little olive oil and get them roasting to bring out its earthy sweetness. I fry up the mortadella and chop, making my own take on bacon bits. I chop up some greens from the pantry (arugula or watercress). I make a reduction from the apple cider vinegar and sour-apple martini mix. I assemble the salad: chop all the prepped ingredients, toss with olive oil and a bit of cider vinegar. Top with a bit of goat cheese and drizzle with the apple martini reduction.

Entree basket: calf’s liver, fava greens, honey wine and halloumi

I’m not a calf’s liver fan, but I decide to use its stronger flavor to my advantage in a pasta dish. I’ll make a version of my weekday quick bolognese using a mirepoix, earthy mushrooms (to mellow out the liver) and the liver, using high-heat and splashing/reducing the honey wine several times, cutting with regular wine if it’s too sweet. I do a quick braise (just enough to wilt) with shallots, stock and pepper flakes on the fava greens, and toss with red wine vinegar and a splash of honey wine. Next I’ll fry up some tiny, flour-dredged halloumi pieces. Toss the bolognese with some cooked pasta and serve on the greens with the halloumi sprinkled on top.

Dessert basket: marashino cherries, Greek yogurt, canned espresso and corn nuts

Dessert! Yogurt and espresso can go right into an egg-yolky genoise-style cake. I’ll spread the batter on a sheet pan so it cooks quickly. Then I’ll make a caramel from the cherry juice and sugar and chill the mixture. I’ll toast up corn nuts with pecans and give it a quick pulse in the processor. For the frosting, I’ll use cream cheese, yogurt, powdered sugar and some pureed cherries. Once the cakes are baked, I’ll blast-chill them. I’ll cut them into rounds and frost them next, coating the sides with the corn nut and pecan crunch. Drizzle with the cherry caramel to finish. If I have the time, I might make a little cherry syrup cappuccino to go on the side.

And next week is the finale. Talk about pressure ….

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