Every Tuesday, Justin Warner, winner of Food Network Star Season 8, is back remixing the Chopped All-Stars baskets as seen in the episode Sunday night in pure Justin Warner style: edgy, intense, passionate and full of wit. If you’ve ever watched an episode and found yourself yelling at the TV, “I would have made this and that instead!” then these are the posts for you.
by Justin Warner
Welcome back to the Rebel Remix, where yours truly will attempt to simulate via text what I would do in the chef shoes of this week’s contestants.
Appetizer basket: Veggie terrine, galangal, banana bread and mango juice
Oh, veggie terrine, you hideous mess. Flavor-wise you aren’t a danger, but what can we possibly do to divert the judge’s attention from your repulsive pigmentation? The answer: Put a banana-bread bag over your head. This basket has a definitive tropical feel to it, aside from the veggie terrine, but the terrine’s carrot flavors will work very nicely with the galangal (kinda like a wicked stepmother of ginger), and banana bread will fit in with mango juice like the Chiquita banana lady would fit in at Carnival. Start by freezing the terrine so we can cut it into batons more easily. Next we’ll make a sauce by chopping up the galangal and adding it to the mango juice. Put this mix on the stove and get it reducing ASAP.
While you’re at it, get some soybean oil in a Dutch oven on high heat with a thermometer in it. We need that oil to reach at least 350 degrees F. Next, begin pulsing the banana bread with a little all-purpose flour, salt and chili flakes in a food processor. We’re making crumbs here, and since the banana bread is super moist, we need to desiccate it with a little flour. Once the mango juice has reduced by at least a quarter, make a slurry with some champagne vinegar and some cornstarch. Now we are making fancy egg-roll dipping sauce using the ancient Chinese takeout method. Crack a few eggs and separate the whites. Chuck the yolks. We need the albumen to work like glue for our banana bread crumbs … the last thing we need is that fatty yolk making the mix goopier. With eight minutes left, slice your terrine into sticks. If you can’t manage sticks, roll that stuff into a ball. Dunk in the egg white and hit it with the crumbs. Fry these bad boys until GBD (golden, brown and delicious).
For the plating, put a smear of our mango-galangal sweet and sour sauce on the plate, and rest our veggie croquettes in a pretty fashion. If you have a few extra seconds, hit these guys with some lime zest and some chopped cilantro. Booyah! You just made veggie croquettes with mango aigre-doux. Look that up in your Food Lover’s Companion.
Entree: Rack of venison, seafood pepper pot soup, potato pierogies and okra
This is a vile, vile basket. Venison, with its ferrous and gamey taste, is the antithesis of the seafood soup. The peppery components in the soup will do nicely to complement the venison, but we need to find an herbaceous component to link the two. Enter sage — good on fish and great with game. Chop up some sage and add it to the soup. Now here’s where Scott Conant says, “Justin’s out of his mind!” Hack up that rack of venison and put it in a meat grinder. I know, it’s crazy to take a beautiful piece of meat like that and grind it up, but stay with me. I have a hunch that the other competitors will have a hard time unifying all of the ingredients into a dish that makes sense. We have potato pierogies, which are basically just mashed potatoes in dough. We also have okra, known for its mucilaginous texture and thickening properties. We will combine all of these things into something like shepherd’s pie, but we will call it Hunter’s Pie because not too many people tend to a flock of deer.
Once the meat is ground, chop up some okra and brown it off with some garlic, salt and black pepper. When this is cooked through, add just enough of the sage-infused seafood pepper pot soup to make a chili-con-carne-like texture, somewhere between stew and, well, solid food. Put this mix into individual bowls or, ideally, crocks. Now open up the pierogies and scoop out all the mashed potato mix. Smear the potatoes on top of our stew. Save the “wrappers,” as we are going to scallop them on top of the mashed potato. Brush the top of this with a little oil, and stick it under the broiler until it gets blistered and golden brown.
You just made Hunter’s Pie. Serve it nonchalantly, so the judges don’t notice that Hunter’s Pie isn’t a real thing — until now.
Dessert: Purple Okinawan sweet potatoes, coconut flakes, Calvados and marshmallows
My pants might be purple, but they are still pants. The sweet potatoes might be purple, but they are still sweet potatoes. No big deal. Calvados is a really great apple brandy. This is not your neon-green appletini stuff. This is a serious beverage with serious alcohol content. The flavors we are working with here are apple, sweet potato and coconut. This is a gift basket, aside from the fact that sweet potatoes take forever to cook.
Cut the sweet potatoes in to rounds and throw them in the steamer basket of a pressure cooker with some water, coconut milk and nutmeg. Cook these guys for 10 minutes and watch the miracle of pressure-cooking. While this is cooking, smash the marshmallows, coconut and Calvados together until you get something slightly spreadable. (Think chunky marshmallow fluff.) Take some of the cooking liquid from the sweet potatoes and put it in a pot with some butter and plenty of brown sugar. Now we make a coconut caramel sauce. When this comes together, smear some on a plate. Top one round of sweet potato with some fluff, add another round, then top with more fluff. Yes, you are making the very cliche dessert Napoleon, but stick with me.
Now I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m pretty sure alcohol mixed with sugar is called “fuel.”
Light that sucker on fire and serve it up. Call the dish Waterloo — where Napoleon was defeated once and for all.