Transforming the Familiar — Chopped After Hours

by in Shows, May 7th, 2013

The Chopped judges have seen their share of odd, uncommon ingredients come out of the mystery baskets — haggis, goat brains and shad roe sack, to name a few. But sometimes what trips up the competitors more than any strange products is a selection of ordinary ingredients, like eggs, flour tortillas and apples. If the competitors are judged on their abilities to use the basket ingredients, they’ll have to think beyond omelets, tacos and fruit salads, for example, if they want to avoid the Chopping Block.

On tonight’s all-new episode of Chopped, judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Maneet Chauhan and Marc Murphy welcomed four moms to the kitchen with baskets of familiar ingredients that home cooks would likely use. In the entree round, that meant a spread of mustard greens, pork butt, red quinoa and carrot baby food — products that, while perhaps difficult for these nonprofessional cooks, should have been a cinch to prepare for the chef-judges, who later tried their hands at this very basket.

Alex admitted that, with the exception of the baby food, “It’s like a nice, innocent little basket.” But that didn’t stop her and the rest of the panel from facing some of the same challenges the moms did, like how to make a tough piece of pork tender and how to quickly cook quinoa with limited time. During their friendly face-off, Marc resorted to using a meat grinder to break down the pork and make it into meatballs. Maneet incorporated the meat into a casserole-style dish, and Alex took advantage of almost every second of the competition to fully cook her quinoa.

What do you think of the judges’ abilities to transform these familiar ingredients into inspired main dishes? Is it more difficult to find new ways to approach everyday products, or do these commonplace ingredients present challenges of their own? Could the judges have been more creative in their approaches, or are their finished plates sufficient, given the battle?

Click the play button on the video above to watch what went down in the kitchen, then join fellow Chopped After Hours fans in a discussion about the judges’ battle in the comments below. For more insider dish on the showdown, browse behind-the-scenes snapshots to see Alex, Maneet and Marc in action.

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Comments (26)

  1. Becky says:

    I loved seeing an episode with moms who conjure meals daily on the fly! And I loved seeing the judges tackle the same mystery ingredients as the moms. However the judges' round didn't have quite the same excitement or competitive feel as the usual rounds, as the results were just casually described and sampled by the chefs themselves and Ted. I really wanted the judges' dishes to be tasted and critiqued by the moms! The "turnaround" judging would have been great fun to watch; and an exercise from which the home cooks (and us) could relate and learn from the professionals different techniques and ingredients to compliment the basket ingredients, how the judges' offerings eventually came together and tasted in the finished dishes, and how the moms thought the judges' dishes compared to their own.

    I think the "turnaround" idea would also be a great idea for a special series of Chopped shows, with the corresponding judges taking on all three rounds of identical ingredients and being judged by the competitors in a mirror hour of competition, if only for bragging rights by the judges. I would definitely look forward to and tune in to this!

  2. John says:

    I don't understand the judging portion of the show, I mean I love the show and I thought the Moms episode was Awesome!! But come on now, there are three rounds, two rounds are judged based solely on the plates they present, and someone gets eliminated, but the third dish, they judge the finalist's overall performance. If that is the case then why not keep everyone?? And judge everyone on their overall performances then crown one winner. It just seems unfair.

  3. Rose says:

    I LOVED the "Chopped/After Hours" where the chefs cooked the entree round of what the moms had to cook. Great idea! Keep up the great work. I am a long time fan of Chopped. I watch the regular chopped, the one called Chopped On Star I think where chefs that have been chopped comes back to compete again and I REALLY love it when the judges compete for their favorite charity. Hats off to you Ted, you make the show awesome with your input. :)

  4. anonymous says:

    I think the judges should be under the same scrutiny as the ones that they send home. instead of it being just a causal environment. Since no one knows for sure what the mystery ingredients will be, they have to be prepared.

  5. This section is to discuss the judges

  6. This section is to discuss the judges'

  7. This section is to discuss the judges' efforts using the same basket ingredients as the moms in tonight's show, not the Chopped All Stars Championship results – which by the way I thought were most fair (way to go, Scott!).

  8. I would love to see an episode where the judges cook and the chopped champions judge.

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