In most Chopped baskets, it’s the meaty protein or shellfish that trips up competitors, what with these ingredients that tend to be difficult to break down, clean, and cook properly and fully in a hurry. But in tonight’s brand-new episode of Chopped, the contestants found themselves with vegetarian baskets, which meant that when it came time for an After Hours competition, judges Alex Guarnaschelli, Amanda Freitag and Marc Murphy were challenged to create entrees using golden beets, wheatgrass, tempeh and etrog citron.
While Alex and Marc admitted to being unfamiliar with cooking and eating these kinds of ingredients, Amanda told them, “I eat this stuff,” and she later admitted to being “a closet vegetarian.” For all three judges, the challenge was offering dishes that were both bold and hefty enough to be filling. Amanda stuck to a classic preparation of tempeh by featuring it in a spiced stew with curry, while Alex treated the tempeh like rice, turning it into a risotto-style plate with mushrooms and citrus. Marc, however, known for his fondness of meat-and-potatoes classics, made a tempeh-based burger that was anything but vegetarian, thanks to beef broth and bacon. After tasting each of their offerings, guest host Aarón told them: “I’m not crying for meat right now. You made satisfying meals that really sort of constituted a complete dish.”