by Joseph Erdos in Shows, February 11th, 2014
by Maria Russo in Shows, February 4th, 2014
When it comes to chocolate, most people think it’s meant for only dessert. But for chefs, especially Chopped-caliber chefs, it’s just another ingredient to transform. If they get chocolate in an entree basket — and in the case of the Chocolate Competition episode, they got chocolate items in every single basket — the chefs take on the challenge of creating savory dishes in stride. And the Chopped judges are no different.
In an episode of Chopped After Hours, Maneet, Marc and Aarón entered the Chopped kitchen to cook with the entree basket ingredients: chocolate cake pops, white chocolate cocoa mix, quail and serrano chiles. On the show, the three chef-competitors all seemed to have the most trouble with incorporating the chocolate cake pops, mainly because of their cakey centers. But not so for the judges, who used the pops in a marinade, mole sauce and stuffing — all their dishes proved to be enhanced by the chocolate treat. In the end Ted was amazed by all of their dishes: “I never would have thought cake pops and quail would have been so tasty.”
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, February 2nd, 2014
For most competitors, the idea of putting any four basket ingredients onto a single plate is daunting enough — let alone combining them in one pan for one sauce. But that’s exactly what Scott Conant did tonight on an all-new installment of Chopped After Hours
. Joined by guest host Alex Guarnaschelli, Scott, Amanda Freitag and Geoffrey Zakarian took over the Chopped
Kitchen for a battle with the same entree-round ingredients that four amateur cooks had just worked with on the show. They had only 30 minutes to make a dinner dish out of tikka masala sauce, hanger steak, Asian long beans and croquettes, and in true Italian form, Scott embraced pasta.
He combined these disparate products — some fresh, others prepared and bottled — into a one-pot Bolognese-inspired sauce. While these ingredients may have lent themselves to this type of preparation better than most others, Alex couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if the flavors didn’t meld well when combined. “Seems like you’re putting the whole basket into one thing,” Alex told him. “What if it doesn’t work out?” He answered simply with a smile: “You punt. At that point, I’m just going to eat Geoffrey’s sandwich.”
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, January 21st, 2014
When Chopped competitors are presented with a mystery basket that contains a very specific ingredient, for example, pizza dough, what you’ll oftentimes get is four different iterations of the same dish. But not so with the Chopped judges — their creativity takes pizza dough to new heights. Facing the same entree basket as the contestants from Chopped
: Pizza Perfect
, judges Amanda, Geoffrey and Alex took up spots in the Chopped Kitchen for an After Hours competition where they cooked with deep-dish pizza dough, rabbit escabeche, Swiss chard and pineapple cheese spread.
On the show, none of the three competitors in the entree round thought outside of the box — or the pizza pan, in this instance. The chef who was ultimately chopped went home for a pizza that had everything wrong with the dough. Amanda, Geoffrey and Alex immediately looked at the challenge as an opportunity to show these chefs the possibilities with pizza dough. Although one of them did make a pizza, it was cooked in an unconventional way.
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, January 12th, 2014
Not every ingredient is a delight in the Chopped Kitchen — some are more difficult than others and contestants must deal with them as best they can. What Chopped judges look for in those cases is a dish that expertly combines a less-desirable ingredient with the rest of the basket ingredients. Facing the same appetizer basket as the contestants from Chopped
: Hoofin’ It, judges Marc, Maneet and Aarón took up spots in the Chopped Kitchen for an After Hours competition where they cooked with butter beans, sweet potato chips, coleslaw mix and pickled pig’s feet.
On the show, the chef competitors did their best with the baskets they were dealt, but some didn’t transform every single ingredient to its full potential. Marc, Maneet and Aarón immediately jumped into the cooking, diving right into working with the pig’s feet, which required the most care to transform. The goal was to incorporate the pig’s feet while also disguising any of the ingredient’s negative attributes.
by Maria Russo in Shows, November 12th, 2013
When it comes to chefs working with mystery basket ingredients, the Chopped judges look for creativity and, above all, an expert incorporation of all the ingredients into one harmonious dish. And sometimes it takes a bit of playing with one’s food to achieve that, or in this case playing with fire. Facing the same dessert basket as the contestants from Chopped: Firefighter Chefs, the judges accomplished exactly that. Alex, Scott and Amanda took up spots in the Chopped Kitchen for an After Hours competition where they cooked with wafer sheets, lemon soda, vanilla pudding cups and a blowtorch.
On the show, the final two competitors were able to make great strides with the ingredients, but neither of them truly created a unified dish. The one whose dish was found to be the most disjointed was ultimately chopped. Alex, Scott and Amanda looked at the ingredients as an opportunity to create unique desserts and the blowtorch as an enhancer of flavor. Alex went the extra mile in using it to char a savory ingredient for her dessert, which impressed her fellow judges the most.
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, November 5th, 2013
It was Thanksgiving
in the After Hours
kitchen this week as Chopped
judges Maneet and Chris, and host Ted, rolled up their sleeves to prepare a holiday feast in only 40 minutes, working with such classic fixings as giblet gravy, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie ice cream and, of course, a whole turkey. (Just like the show’s chefs, the judges were allowed an extra 10 minutes to cook on account of the whole turkey.) Thanksgiving is a holiday centered on tradition just as much as it is on food, so it’s no surprise that the judges took the timeless elements of a tried-and-true Turkey Day menu and opted to celebrate them rather than hide them.
For host-turned-competitor Ted, that meant “a very traditional Thanksgiving turkey and dressing,” he explained to Maneet, Chris and guest host Alex. To make sure he’d have time to cook such a large bird, Ted worked with only a segment of the meat and let the stuffing be a shining element on his plate. “My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is the stuffing or the dressing.” Ted said, noting that his offering was a “straight-up sage stuffing.” He added, “I tried to make it look a little nicer by putting it in a mold, which sort of worked.”
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, October 29th, 2013
Certain culinary tactics are required when it comes to working with an ingredient that’s not so desirable. That’s when chefs — especially Chopped competitors — pull out all the stops in the kitchen. But success isn’t guaranteed. It takes a lot of skill and creativity to transform an unwanted ingredient, whether by elevating it or disguising it. That’s exactly what the judges accomplished with the appetizer baskets from the special Chopped
: Redemption episode. Marcus, Amanda and Aarón took up spots in the Chopped kitchen for an After Hours
competition where they faced cooking with vegan lobster, chop suey, hot mustard and winter melon.
On the show, the competitors all made dishes that incorporated the basket ingredients rather well, whether it was a salad, soup or stir-fry. Ultimately the chef whose preparation didn’t disguise the unwanted flavor of one of the basket ingredients was chopped. The judges attacked the basket ingredients with the same fervor, knowing what mistakes not to make. Marcus and Aaron both made dishes that disguised the vegan lobster and incorporated all the basket ingredients. Amanda decided to highlight the vegan lobster with flavors that brought it up to nearly the level of actual lobster, which proved to be very successful.
by Joseph Erdos in Shows, October 24th, 2013
When you think of Italy, one of the first things that come to mind is probably the food. Then it’s imagining all the enjoyment of eating it. Just think: big bowls of pasta, plates of salami and a final celebratory toast with limoncello. Those are exactly the ingredients from the appetizer basket in this week’s episode of Chopped
, which had a special Italian theme. To have their way with the ingredients, judges Amanda, Aarón and Maneet took up spots in the Chopped kitchen for an After Hours
competition. They faced cooking with pasta dough, soppressata, limoncello and baby fish.
On the show, the competitors all tried making pasta in some shape or form, but not without some sticky situations. Just think about how much time you might need for rolling out pasta! Amanda and Maneet reinvented the pasta. Amanda, deciding to make a fritto misto, thought not only was she going to fry the fish, she would fry the pasta too. And Maneet wanted to turn her pasta into Mexican tostadas with an Indian twist. Only Aarón tried to make a traditional Italian pasta dish of ravioli uovo, which is pasta with an egg yolk inside. Unfortunately his attempt to make “the best pasta ever” didn’t turn out so well, so instead he switched to plan B.
by Maria Russo in Shows, October 6th, 2013
The circus is filled with amazing attractions and fun amusements, but lest we forget there’s also the food: corn dogs, cotton candy, peanuts, candy apples and more. This week’s episode of Chopped
was a special Circus Spectacular theme, with basket ingredients that evoked the big top. Judges Alex, Scott and special guest judge Sweet Genius Ron Ben-Israel took up spots in the Chopped kitchen for an After Hours competition. They faced cooking with the basket ingredients from the dessert round, which included a snow cone, popcorn, a funnel cake and sour cream.
On the show, the competitors embraced the childhood fun of the dessert basket ingredients and reimagined them in unique ways. The judges followed suit and created playful dishes that exemplified the joy of going to the circus as a kid. Right off the bat, Alex decided to bake cookies and make sorbet out of the snow cone and sour cream so she could create ice cream sandwiches. She thought it best evoked the fun of “getting it all running down your hands while you’re watching the circus.”
While many Chopped baskets may include a few common ingredients and just one oddball product, this week’s Halloween-themed episode featured baskets filled with extra-spooky offerings and downright ghoulish goods. Judges Alex, Chris and Marc took their places in the kitchen for an After Hours competition,
and they faced the challenge of cooking with an appetizer basket made up of eels, congealed pig’s blood, candy bats and potato crisps.
Instead of letting the strangeness of these ingredients get the better of them, the judges went back to what they know and the cooking styles with which they’re most familiar in order to turn out classic plates — as classic as they could be with pig’s blood and eel, after all. Potatoes are well within Marc’s comfort zone, so he was quick to feature them prominently in his offering. “So we’re going to have some potatoes — that is a shock, coming from Marc Murphy,” Ted joked with the judge, who featured a casserole-like offering studded with pig’s blood.