So often on Chopped we see chef contestants open their mystery baskets to find such odd, uncommon and downright scary ingredients — pre-cooked pig snout, pickled beef tongue or grasshoppers, anyone? — that it can seem nearly impossible for home cooks to put them to work in everyday meals. On other episodes, however, the ingredients are far less intimidating yet not quite familiar. That’s where we come in. Each week during the brand-new season of Chopped Champions, FN Dish will break down the whats, hows and whens of an approachable, family-friendly ingredient and share deliciously simple recipes for using it, so that you can show off your best culinary chops at home. Following last Tuesday’s round-1 competition, the focus is now on plantains, which made an appearance in the dessert round alongside spiral ham, water chestnuts and spiced rum.
A close cousin of the yellow banana, green plantains are similar in look and shape to the classic fruit, but instead of being peeled back and enjoyed raw at the breakfast table, they’re most often cooked so that they lose their signature tough, firm bite. Plantains aren’t quite as sweet as bananas, so they can be featured in savory dishes as well as sweet desserts, like they were on Champions, and they hold their shape well even when exposed to the high heat of the deep-fryer or grill. The key to successfully working with plantains at home is letting them take their time cooking. On Tuesday’s Chopped episode, Chef Sean Scotese explained, “Green plantains need a lot of love. They need to be fried or boiled until they’re soft and crispy.” Try your hand at plantains this weekend with easy recipes from Food Network Magazine below.
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Every Wednesday, Justin Warner, winner of Food Network Star Season 8, is remixing the Chopped Champion baskets as seen in the episode the night before in pure Justin Warner-style: edgy, intense, passionate and full of witty. 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
I play the Chopped game differently from most. My goal is not to transform things but to find the simplest way to make them work together. I’m not a magician or a craftsman — I’m more like a negotiator or ombudsman. I also try to think of the ingredients as something other than what they are. Yes, they might be duck tongues, but it’s easier to play with them if you think of them as chicken tenders. Make sense? With all of that said, here’s what I would do with the baskets from last night’s episode.
Justin breaks down the Chopped basket
In an all-new season of Chopped Champions, 16 chefs, each with a previous Chopped win under his or her belt, are returning to the kitchen to face off for a second time in the ultimate multicourse cook-off. Although they’re no strangers to mystery baskets, these chefs are under more pressure than ever, as they’re competing not just for Chopped glory but also a spot in the finale where they can ultimately claim a $50,000 prize and the coveted title of Grand Champion.
Each week, four chefs will take their places in the kitchen and battle it out in the hopes of outlasting the chopping block once again. While three will ultimately crumble beneath the demands of Champions cooking, one will prove his or her culinary chops for a second time. Check in with FN Dish every Tuesday night after the episode to hear from the latest winner.
SPOILER ALERT: Find out who won
No strangers to mystery baskets, unusual ingredients or opinionated judges, four previous Chopped winners are putting their reputations on the line one more time tomorrow night as they compete in the first round of the five-part tournament of Chopped Champions. While these chefs may be returning to familiar settings in the kitchen, they’ll face more pressure than ever as the stakes are now higher than they were in their last battles — on the line this time is a $50,000 prize and the ultimate Chopped title: Grand Champion. Since all of the competitors know what it takes to avoid the chopping block and are used to the sweet taste of victory, each must bring his or her A game if they want to be crowned a two-time champion and score a coveted seat in the grand finale.
Chefs Sylvain Harribey, Kenneth Johnson, Sean Scotese and Lish Steiling are the first four contestants to face off in the tournament, and they’re bringing with them memories of past battles and grand plans for showcasing their culinary chops once again. Flip through this photo gallery to find out more about the Chopped Champions contestants, and be sure to tune in Tuesday, Jan. 15, at 10pm/9c to find out which of these chefs has earned a place in the finale.
For even the most ambitious chefs, the thought of taking a single turn in the Chopped kitchen is daunting. But for a certain 16 competitors — an elite few who’ve already successfully conquered the chopping block once — the opportunity to do so again just can’t be missed.
This January, 16 previous Chopped winners are returning to battle in Chopped Champions, a five-round tournament that will again test their cooking chops and ability to work under pressure with baskets full of unknown, potentially odd and disparate ingredients. With dwindling time on the clock and a panel of professional-chef judges watching their every move, they’ll need to rely on more than past successes if they want to claim not just bragging rights but also a whopping $50,000 and the title of Chopped Grand Champion.
What can the chefs expect to find in their baskets this time around? Sea snails to be sure, but also haggis — a much-loved-to-hate minced-meat-like specialty featuring animal lungs, heart and liver cooked inside animal stomach — plus a few deliciously sweet and savory surprises.
Tune in to round 1 of Chopped Champions on Tuesday, January 15, 2013, at 10pm/9c to find out which of the first four chefs will become a two-time victor and earn a spot in the finale.