Chopped Obsession



It began when my daughter caught me sprawled on the couch, potato style, and said, “You should watch this show, Mom.”

Oh my goodness!  I want my own basket of oddly matched and unheard of foods to play with!  Chopped on the Food Network Channel is one of my new favorites and I want to be both the contestant running like crazy to get the plates up and the judge who gets to taste everything and critique the subtly of the flavors, the fresh presentations, the over or under use of salt, and how well the food has been transformed from its original state!  I never knew some of those edibles could be combined in such amazing ways!  I’m green with envy!

So I was trying to think of some really tricky combinations myself and what I’d do with them.

For my appetizer basket I find a can of sardines in oil, angel food cake, purple potatoes and Triple Sec.  Yikes!  I immediately think how terrible the sardines will taste with anything sweet and nothing can make the orange liqueur go with them, right?  So I hash up the potatoes and crumble in the angel food cake, add some cayenne pepper AND the liqueur to tame it.  You see where I’m going here…some latke’s.  Into the fryer with those and now I need to do something to transform those stupid little sardines so out comes the marscapone, some fresh dill, and black pepper.  I mush up the sardines into that mixture and the fishiness is still there…hmmm.  Salt.  Can’t forget to use the flat sea salt…don’t want points off for not enough salt.  Still something missing.  Wait for it…I see the bag of pork rinds on the kitchen shelf and bingo, crackle a few of those in.  I’ll need a sauce so I bring the Triple Sec to a boil, toss in a touch of sugar, and add some fresh orange peel, whole peppercorns and a dash of, can’t think of what so I skip it.  Time is now one minute and I need to plate!  I grab the curved square plates and center on the latke, dollop the sardine mixture, crackle some of that pork rind on top, drizzle on the sauce and top with tiny bits of dill I’ve finely chopped.  Viola!  Hands back!

My judges are Alex Guarnaschelli, Marc Murphy and Maneet Chauhan, my favorites!

Host  Ted Allen says, “Chef Patti, explain your dish.”

If there is ever a time for me to use the Southern accent, this is it!

“Weeeeellll, my dish takes its inspiration from growing up eating sardines and crackers.  I’ve created an elevated version with a potato-angel food cake latke with a sardine and pork rind mousse drizzled with a peppercorn and orange liqueur sauce.  Y’all enjoy it, bless your hearts.”

Says Alex:  “I love that you brought your roots into it, but there doesn’t seem to be enough salt.” (Drat!)

Says Maneet:  “The presentation is very nice, and you have elevated it but I just don’t get the pork rinds.”  (Neither do I, but they were there!)

Says Marc:  “I like that you brought out the orange liqueur with the peppercorns.”  (He gets me!  He gets me!)

Host Ted Allen says:  “Thank you, Chef,” and moves on to the next contestant.

My competitors have created things I’ve never even heard of so I know my elevated sardine cracker hasn’t a chance of a love bug going solo in the summer.  (You actually have to be a Southerner to understand that one and it actually does refer to insects.)

We’re called back out and when Ted asks, “Who will be chopped?”  I start to get fidgety because I’m sure it’s me….but it’s not!

Oh my goodness!  Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!  I race to my little area and await the next basket unveiling, quivering with  excitement, or nervousness.  Probably nerves.

We’d all been asked why we want to win the $10,000.00 and I hadn’t even thought that far since for me it was the thrill of getting to open one of those mystery baskets and going at it.  Have no idea what I said but I hope it was good.

For our next basket, the entrée, we find dandelion greens, squirrel, Gruyère, and tabasco sauce.  I am ecstatic!  (And for those of you who would not, could not, do not and never have killed much less eaten squirrel, I apologize.  It was a staple in my granny’s kitchen back in Alabama but never fear, I haven’t had any in close to 38 years and don’t expect to ever again-besides, this is fiction.)  So, as all the other chefs are reeling in shock and can’t get the picture of this adorable little furry thing out of their heads, I’m mixing up the batter to fry.  I know exactly what I’m cooking…fried squirrel with gravy over cheese biscuits with dandelion and kale (they don’t have collards in the kitchen) sautéed in bacon.  Done and done!  Woo hoo!

Everyone else has gone a little nutsy with the squirrel (intentional pun there) so, again, I am not chopped!

Back to my next basket which is the dessert round.  I open it and find…

What?  What do I find in the mystery dessert basket?  I’ll try anything sent my way and let you know the results!




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