I don’t know about you guys, but going from cooking a quick and simple on the go breakfast, hopefully having a lunch packed the night before, and then getting creative some nights out of the week in the kitchen to this drastic change of cooking in the kitchen every 6 hours. That takes a lot of energy, mental thought, and groceries. For the at home chef in me going from finding joy in having time to get more experimental in the kitchen a few times a week too wanting to avoid it at all cost by the time dinner rolls around is a big change. I know I am not the only one out there that is thinking the same thing. I also don’t have expendable income to just ubereats every other meal, I mean maybe if I budget right, but that’s not nearly as healthy or cost affect as cooking at home. Especially, since Josh and I love to cook!
So I am racking my brain on ways to make cooking more exciting for the both of us in the home. This isn’t a new idea or challenge. If you search around on the internet you can find variations around, but this is what we went with. I say we, but he didn’t know about it until I presented him with the rules and box.
If you have never seen Chopped, let me backup a few minutes and explain to you the premise of the show. Four chefs call on their culinary skills as they face off against one another to prepare a spectacular three-course meal consisting of an appetizer, entree and dessert. The catch? In each round, they have to use all the ingredients the show provides them, however unlikely they might be (Gummi Bears, anyone?). At the end of each course, a panel of three guest judges “chops” one chef who fails to measure up in terms of taste, presentation and creativity. The last chef standing takes home bragging rights and a cool $10,000.
The only differences are: We are two ameture at home chefs. The judges are each other and a point based scale. We weren’t make three courses. No money, but winner doesn’t have to do dishes or cook for a week! In the rules you can see that for every item he uses out of the box he gets point and if he doesn’t use any ‘extra’ items from the pantry or fridge he can add those addition 3 points to his final score. So what is in the box?
Some leftovers, odds and ends from the pantry, a little of everything. This is a GREAT way to clean out and organize not only your fridge but you pantry. A perfect way to not let items go to waste, but reinvent them into something else!
With that I poured him a glass of chef’s juice and left the kitchen to him. As the judge I wanted to be surprised by his meal. So I poured myself a glass of judge’s juice and sat down in the living room awaiting whatever was to come out of the kitchen. About an hour later dinner was ready!
What we have here is bacon wrapped brussel sprouts, wilted spinach, carrots, onion with a hummus vinaigrette dressing, a herb seared piece of salmon, With a side of roasted corn, thinly slice potatoes tossed in a smoky spice blend, and a grilled half avocado. This dish scream a little Tex-mex to me. Not sure if it is the smoky bacon potato with the grilled corn and avocado or what, but all in all it was a delicious dish! He in total ended with 15 points!
Now it was my turn! The battle was on! What I started with on the right and what I narrowed it down to on the left.
I have to say with no time limit, THANK GOODNESS, I still managed to stare down at my supplies for some time before coming up with a plan of action. I had the added knowledge of going second and knowing how many items I needed to use to beat him. I can tell you I DON’T LIKE DOING THE DISHES!
I started with pooching the salmon fillet in a chicken broth, minced garlic, and diced onions. On pan number one I have kale that I plan to turn into a chip and potatoes seasoned with cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic, and chopped onions. Pan number two we have two slices of bacon and a rough chopped cauliflower dusted with a smokey season blend. I am hoping for the bacon fat to flavor the cauliflower even more. In the pot on the end I have onion, tomato, and garlic simmering to turn into a sauce later.
Making homemade tortillas is something to learn. I have yet to make it just right, but i am on my way. I personally use corn meal flour not all purpose flour so it isn’t going to be that white tortilla you see in the grocery store. I have only made this recipe once and previously I followed the recipe to a T and only added salt. Well this time I went in with some extra seasons because I felt with such an easy vehicle for flavor.
When rolling out the dough, know that it is a wet dough. I found it easiest to roll the tortillas out between two pieces of cling wrap to get the best large tortilla. If you are having a hard time sticking to the round shape, use a pie pan! They do a great job at starting it off and from there using a rolling pin. I try to get it under a ¼ of an inch or thinner for the tortilla. We have the cast iron grilling on one side and flat top on the other buried among out oven pans that we only really use during the summer time. (bottom right photo) I thought why not? It’s not summer, shoot, it’s not even sunny out, but I can get some nice grill marks on my tortilla! You can also use a pizza stone in the oven set at 350 flip after 2 minutes or a standard frying pan at medium heat 2 to 3 minutes a side.
With the pan hot I started to go a little crazy and was reheat and searing everything on the griddle plate! Fish, you bet! Potatoes, they could use some more color! Bacon and cauliflower, why not at this point.
I made a seared salmon soft taco with spanish rice, smokey, crisp bacon cauliflower, crunchy potato fries, baked kale chips, and mild white cheddar with a pico on the side minus cilantro. Yes, I know that can be a make or break for some people. I am allergic to cilantro and a great alternative for those of you, who like me have an allergy or just think it taste like soap: Thai basil. In the current climate I didn’t find it an essential to have in my house so tomato, onion, and lime it is!
I came up with this idea on a whim. I also thought it would be a fun way to break up the monotony of ‘what is for dinner?’ every night. We love to experiment with flavors and foods and this created a way to get experimental within restrictions. We have agreed that we want to do this again before we go to the grocery store and really make our food stretch. What better a time to do that than now?
We are also those people who have moved a box of lasagna to three different apartments. Plus, this was my first fish taco, EVER! I know, I know, world get off my back, but I am just discovering fish. It has opened a whole section of the menu for me.
Going forward we have talked about doing the same challenge again but maybe setting a theme with the spices or inspiration from a certain country, adding a time limit, or adding a course. That one is my favorite idea! I’d love to add on an appetizer one week and then dessert the following until we are cooking a three course meal!
Now the real thought running through your mind is ‘who won?!’. Well that would be me! 16 baby! My lucky number!
Here are two templates you can print off at home to surprise your roommate, spouse, or partner! Enjoy and maybe find some excitement in the kitchen again. Plus, you can get rid of that can of creamed corn you bought two years ago when you meant to buy regular corn.
- I don’t own the rights to the logo design in my featured image. That belongs to Food Network and Chopped.