Wednesday, January 4, 2012
We're already trying to figure out ways to extend this competition -- which, I will note, has no prizes attached to it. None of the contestants have asked for prizes. It occurs to me as I write that possibly they are expecting the $10,000 won by the contestants on the real Chopped show. Let us hope they will take their prize in food/accommodation/clothing/toiletries, over a several year period.
Today's contestant was nervous about her Mystery Ingredient. As soon as she was given her initial list: zucchini, beets, baby bananas, she began her research, scouring cookbooks and the Internet, and polling parents for ideas. I will also note that an additional complicating factor to this competition is the fact that this child is limited in her diet: almost no dairy, wheat, eggs, sugar or peanuts. All competitors had to factor this into their cooking -- or offer an alternative. During last night's main course, corn pasta was substituted for this eater. Small quantities of the forbidden foods -- such as butter for browning -- were allowed.
I offered last night to tell the contestant what her mystery ingredient was, but she wanted to follow the rules. This morning, she rose early, ready to embark on her cooking, and was told that her additional ingredient was instant decaf coffee.
She had actually started a day before, by boiling beets and pickling two of them. The other beets were turned into a puree, which was spread across plates during the appetizer course. Apparently she plated the appetizer course two or three times not liking the presentation enough, and having inherited the competition gene.
She spent the morning making maple cupcakes for dessert, and then had a major problem. Most of the rest of her food would not take long to make. She had hours to fill and nothing she wanted to do so much as cook. (I know - I should have sent her to your house, right?)
Her sous-chef (they all want Dad as a sous-chef, allegedly because he once nearly cut the tip of his finger off while cooking in a camp kitchen, but possibly to give the regular cook a complete break) told her that they could start again at 3:30. At 3:27, she declared it close enough to start and so they did.
At 5:57, the meal was ready. Wine glasses were filled with pomegranate frizzante, garnished with lime slices. Our plates had the beet puree, beside pesto zucchini and zucchini fries. It was delicious. Last night's chef commented that the beet puree had little connection to the zucchinis. Tomorrow's chef remarked that he had eaten a lot of snacks (burgers, chicken fingers, chips, pop, other chicken) at a friend's house in the afternoon. I had missed lunch so I licked my plate clean.
The second course had a beautiful mound of jasmine rice at the centre, draped with roasted onions and peppers. Beside it were half-moons of pickled beets and slices of chicken breast. Again, no complaints from me. This time, no complaints from anyone. The dog showed a great deal of interest in this course, and was later allowed to lick the plate that had held slices of chicken before serving.
Dessert was the feature of this meal, though. The chef had outdone herself here. She had caramelized the baby bananas (lady finger bananas they were called on the menu we received), and fanned them out beside the maple cupcakes, and then dolloped coffee-infused whipped cream (which was actually NutriWhip = no dairy) over the whole thing. Yum, yum, yum. I could imagine the dessert in a real restaurant.
We voted and gave feedback. We washed dishes. We were warned that tomorrow's meal had not been planned. Possibly the stiffest competition was behind us. Or maybe not. We would go for a long walk with the dog to work off the delicious calories and we would wonder what was ahead on the final installment of our Chopped competition.