Friday night I participated in a Late Night event at Carroll called “Chopped”. I was on the student affairs team winning team with two other colleagues. Here is a pic of us at the end of the night. Did I mention that we were there cooking until 2am??!!
We had SUCH a fun time!!! Since I blogged before about the “Ramsey edition” it seemed fitting that I share the JCU Chopped experience too. Here is how it worked:
There were four teams:
1. My team of student affairs (we were handicapped by the way because everyone else had 4 people)
2. The SUPB team (programming board of students)
3. The CALA team (students in the Culinary Arts Learning Association student org)
4. A team of students picked from the audience at random.
There were 3 rounds:
1. Appetizer – 20 minutes
2. Main Dish – 40 minutes
3. Dessert – 20 minutes
After each round one team was eliminated. There were four judges, one of which was a local chef from a local area restaurant. The evening started out by a cooking demo by the local chef. While this was going on the teams were able to plan and make a strategy for the dishes. We only were told that the secret ingredient for the appetizer for gnocchi. We would be told the other secret ingredients right before that particular round, if we made it that far. We could use any of the food on the display table and we were told what proteins were available. We were each assigned a cooking area in the JCU kitchen. My team and I first decided that we would make a gnocchi soup for the appetizer. We then came up with a couple options for both the main and the dessert so we could easily switch if the secret ingredient didn’t work with our first choice. Our options for the main dish were: a version and chicken cordon bleu with a twice baked potato or a veggie stir-fry with either chix or ground beef. For dessert we decided on chocolate pudding using bananas somehow. That one was a little less flushed out.
We began and put our soup together pretty quickly. We made up some chicken stock with some paste they gave us. We cut up carrots, onions and celery and threw that in a pot of the stock. We mixed together some “soup” spices and added some cayenne pepper and a couple bay leaves. They provided us with a bag of frozen gnocchi so we added that towards the end coupled with some already cooked diced chicken. We kept tasting it to make sure it had the right amount of salt, etc. It was yummy! We had it on the judges table right on time and they LOVED it!! We called it “Gnocchi Soup for You!” from the soup nazzi Seinfeld episode. We then served the rest to the students in the audience. Some came back for seconds and we heard comments like, “they should serve this in the dining hall!!!”. We sailed into the next round!
Oh, I should mention that I kept commenting on how fun this was to my teammates and they agreed. Another fun dimension of the evening was our host. One of the international student from the UK was our host and she was hilarious! She kept walking around and asking both the chefs and the audience members various questions. It made it really entertaining although I have to admit I was a little annoyed when I was deep into my cooking mode. I did find myself yelling “time, what is the time?!!!” a few times – a little bit stressful, but totally fun at the same time.
We found out that the secret ingredient for the main was portabella mushrooms and we thought this could easily fit into our first choice chicken dish. They provided already cooked chicken breasts so we layered portabella mushroom, bacon, romano cheese and a little parsely on top of each breast and got it crispy. We had to punt on the potato. We originally thought we would do twice baked – cook them in the microwave and then do the second round of cooking in the oven. No microwave. So we just decided to bake them. It was a convection oven so I knew it would be faster than a traditional oven, but I had never used one so I wasn’t exactly sure how long they would take. We rolled then in oil and kosher salt, turned the over to like 450 and hoped for the best! Meanwhile we made a topping for the potato of yogurt, chives, and portabella mushrooms topped with some crispy bacon. We got the entree, “Chicks in Blankets” to the judges right on time once again! They liked it, but said the chicken was a little dry. The potatoes were not completely done (close), but the bites they tasted must have been okay because they liked them! We sailed through to the finals!!
On to the dessert round! Our secret ingredient was strawberries…easy, peasy! I started making the pudding with milk and whole lot of chocolate chips over a makeshift double boiler. My team was cutting up strawberries and making our banana balls…mashed up bananas with a little bit of sugar and graham cracker crumbs rolled into balls and then rolled in chopped peanuts. As I was making the pudding I started panicking because it was not getting very thick. My teammate suggested thickening it with cornstarch. Before thinking too much I dumped some in and it immediately started clumping into big chunks in the vat of chocolate goodness. Oh no! Just about then the professional chef come over and asked me what I was making. He confirmed that adding cornstarch wasn’t a good move. Yeah. So I tried removing the big chunks as best as I could. The host came over and asked me what I was making and I quickly responded with, “chocolate soup – it is French!” She loved that response and started going on about how it was so creative!!! My teammates were down for it so we made it work. Our masterpiece was “Chocolate Soup with Monkey Balls” and the judges LOVED it!
I have to admit – it was pretty tasty! Let’s just say it was tasty enough to win the whole kit and kaboodle!!! Now, it might have just been the cute name that won them over, but either way, we won and it felt good! What a fun night!!