Lime mayonaise, pinto beans, tinned anchovies, oatmeal and one antique frozen chicken breast are the extent of the ingredients in my house. It’s been an action-packed week. I haven’t been to the grocery store in…um….
Yeah. It’s been a while.
I could order a pizza, but the thought of spending $17 for a lukewarm pizza in a damp cardboard box didn’t do a thing for me.
I am a regular watcher of Chopped, the Food Network show where professional chefs are given baskets with some of the most whack-a-doo ingredient combos and told they have a 20 or 30 minutes to create an appetizer, entree and dessert. What kind of dinner entree could you create in 30 minutes with coconut flakes, snap peas, quick grits and lamb shoulder? What ideas spring to your mind for a dessert that must include butter crackers, grapefruit, feta cheese and gin as ingredients? You might not be able to taste the often zany, occasionally brilliant plates created by the competing chefs all hoping to win the $10,000 weekly prize, but you can feel the adrenaline pouring out of the screen as you watch them attempting to create logic from the madness of their mystery baskets.
When I first saw the show, I dismissed it as some sort of slightly sadistic version of a cooking school final exam. They couldn’t expect that viewers would be watching the show, pen in hand, trying to write down the recipe for that delicious appetizer made from beef tenderloin, seaweed and maple syrup.
But the show grew on me. When faced with a missing ingredient for a dish I planned to make, I found myself looking at the ingredients I did have on hand and thinking about what some of those chefs on Chopped might have done with them. When I found myself pressed for time, I found myself thinking about how to put a creative meal together in a jif the way those crazed cooking pros on Chopped did.
The show has been downright inspirational, even if it isn’t always appetizing. (You will never be able to convince me that a dessert made from carrot juice, white chocolate chips, baby beets and hominy is something I want to eat.) Chopped has given me some fun ways to think outside the pizza box.
So, you may ask, in light of my Chopped habit, what did I create out of the mayo, pintos, anchovies, oatmeal and sad chicken breast?
We ordered Chinese.