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Zach and I decided we would try something new this weekend and have a Chopped theme date night. We LOVE Chopped. It is by far one of our favorite shows to watch. We even have some of the reruns DVRed which is strange I know, but still fun. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and for those of you that have never heard of the tv show, I will explain the facts in a minute. Last night we decided to make a creamy sweet potato mash as part of our date night dinner. Correction, Zach decided to make a creamy sweet potato mash as part of our date night dinner, as he was the first to be Chopped “tested.” I was so impressed! There is no way I will be able to outdo him next week! He did such a great job, that my mouth is still watering for more, and it’s been over 12 hours since we ate dinner!
So to explain Chopped to those of you who have never seen it or heard of it; It’s a TV show on the Food Network. The general idea of the whole thing is that there are four contestants (usually accomplished chefs). They have to compete in a contest where they prepare an appetizer, entree and dessert for a panel of judges (who are also accomplished chefs and restauranteurs…or celebrity chefs). The kicker is that at the beginning of each round they are given a new picnic basket filled with four ingredients that they must incorporate into these courses. Some of these ingredients tend to be normal, but most of the time they are odd ingredients that you’ve probably never heard of. They can prepare anything they want though. Creativity is key. They are given a new basket at the beginning of each round, while one contestant is eliminated after each round based on their “performance” or how well they integrated their ingredients, how good it actually tastes, and how pretty it actually looks. It’s quite fun to watch, and was exactly the reason we wanted to have our own competition.
So yesterday morning, I went to the grocery store to get the ingredients Zach HAD to use in his entree (we only did the entree round, not the appetizer and dessert…baby steps). I picked up bok choy, thousand island dressing, a small pound cake and gummy bears. I think I was a little mean to start. I mean, it is my turn next week, and God only knows what will be in my “basket.” Anyway, it was super fun to watch, and I was totally impressed by his creativity! Although, as in evidence of last night’s “performance,” there would be no way in a million years that we would ever be able to get the task done in the allotted time they give on the show.
The one recipe I decided to focus on this morning was the creamy sweet potato mash because it was just so unbelievably delicious and I thought it would be the easiest one to write about =). Everything else was absolutely amazing too! The sweet potato mash combined sweet potatoes, bacon and jalapeño. It was topped with the basket ingredient of pound cake (for use like a bread crumb). In the recipe, I mentioned to use bread crumbs instead of pound cake. This is totally up to you. I really thought the pound cake was AMAZING as a crumble on top. It was so sweet that it may as well have been dessert, but the bacon and jalapeño really brought the sweetness down a notch. You can certainly use bread crumbs though.
One of the other components to the dish that Zach decided to make was a small arugula and spinach salad topped with a gummy bear vinaigrette. Yes gummy bears…He dissolved the gummy bears in water in a saucepan over medium heat to create a simple syrup. He then combined with apple cider vinegar, EVOO and some other spices and herbs. It was absolutely incredible! It tasted just like a raspberry vinaigrette to me…but better. The other component to the dish: the main part actually, was his version of a roast turkey with stuffing, except that he used cornish game hens instead. For those of you who don’t know what a cornish hen is, it’s just a small game bird that tastes much like a chicken, but better. You can usually serve a cornish hen per person. They are pretty dainty. Quail would also be a good substitute, although more expensive. We couldn’t find quail though unfortunately. The hens were oven roasted and stuffed with a stuffing of spicy sausage, bok choy (used as the celery component: bok choy is very similar to our traditional celery) and the pound cake (used as the bread component). Oh my…
I really think that I’m going to start giving Zach more tasks in the kitchen. There will be no way I will be able to outdo him next week. I was so impressed by his performance that I may just be nominating him for the “amateur” version of Chopped, which they do have every once in a while. Everything he made was on point. Everything was delicious and he was a total winner in my book.
Oh right the beer…
I almost completely forgot…
So for this beer pairing we decided to go with Eddyline Brewing’s Inner Glow Red Chile Porter; for obvious reasons. It really just enhances the flavor of jalapeño in this sweet potato mash, and if you’re like Zach and I, the more spiciness the better. I know I’ve been leaning towards chile beers here as of late, but I just couldn’t help myself with this one. I’m not sure how many of you will actually be able to get this beer. If you have problems, there are a ton of chile porters and stouts popping up out there, just try to make sure it’s a porter or stout. Stone’s Chipotle Smoked Porter would be a good substitute if you are having problems finding this other brew. I feel like I’ve used Stone’s Chipotle Smoked Porter quite a bit for pairings though, and felt like I needed to go a different route this time.
We have a lot of fun ideas cooked up for this week, but I’m taking the rest of the day off to be a Sunday lazy butt. Enjoy the rest of your weekend everyone!
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 jalapeño, seeds removed and diced
- 3 strips of bacon, chopped
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter + 1 tablespoon, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (or crumbled pound cake if you are feeling adventurous)
- 1 green onion, sliced thin
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a sauce pan, cover the sweet potatoes with just enough water to submerge. Boil until tender, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the jalapeño and bacon over medium-low heat and render until bacon is starting to crisp, but not ultra crispy.
- Remove from the pan and discard of the fat. Once the potatoes have finished, strain and transfer to a medium-sized bowl and mash with a fork. Add the cream, butter, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir to combine with heavy wooden spoon. Fold in the the bacon mixture along with the walnuts. Transfer to ramekins and top with the bread crumbs. Layer the remaining tablespoon of thinly sliced butter on top.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the crumble has browned on top. Garnish with green onion and serve!
Hardware: * Saucepan * Small Saute Pan * Cutting Board * Sharp Knife * Colander * Bowls * Large Fork * Rubber Spatula * Heavy Wooden Spoons * Serving Ramekins *