For as long as we’ve lived together, my husband and I have tried to keep Friday free as a date night. We’ll go out to dinner, or catch a movie, or cook together while sharing a nice bottle of wine. We’ve driven to wineries, turned our house into a mini golf course, and had Chinese checker and dart tournaments. And then, at some point, we decided to get really creative and play Chopped.
Chopped is a popular Food Network show that pits three chefs against each other as they attempt to create delicious dishes with mystery ingredients. In each round, chefs must open a basket revealing three odd food items that must be fully incorporated into their meal. After each round, (appetizer, entree, and dessert) a chef is “chopped” and therefore removed from the competition. The last chef standing wins! It’s a simple concept, but the meals are often highly complicated as the competing chefs attempt to make the unappealing appetizing.
My husband and I enjoy watching Chopped, and we both enjoy cooking and interesting food. Our concept was also simple, on the way home from work, we each stop at the store and choose three random ingredients for the other person. We keep them in the bag until it’s time to cook, at which point we reveal to the other what three things they must include in their dish. The first time we played Chopped, we thought that we would need to make three dishes like they did on the show. We each picked nine random ingredients, and planned on doing appetizers, entrees, and desserts. After one and a half plates of odd food however, we were done! We’ve played numerous times since, and have learned that one weird dish a piece is enough! If we’re still hungry at that point, we can always order a pizza. But rarely do we feel up to eating course after course of awkward small plates.
There are a few simple rules to our game:
- Each person chooses three ingredients for the other person. My sister contends that she and her husband could never play because she’d hand him spaghetti noodles, a jar of sauce, and some ground beef. That’s not really against the rules per se, but it’s also not very interesting. It’s much more interesting to pick three random or exotic ingredients. The ethnic food section is an excellent place to look! We’ve cooked with alligator, pickled chestnuts, some weird peppers labeled in Chinese, and a fish that still had it’s head attached. It’s way more fun to try and make something out of an ingredient you have little to no experience with than to give three ingredients that have a clear combination.
- You can’t use the internet, Pinterest, or any kind of recipe/cookbook for help. Whether you make something amazing or make something terrible it’s all on your own merits! (We broke this rule one time when I checked what temperature you had to cook alligator. Don’t poison each other!)
- You must take at least one bite of whatever the other person creates.We’ve actually had pretty good luck with this rule in that there have only been a few dishes created that haven’t at least looked decent on the plate. And there’s only been one dish that I’ve ever truly hesitated and questioned whether or not I could stomach a bite…a smoked trout melt that smelled so bad I didn’t think I would be able to get it up to my mouth without choking.
As a helpful tip, and not an actual rule, I’d recommend buying the ingredients in small quantities. Especially if they’re weird foods that you don’t foresee yourself eating in the future, there’s no reason you need to have lots of extra alligator left over, or a full jar of something you might only eat a teaspoon of. Choose your foods wisely and avoid as much waste as you can!
Also, make sure there are plenty of normal ingredients in the house as well. Along with the three mystery ingredients, all the rest of the food in the house is fair game to help make the dish, so make sure there are at least a few regular pantry staples around.
Some successes and failures!
Our most recent game featured the following two sets of ingredients. Let me know what you’d have made in the comments, and check out instagram @inkyblog to find out what they turned into at our house!
4 cheese popcorn
Chicken enchilada soup
3 mini winter squash
Seven layer taco dip