Blog entry by Tammy Peak, ’21 Culinary Grad
The second-year culinary students were challenged with their own episode of “Chopped”. Ok, it wasn’t quite that intense, but we were given a handful of mandatory ingredients, a list of available ingredients, and some staples deemed “pantry ingredients”. The rules were simple: prepare four courses or, in my case, five tapas, within three hours to be served to judges within a half hour period immediately following the preparation. The four mandatory ingredients had to be used somewhere in the courses and each course had to include at least one of the available ingredients. The mandatory ingredients were: beef chuck, green curry paste or chamoy, rutabaga, and chocolate.
Each of the mandatory ingredients had their own challenges. Beef chuck has a lot of connective tissue so is most often cooked low and slow. We were allowed to get around this in a couple of different ways – some students chose to smoke the meat or use the sous vide (knocking off a few minutes from their three-hour time slot). Green curry paste and chamoy are both very strong flavors. Rutabaga is, well, rutabaga. It actually was the easiest to incorporate and the students came up with several interesting ideas including shredded in slaw, hashbrowns, The chocolate needed to be used in one of the courses other than dessert.
The one big way the challenge differed from Chopped was that we could practice the recipes and the timing in the weeks before the final. Thank goodness – during my first practice, I wasn’t even close on getting the five tapas done in the time frame allowed. I’m clearly not ready for prime-time! During my second week of practice, I was able to complete all of my tapas (although not exactly within three hours). Keep in mind that any bread items need to be created from scratch. For me, this was a tart crust and tortillas.
The biggest snafu was my pineapple cake. I took a tried-and-true recipe, cut it in half, and attempted cupcakes. I did need to use fresh pineapple instead of canned, but otherwise it was just the measurement adjustments. The cupcakes DID NOT WORK. The sugar content caused them to bubble over and collapse. Interestingly, they were delicious! Kind of like caramelized pineapple. With the instructor’s guidance, I decided to just go with it. I topped it with a goat cheese (available ingredient) frosting and candied pistachios (pantry) for a topping. In a word: yum.
Each student came up with unique ideas that were very well received by the judges. It was one of my favorite challenges so far.