Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chopped - Back in Action

I haven't posted anything about my latest Chopped at home adventures in a while. Initially this was because it took me forever to get plantains. You might remember that my last three ingredients were plantains, tofu, and bacon bits. Well, my grocery store didn't have plantains, so I ordered them from an online produce vendor. Then I waited. And waited. As time passed and we were coming up on our trip to Florida (yes, a month ago), I called the vendor and asked what the deal was. He said it had been too hot to ship the plantains, but they were planning to do so that weekend. I said, "Thanks, but no thanks," since that weekend was when we would be leaving for Florida for a week. Anyway, to make a long story short, we went to Florida, came home, and I ended up finding plantains at a local grocery store where I prefer not to shop. Ingredients in hand, I proceeded to the cooking part.

And that's where the second delay in my writing about the experience come in. It has been over a week since I created dinner from the above listed ingredients. I have just been too ashamed to tell about it. Okay, I'm not really that melodramatic, but I was bummed by how my meal turned out, especially on the heels of The Pickled Herring Disaster. Here was my plan - Slice the plantains, pan fry them in some oil with garlic and chopped bacon bits, then mash them with butter and put them back in the pan for a second fry. I still think this was an excellent idea, I just didn't execute it well. For the tofu, I got the extra firm variety, planning to coat it with seasoned flour, dip in egg, then coat with panko bread crumbs and more chopped bacon bits and pan fry. I figured the panko would give some good texture to contrast the mushiness of tofu and the S&P and bacon bits would add flavor to the blandness of it. This was executed just fine, but the idea wasn't so excellent.

I got my pan way too hot while struggling with getting the peels off the plantains. I thought they would peel off easily like a regular banana. Not so much. It took me forever to peel the darn things. Especially with two screaming children getting into all sorts of mischief under my feet. So, as I mentioned, my pan got way too hot. My garlic got burned. I was distracted and did not tend to my plantains as I should have. The plantains got burned. They were then hard and dry and would not mash. And they tasted burned. The tofu on the other hand was nicely coated, had a nice crunchy exterior, and absolutely no flavor whatsoever. Grade? D- I'd say.

What would I do differently if I had even the slightest desire to ever cook plantains or tofu again (I'm only sort of joking here)? I'd not get my pan so hot and would cook the plantains more slowly. Then I would follow my original plan and I think it would turn out well. I would probably do something entirely different with the tofu, like buy the soft version (what I used in the delicious Tofu Chocolate Pudding I made) and make a sauce or something with it and just pick a different protein entirely on which to put it. Or, I would marinate it. I learned this past weekend from my husband's cousin that this is crucial when preparing tofu. Like, marinate the heck out of it. Who knew?

I drew my next ingredients the other night and was relieved to get some more normal foods. Spaghetti squash, spinach, and merguez sausage. The only ingredient here that might give me a little bit of trouble is the sausage, because I've never had it before. It is a North African sausage made with lamb, which I think will have a bit of a smoky, spicy, slightly sweet flavor. My husband is making it as I type this. I am excited for this round, and am looking forward to hopefully cooking up another home run. I'm due, I think.


  1. Thought you should know that I made a great teriyaki marinade Sunday night, soaked the extra firm tofu for 2 hours in it, grilled it and got picture-perfect tofu slabs...and then winced as the outside was salty and the inside was flavorless and had the texture of fat. This was enough to conjure up the first-ever-witnessed gas reflex from ten-gallon-Tillie. I'll be moving back to poor defenseless animals for the next bbq...

  2. Just so you know, we tried plantains. Once. I think your burning them would have enhanced the flavor. Enough said!