When you mix an athlete, a nerd, beer, and good ingredients this is what you get.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chopped@Home 1: Ground Pork, Haricot Vert, Camembert, Chardonnay

For obvious reasons, Rotio and I are somewhat obsessed with the show Chopped. If for some ungodly reason you've never seen it, you should get on that. It's highly addicting and for a while now we've wanted to bring a Chopped challenge to our own kitchen. So now that we actually have our own kitchen, it was time.

Last week we flipped a coin and decided I would be up first to cook, and Rotio would pick a "basket" of ingredients from this list. We chose the date and time (last night at 5:45pm) and met at the front door of Shaws, where my "basket" ingredients were revealed to me:

Ground Pork
Haricot Vert (green beans, since Shaws isn't that fancy)
Camembert cheese

30 minutes to shop for ingredients. GO!

I stood in the produce section for the first five minutes, thinking through some possible menu options... Pork and chopped green bean wontons with a camembert dipping sauce... "ham"burger topped with camembert and green beans...Pasta with pork meatballs and a Camembert Alfredo sauce...

I settled on:

Pork meatballs, sliced pears and toasted bread served with a Camembert fondue for dipping and a side of "haricot vert" in a blackberry chardonnay vinaigrette.

Yeah, fancy. All that in 60 minutes. GO!

I started with the meatballs, which I've never made before. In a bowl I combined one package of ground pork, about a quarter of an onion, really finely chopped, one garlic clove, 1 cup of breadcrumbs (I thought I had a can of breadcrumbs but didn't and had to spend 5 precious minutes making them in the food processor, ugh!), 1 egg and salt and pepper. I decided I wanted them to be slightly sweet, so I added 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 2 T of cloves. I smushed everything together in my hands until combined and rolled it into 1 inch balls. It made 18 meatballs, which I threw in a wrought-iron skillet with a little olive oil. I browned them up, about 5 minutes on each side, and then poured 3/4 cup of hot chicken stock in the pot and turned it to low to simmer. I turned them every 5 minutes or so to keep them moist throughout, and left them there to cook through while I started the fondue.
Now, cheese fondue I've done before. It's sort of a traditional special meal in my family and I've made it from scratch before, but never without a recipe. So I started with 2 T of olive oil and 4 minced cloves of garlic in a small sauce pan. I let the garlic get a little too brown, but it ended up giving the fondue a roasted garlic flavor which actually worked really well with the camembert, so I'd probably do it again. Then I added 2 cups of chardonnay (two ingredients down, 2 to go!). I let it get hot and then started mixing in 8 oz of grated gruyere cheese that I had tossed in about a 1/4 cup of flour. (You want to add the cheese a little at a time so it melts evenly, and the flour will start to thicken it up). Once the gruyere was melted, I started adding the camembert in little chunks I pulled off with my fingers. It melted beautifully. So creamy and pretty, and all I had left to add was a tsp of truffle oil to finish it off. 

The green beans were the easiest part. I just steamed them and tossed them in my vinaigrette--2 T olive oil, 1 T of this amazing blackberry balsamic vinegar I got for Christmas, and 2 T of chardonnay. Sprinkled a little salt and pepper on top and called it a side dish.

I plated the meatballs with some chunks of toasted french bread and sliced pears and attempted a fancy presentation worthy of the judges' table. I own a fondue pot, which made the whole meal really work since the fondue stayed hot while we dipped...

So, did I get chopped? Ummm, NO. The meal was a hundred times better than what I expected from myself. The  meatballs were so juicy and flavorful, and the cloves really worked with the camembert. If there was a flaw, I'd say I could have incorporated the green beans a little better (maybe put them IN the meatballs...ooooh) but really, it was DELISH. Wish we could have shared it with others!

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