My husband and I are fans of cooking competition shows. We especially enjoy Chopped! and Cutthroat Kitchen on food network.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concepts, on Chopped!, a panel of contestants are given a basket with several mystery ingredients, each of which much be used in a dish that they have 20-30 minutes to create. They also have use of a pantry stocked with beautiful produce, spices, and staples.
Cutthroat Kitchen works much the same way, but instead of ingredients in a basket, the contestants are assigned a dish and given 60 seconds in the pantry to shop for ingredients. After they have selected their items, the other contestants bid on opportunities to sabotage them with handicaps, such as stealing ingredients or cooking with one hand tied behind their back.
The food is rated by chefs, and contestants are eliminated or allowed to progress to the next round and the winners are rewarded with cash.
My household consists of my husband and I and two boys (26 and 14) and a girl (18). As busy as we all are with activities, work, etc., we still try to have a sit-down family dinner at least 3-4 times per week. As the best cook and the mom, preparing that dinner nearly always falls to me.
Some days dinner prep at my house feels like a combination of these two shows.
The rules of the Cutthroat Chopped! are simple:
- Get dinner on the table with ingredients on hand in the pantry (fridge/freezer/cupboard)
- You must serve an entree that everyone will eat
- You must not use processed foods in preparation
- You have 60 – 90 minutes to accomplish this task
- Incorporation of kale is an automatic loss
Your sabotages are:
- Your dish must be gluten and dairy free
- There is a distinct possibility that one of more of the ingredients that were in your refrigerator yesterday may be missing or unusable
- The judges are picky eaters, so no shellfish, mushrooms, big pieces of onions, olives, big pieces of tomatoes or vegetables other than carrots, peas or corn may be used
- Occasionally there may be a guest judge (a grandchild or friend) with their own dietary sensitivities or dislikes – these must also be accommodated
- You have to fit your workout (and a shower!) in during this 60-90 minutes
- One of the judges will be at boy scouts, work, or track practice. You must anticipate the judge’s arrival time so that everyone can eat at once and the kitchen can be clean before bedtime.
Bonus points are awarded for
- accommodating all judges’ preferences
- correctly anticipating the missing judge’s arrival time +/- 10 minutes
- any meal involving beef
The (nightly) competition begins. Of course, since I didn’t plan ahead, my proteins are all frozen. I get them in the microwave to thaw, change into my workout gear, and run to the treadmill for my warm-up. Next, I prep the meal and get back on the treadmill while it bakes, stews or braises. Exhausted, I shower, serve dinner and wait for the judges to comment while making witty dinner conversation and asking the judges about their day.
The judges critique the flavor, texture and presentation. After the judges have all commented, the head judge gives the meal a rating.
The rating system is simple:
- I would eat this at least once per week (this is reserved for roasted chicken thighs and baked tilapia)
- I would eat this at least once per month
- This was not a hit, but you may prepare it occasionally if you enjoyed it
- Shrimp and grits territory (my family hates shrimp and grits). This is the worst rating in our system and involves ordering pizza or reheating leftovers so nobody goes hungry.
The prize? I am invited back to the next round to do it all over again, and I never have to do the dishes or clean the kitchen. Since I hate kitchen cleaning, this is a win-win. I am a survivor.
Author’s note: My judges knew I was writing this post and have blessed the fact that I am poking fun at them. They mean the world to me.