Getting Chopped For Dinner Again - Swampy's Kitchen Blog at - 293610

Swampy's Kitchen

Getting CHOPPED for dinner again 
Jan. 3, 2013 11:31 am 
Updated: Jan. 11, 2013 3:31 am
It was early on Saturday afternoon and I was at my son’s Full Ice Cross Ice Hockey Game watching a slightly more spread out version of little kid soccer (they fall down on skates) when my blackberry buzzed. It was my wife and she wanted me to know that it was snowing and she wanted to know what I wanted to do for dinner. She was out, it had just started snowing and she was going to go to the grocery store. I told her that I was happy with anything and despite the snow, I would be more than happy to go get Thai Takeout if she wanted. (Actually, I wanted the Thai Takeout but I wanted her to say she wanted it). She said she would think about it and that she was headed into the grocery store anyway since she was already in the same shopping center. That’s when I said to myself, let’s have some fun and I offered to have her hit me up with a CHOPPED. Anyone who has read my blogs before know that this is not an unusual occurrence in my house. At least this time I knew if she said yes, that I wouldn’t have to take on my ultracompetitive daughters since one of them was gone for the night at a sleepover. Surprise, surprise, my wife said YES in all CAPS.

Now over the past few times we have played, my wife & kids have come to understand that as “judges”, they have to eat what I prepare so unlike the TV show, I knew I wasn’t going to get Lamb Fries or Rose Water Syrup or some other strange fruit or vegetable that I had never heard of or seen before. Then again, I had no idea what kind of mood my wife was in since she had been out clothes shopping with our tweenage fashionista of a middle child. Would she be irritable ? Would she be playful ? Would she actually want something good to eat ? All of these questions bounced around in my head as my son and his teammates bounced up and down the ice. When we finally got home through the ever increasing snowfall I got my answer.

My wife & tweenage fashionista daughter were waiting for me with a bag from the grocery store and their best Ted Allen impersonations. They told me that I could have as much time as I wanted but that dinner was to be served at 7:00pm. They also told me that I had to use all the ingredients in the bag in one form or another and that I could make use of any & all of the items in the pantry & fridge. (And as is always the case, I discovered after we started that the pantry & fridge were woefully understocked.) Then they proceeded to pull the ingredients out of the bag and they were Pork Loin (A big one hence the no time limit), Parsnips, Proscuitto, Goat Cheese & Blueberries. Certainly not a killer basket by any means but it was a basket full of potential. I figured I had about an hour and a half to think things through before I started cooking so I headed outside in the snow to play with wayward Christmas lights and to haul up firewood for a fire we could toss the lousy dishes into if I failed. Once I had somewhat of an idea as to what I was going to do, I posted the challenge on the Buzz & Facebook and got some wonderful ideas – that I couldn’t use. To be honest, I am glad that there weren’t three more chefs standing next to me at that point because based on what I read, I would have been going home in the first round.

The first thing I did was turn the oven on and head over to my spice rack for a rub for the Pork Roast. I had thought of braising it in a blueberry something but that didn’t quite click with me so I wanted something that could stand on its own without being overpowering. I saw the Chef Paul’s Magic Seasoning Salt that had been given to my wife by the hostess at his restaurant when we went there for her birthday a few years back and decided I should rub that all over the pork. It had a great color and smelled fantastic so into a 300 degree oven it went in a roasting pan with a little water in the pan for basting.

Next I turned to the Parsnips which are essentially starchy white carrots that I knew I was going to puree with the Goat Cheese. Having watched countless episodes of CHOPPED during my early early early morning workouts, I knew that the puree would have an “unctuous” quality when done. (On a side not, isn’t “unctuous” such a pretentious & CHOPPED judge worthy word ?)

While those two items were roasting away I watched some football and pretended to know what I was doing while I figured out the rest of the ingredients. The Proscuitto was going to be easy. I would fry that up in place of bacon in a pan and then wilt some spinach with some Honey Wine Vinegar (yes – I used it again) and salt & pepper. It’s an easy side dish to prepare and one that I also make with Brussel Sprouts. It was almost like cheating. Now what to do with the Blueberries ?

I have cherry balsamic vinegar in my pantry and I also have a pomegranate one as well so I figured that I could probably make a blueberry balsamic glaze or sauce. One problem, that idea somewhat bored me so I had to think outside the bottle and that was when it hit me. I went over to the underutilized booze cabinet (I quit drinking 24 years ago) to see what if anything we had that could possibly go with blueberries to make a sauce. Sitting there on the shelf, glaring at me the same way it did in college, was a bottle of Tequila. Now “Ta-kill-ya” may have made me 6’ 4”, handsome & brave in college but with some blueberries, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, orange & lemon peel and salt & pepper I felt I had the makings of a half decent sauce so I set to slowly simmering that mixture on  back burner.

As the clock continued to countdown to 7:00pm, I took the temperature of the pork and at 125 degrees, I raised the oven to 325 degrees. At 145 degrees I raised the temp one more time to 350 degrees and at 165 degrees I pulled it out of the oven and set it to rest on a cutting board. Not to pat myself on the back too hard because I have a bum shoulder but it looked good. I also pulled out the parsnips and tossed them into a food processor with some chunks of butter (about 4tbs), 8oz of Goat Cheese and some salt & pepper. Pureed it smooth and it was “unctuous” but it was missing something.

I then turned my attention to the Proscuitto. The whole package went into a large sauté pan and as I started to crisp it up, I realized I had way too much for the spinach dish I had mapped out in my mind so I scooped out half of it, chopped it up and mixed it in with the parsnips. The spinach went into the pan with a healthy dose of honey wine vinegar and the meal was almost done. That was when I noticed the blueberry tequila lime sauce had slowly cooked to the consistency of jam. It was missing something too. It really needed a hint of sweetness so I tossed in a little brown sugar and deglazed the pan with a splash of orange juice and I was back in the game.

The picture you see below was the final dish as served to the judges. I think my presentation was a little weak and that the sauce was a little thick but overall I thought I did alright. My wife loved it, my tweenage fashionista daughter said it was fine and my son said, “”It tastes like pork Daddy”. At least he didn’t ask me for some applesauce.

Come back next time when my son and I go at it over a dessert basket and yes, at 7 years old, I am worried that he may beat me.
Pork Roast
Photo Detail
The final dish
Photo Detail
Jan. 3, 2013 11:45 am
I always marvel at what you come up with, Doug. But it's even more amazing when I see what your children can do in the kitchen! I love reading your blogs.
Jan. 3, 2013 11:52 am
Hi Paula & thanks. My mom taught me at an early age so I have made sure that my children learn their way around the kitchen at an early age too. Have a great day.
Jan. 3, 2013 1:07 pm
Nice final dish. I fear I would have been chopped in the first round. While I can turn out some pretty tasty things with little notice sometimes, I would have a hard time putting together a basket of ingredients into something passable with so little notice, I think. Depending on the ingredients, I suppose, too. Now given my recent summer experience, give me a basket of peppers and I can take on anyone! : ) Good luck in your next challenge. That's a great tradition you've established there, and I bet it's something your kids will never forget.
Jan. 3, 2013 1:18 pm
OK Doug - ya got me - - I had to look up "unctuous" - - I found "oily" - "greasy" - "smooth" - and "pretentious or ingratiating" - - we're getting somewhere - I would have to agree with you that "unctuous" is a "Chopped" worthy word - especially where it comes to some of the judges. LOL!! However - - back to your blog - and I was one of those that chimed in when you put this chop challenge on the buzz - - and LOVED it!!! I will say you went another route than me - but it looks like delicious results!! And I don't think your pureed parsnips look "unctuous" at all - but I loved the addition of the proscuitto to them - - good job!! And I can't believe "Ta-kill-ya" made you 6'4", brave & handsome - it made me blond, thin with red fingernails ..... are we talking about the same stuff???? Anyway....good choice on how you're using it now!!! I'm holding up my score card now - - and it's a "10" - - not only are you the "Chopped Champ" in the food category - - but any man who has wised up to the evils of alcohol, goes to work everyday, has lost 10 bags of sugar (weight), takes time with his children, cooks for his family (which equates to loving your wife BIG TIME) - - this is not your ordinary everyday Yankee - - this is a man that this Southern Belle-grits lovin-cornbread totten- ice tea lovin woman of the South is SALUTING!!! Your name & picture are being assigned a proper place in my Confederate journal - - bless your pea-pickin heart!!!
Jan. 3, 2013 4:12 pm
I too, looked up "unctuous" and found the same definition. However, I fear it is wasted effort because I'll probably forget to use it. ... I think you made a respectable meal of your given selection but I have no local publications in which to post your accolades so right here will have to do.
Jan. 3, 2013 4:27 pm
Hi & Thanks wisweetp - I would get smoked in a pepper battle with you though I would love to give it a try. I'm making a roadtrip next summer to take you on ! Have a great night.
Jan. 3, 2013 4:27 pm
Love your blogs Doug,they are always so very interesting.I love what you did with the proscuitto,only because i do the same thing,except i put onion and garlic in it.Can't wait for your next installment.
Jan. 3, 2013 4:29 pm
Wow l2c - I don't know how I am ever going to get my head through the next doorway I try to walk through. I am thrilled to have a spot in your Confederate Journal. I may be a Yankee but I do have Spanish Moss hanging off my culinary soul. Have a great night !
Jan. 3, 2013 4:30 pm
Good evening & thanks Mike - your accolades are humbly accepted wherever they are. Have a great night.
Jan. 3, 2013 4:32 pm
Good evening manella and thank you for your kind words - I knew I forgot something in my spinach dish, I needed some onion or garlic. I won't forget next time. Thanks for reminding me. Have a great night.
Jan. 3, 2013 5:23 pm
Great job as always. What fun!
Jan. 3, 2013 6:07 pm
Thank you Magnolia Blossom. It was fun cooking & writing but it was even more fun watching my wife take her first bite. Have a great evening.
Jan. 4, 2013 2:27 am
I wanna be a judge, too!
Jan. 4, 2013 4:11 am
Another fun blog, Doug. What a cute family night!
Jan. 4, 2013 5:29 am
I love the show, but the fact you do it at home with your family is awesome! What a great way to both make great tasting meals, and spend some really great time in "friendly" competition with your kids!
Jan. 4, 2013 8:31 am
Doug-it was a good idea to let the judges pick out food items they will eat. I enjoyed your blog-humor and great cooking! I hope you keep a cooking journal to note your creations and ingredients. Sometimes I make something and I forget what I put in it to make it taste so good. My family members say why don't you make it like last time?
Jan. 4, 2013 8:53 am
That looks like it was so much fun to do and what a great activity to get the family involved. Your end result looked fantastic!
Jan. 4, 2013 4:52 pm
You would have beat me out for sure! Clever thinking and good job!
Jan. 5, 2013 8:32 am
Good morning all - just got back froma quick overnight trip to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl. Gig 'Em !
Jan. 5, 2013 8:34 am
Good morning gammaray - is that the next evolution from x-ray ? I think I would like to be a judge sometime too but my family won't let me. Have a great day
Jan. 5, 2013 8:37 am
Thanks Maggi - we like to have fun as a family in the kitchen - it really is a very central part of our lives
Jan. 5, 2013 8:39 am
Morning Doc - trust me, there is nothing friendly (in or out of quotes) about my family when it comes to CHOPPED. My girls tend to cheat and bribe the judges. Thanks for stopping in & have a great day.
Jan. 5, 2013 8:42 am
Good morning Lela & thanks - I started a file a while back on new creations but then I lost it. Must be why I write about these competitions so I can jog my memory. Now if could only remember what I wrote & when ?
Jan. 5, 2013 8:46 am
Good morning & thanks happyschmoopies - we do have fun with it though sometimes I do question the judges' comments sometimes. I think my son can be & has been bribed by my daughters. Have a great day.
Jan. 5, 2013 8:47 am
Hi *~Lissa~* - I don't know about that, they did give me a little bit more time to think about this one than usual. Have a great day.
Jan. 7, 2013 2:30 am
bd.weld dubbed me "gammaray" when I became Gammy to Gabi two [!] months ago (= In fact, gamma rays and x-rays are the same thing, except that gamma rays are spontaneous and x-rays are man-made . . . [in case you wanted to know (=]
Jan. 7, 2013 3:37 am
Good morning gammaray - I am always interested in the stories behind their names. Mine is kind of transparent. Have a great day.
Jan. 7, 2013 7:01 am
ok, what is honey wine vinegar? this sounds like something I need to have on hand! I think I missed some earlier reference to it...... where do you get it?
Jan. 7, 2013 8:27 am
Hi Christie - Honey Wine Vinegar was a discovery I made in 2011 when I was in Salt Lake City. It's an incredibly tasty & versatile alternative to traditional Balsamic Vinegar. It's available at selected Whole Foods Stores but I order mine direct. Tell Kelli Bess I sent you.
Jan. 7, 2013 8:48 pm
Doug, I love your blog and try and always read it. I also would love to be a judge in your "chopped" adventures! What a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen. Sounds like you all have such a good time!
Jan. 8, 2013 2:41 am
Hey, Doug, I think you have to stop doing such a great job, so that your family has to move you over into the judge position (=
Jan. 8, 2013 5:00 am
Good morning grannygigi & thank you - I just try to make a few people smile. Based on the smacktalk I have been hearing at home, I have a feeling that we may be taking these adventures on the road for football tailgates next year. I'll keep you posted. Have a great day.
Jan. 8, 2013 5:02 am
Good morning gammaray - I know I have to face my son in a dessert battle soon but my 2 girls have been trash talking each other recently so you never know....have a great day
Jan. 8, 2013 7:50 am
Love your blog posts Doug~any man that cooks is A-okay in my could teach my DH a few things~:) PS..chopped is one of my favorite shows!
Jan. 8, 2013 10:24 am
Good afternoon CrazyCat & thanks - I try to tell all that DH's I meet that cooking is easy and a way to really score some major "points" with your wife. Not all of them listen...and I agree about Chopped - it's fun to see what works and what doesn't so I can use it in my own kitchen. Have a great day.
Jan. 8, 2013 1:52 pm
You had me at parsnips. LOVE them!!!! Great job chef Doug!
Jan. 8, 2013 2:35 pm
Thanks Julie - a year ago Parsnips might have thrown me but not anymore. Have a great day.
Jan. 8, 2013 5:03 pm
Very cool - I keep thinking I am going to ask for a Chopped Basket of ingredients someday, but not sure who to task that challenge with? I love parsnips roasted and even as many times as I have seen them pureed on tv? I still haven't done so. I have some in the fridge right now along with some rainbow carrots. Think tomorrow is a good day to puree ;) Defrost a steak, add a salad and maybe some profiteroles for dessert!!
Jan. 8, 2013 6:01 pm
OK Doug....been thinking about a chopped competition on Maui. Now that could be interesting :)
Jan. 9, 2013 5:21 am
Good morning Grams and what time is dinner ? I tried growing rainbow carrots this year but they were pretty scraggly when I finally pulled them up. And just make sure that whoever does pack that basket for you has an adventurous palate. Have a great day.
Jan. 9, 2013 5:23 am
Aloha Julie - I think every round up should have a little Chopped competition - make it a team sport. Have a great day.
Jan. 9, 2013 12:47 pm
Ha! I am somewhat ashamed to admit this but in my defense, I never turn the t.v. on. It's cold here now though and I got restless this weekend and turned it on. I watched my very first episode of Chopped and I am completely hooked. I LOVE it! I had to go grocery shopping last night and begged hubby to meet me there to help so that I could get home in time to watched the Chopped Marathon including the new episode and I just might have to do one at the house myself soon. I have never heard of or seen cherry or pomegrante vinegar and would love to get my hands on some. I love my vinegars almost as much as hot sauce. Great blog as usual and the food looks delish!
Jan. 9, 2013 12:57 pm
Hi SLN & thanks - great to see you. Flavored vinegars have really become one of my food obsessions too. There are so many ways to use them. Every Tuesday night there are 3 back to back to back episodes of CHOPPED. It's fun to see an interesting ingredient on the show, see it used well and then to go find it to see what I can do with it. When you do have a CHOPPED at home, we want to see the results.
Jan. 10, 2013 4:37 pm
Your writing style is a lot of fun to read, and I hope to see more Chopped-style articles from you in the future. It's one of my favorite shows, and I love how you've adapted it to the family meal. Look forward to trying out the game on my own. Your family seems quite lucky. Cheers.
Jan. 11, 2013 3:31 am
Good morning mitchsoup & thanks - if you go back a few blogs you will find my battle with my daughters which featured a very corruptible judge. There is also a reponse blog from my daughter that is clearly fiction & fantasy. We do have fun in the kitchen together. Have a great day.
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Doug Matthews

Home Town
Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Living In
Mendham, New Jersey, USA

Member Since
Mar. 2000

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Cooking Interests
Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Southern, Healthy, Kids, Quick & Easy

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About Me
My mother decided early on that her sons would never have to rely on someone to feed them so we all learned to cook at an early age. I really started to branch out when I moved out west to Denver, SF & Dallas. Combine that with extended business travel to Louisiana & my growing love of spices and you get a real mix of flavors.
My favorite things to cook
Love to make cajun food with my favorites being crawfish pie, alligator stew & alligator chili - I go nuts on Super Bowl Sunday
My favorite family cooking traditions
We didn't have a lot of traditions per se but you could count on pancakes or waffles on sundays - dad making scrambled eggs twice a year on christmas morning & mother's day - veal parmagiana on christmas eve, Thanksgiving with Grandma Matthews and any menu of your choice on your birthday. We weren't a spicy family so I learned a lot of good strong basics in the kitchen from Mom that I have carried over into my cooking today.
My cooking triumphs
I love to experiment with variations of dishes I try around the country. My biggest success is here on allrecipes where I had 2 recipes published in the same cookbook - Southwestern Turkey Soup & Curried Carrot Soup. I think my corn muffins are a great starting point and my alligator chili has become a much requested Super Bowl favorite.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few times in the past where I tossed everything and took everyone to a restaurant instead. I'm not too proud to say my cooking is awful when it really is.
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