Everyone – yes, everyone – who watches Chopped Canada looks at the four ingredients inside the mystery baskets and wonders (for at least a split second) what they would do if they were in the chefs’ shoes. While most of us may not have the chance to whip up seemingly random ingredients into a pleasing dish on national television, that doesn’t mean we’re consigned to the couch to dream of culinary glory.
We imagine that opening the mystery ingredient basket feels like the most thrilling and most terrifying gift unwrapping ever.
Bring the competition into your home by throwing a Chopped Canada–style party. Even the judges on the show do it! Anne Yarymowich and her husband hosted their own Chopped Canada dinner party, inviting two other couples to join them. She and her husband put together a dessert basket for their friends that included a tin of Pillsbury crescent rolls, a jar of Nutella, fresh apricots, and soft goat cheese. With those ingredients their friends were tasked with making a dessert pizza; rolling out the crescent roll dough as a crust, layered with crumbled goat cheese, fresh rosemary, grilled apricots dusted with brown sugar, a warm Nutella drizzle and chopped almonds.
Yes, it sounds wonderful and Anne confirmed that it was absolutely delicious. She and her husband received a ‘Wild West’ entrée basket that included a wild moose shoulder roast, wild boar ribs, fiddleheads and wild asparagus. Good thing Anne is a professional chef — the basket seems daunting! With the ingredients, Anne and her husband made dry-rubbed BBQ boar ribs, moose steaks (cut and flattened from the large roast), a sauté of fiddleheads, asparagus and portobello mushrooms, and simple smashed potatoes.
On the left: Anne Yarymowich happy. On the right: Anne Yarymowich not impressed. Whether your guests are happy with their food or seriously unimpressed depends on the below tips.
Taking Anne’s lead on how to throw a Chopped Canada dinner party, here are our top six tips you need to know. Anne wasn’t afraid to bend the rules a bit and you shouldn’t be either.
1. Organize details ahead of time.
Decide how many courses you’ll have — you don’t need to do all three, two would suffice — and pick who will take care of which mystery ingredient baskets: appetizer, entrée and dessert. If your friends are worried about cooking solo, team them up to make a dish.
2. Prep the pantry.
Make sure the pantry is stocked well enough for the cooks to have enough basic ingredients to supplement the food in the basket. If you cook regularly, you probably don’t need to get much. Here’s a quick list of things to keep on hand for your cooking friends: fresh herbs, onions, garlic, spices, cooking oils, stocks, vinegars, baking dry goods, and a selection of dairy (butter, cream, cheeses).
The Chopped Canada pantry is awe-inspiring. Your pantry won’t have all of this but just making sure you have key staple ingredients on hand will make sure your chefs are set up to cook an amazing dish.
3. Prep the cooking area.
Not everyone knows how your kitchen is organized. Pull out basic tools like cutting boards, knives, measuring cups and spoons, whisks, and spatulas and organize them for easy access. Show them ahead of time where the pots, pans, and bakeware is stored. Your friends will appreciate not aimlessly rummaging around your kitchen!
4. Be considerate when putting together the mystery basket ingredients.
This is the most important tip. You want everyone to have fun and enjoy eating the finished dishes, right? If your guests aren’t fond of sardines, then don’t make them cook them or eat them. The cooking skills of your guests is important to consider, too. If they’re more accomplished, put together a complex combination of ingredients or give them more uncommon ingredients they can use to show off their skills. If they have more basic skills, keep it easy with ingredients they know how to work with (i.e. skip the rack of lamb and go with chicken breasts). Don’t know their comfort level? Find out. It’s not going to be fun for anyone if a dish or expensive ingredient ends up in the bin.
The chef on the left looks pretty scared with his mystery ingredient! Try to get your guests looking forward to what they have to work with — like the chef on the right.
5. You don’t have to stick to just four ingredients in your basket.
If you’re nervous about having enough pantry ingredients to complement the mystery ingredient baskets, add a few more ingredients to round out the offering. For instance, in the entrée basket, you could add some ingredients like rice, pasta, or root vegetables to create a side dish.
This is just some of fresh ingredients available to the Chopped Canada chefs!
6. Add time to the clock if you need it.
Anne did this at home with her entrée round because the ribs would have taken more time to cook — and no one wants to eat undercooked ribs. The goal of the dinner party is to have a delicious dish and if you need a bit more time to do that, we say it’s OK.
Time starts now Chopped Canada fans! We want to see your Chopped Canada–style dinner party. Tweet photos to @foodnetworkca or post on our Facebook and Instagram and include the hashtag #ChoppedCanada.