One of my favorite shows to watch is Chopped on the Food Network. Have you seen it? Four contestants are given a basket of “mystery” ingredients and they must concoct an appetizer in twenty minutes. One contestant is chopped, then the remaining three get a basket of more “mystery” ingredients and in a slightly longer time-frame, they must create an entree. Another contestant is chopped and the remaining two contestants compete in the dessert round.
The “mystery” ingredients are always odd, sometimes stuff I’ve never even heard of, other times, ingredients that would confound and sicken me (a whole sheep’s head, anyone?) and sometimes they’re just weird (a box of chocolate covered donuts for the entree round, for instance).
My whole life is an episode of Chopped except that I have a pantry rather than a basket and I don’t have any fancy kitchen gadgets and I am not a creative cook and I would rather be pretty much anywhere than the kitchen. (Oh, and I have no camera crew, no good pot-holders, merciless judges, no training, and no possibility of winning $10,000.)
So today, after work at about 3:30 PM I was lying in bed playing Candy Crush on my phone when it rang. My husband called and I told him I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner and he suggested:
I shot down each suggestion because I didn’t have any thawed ground beef or sausage (which I use to make spaghetti sauce). After I hung up the phone to continue losing Round 65 of Candy Crush, I pondered what I could make.
I did a Google search for a recipe for “Cheeseburger Soup.” Doesn’t that sound like it’s a recipe? I didn’t find it. Then I thought maybe stuffed cabbage. I settled on Porcupine Meatballs.
Not that I’ve ever made them but a quick scan of the recipe showed common ingredients.
I started gathering ingredients and thawing the meat and grabbing giant bowls and turning on the oven and all that jazz. As if I were a real cook.
Then I remembered the recent incident of the Rice in the Pantry in which I discovered little black rice-shaped bugs crawling in the long-grain white rice. (Welcome to Southern California.)
At this point, a Chopped contestant would come up with a brilliant and tasty substitution. I went upstairs, fixed my hair, slapped on enough make-up to disguise my utter fatigue and went to the grocery store to spend $2.69 on a bag of rice.
Start to finish, cooking dinner took me two and a half ridiculous hours.
Everyone liked the meatballs, mashed potatoes and asparagus. And I did not serve any bugs with my rice, but I did hear a report of a Bernese Mountain Dog hair in a meatball.
And that, my friend, was my mystery ingredient.
(Sadly, I was not chopped. I will appear in the kitchen again tomorrow night at 4 PM with absolutely no idea what to make for dinner. I just hope the mystery ingredient isn’t rattlesnake meat.)