10.14.2012

MoFo chopped! challenge



Roasted Butternut Squash in Popcorn Crepes with Rosemary Apricot Sauce


My dear husband has swept up the confetti and I have composed myself, but are YOU ready? It is Weekly Vegan Menu's first Chopped!/Vegan MoFo Challenge!

Yours truly follows the MoFo blog religiously and was amazed at the incredible option dangled before me. The golden carrot of opportunity. 
The Chopped!/Vegan Challenge
Yes, like most devoted fans of Chopped!, not only have I thought 'eww..gross' at many rounds of the basket, but have boasted that I-can-do-better. Ms. Isa heard these boasts of ours and has given us the chance to put the basket where our stoves are.

I am sure there are some readers unfamiliar with this process. Here is a succinct rundown of the Food TV show:

4 chefs
4 ingredients
20-45 minutes
1 dish using all of the ingredients in the basket
3 rounds of baskets
3 judges to decide the winner

In our only round of the MoFo challenge, BRUNCH, we were given in our virtual baskets:

butternut squash
popcorn
Rosemary
apricot preserve 

There are over 800 bloggers in MoFo VI.
 This is MY story:

As soon as I read the ingredients, I knew, for better or worse, what I would make. But more importantly, I knew I would actually be making it, not just have daydreams about entering. 

I realized, as anyone reading the ingredients list, that popcorn was the challenge. As much as a raked my brain for different variations of the popcorn itself, alas, popcorn can only appear in a few forms: popcorn kernels (con: can cause emergency tooth surgery), popcorn popped (con: too average), popcorn ground (flour) (con: too messy), popcorn liquefied? Maybe not the last one. I was sure I was the only clever cleaver to go with popcorn flour!
 [Yeah,... probably not :] 

I decided to use my un-original idea of popcorn flour to make Crepes.
Crepes made with popcorn. Popcorn Crepes.

 I popped my fresh kernels, as any self-respecting Chopped Contestant would, ground it into flour, 
(Now I know where the packing material's name comes from - believe me, it isn't the popcorn; it is the airiness it achieves when you open the blender top. I thought glitter was bad! I'm sure I will be cleaning up popcorn debris until next year.) 
and used it as part of the crepe batter. Surprise! It worked! Not only did the popcorn add popcorn flavor (thanks in part to the 'double' cooking of the popcorn), but it did not mess up the crepe itself. 

Popcorn. Check.

Butternut squash is scary enough to send any and all of my kids scrambling for cover; they are not fans of winter squash. I haven't been, either, truth be told. That is, until I learned to roast. See this post for roasting techniques. 

Roasting is a medium-heat cooking where the natural sweetness and flavor of the cooked ingredient is drawn out. That is exactly what I did with the butternut squash. I added Rosemary to the squash to echo the Rosemary in the sauce. It also adds a lovely earth-quality to the sweetness of the squash and the richness of the black beans. Although black beans are not in the basket, the challenge is a BRUNCH one, and a great protein source (in addition to the other wonderful plant proteins) is beans. Black beans also pair extremely well with winter squash because they complement each other.

Butternut Squash. Check.

Apricot preserve had  a few different options in my thread of cooking. It could glaze the squash or become a sauce. I decided on making it into a sauce because adding the sweetness of the preserve to the sweetness of the squash was just begging for a double whammy, and not in a good way. 

However, if I made the preserve into a sauce and cooked it with some apple cider vinegar long enough that the acidic quality of the vinegar was gone, but the delightful tartness remained, then the sweetness of the preserve would be balanced. I used the Rosemary, for the second time, in the sauce. The earthy quality of the herb fared well with the preserve. Doubling up the Rosemary in the sauce and the squash preparation connects the elements of the dish. I was careful to not overwhelm the palate with Rosemary, but to not let it get lost among the other flavors.

Rosemary. Check.
Apricot Preserve. Check.

To sum it up, I kept it simple, not overdoing the dish with too many other ingredients. 
The crepes have a definite popcorn flavor, but not overwhelmingly so. They pair well with the sweetness of the squash with its hint of spiciness and Rosemary. The sauce adds another dimension of sweetness and tartness, again with Rosemary hinting at the edge of the bite. The dish is contrasting enough while complementing all the basket ingredients. It is a complete dish with no one note taking center stage. It is also seasoned well, for those judges wondering. Salt and fresh ground pepper were appropriately used.
 A simple symphony for the palate.

Who is the winner? And who will be chopped?
Tune into MoFo  on October 16!

My recipe is below the pictures.





11 comments:

  1. Genius!!! I vote for you, for sure. Worse than glitter? Thank goodness for helpful husbands, especialy during MoFo.
    You are a smarty pants chef!!! Great pics too. Always love to see what you are whipping up.

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    1. I KNEW you should have been a judge!! Thanks for the encouragement!

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  2. Nice job, really. I was thinking about making a squash muffin made with popcorn flour and a rosemary-apricot spread, but I was too busy to get to the store and buy ingredients and decided to not do Chopped! :-(

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    1. Oh, no! That sounds so good, too! I am so sorry you didn't get to make it :( That spread sounds like it would have worked, too.

      Thank you for the kind words!

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  3. Wow, those are impressive-looking crepes.

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  4. popcorn flour! impressed. good luck!! so exciting.

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  5. That is seriously genius! I think you have a good shot at winning with this one. They always love it when you use an ingredient twice in one dish on the show. Love the write up too!

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    1. Thanks you, Laura, Messenger and Lisa!

      Kelly, you are so sweet! Just the boost of confidence I needed. I can hope, but there is a plethora of fantastic and creative ideas being submitted. In any case, it got my brain working and it was a lot of fun!

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  6. Wonderful job! That's a gorgeous entry and pretty pictures too!

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  7. That is very inspiring. The popcorn crepe is genius. In glad to know that no one expects the first crepe to turn out since that always happens to me.

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