I’m a big fan of just about everything on Food Network, and, when we had cable, Chopped was a regular watch for us. If you aren’t familiar with the show, chefs are given baskets with specific (often weird) ingredients that the have to combine with items from the show’s pantry to create memorable dishes 30 minutes. It’s a fun show, and the chefs end up making some very creative – and occasionally downright bizarre – dishes. So, when Blogging for Books sent me a copy of the Chopped Cookbook to review, I was super excited.
The book aims to take out the sometimes strange ingredients given to chefs on the show and replace them with “ingredients that most Americans buy every week at the supermarket.” Great! A cookbook with fun, quick recipes that uses ingredients on hand – what could be better!
When the book arrived, I was thrilled to flip through the recipes. What struck me most, though, was the question, “What does this have to do with Chopped?” Even with the premise of using ingredients most people have, most of the recipes would require a trip to the store for us. I started at the beginning and read the tips about flavor combinations and substitutions, but I didn’t find it all that informative. The best tips are peppered throughout the book, and the recipe tables for simple pan sauces and dressings were one of the highlights.
We marked a number of recipes that we wanted to try out, but we’ve only tried two of them so far. I have to say, despite their promise, both recipes were misses for us. The first we tried was Shepherd’s Stew with Dumplings. We both love shepherd’s pie, so we were looking forward to trying a different take on it. The end result was closer to beef stroganoff than shepherd’s pin in the flavor profile and used entirely too much butter. I have no problem modifying recipes to suit our tastes, but that one was just a bit too far off to bother with again as it wasn’t particularly easy or quick, and it required a number of ingredients we just don’t keep on hand like gnocchi, ground beef, fresh herbs, and chicken broth. Maybe we’re bad people for not keeping a fully stocked pantry at all times, but anything that will go bad usually isn’t in our fridge and if we buy something like gnocchi, we usually know exactly what we’re doing with it.
The second recipe we tried was Turkish Chicken Tacos. We love tacos, so we were definitely drawn to some of the taco variations in The Chopped Cookbook. We decided to use pitas instead of flour tortillas, but otherwise we followed the recipe. The recipe was seasoned ground chicken topped with a marinated onion salad and a yogurt sauce. The meat needed more seasoning, but the flavors of the meat didn’t go with the onion and parsley salad particularly well. It wasn’t a bad dish, but it was rather unmemorable. Once again, while it wasn’t a difficult dish to make, it certainly wasn’t quick or simple enough to make me want to go back and tweak the seasoning. There are just too many other recipes out there to try for me to spend time and money trying to make a mediocre recipe good.
I’m not saying that The Chopped Cookbook is a bad cookbook, but it just doesn’t do it for me. The tips and simple recipes, like frittatas and dressings, are good. However, I felt that the more complex recipes fell short, and required more time and outside ingredients than I wanted. There are certainly some other recipes in the book that we might try in the future, but I think I’ll try out a few of my Pinterest saves before I go back to it.