Thursday, 24 March 2011

"Chopped" Challenge: Blackberries, Chicken, and Crescent Roll Dough

When I went home to visit last weekend, my sister chose the ingredients for my first timed "Chopped" challenge: blackberries, chicken, and crescent roll dough. For those of you who may have never seen the show, Chopped presents a series of baskets containing random ingredients which the contestants must then use to create a stunning dish that utilises all of those ingredients in some form. At the end of each round (appetizer, entrée, and dessert), one chef is "chopped," with the remaining chef declared the winner. My roommate and I once did a similar Chopped-inspired challenge, utilising some of the most random leftover ingredients in our classmates' apartment: giant gummy bear, Ramen noodles, and oranges, to name a few. We had an unruly amount of time to create an entrée and dessert and if I recall correctly, I took the entrée round while he took dessert. In any case, there was no competition this time around, but I did set a 30-minute time limit, after defrosting the chicken.

When I think berries and meat, I immediately think of creating a reduction sauce of some kind. So, I took a cast iron skillet and, on medium heat, let two handfulls of blackberries break down with a generous tablespoon of berry preserves and a splash of apple juice.

Since I knew I wouldn't have much time to ensure the chicken would be cooked properly, I decided to "sashimi" it. With a bit of salt and pepper, followed by a light coating of flour, I fried the mini chicken slices in a bit of vegetable oil.

Approaching the halfway point, I started to get nervous, because crescent roll dough typically takes anywhere from 13-18 minutes to bake properly; the chicken wasn't yet done frying. So I unrolled the dough and pressed it out into the required four portions. Once the chicken was done, I encased them in the dough and put this into the oven which I had been preheating at 350 °F. With uncertainty of the dough cooking thoroughly still lingering in the air by the 5-minute mark, I set up my serving plates and tried to crisp the chicken skin (the latter to no avail). With the heat on the sauce reduced, I added an additional small splash of apple juice to prevent the sauce from burning, and turned off the heat a minute later.

As the final minutes were ticking away, I sliced some Dubliner cheese (it was the only kind I could quickly find in the fridge) to go with the sauce; think of a fruit and cheese platter course at this point. With less than a minute to go: I pulled the chicken encased in dough out of the oven and nudged them off the baking sheet with my spatula and onto the plate.

30 seconds: Time to dish about a tablespoon of the sauce for each serving. 17 seconds: Mentally getting ready to top each dish with the cheese. 7 seconds (above): Halfway done with the plating... Finished off the last serving as soon as the timer beeped.

And voilà ! It's a play on chicken and waffles. And after due consideration, I finally figured out a name for it: poulet enveloppé de pâte.. chicken enveloped in dough. It's topped with what I call an apple-berry reduction sauce and flakes of the Dubliner cheese.

In the end, both the chicken and the dough were fully cooked. The chicken could have done with a better fried coating, to add some contrasting texture, as it tended to meld well with the rich, buttery taste and consistency from the dough, which probably could have used another minute to brown a little more. There was texture to be found, however, in the sauce via the blackberries, and the sauce was just enough for each bite of the serving. The Dubliner cheese itself was certainly identifiable but its strength in flavour profile was thankfully quieted by the sweetness of the sauce. All in all, the dish was a bit of a surprise and was just the right amount of food for a late night snack.

To check out the other photos from this small album, click here.

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