[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZMZJhO-SsM

I don’t know what it is about the Food Network’s Chopped, but its grown on me over the last year. I’m fascinated by what strange combinations of mystery ingredients will be pulled from the baskets for each of the rounds. This clip is from one of the show’s classic final rounds, in which the last two contestants had to come up with a dessert from mystery ingredients.

This challenge was actually more normal than some. After all, blackberries and kiwi are sweet, and one can easily imagine wanton wrappers being used in many different ways in a dessert. It was just the gummy bears that proved the real challenge. More frequently, the chefs will be faced with some unusual savory ingredients in the dessert round, or ingredients they’ve never heard of in the appetizer and entree rounds.

Last night I watched the chefs deal unsuccessfully with bitter melon in the appetizer round. Now I’ve never tasted, let alone cooked, with bitter melon, and apparently only one of the chefs had any experience with it (and he didn’t like it). One chef decided to grill it, believing that it would bring out its sweetness. Bad strategy, as apparently grilling only enhanced the bitterness.

There’s no time for re-dos on the show. With just 15 minutes for the appetizers, they have to start cooking almost the instant the basket is opened.

I still don’t like Ted Allen as host, although he’s slightly less robotic than when I first watched. And the judges can be unbelievably arrogant. But there’s just something about those mystery ingredients that keep me watching, imaging what I might make.

Have any of you watched the show? If so, what have been some of your favorite challenges?

LinnieGayl