blog home

Quarantine Chopped Challenge: Cooking Up a Remote Sense of Community

Itchin’ for Some Friendly Competition

Like many other workplaces, our offices have been closed for quarantine, and our team has moved entirely to working remotely. We at Mission Data have been craving a bit of that sense of community that has been lacking as of late. We’ve taken steps in that direction by repurposing some of our Slack channels to encourage some extra activity, sharing, fun & games. However, some of us in our #homecooks Slack channel wanted to get a bit more hands-on and find an outlet for some pent up creativity; throw in a dash of mystery and a pinch of competition, and voila! — we decided to host a friendly Chopped Challenge: Remote Edition!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with a “Chopped Challenge,” Chopped is a competition cooking show on the Food Network where the contestants are presented with a basket of mystery ingredients and must cook a meal using all of them within the time limit. Since we’re all working separately, and there’s a lot of uncertainty in finding what you need in the grocery store right now, we decided we needed to give a solid 2-week deadline for all the Mission Data aspiring chefs to comfortably get the 4 mystery ingredients, prepare a dish or meal, and submit the results to me.

← View previous articles in our COVID-19 Series:
• Part I: Looking at the Glass Half Full Amidst a CrisisPART II: Free Content Available While You’re in QuarantinePart III: Tech to the Rescue

Let’s Get Cooking!

I announced the official start of the challenge, along with the 4 Mystery Ingredients our contestants would use:

  • Pearl Onions
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Wasabi Peas
  • Maple Syrup

Our first challenge had 5 contestants, who would use these ingredients to prepare a dish of their choice, and submit the results to be voted on by their coworkers via Slack within 2 weeks from the time the ingredients were announced. The voting categories were Best Presentation, Most Creative, and Best Lip-Smackability (as we sadly couldn’t actually taste anyone’s submission). Contestants were to provide me with photos of their dish, the recipe, and some sort of review of the dish’s taste (from the picky children you live with or your over-critical self) by the deadline. How did they do? Let’s look at the results!

The Submissions

Todd’s
Wasabi Pea Crusted Tofu on a bed of Coconut Rice, with a side of Maple Balsamic Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash, and Pearl Onions.

Recipes:

INGREDIENTS:
Main
• 1 cup Jasmine Rice
• 1 1/2 cups coconut water
• 1/8 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
• 1 oz fresh ginger, cut into chunks
• 1 package extra firm tofu
• 1/2 cup wasabi peas
• mix of flour, water, salt & pepper to create a batter
• Dash of Aleppo pepper

Side
• Brussels Sprouts
• Butternut Squash
• Pearl Onions
• 2 cloves garlic

Balsamic Glaze
• 3 tbs Maple Syrup
• 4 tbs Balsamic Vinegar
• dash of salt

RECIPE:
Prep
• Press tofu. Slice into 3 equal sized portions. Season with salt.
• Pulse coconut in a blender/food processor a few times and set aside.
• Pulse wasabi peas in a blender/food processor quite a few times and place in a bowl or small pan
• Preheat oven to 425

Rice
• Add rice, coconut water and ginger to a pot and bring to a low boil and turn down to simmer according to directions.
• With about 5 minutes left stir in coconut. Finish cooking and set aside.

Vegetables/Glaze
• Slice Brussels Sprouts in halves.
• Peel and dice Butternut Squash
• Peel and halve pearl onions
• Peel and mince garlic
• Toss all ingredients in a bowl with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper
• Transfer to baking sheet and roast until cooked through and browned in places, stirring occasionally, maybe 25 minutes.
• While vegetables are roasting prepare the glaze: mix Maple Syrup & Balsamic Vinegar and salt in a small sauce pan.
• When vegetables are nearly done heat on medium heat until boiling, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

Tofu
• Heat 2 tbs coconut oil in a skillet or pan on medium-high heat
• Mix flour and water until a fairly think batter. Season with a bit of salt & pepper
• Dredge tofu in batter and shake off excess. Roll in wasabi peas
• Cook tofu in oil for about 30-45 seconds per side including the “ends”
• Place cooked tofu on paper towel lined plate

Plating
• Put rice on plate
• Slice tofu into 1/2″ slices
• Place tofu on top of rice
• Sprinkle Aleppo Peper on tofu
• Place vegetables on plate and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
• Fin!


Review:

The roasted veggies with the vinaigrette were delicious. The brussel sprouts are kind of a strong almost tart taste usually but it was paired really well with the sweet and rich vinaigrette. That was my favorite part.
The rice was good, fluffy and coconut was definitely evident.
The tofu was pretty and I liked the wasabi pea crust but overall it was the weakest part of the dish. The tofu was pretty bland overall.


Lucas’s
Toasted Coconut Pancakes
Wasausbi Poppers™ ©

Recipes:

Toasted Coconut Pancakes
• Toast shredded coconut in even layer in oven until browned
• Add half into a traditional pancake batter (which is light on sugar)
• Add quarter cup at a time of batter onto hot pan, sprinkle additional coconut on batter as it is cooking and flip
• Serve with maple syrup

Wasausbi Poppers
• Cut sausage (field roast apple sage) into bit sized chunks.
• Dip into whisked egg
• Dip into 75% flour 25% panko mix
• Finally roll in crushed wasabi peas and finely chopped pearl onion mixture
• Fry in oil for 1-2 mins.
• Served with spicy mayo & soy sauce


Review:

Toasted pancakes thoughts: Would have been better a little bit more crispy, add more coconut, or sprinkle coconut in sugar perhaps before baking to bring out its flavor. Overall very tasty

Wasausbi poppers: Not enough wasabi flavor, first batch was lightly rolled in wasabi peas and second batch a heavier coat was applied but both times the flavor was minimal. Still, tasty and snackable but too much work for the end product.


Ro’s
Coconut & WaSabi Pea Battered Tilapia
Wasabi Pea & Roasted Garlic Aioli
Pickled Cucumber + Shallot Salad
Maple Syrup Candied Bacon Swiss Chard

Ingredients:

Coconut & Wasabi Pea Battered Tilapia

• Coconut Flakes
• Wasabi Peas
• Flour
• Salt + Pepper
• Smoked Paprika
• Dipped in Egg with a little coconut milk

Aioli

• Eggs Yolks
• Olive Oil
• Roasted Garlic
• Salt + Pepper
• Wasabi Peas
• Wasabi Mustard
• Lemon Juice
• Dried Mustard

Pickled Cucumber & Pearled Onion

• Cucumber
• Onions
• White Wine Vinegar
• Salt + Pepper
• Dash of White Vinegar
• Dash of Olive Oil

Maple Syrup Candied Bacon Swiss chard

• Maple Syrup
• Dried Mustard
• Thick-cut Hickory Smoked Bacon
• Salt + Pepper
• Dash of Balsamic Vinegar
• Swiss chard


Review:

The fish was well seasoned, considering the wasabi peas and coconut crust, I was expecting more “sweet and heat,” but it was still quite tasty.

Pickled onions and cucumber. Delicious, the savory snap of the onions with the cooling soothe of the fresh cucumber delivers every time.

Now the real star of the dish, the maple bacon Swiss chard. Perfect trio of flavor, Smokey, sweet, with a soft earthy crunch at the end. They quickly will be made standard fare from now on


Eric’s
Kiss My Spicy Grits, Sweet Griddle Cake!

Recipes:

Maple Whipped Cream
Ingredients:
• ½ cup heavy cream, cold
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
• Dash salt
Instructions:
1. Put everything in a bowl
2. Whisk until soft peaks
3. Cover and refrigerate, until needed

Horseradish Cheddar Shrimp ’n Grits
Ingredients:
• 3 cups water
• 1 cup instant grits
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 5 pearl onions, minced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1 ½ cups chicken broth
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 3-4 oz shredded horseradish cheddar cheese
• Wasabi snack peas
• Salt
Instructions:
1. In a large saucepan on stovetop, bring water to a boil and stir in grits. Cook grits for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in cream. Fold cheese into grits, until melted. Salt to taste.
2. Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until they begin to brown, then add shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are pink. Pour chicken stock into mixture. Stir and simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes. Mixture should still have plenty of liquid.
3. Pour grits onto a serving dish and top with shrimp mixture. The mixture should rehydrate the grits.
4. Garnish with wasabi peas

Handsome Coconut Cakes
Ingredients:
• 1 cup AP flour
• 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup light coconut milk
• 1 egg
• 1 ½ tablespoons melted butter
• Powdered sugar
Instructions:
1. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, shredded coconut, sugar, baking powder and salt).
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients (coconut milk, egg and butter).
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined (a few lumps are ok).
4. Cook pancakes like normal pancakes, but don’t go too thick.
5. Serve pancake, dust with powdered sugar, and dollop a healthy dose of maple whipped cream on top.


Review:

Thoughts on the pancake: Mmmmmm! (double thumbs up). Tastes coconutty and mapley. 5/5 stars (maybe 6/5 stars)

Thoughts on the Grits: 4/5 Stars
Reviewer Refuses to try Shrimp or Wasabi Peas. She doesn’t get paid enough.


Rachel’s
Coconut Crusted Shrimp with Avocado Wasabi Smash topped with Maple Syrup Quick-Pickled Shallots

Recipe:

• Make pickling liquid with maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, water and crushed coriander seed. Heat then add thinly sliced shallots and let it sit
• Pre-heat the air fryer to 375
• Blend coconut flakes to make coconut flour.
• Set up breading station with coconut flour, egg and coconut flakes
• Season shrimp and bread. Bake in the air fryer at 375 for 6 minutes, turning at half point mark
• While shrimp is baking, blend wasabi peas to make wasabi pea powder.
• Make avocado wasabi pea smash with avocado, salt and pepper, wasabi pea powder, and soy sauce.
• Plate!


Review:

Shrimp are perfectly cooked and can’t go wrong with coconut coating. The sweet and sour quick-pickle onions balance well with the sweet coconut shrimp and the mild heat from the wasabi pea, avocado smash. A complex bite that goes together very well and pairs with margarita. I found myself adding additional pickled onions. My one critique is that it could use some acid, but that may be the critic’s fault as I have been informed that I used the last lime for aforementioned margarita. I have not made this statement under duress.


The Results

We presented the submissions in a random order, and with no credit to the chefs, for our colleagues to all provide unbiased votes for their favorites. Everyone had one vote to hand out for each category and a few days to allow everyone to chip in. Afterwards, our final tallies were made, giving us our winners! 🥁 Drumroll please…

😋 Best Lip-Smackability goes to Rachel!

For her delicious looking Coconut Crusted Shrimp with Avocado Wasabi Smash topped with Maple Syrup Quick-Pickled Shallots. Yum, yum!

📸 Best Presentation goes to Todd!

For his meticulously presented Wasabi Pea Crusted Tofu on a bed of Coconut Rice, with a side of Maple Balsamic Brussel Sprouts, Butternut Squash, and Pearl Onions. It’s Instagram-ready!

🎨 And Most Creative was a tie, going to both Ro and Eric!

For Ro’s Coconut & WaSabi Pea Battered Tilapia, Wasabi Pea & Roasted Garlic Aioli, Pickled Cucumber + Shallot Salad, & Maple Syrup Candied Bacon Swiss Chard. And Eric’s Kiss My Spicy Grits, Sweet Griddle Cake! They certainly had fun with this challenge.

Congrats to all our winners, and we succeeded in finding a fun diversion away from our normal day-to-day remote routines by spicing up the community with a bit of friendly competition. More contestants are joining our next Chopped Challenge that is currently underway. Those aspiring chefs are currently working with Rhubarb, Black Garlic, Zucchini, and Maraschino Cherries. Good luck to them all!

Tweet us what you’re doing to stay connected during the quarantine!

We use cookies to deliver the best possible experience on our website. To learn more, visit our privacy policy. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.

Accept