There's More Than One Way to Skin an Eel — Chopped After Hours

Show: Chopped
Chopped: After Hours

After Hours: Ultimate Champs 09:30

Geoffrey Zakarian, Aarón Sánchez and Chris Santos make exotic appetizers featuring eel.

Chopped After Hours host Ted Allen and chefs: Geoffrey Zakarian, Chris Santos and Aaron Sanchez discuss the ingredients: eel, pepihuates, shaved coconut and sea beans, as seen on Food Network's Chopped, Season 21.

Photo by: David Lang ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

David Lang, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

When faced with an ingredient like eel, most chefs would run the other way, but the judges on Chopped After Hours take the challenge in stride: "You think some slippery eels are going to shake our nerves?" retorts Aarón. Geoffrey recommends that the skin be removed, which is an important step. Only one pro chef managed to serve his dish with eel that had the skin removed in the appetizer round of the Ultimate Champions premiere. His dish turned out to be the judges' favorite, but the other dishes left something to be desired — i.e., no skin.

Geoffrey, Chris and Aarón are cooking with the appetizer basket ingredients — eel, pepihuates, shaved coconut and sea beans — from tonight's episode. Even though Geoffrey points out they're not equipped to properly skin an eel, the three judges cleverly decide to parboil it first, which makes removing the skin and bones much easier compared with how the episode's chefs struggled. The only ingredient that leaves Geoffrey flummoxed is the pepihuates. "Watch me magically transform it," Chris asserts. Aarón explains it's simply a Mexican tomato-based snack/drink with peanuts and a tamarind stick — not unlike a Bloody Mary, Ted thinks.

The three judges take slightly different approaches to preparing the eel: Aarón and Chris both cut the fish into lengths to boil, whereas Geoffrey boils it whole. The end result for Geoffrey is that he's able to remove large pieces of meat for his fish and chips. Chris has trouble flaking the eel for his salad, finding there's not enough flesh, but he manages to balance it out with his Mediterranean ingredients. Aarón takes the farthest route from the other two judges, making a Thai curry soup loaded with exotic flavorings: "The good thing about that soup is you can put anything in there," Geoffrey tells him, "the soup is so good." In the end, though, Aarón thinks Geoffrey did the best job with the eel: "You gave us eel," he says.

Click on the play button on the video above to watch the entire After Hours episode and see the dishes Geoffrey, Chris and Aarón created. Then browse behind-the-scenes images for an insider's look at the cooking.

Start a conversation with fellow fans and tell FN Dish in the comments below how you would have approached this basket: What would you make out of eel, pepihuates, shaved coconut and sea beans?

Catch up on past Chopped After Hours episodes by watching all the Web-exclusive battles online.

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