A Lesson in Transforming Unwelcome Ingredients — Chopped After Hours

Show: Chopped

Host Ted Allen introduces Chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Amanda Freitag and Aaron Sanchez to their mystery basket ingredients, as seen on Food Network's Chopped: After Hours.

Photo by: David Lang ©2013,Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

David Lang, 2013,Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

After Hours: Redemption 09:10

Chopped judges Aaron, Amanda and Marcus cook with vegan lobster & chop suey

Certain culinary tactics are required when it comes to working with an ingredient that's not so desirable. That's when chefs — especially Chopped competitors — pull out all the stops in the kitchen. But success isn't guaranteed. It takes a lot of skill and creativity to transform an unwanted ingredient, whether by elevating it or disguising it. That's exactly what the judges accomplished with the appetizer baskets from the special Chopped: Redemption episode. Marcus, Amanda and Aarón took up spots in the Chopped kitchen for an After Hours competition where they faced cooking with vegan lobster, chop suey, hot mustard and winter melon.

On the show, the competitors all made dishes that incorporated the basket ingredients rather well, whether it was a salad, soup or stir-fry. Ultimately the chef whose preparation didn't disguise the unwanted flavor of one of the basket ingredients was chopped. The judges attacked the basket ingredients with the same fervor, knowing what mistakes not to make. Marcus and Aaron both made dishes that disguised the vegan lobster and incorporated all the basket ingredients. Amanda decided to highlight the vegan lobster with flavors that brought it up to nearly the level of actual lobster, which proved to be very successful.

Aarón made enchiladas that he filled with a pureed mixture of vegan lobster and chop suey, which really surprised the judges. Ted loved the winter melon salad on top because it added lots of freshness and texture. Inspired by a lobster roll, Amanda poached the vegan lobster in butter. Marcus was surprised: "You went there?" He also praised her use of brioche and the celery salad. For his dish, Marcus hid the vegan lobster much like Aarón did. But he didn't let the basket dictate his dish and used Italian sausage and bacon. Amanda loved the smokiness the meats added, and Ted was impressed with how Marcus "shoved that vegan lobster out of sight!" In the end the lesson learned was best summed up by Aaron: "This only gives us better perspective to do our job at that side of the kitchen."

Click the play button on the video above to watch the entire After Hours episode and see the dishes Marcus, Amanda and Aaron 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 a vegan lobster, chop suey, hot mustard and winter melon?

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

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