The best way to grow is to challenge yourself to accomplish something just outside your comfort zone. I am constantly looking to grow my culinary skills, so when Tara at An Aiming High Wife mentioned she was hosting a Chopped Challenge, I decided to sign up and create something amazing out of at least one improbable ingredient.
All participants in the challenge had to submit a list of three ingredients. From that list, one ingredient was selected to go in the “basket” after groups were randomly drawn. I knew most bloggers were probably going to make safe choices, ingredients that could easily be used in a variety of dishes, but I didn’t want safe. I really enjoy watching the Food Network’s Chopped Challenge because the chefs really work to transform some unique basket ingredients, so I came up with the most random list I could, and Vienna sausages were the first thing that came to mind. I think it’s because I have memories of my dad enjoying them as a snack when I was younger. He had them when he was a kid, so it was a nostalgia thing for him. My mother just worried about the sodium content back then. Times have changed!
My other basket ingredient for the challenge were beets, jam, and rice. I originally planned to candy the Vienna sausages and make a sweet rice pudding, but I thought that wouldn’t be unique enough since I wouldn’t be doing much to the jam. Then I planned to make a rice ball or steamed rice packet, but I wanted to make a recipe I thought at least one of you, my lovely readers, would want to try, AND I wanted it to look like something you’d find at a trendy restaurant. Making not-so-foodie ingredients upscale has kind of been the range recently, hasn’t it?
Anyway, I decided the best plan of attack, as it is on the real Chopped show, was to draw from my own culinary background and create from there. One of the dishes I always knew growing up was the croqueta or croquette. It’s a finger food common in Spanish tapas and served at most Cuban restaurants as an appetizer with crackers. They’re usually savory and contain ham or cheese. I actually have a recipe up for ham croquetas here (on the queue for new photos if you’re wondering). Because I needed something to help me transform the flavor of the Vienna sausages from “canned meat” to “delicious”, I decided to add rice to my croquette, a little like an Italian arborio rice ball. But I wasn’t going to use cheese, so it’s still more croquette than arancini. Two of four ingredients down.
The beets and jam still needed to be incorporated into the dish. Originally I thought about a dipping sauce, but the croquettes I know don’t usually come with a dipping sauce. They’re served over something else or eaten alone. I adore beets, and chose to play up the color and flavor by making a raw beet slaw instead. It provided a sweet savory pairing to the croquettes when eaten in a single bite on a fork, but both components of the dish were still strong enough to stand on their own. That’s a Chopped-worthy dish, my darlings!
I tested this dish on the rest of la familia, and both the small one (human, dog didn’t get any) and the Godfather were happy! A wanted her own croquette to carry around and made a mess eating her beet slaw, and the Godfather said he never would have guessed I put Vienna sausages in the croquettes. He loved the flavor with the slaw.
Now the question is… what do you think? Would this dish move me to the next round (there isn’t one haha) or would I be CHOPPED? Check out all the other bloggers and vote for your favorite by visiting the link up here!
- ½ cup cooked medium grain rice, cooled*
- ½ stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 4 ounces (1 can) Vienna sausages
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tsp water
- 1.5-2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 3-4 cups oil for frying
- 2 large beets, peeled and grated
- 1 tbsp blackberry jam
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ¼ tsp salt
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then stir in the flour. Keep stirring for about a minute.
- Slowly add the milk and cream, stirring to incorporate and make a nice smooth roux.
- Add your spices, the rice and chopped Vienna sausages and cook an additional 3 minutes, stirring frequently. It should be rather thick.
- Set it aside to cool while you make the slaw.
- Make the slaw by placing the peeled and grated beets in a mixing bowl. Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a smaller bowl until well combined. Pour over the beets and stir to combine. Set aside or refrigerate until it's time to serve.
- Place the oil in a frying pan and place over medium heat. Set up your prep station with a beaten egg in one bowl, breadcrumbs in another, a place to put the shaped croquetas before cooking, and a paper towel lined cookie sheet or plate to drain the cooked croquetas.
- Take about a tablespoon and a half of the rice and sausage mixture, shape it into a disc, dip it in the egg mixture, coat in the breadcrumbs, and set aside. Repeat until you've used all the rice mixture.
- Fry the croquetas in batches for about 3-4 minutes each (about 2 minutes per side) and set on a paper towel to drain. Lower the heat if the croquetas are browning too quickly.
- To serve, place ½-3/4 cup of the slaw on a plate and top with a warm croquette. Garnish with fresh chives if desired. Serve immediately