The Hail Mary is defined as a very long forward pass in football, made in desperation with only a small chance of success, especially at or near the end of a half.
Hail Marys happen not just on the football field but in the kitchen – especially the Chopped Canada kitchen. When the clock is ticking and a chef has no idea what a mystery ingredient is or how it can ever work with the rest of their dish, they say a prayer, throw caution to the wind and hope that their risky long shot actually scores big.
Here are three Chopped Canada Hail Marys that were worth the play:
The Play: Chocolate Covered Dried Shrimp
Episode 4 – Appetizer Round – Chef Alvin
Mystery Ingredients: dark chocolate, dried shrimp, oysters, wasabi peas
Chef Alvin didn’t know what to do with his last two mystery ingredients: dark chocolate and dried shrimp. In a moment of desperation, he coated the dried shrimp in melted dark chocolate and added that to his appetizer plate of wasabi pea-encrusted oysters. Roger Mooking and Chuck Hughes thought the idea would be a disaster. Roger’s direct quote was: “A candy disaster gone completely wrong.” But after trying it, Roger and Chuck were both surprised that it worked! Chef Alvin was just as surprised as they were.
The Score: Alvin went on to win the Chopped Canada title.
Chef Alvin’s Wasabi Pea Encrusted Oysters with Chocolate Covered Shrimp
The Play: Jicama Puree
Episode 5 – Appetizer Round – Chef Terrance
Mystery Ingredients: snack cake, duck breast, jicama, hot chili sauce
“This big old thing that I’ve never seen before…I can’t even pronounce it,” is how Chef Terrance described the jicama he found in his mystery basket. He guessed and made a riff on mashed potatoes with it: boiling it, pureeing it, and then adding some duck fat and milk to the mix. The judges were intrigued by his approach especially since the other chefs weren’t cooking theirs and Anne Yarymowich stated that jicama is almost exclusively eaten raw. When Terrance’s plate was up in front of the judges, Susur Lee was surprised and a bit delighted that Terrence took a risk and cooked the jicama; he hadn’t ever tasted jicama cooked. The only time he looked to be enjoying any of the appetizers in this episode was when he was about to taste Terrance’s appetizer. We never did get a verdict from Susur if he liked it or not but the slight smile on his face before he tasted it was enough for us to call it a win.
The Score: Chef Terrance impressed Susur Lee with his innovative play and got him to eat something he’s never tried before. This is no small feat.
Chef Terrance’s Deconstructed Duck Slider with Jicama Puree and Snack Cake Fritter
The Play: Chef Paul’s Entire Dessert
Episode 5 – Dessert Round – Chef Paul
Mystery Ingredients: sweet green relish, graham crackers, limes, marcona almonds
Chef Peter used coconut milk, duck eggs and heavy cream from the pantry to make his lime-coconut custard. As he started to stir the ingredients together, he literally called it a Hail Mary, not knowing if the heavy cream and coconut milk would work together in a custard. It sounded easy enough but he was right to be nervous – it just didn’t thicken. Close to the finish line, his entire dessert was in shambles and he knew it. Instead of custard, he had a soupy eggnog. His graham cracker crust was just pulverized graham crackers in the food processor. He burnt his caramelized sugar and when his brittle emerged from the blast chiller, it wasn’t brittle – it was chewy. I would have called his entire dessert at that point one big Hail Mary. He dumped the runny custard into the dishes, tore at his brittle to get it on the plate and threw the graham cracker crust on top of his dessert. After he finished plating at the very last second, he looked at his dessert and was surprised that it wasn’t that bad. The judges didn’t think it was that bad either! The final dessert they tasted wasn’t what Paul planned on serving but Anne Yarymowich and Vikram Vij both really enjoyed the taste and texture between the custard and the brittle.
The Score: Chef Paul took the Chopped Canada title that night.
Chef Paul’s Coconut Lime Custard with Burnt Relish Brittle