I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be a chef-testant on Food Network’s  cooking competition show Chopped!! The episode premiers on November 27 at 10 pm EST/9 pm CT.  I am sooo excited. It was a fantastic experience — and really, really hard! No kidding, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Take a moment and noodle on that for a second.

I started college when I was 16. I’ve worked for Martha Stewart, Anne Willan, Nora Pouillon, and Nathalie Dupree. I trained under French chefs in DC and in France. I worked in a 2 star Michelin kitchen where we cleaned the kitchen with rubbing alcohol on Saturday nights after 150 covers, just for kicks and giggles. I’ve slept on the dining room floor of a restaurant where I cooked between day and nighttime shifts because I was so exhausted. I’m a very hard worker — and yet, being a guest on Chopped was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It was seriously intense.

“Chopped” is a top-rated competition cooking show that focuses on skill, speed, creativity, and execution. Chefs are challenged to create dishes that showcase their passion, cooking style, and culinary talent, all within a 30 minute deadline. The catch? We had to use mystery ingredients pulled out of a basket just seconds before we started cooking. In the past, contestants have pulled out items such as animal crackers, octopus, yucca, rice cakes, and Gummi Bears.

Believe me, I was wishing for gummi bears. You will not believe what we had to cook. Check out the press release to read more about it!

Of course, I can’t share anything I cooked on the show. In honor of weird, strange ingredients I’m going to share a recipe for one of the more normal things I can think of — Tomato Soup!

Remember to mark your calendars and save the date!
Watch Tuesday 11/27 at 10 pm  on Food Network!
Make sure to tune in and see if I survive the Chopping Block!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Mexican Tomato Soup

Serves 4 to 6

Well, it’s not really a super normal recipe – it’s a Mexican version. The key here is charring the tomatoes. Normally I would never suggest cooking fresh tomatoes out of season, but charring them really transforms their flavor.

2 medium Roma tomatoes, cored
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, CHOPPED
2 garlic cloves
1 quart reduced-sodium fat-free chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
2 cups low-sodium tomato juice
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 green onions, CHOPPED
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup CHOPPED fresh cilantro
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat 2 minutes until it’s nuclear hot. Add the tomatoes, and cook, turning occasionally, 10 minutes or until charred on all sides. Transfer to a food processor.

Let the skillet cool down just a little. Add the oil and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the whole (not CHOPPED!)  garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Transfer onion mixture to food processor with tomatoes; process until smooth.

Transfer the tomato mixture to a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in broth and tomato juice. Add bay leaf, cumin, coriander, and red pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Stir in green onions, lime juice, and cilantro. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into warmed bowls and enjoy!

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2012 Virginia Willis Culinary Productions, LLC.