Mystery Box 1: Tomato Bacon Chowder with Potato Oyster Crackers

Tomato Bacon Chowder with Potato Oyster Crackers from ZestuousTis the season for MasterChef, one of my favorite cooking reality shows. My favorite part of the show week after week is the Mystery Box Challenge.

One of these days, I hope to audition for the show. In fact, I almost did (read about what stopped me here). In the meantime, I decided to play along this year. After watching the show every Wednesday, I’m going to prepare a dish using the mystery box challenge ingredients and post it on my page.

What is the Mystery Box Challenge you ask? Each week, contestants are given a Mystery Box. When they remove the lid, a variety of surprise ingredients lie beneath. They then have 60 minutes to wow the judges. They must prepare, cook and present one incredible dish using all or some of the ingredients inside the box.


Tomato Bacon Chowder with Potato Oyster Crackers from ZestuousMay 29, the home cooks lifted the lid and saw four everyday ingredients: potato, tomato, bacon and chocolate. Some chose to use all four ingredients. There was chocolate covered bacon and even chocolate mashed potatoes. I, on the other hand, left the chocolate out.

I will admit that I have an advantage that the contestants don’t. I obviously get more time to think about my recipe development, and I get to look at my file of recipes for ideas. I also get to see what the contestants create and what the judges say.

Advantages aside, this is still going to be a fun ride.

Tomato Bacon Chowder with Potato Oyster Crackers from ZestuousFor my first challenge, I decided to use the potato, tomato and bacon to make chowder and oyster crackers. I’ve created something similar before with sweet potatoes and corn.

You juice the potatoes for the broth and use the pulp for the cracker dough. Because all things here are Zestuous, I added a little heat with an Anaheim pepper and some Dubliner cheese. If you can’t find Dubliner cheese, try aged white cheddar or Parmesan.

I obviously have no idea what the judges would actually think of this dish, since I’m not on the show, but my husband enjoyed it. His only complaint was that I didn’t make more.

Full episodes of MasterChef are available online 8 days after the show airs. Starting June 6, you can watch the real MasterChef Mystery Box Challenge 1 here.

Tomato Bacon Chowder

Tomato Bacon Chowder


  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1 Anaheim pepper
  • 4 potatoes
  • 3 tomatoes
  • ¼ cup aged Dubliner cheese, shredded
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. course ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder

Using a juicer, juice 3 potatoes to yield one cup of juice. Remove the pulp from the juicer and reserve 2/3 cup pulp for the crackers.

Juice 2 tomatoes to yield one cup juice.

In a pot, brown 2 slices bacon over medium heat. Chop the pepper and add ¼ cup to the bacon. Saute until tender.

At this point, I chose to put the ingredients in a new pot because I was afraid there would be little black specs floating in the broth. I pictured the chefs ridiculing me right away.

Dice 1 potato into ¼-inch cubes. Add to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, but not too soft.

Add the potato and tomato juices to the pot along with the cheese. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.

Remove the seeds from one tomato. Dice the outer portion. Add to pot with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Simmer until ready to serve.
Potato Oyster Crackers

Potato Oyster Crackers


  • 2/3 cup potato pulp (from above)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup aged Dubliner cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 slices bacon

In stand mixer or large bowl, combine all ingredients except the bacon grease. Stir with the mixer or your hands to form a dough.

Roll the dough on a floured surface until it is about 1/8-inch thick.

Using a small circle cutter, cut out crackers and place onto a silpat-lined baking sheet.

Cook 2 slices of bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan and serve alongside the soup as bacon bits. Brush the tops of the crackers with the bacon grease.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes.

Serve the soup with bacon bits and potato oyster crackers.



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