Monday, February 10, 2014

"NBC Sunday Night Football Cookbook" - Baked Eggplant with Mozzarella and Parmesan - for the Super Bowl

Date I made this recipe:  February 2, 2014 (Super Bowl Sunday)

NBC Sunday Night Football Cookbook, introductions by Faith Hill and John Madden – 150 Great Family Recipes from America's Pro Chefs and NFL Players

Published by:  Time Inc. Home Entertainment

ISBN:  10:1-60320-797-X (2008)

Recipe:  Baked Eggplant with Mozzarella and Parmesan, created by Chef Tony Hanslits, Tavola di Tosa, Indianapolis – p. 153

I just KNEW this was going to happen when I selected this recipe.

This year's Super Bowl matchup pitted AFC Champions, Denver Broncos, against the NFC Champions, the...Green Bay Packers (Kidding. Sadly)....the Seattle Seahawks.  But despite a plethora of recipes in this book for each NFL team, I could not bring myself to choose one that favored either team, but most especially not the Seahawks.  Remember the "Fail Mary" pass from the Packers/Seahawks game?  Yeah.  That's why I can't root for them.

After a long (booth) review of the book, I decided to slightly favor Denver by selecting a recipe for quarterback Peyton Manning's former team, the Indianapolis Colts.  Even better, thought I, the game was being played in New Jersey, home of every Italian and Sicilian who did not stay put in either Italy or Sicily, and so why not eggplant parmesan?

Well, I knew that this was tempting fate and I was not proven wrong as the Seahawks trounced, and I mean trounced Denver.  Oh my word, the Broncos were embarrassed.  At one point, I finally pleaded with the Broncos on Facebook to just score – anything, any number at all because "0" was embarrassing.  At the time I posted it, the score was I forget for the Seahawks and the Broncos had a goose egg.  Shortly thereafter, the Broncos scored a touchdown, elected to go for (and made) the two-point conversion and so avoided the unspeakable – a shutout.  There has never been one in Super Bowl history.  Way to go...Broncos.

I know I am not alone when I say that a Super Bowl game should be interesting. A Super Bowl game pitting the Best Defense in the league (Seahawks) against the (hahahahaha) Best Offense in the league (Broncos) should be outstanding. It should be a close game, bringing us to the edge of our comfy chairs (like we're going to sit outside in that weather). It was boring.  Really boring.  Even the commercials lacked luster.  I don't know—maybe the continuous polar vortex of the past few weeks took its toll?  (As an aside and speaking of being a boring, slow-moving game, how hilarious is it that the Super Bowl teams were from the two states that have legalized pot?  Very.)

Lucky for all of you, this recipe is not boring.  In fact, it was pretty yummy.  But the making of it thereof was messy, people, messy.  One minute the oil in the pan just seemed to sit there (like the Broncos) but then seconds later, it got all fired up (like the Seahawks) almost to the point of smoking (and thus a Lost in Space "Danger, Will Robinson" moment).  But then the minute I put the eggplant in the pan, it was like all the oil disappeared, leaving me with a dry pan, and in some cases, almost burned eggplant.  It was very frustrating.  I think the oil problem might have been because the cupboard in which I store my oils is cold (it's on an non-insulated wall of my vintage kitchen) and so it took too long to heat and then when it did, like I said – smoking.  I ran the exhaust fan the entire time.  But luckily, the end result was great.

This recipe says to use "prepared" tomato sauce which is code for "store bought," but no self-respecting Sicilian gal like me is going to settle for that so I took some previously-made Verme family sauce out of the freezer and used that instead.  You are not required to do the same, of course, but a homemade sauce always tastes better than store-bought.

And so we munched and we groaned and we sighed and we sighed some more and finally the game was over and there was much rejoicing by Seattle and much dismay by Denver.  Final score, you ask?  43-8.  Ridiculous, of course, but it could have been worse:  Seattle could have scored even more points.  Although a bronco is not a racehorse, it was clear that this year, for Super Bowl XLVIII (48), they were the day's "also ran's."

Better luck next year, Denver.  And congratulations, Seattle.  Heckuva game.

Baked Eggplant with Mozzarella and Parmesan – serves 4

1 Sicilian eggplant (see Note below)

2 large eggs

¾ cup fresh bread crumbs

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil, or more if necessary

2 cups prepared tomato sauce

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Chef's Note:  Sicilian eggplants are fat and globe-shaped rather than oblong, but you can substitute a long, thin Italian eggplant or a small regular eggplant in this dish, as the flavor of each variety is nearly identical.  Choose a male eggplant if you can (Ann's note:  ???!), one that does not have a deep indentation in the flower end (the opposite end of the stem) – it will have fewer seeds than a female eggplant.

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

Cut the eggplant crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices.  In a shallow bowl, lightly beat the eggs.  Put the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Dip the eggplant slices in the eggs, then coat with bread crumbs.  When all the slices are coated, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, and adding a little more oil if necessary, add the eggplant slices and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side.  As each slice browns, remove it to paper towels to drain until all the slices are browned.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of the baking dish.  Arrange a layer of eggplant slices over the sauce, then top with some of the mozzarella and Parmesan.  Continue layering sauce, eggplant,  and cheeses until you have three layers, finishing with the cheese.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until bubbling and lightly browned on top.  Serve hot, garnished with the parsley.

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