Enticing smells and watching food porn rarely illicit a stomach grumble or lust to eat. Last night was different. NSSP and I were down in the Man Cave channel clicking between burly sports shows, a couple from Salt Lake City lusting after Mexican property, and the eternal Food Network.
We settled on Bob.Flayman was at his smack down again careening around NYC and surging with testosterone. The show settled on an NYC Italian Deli on Arthur St. The challenge? Eggplant Parmesan.
Cameras pan to the little 2nd generation Italian his round face and eyes. I started getting interested by the guy's passion and pride for his parm. I also started to go down my own eggplant parm memory lane. Efficient waitresses with dishes up their arms slinging them on the table. A bubbling metal oven dish with breadcrumb encrusted eggplant, fried, dipped and doused in tomato sauce. Thick slabs of mozzarella slightly brown with a rich unctuous come hither and burn your tongue texture. Next the waitress dealt out a round of spaghetti w/ red sauce as a side dish. Then came the challenge. How to remove the parm in one piece onto the waiting plate. Sometimes the waitress took pity and would deftly scrape the mass in one pass onto the plate. Other times I was left to my own devices. A dust of nebulous grated "parm" completed the plate.
Pan back to the little Italian. Bobby does his talk to the camera (taking us aside and confiding in us how he was going to ramp up the parm-)NSSP and I were certain the Flay Master was going to use his signature jalapenos or chili flakes for fire. He woosed out with regular peppers. BUT it was going to be different and wup the Wop.
The next shot sealed the deal for the Italian (sorry to give away such a riveting plot!) He peeled the eggplant, cut it uniform and thin the long way on a slicer and after a seasoned dredge in breadcrumbs he deep fat fried the eggplant shingles, dunked in sauce and lovingly laid them in a sauce doused baking dish topped with moz.
By this time I had no interest in Flaygo's unpeeled rounds of pan fried eggplant. I was all over the real deal. I caste a sideways look at NSSP and saw he was also in rapt attention.
Bobby was fascinated by the peel and slice "technique". Granted I had always left the skin on but pondering about it, I never liked the tough texture of the skin. Next time nix the skin. Bob Master also though it was rocket science to slice the eggplant thin on a slicer. Wake up and smell the deli! You have a gazillion eggplant to slice you think there's a mandeline around? Fuggetaboutit.
"I need to make that!" I said.
"Yes, make it tomorrow!" NSSP replied.
The contest was held at the deli and it looked like every Italian in a 10 mile radius turned up. There was a high concentration of old craggy women with big noses and young innocent doe eyed children. Wow! you could feel the tension---
There were 2 judges of no consequence. The outcome was based on execution of a traditional dish (guess who the judges would lean toward on that one...), and presentation (sorry folks but that is a real stretch with eggplant parm unless Giada is sprinkling parsley and smiling and stroking the dish).
The crowd held their breath with anticipation, Bobs gave the camera his cheesy "I know what I doing" look and the little Italian had sweaty palms.
So to re-cap, the Italian won,Flaygo was still amazed at the peel and slice routine and I was mentally making a grocery list for tomorrow's dinner.
Asta La Pasta! Vitello Tonnato!