My name is Thomas Lott. I am a proud husband and father of two. Two of my favorite things are football and cooking. I'm no expert in either, but I certainly like to fool around with both. I’ve been a home cook for about 10 years, and been around football since I was 4 years old. This fall, perhaps I’ll find out which one I know better! So I'll be checking in periodically to make a pick - or picks (even I'm allowed a bye week here and there!). Again, I'm no expert, so please don’t go betting the mortgage on my humble picks! From that, I’ll make a dish that has something to do with the game - who I think will win, a star/key player, or other story line. Don’t worry - I’m a home cook so it won’t be anything you can’t do - I promise. I’m still learning so most of these will come from my stash of cookbooks or another recipe floating around the internet. I won’t pawn anything off as my own or pretend there’s some super-secret family recipe that I can't share. Most of these I will probably have made before, others might be an experiment. I hope all will go well, but some may go from stovetop right to the dumpster! I'll be sharing my successes, mishaps, and maybe even a few gratuitous shots of my crew of sous chefs and tasters :-)

I'm always a work in progress, so my food won't *always* be pretty (or healthy!), but it's going to taste good--and if it doesn't I'll tell you that, too. And just so you know, it's also a mathematical certainty that I'll whiff on some of my football picks, too. The whole point is to get better at both! So I hope you keep up with me this fall as I have some fun with the kitchen and the pigskin! I welcome all comments, suggestions, requests and discussions on all things pigskin and kitchen!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Week 14 - Monte Cristo

Well not such a great showing for my picks last week. Although, in baseball, 1 out of 3 on a consistent basis will get you in the Hall of Fame!

We've got some great football coming up for this Thanksgiving weekend. Now is the time of year where the big rivalry games start coming into play. The problem with picking rivalry games rivalry games is that records and rankings go out the window. How many times have we seen a team upset by their overmatched rival the last game of the season? 
First, there's a big one in South Carolina, with
Clemson going to play South Carolina in Columbia. This is a really tough one to pick. Despite the letdown at home against Florida State, Clemson has remained on track and is still having a fine season. SC isn't having a bad season either, but unfortunately for them they have to keep their fingers crossed for a Missouri loss to have a shot at the SEC title game (which isn't affected by this game). It is with the utmost uncertainty that I'm picking Clemson in this game. It's uncomfortable picking Clemson in anything, but having seen them both play, I think Clemson is the better, more complete team so I'll roll the dice on the Tigers.....again.....<heavy sigh>. 

Speaking of the Missouri Tigers, they welcome the Texas A&M Flying Johnnys to town, coming off an embarassing loss to the LSU Tigers. It really seems that for the past two years, LSU has been the only team that's consistently had A&M's number - including Nick Saban and Alabama - so since they aren't playing them, I'm inclined to expect A&M's high flying act to return to business as usual. Which to be clear is #2 running around until Evans can get open. But my goodness, their defense is terrible. I think I'm going to have to take Mizzou outgunning the Aggies in a shootout.

Lastly, the most exciting game of all: the Iron Bowl. Alabama travels to Auburn for their last test of the regular season. Auburn would love nothing more than to snatch the SEC West and more importantly the National Title hopes away from their hated rival. Auburn has had a fine season, and other than a loss to LSU has beaten everyone on their schedule. Their turnaround from last season has been really impressive. Alabama is a solid team without any real glaring weaknesses. They have an incredibly solid defense, a capable offense, and they very rarely beat themselves. This is why they're the #1 team in the country. None of this matters to Auburn, who will throw everything they have at the Tide. That being said, I like the Tide to beat Auburn in a very close and physical game.

So come game time on Saturday, I'm sure you'll be all turkey and hammed out by then and looking for creative ways to get rid of that last bit of leftovers. I'm going to show you a recipe for one of my favorite foods of all time: The Monte Cristo Sandwich. It's a ham and turkey sandwich that's normally deep fried and served with fruit preserves. I used to get them all the time at Bennigan's and Cheddar's, but now that I've hit 30, it just does all kinds of vile things to my stomach and I curse myself when I get home later that night! Well, I stumbled upon this recipe online one day for a baked version. I won't say its "healthy" but maybe "healthiER." Most importantly, as far as I'm concerned it's more than a fine substitute for the fried version!

Monte Cristo (Baked Version)

Start out with 8 slices of a good, perhaps kind of sweet-ish bread. Brioche or Challah is good, but I actually found a Sweet Hawaiian (same as the rolls) sliced loaf that was absolutely perfect for this. You'll need 8 slices of the bread. Also, you'll need 8 thin slices each of deli ham, turkey and a mild white cheese. I used white American.

Preheat your oven to 425, and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray the pan with Pam or even better, I've recently discovered that Reynolds Non-Stick Foil is the absolute truth. Lay out two slices of bread and build a sandwich the following way: slice of cheese, two slices ham, two slices of turkey, slice of cheese. Repeat for 3 more sandwiches.

Now it's time to make the egg coating. Whisk together eggs, flour, butter, salt and pepper in a shallow dish until smooth. Then whisk in milk.

Dip both sides of the sandwiches in the mixture and place on the foil/pan. This isn't quite a French Toast soak, just a light coating. If there is any excess, just drizzle it evenly over the four sandwiches.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes, so the bottom is golden brown. Flip the sandwiches.

Cook for about 8 more minutes until other side is golden. Remove from the oven and dust with powdered sugar.

Slice in half and serve with raspberry or strawberry preserves.

I can say as a certified Monte Cristo aficionado, that while this doesn't look like or have the consistency of the true fried version, it does actually taste very close to the real thing. Adding the preserves makes this a really special sandwich. I just spread a little on before each bite, but you could spread across the sandwich, inside, or just dip it. Ideally, the recipe works best with thin sliced deli meat, but I could see this working with some Thanksgiving turkey/ham, too, which is why I thought this would be a good week to share. Maybe not two slices of each meat, but it's definitely a possibility. If not, its totally worth a trip to the deli. This could work for any meal of the day. I could see this just as easily for a brunch as I could at dinner time. If you're like me and can't stomach the fried foods, this is an excellent alternative. I will absolutely be making this again!

Enjoy the weekend and I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

Baked Monte Christo

8 slices bread (Hawaiian or Challah)

8 slices thin deli sliced mild white cheese

8 slices thin deli ham
8 slices thin deli sliced turkey ( I like smoked)
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons milk  
powdered sugar, for dusting
raspberry or strawberry preserves

1) Heat oven to 425°F.

2) Foil and spray a baking sheet . 

3)Layer between two slices of bread, 1 slice cheese, 2 slices ham, 2 slices turkey, and another slice of cheese.

4)Repeat to make a total of four sandwiches. Whisk eggs, flour, butter, salt and pepper in a shallow dish until smooth.

5)Blend in milk.

6)Dip both sides of sandwiches into egg mixture until bread is lightly soaked.

7)Place on baking sheet; drizzle any remaining egg mixture over top of sandwiches.

8)Bake 8-10 minutes until bottom is golden brown.

9)Turn with wide spatula and continue baking 8-10 minutes or until second side is golden brown.

10)Serve warm dusted with powdered sugar and spread raspberry preserves on sandwiches.

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