Eagles fans turn to comfort food as losses pile up

Tailgaters party before the Philadelphia Eagles play the Carolina Panthers at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Nov. 26, 2012. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Tailgaters party before the Philadelphia Eagles play the Carolina Panthers at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Nov. 26, 2012. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Posted: November 30, 2012

COMFORT FOOD isn't just an option for Eagles fans these days, it's a necessity.

With the Birds lame 3-8 record, even die-hard fans are eating to forget. And it takes more than the usual wings and nachos to get the job done.

"After a loss or really tough game, at least we can say we ate good," said lifelong Eagles fan Michael DeLone, a season-ticket holder and rabid tailgater. DeLone, who is executive chef at the swanky Italian restaurant Le Castagne off Rittenhouse Square, typically shows up at the Linc around 6 a.m. for a 1 p.m. kickoff. "I get people who don't have a ticket for the game but just want to come down and eat," said the chef, who still lives in his home 'hood of Roxborough.

His posse of friends and family crowd around base camp - a 30-foot trailer outfitted with steam tables to keep the grub hot - and the fun begins. A game-day buffet might include herb crusted lamb lollipops with a Barolo wine reduction, fried white truffle risotto cake and broccoli rabe; prime rib sandwiches with fontina, spinach, caramelized onion and fried truffled potato straws; truffle mac and cheese bites and potato skins with duck bacon, scallions and herb goat cheese. Washed down with a blend of ice tea, Grey Goose and Crangrape juice, you can see why this is one happy crowd.

For his game-day menus, chef Bela Durst likes to put a different spin on traditional comfort food. Durst, the executive chef at Cafette restaurant in Chestnut Hill, spent 17 years working in San Francisco as a young chef before returning to Philly and teaming up with Steve Poses at Frog Commissary Catering. A passionate Eagles fan, Durst would host football parties as a way to get to know people when he first moved to the West Coast. He also saw the Birds play the 49ers in Candlestick Park.

"Many of my friends at that time were people I met at work or through other restaurant workers, many of them coming from other countries," Durst recalled. "That helped me start a tradition of serving football friendly food from around the globe."

He still makes Lalit's chicken curry, a whole spice curry inspired by his Indian friend Lalit, served with warm naan and raita. Durst goes authentic: chili verde made with tomatillos, accompanied by warm corn tortillas, sour cream and Mexican hot chocolate.

A riff on baby back ribs takes an Asian turn, thanks to a sauce made with Chinese fermented black beans and ginger and side dishes of shiitake mushrooms and pea noodle salad with soy rice wine vinaigrette. Durst isn't alone in his interest in global game grub - the most popular dishes ordered online in Philly during the game are egg rolls, wonton soup and pad thai, according to GrubHub, the nation's leading online and mobile food ordering service. Jersey fans are down with the trend too, with pad thai, miso soup and chicken tikka masala the most popular game-day orders.

With a pot of chile verde or curry on the stove, Durst will watch the game with his 14-year-old son Brendan and his daughter Devon at their mom's house in Mt. Airy, or in his buddy Rob's man cave, outfitted with a projection screen TV. While he's concerned about the Birds' current slump, Durst is looking forward to whatever's on the menu for next season, on and off the field.

On their YouTube channel show, Dude Food, Vetri Family Restaurant chefs Brad Spence and Jeff Michaud inspire fans to make meatball sandwiches for game day, following a recipe handed down by Sal Vetri, Marc's dad. What makes these meatballs so great? Using a meat loaf mix for the meat, dipping each nugget in flour before frying and of course, never dropping the ball.

Chile Verde

2 pounds lean pork shoulder, cubed

1/2 pound husked tomatillos

3/4 pound poblano peppers

2 medium yellow onions

2 medium jalapeños chopped fine

2 tablespoons fresh garlic chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Kosher salt, to taste

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Olive oil for sautéing

Place pork in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let it sand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil.

Remove the stems off of the tomatillos and the top stem and seeds from the poblanos. Blanch the tomatillos for 3 minutes and shock in a bowl of ice water. Do the same for the poblanos.

When they are cool, rough-chop the peppers and tomatillos. Puree in a blender until they are smooth. Do this in two or three batches depending on the size of the blender top.

Meanwhile heat oil in a large heavy bottom pot. When oil begins to smoke, add enough meat to cover the bottom. Brown for about one minute, turn it and repeat browning on the other side. Remove meat and set aside.

Check to see that there is still enough oil to cover the bottom, then add the onions and jalapeños, and cook until the onions become soft. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, cilantro and meat, stir to combine.

Add the chili tomatillo puree, salt and pepper and bring the chili to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir the chili periodically and continue to cook until meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Serve in warm corn tortillas with sides of lime wedges and sour cream. Serves six.

From Chef Bela Durst/Cafette.


Potato Skins with Duck Bacon and Goat Cheese

8 (3-inch-long) russet potatoes (about 2 1/4 pounds), scrubbed and thoroughly dried

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 10-ounce log of chèvre herbed goat cheese

5 to 6 slices cooked, sliced maple leaf duck bacon

1/3 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons finely sliced scallions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle. Pierce each potato several times with a fork or sharp knife. Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake until the skins are crisp and a knife easily pierces the potatoes, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

Lay duck bacon on baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from sheet pan and lay on a paper towel until cool and slice bacon in strips. Set the oven to broil.

Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1/4inch intact. Brush the insides of the potatoes with the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Flip the potatoes over, brush the skin sides with butter, and season with salt and pepper.

Evenly space the potato halves skin-side up on a baking sheet and broil until the butter foams and the skins start to crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes (keep a close watch so they don't burn). Flip the potato halves over and broil until the top edges just start to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes more.

Fill each skin with cheese and sliced bacon. Place in the broiler and broil until the goat cheese is warm and starts to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the broiler and top each with 1 teaspoon of the sour cream and a sprinkling of the scallions. Serve immediately. Makes 16 skins.

From chef Michael DeLone, Le Castagne.


Sal's Old-School Meatballs

1/3 pound ground veal

1/3 pound ground pork

1/3 pound ground beef

1 slice white sandwich bread, torn

3/4 cups milk

1 egg

2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 small clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Combine the veal, pork, beef, bread, milk, egg, Parmesan, pecorino, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic in a stand mixer fitted with the flat blade. Mix on medium-low speed for 1 minute.

Scoop out 1/8 cup pieces of meat and gently roll them between your hands into balls about the size of a golf ball. The meat will be soft, so don't compress it too much. Put the flour in a bowl and toss the meatballs in the flour as you work. Heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat in a large skillet and, working in batches, add the floured balls, cooking them until golden brown all over, 8 to 10 minutes total. The internal temperature should be about 155 degrees F.

Divide the meatballs among plates; sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley. Makes about 20 1-ounce meatballs.

Meatball Sauce

1 32 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes

2 cloves garlic crushed

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 bunch basil, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

Heat oil and garlic in a large heavy bottom pan until garlic is lightly browned. Crush tomatoes by hand and add to the oil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add basil, chili flakes and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the seared meatballs and simmer for 20 minutes until meatballs are just cooked.

From Chefs Jeff Michaud and Brad Spence, Vetri Family restaurants.


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