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Hungry for the Super Bowl

Halley's chef to compete against New England rival


Since 1992, the Taste of the NFL has held "the party with a purpose" on the Saturday night before the Super Bowl in the host city. This year chefs from the 32 NFL cities and a chef from Hawaii representing the NFL Pro Bowl will come together on Saturday, January 31, in Houston's Reliant Arena to prepare and serve signature dishes at the Super Bowl's largest fundraiser. This NFL-sanctioned event combines regional chefs, football hall of famers, and some active players, to benefit food banks in the host city and in each NFL city. Since its inaugural year, the Taste of the NFL has raised $4.2 million for hunger-related charities.

The charities in Charlotte that will benefit from the Taste of the NFL are the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and Community Food Rescue.

Tobin McAfee, co-owner and chef at Sir Edmond Halley's, has represented the Carolina Panthers at the Taste of the NFL since the franchise began. McAfee was chosen originally after he submitted his resume.

"I've been picked every year since. It's been great," McAfee commented. "In my first year I was there, so were Emeril and Bobby Flay. Other celebrity chefs, such as Kevin Rathbun, have been there in other years."

This year McAfee will be involved in more than the Taste of the NFL. As the chef representing one of the franchises competing in the Super Bowl, McAfee will compete with the New England Patriot chef in an "Iron Chef" competition sponsored by Kraft Foods. The chef for the Pats is Paul O'Connell, chef and owner of Chez Henri, a French Cuban bistro in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Iron Chef cook-off will take place an hour before the Taste of the NFL begins at 7pm.

McAfee is known at these events for his desserts. "I've served entrees before like ostrich meatloaf, but in Arizona I created a 40-foot chocolate tower. Since then they have asked me to make desserts. This year I'm serving a flourless chocolate pecan cake with bourbon. I have to make enough for 3000 people. The recipe itself is very regional with the pecans and bourbon."

O'Connell will be serving Oven Baked Crepes with Cardamom-scented Eggplant and Goat Cheese.

The chefs, who are not compensated for the event, fly in a day or two before the event and typically fly out the Sunday morning of the game. Tickets to the game are not given to the 33 participating chefs, not even the two representing the Super Bowl contestants.

A photograph of McAfee's Bourbon Pecan Cake appears on the back cover of the Taste of the NFL Restaurant Guide 2004, which is available at www.tasteofthenfl.com for $19.95.

For the Carolina Panthers

By Tobin McAfee of Sir Edmond Halley's, 4151-A Park Road, 704-525-2555.

8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
5 beaten eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup good-quality bourbon
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup, plus 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Sugar, for coating cake pans
Garnish: Fresh berries and whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. In a mixing bowl, lightly whip the heavy cream with a wire whip until peaks just form. Fold the heavy cream into the chocolate. Then, fold the next five ingredients into the chocolate in the order listed and stir until smooth. Lightly grease four 3-by-2-inch round cake pans and sprinkle a little sugar in them. Spoon the batter evenly into the pans and then place them in a water bath. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

To Serve: Run a knife along the sides of the pans to loosen the cakes. Place one cake on each dessert plate and garnish with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Serves 4

For the New England Patriots

By Paul O'Connell

5 pounds eggplant
1 cup virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onions
2 tablespoons cardamom powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup minced scallions
1 cup room-temperature goat cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup fines herbes
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 cups chiffonade of Swiss chard
6 crepes
4 cups tomato-basil coulis
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

To Prepare: Put the eggplant on a baking sheet. Puncture each eggplant a few times with the tip of a small knife. Roast in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes or until they have collapsed and are completely cooked. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

In a saute pan, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil and add the onions. Cook over medium heat, tossing frequently. When the onions begin to soften, add the cardamom, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for five more minutes and remove from heat. Split each eggplant open and scoop out the pulp. Put the pulp and the cooked onions into a food processor. Begin pureeing and drizzle in the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the olive oil. When the mixture is smooth, add the cilantro and scallions and pulse once or twice. Remove to a stainless bowl.

Put the goat cheese, ricotta cheese, and egg yolks in the cleaned food processor bowl and pulse. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. When the cheeses and yolks are mixed well, remove to a stainless bowl and fold in the fines herbes and lemon zest. Salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat, put the Swiss chard in the pan, and cook until wilted. Salt and pepper. Drain in colander and cool.

To assemble, place crepes on a flat surface. Spoon 2 to 3 ounces of the eggplant puree evenly over the crepe. At one end of the crepe, place some of the Swiss chard in a cigar shape and about 1 ounce of the cheese mixture. Roll the crepe into a tube shape. Repeat this until all of the crepes are rolled.

Put the tomato-basil coulis in a large ovenproof casserole dish. Arrange the crepes over the coulis. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

To Serve: Drizzle tomato-basil coulis on a plate and top with crepe. Serves six.