Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Are You Ready for Some Bruschettaaaaaaaaa?"

Wednesday, instead of blogging, I spent most of the afternoon and evening prepping for and hosting the draft party for my fantasy football league.  The prepping mostly included making up some hearty appetizers for my man-party (which also included one lady--my lovely wife, filling in as a drafter for one of the managers).

Though the day was busy and more stressful than a game called "Fantasy Football" should be, both elements of the event: the food and the draft, went well, since chefs and football fans visit WPFF with equal frequency, I will endeavor to please them both.

1.  The Food.
The menu was simple:
  • meatballs in red sauce
  • 5 (or so) layer dip
  • melted cheese & meat dip
  • something with shrimp
Last year, "something with shrimp" was just shrimps covered with butter, white wine, garlic, and parm cheese, then broiled.  They were simple and good, but got gobbled up fast.  So at the last minute this year, I thought about ways to draw out the shrimp to increase the servings it would provide.

I was at Aldi, my final stop, and saw a long loaf of 7-grain bread. "I could probably cut that into small slices, come up with some cheese spread, then place a single shrimp on each slice.  I think sometimes people in-the-know do that sort of thing."

At home, I cut the bread into slices and brushed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then broiled the bread.  For the spread, I first blended:
  • one package of low fat cream cheese
  • ~1/2 bag of spinach
  • one jar of artichoke hearts
I feared that blending the artichokes may compromise their flavor, but time was an issue, and cutting them into just the right size pieces while pulling out the too-leafy parts was too much commitment for me.  So into the food processor they went, with their leafy green brethren, the spinach.

This resulted in a mixture that was easily spreadable.  The rest of the ingredients I mixed by hand so as to give some texture to the spread:
  • ~1 1/2 cup of shredded mozz cheese
  • ~2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • generous sprinkles of basil, oregano, and parsley
  • ~1/2 jar of grated parm cheese
  • ~1/4 stick of butter
The shrimps were a little smaller than I thought they would be, so simply adding one shrimp to the middle of each slice of bread would have looked pretty skimpy.  Instead, I laid out all the shrimps and chopped, chopped, chopped.  Then I mixed them up with the spread, and scooped about 2 tablespoons' worth of the creamy goodness on each piece of toast.  Then I generously sprinkled some shredded parm cheese over the top, and broiled for a few more minutes.

I expected (and was actually hoping for) something that would function as a tolerably bland delivery mechanism for the shrimp.  Turns out, the bruschetta was quite delightful, and was a big hit among the party-goers.  Beth told me that the connoisseurs liked it so much that they repeatedly attributed it to her.

The plate that the bruschetta were on

When cooking, I usually try to follow the rule: Don't do anything stupid.  You'll notice there's not a "risky" ingredient in the recipe.  You could pretty much mix any combination of the ingredients, broil it for a few minutes, and the result will be something yummy.  Adding shrimp gives you a little more cushion for error.  Can't go wrong.

Speaking of not going wrong...

2.  The Draft.
Just kidding.  I made a couple of questionable--and maybe even "wrong"--picks.  But all-in-all I'm pretty happy with my team.

This was our second year of doing an auction draft, which I find myself enjoying more than traditional snake-drafts.

We had 11 teams drafting with a $200 budget to fill 16 roster spots: QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, TE/WR flex, K, TEAM DEF, and 7 bench spots.  ("11 teams" is not a typo, by the way--long story.)

Here's my team:
QB   Tony Romo, $23
RB   Ahmad Bradshaw, $25
RB   Felix Jones, $19
WR   Hakeem Nicks, $36
WR   Calvin Johnson, $47
W/T   Lee Evans, $2
TE   Jimmy Graham, $16
K   Adam Vinateri, $1
DEF  Minnesota, $1

QB  Kevin Kolb, $4
RB  Tim Hightower, $8
RB  Ben Tate, $7
RB  James Harrison, $1
RB  Mike Tolbert, $5
RB  Delone Carter, $4
WR  Anthony Armstrong, $1

  • I like to stock up on cheap running backs with upside, and I'm pretty pleased with my haul this year
  • Felix Jones for $19.  Could be the steal of the draft, especially since we get 1/2 per reception.  I'm hoping that he turns into this year's Arian Foster (who I drafted last year for $15 or so).
  • Lee Evans for $2.  Could be that rare "veteran with upside."  Even without exploding, he's probably a good 3rd WR, especially for $2.
  • Kevin Kolb for $4.  Some projections have him in the top 12.  If I had known he'd fall, I may have gone after a pricier RB instead of bidding $23 on Romo.
  • $47 was probably too much for Calvin Johnson.  Larry Fitzgerald went for $38, and he's frequently ranked higher than Johnson, especially with PPR.  But I really wanted 2 elite WRs, and ended up mis-timing the buying window.
  • Having both Romo/Jones AND Bradshaw/Nicks may come back to bite me, both on bye weeks and because, in theory, there's only so many points to go around for each team, and my guys may end up stealing points from each other.  I'm hoping for a lot of Romo-to-Jones TD passes.  Would 3-4 trick plays with Bradshaw passing to Nicks (or vice versa) be too much to ask?
  • Graham may end up being worth $16, but it was more than I wanted to spend.  Me and my brother bid-up each other at the end.  We both seemed to be eyeing Graham as a late-round sleeper with lots of upside (maybe because our brother-in-law is a die hard Saints fan and swears that Graham is a beast ready to break out).  If not for my brother, I probably could have gotten him for $7 or $8 (of course, my brother might be saying the same thing).
  • Lack of true, stud RB.  As I implied, I go for quantity over quality at RB, and hope that someone rises to elite or near-elite status as the season progresses.  If, by week 9, I'm consistently losing to guys who get 35+ points from at least one of their RBs, then my plan is not working.  :)
And with that, my 2011 Fantasy Football draft is history.  Next year, I'm thinking of adding creme brulee to my draft day menu.  In the meantime, may all of your artichokes be blended and all of your running backs have upside.


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