Sara and I recently moved into a new place, so, of course, a housewarming party was in order. We’ve thrown parties in the past, mostly casual BYOB affairs with some chips and dip on the table. This one, however, we wanted to take up a notch and provide food and [of course] alcohol for all of our guests. We sent out the invitation a few weeks in advance, got back about 20 “yes”-es, and set the shopping list. One of my biggest fears is running out of food or alcohol, so I ended up buying 14 bottles of wine, 60 bottles of beer, and lots of hard liquor. Food-wise, I made bruschetta, and bought cheese, dips, and raw materials for 48 slider mini-burgers to whip up on the grill.
Ok, so maybe a little overboard. One of my critical oversights was that several of my friends are still “college partiers”, which means an RSVP of “Hey, I’ll be there with my 3 roommates” really means “Ya, we’ll probably show up, but who knows, we might end up hanging out at our place watching South Park instead”. All in all, we ended up getting about 14 people — a perfectly fine turnout. Except when you have food and drinks for 30.
The alcohol isn’t really a problem — it won’t go to waste as football season gears up. Bruschetta, 5 lbs of ground beef, toasted bread and tons of cheese, on the other hand, doesn’t have much of a shelf life. Rather than throwing out huge quantities of perfectly delicious food, I tried to think of a great dish that would use these ingredients and keep for at least a few days. Eggplant Parmesan Lasagna fit the bill perfectly — bruschetta mixed with the ground beef sounded about right for the sauce, toasted bread turned into crumbs would make for delicious crispy eggplant, and leftover cheese could top it all off.
The sauce was really the standout rock star of the dish. I started with last night’s bruschetta, a combination of tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, basil, olive oil, parmesan, garlic and balsamic vinegar (just keep adjusting until it tastes good). I pureed about 2 cups in the blender until it was the consistency of pasta sauce and added it to a few patties-worth of ground beef that was browning in a saucepan. I cooked that for about 10 minutes, and then added the last cup of the bruschetta to create a flavorful sauce with chunks of juicy tomatoes and ribbons of fresh basil.
I thinly sliced the eggplant, salted it and let it drain for about an hour. I then lightly coated the slices with flour, dipped them in beaten egg, and coated them with bread crumbs from last night’s toasted baguette. I arranged the slices onto a sprayed cookie sheet and baked them at 425 until the tops were golden brown and crispy, about 20 minutes.
The middle cheese was simply a mixture of cottage cheese (which I prefer to ricotta), spinach (optional, had some in the fridge), parmesan and an egg.
Now, I just made a few layers — sauce on bottom, then eggplant (or lasagna noodles), cottage cheese mixture and more sauce — until I filled up the pan. Topped it all off with shredded cheese (mozzarella or whatever you have), and baked it for about 30 minutes or so, until the top got just a little bit golden brown. Don’t brown the top too much, or the cheese won’t be as chewy and delicious.
A huge leftover win, if I say so myself. Most importantly, I learned some valuable lessons — bruschetta sauce is awesome, battered and baked eggplant is way better than noodles, and aim for enough food to feed about half of the RSVP’ed guests. The alcohol — well…who knows. You’d hate to run out.