I am pioneering a new feature for Penalty Box Radio – The Hungry Predator. Before every Nashville Predators away game, I will be testing out a new recipe based on the local cuisine of the opposing team. In most cases it will be something that I’ve never tried to cook before, or never even eaten before, so results may vary. I will try to mostly choose things that are fairly simple and inexpensive to cook. The Preds are on the road against each of the other 29 NHL teams, so each city will get its own feature. Through this journey, you’ll learn a brief history of the opposing team and then get a taste of what would be on your plate if you were traveling to the game!
I’ll introduce myself, and then get down to business. My name is Matt Ousley. I live northeast of Indianapolis, Indiana with my wonderful wife Danielle, and our rescue dog Lucky. Danielle and I joke that we married each other for our passion for cooking and good food – but we really do love to cook and experience new restaurants and dishes in new towns. We never eat at a chain restaurant or something that we have in Indy when we’re traveling and we love to talk to the locals about what they eat there. We have aspirations of owning and operating a Bed and Breakfast someday in the future. She will be helping out with a lot of the recipes and taste-tests (obviously), so here’s a shoutout and thank you for her support!
My path to Predators fandom was – and still is – a little unconventional. I was born, raised, and still live about 40 minutes northeast of Indianapolis. When I was a kid, we had the Indianapolis Ice, who were an IHL team until the late 90s. My dad took me several games, igniting my love for hockey. The bad news is that they were an affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, whom I never quite embraced – as an Indy sports fan, I found it hard to cheer for any Chicago teams, even at a young age. I have a lot of family in east TN, and was blessed growing up (and still am) with the opportunity to visit their farms pretty frequently. Needless to say, I also grew up a Tennessee Volunteers fan. I still vividly remember being 9 years old, screaming at the TV for the Colts to draft Peyton instead of Ryan Leaf. It was the perfect draft for me that year.
Once the Ice left the IHL, Indianapolis hit a major hockey drought. Very little was available on TV; there was an occasional Blackhawks broadcast, and once Fox Sports Midwest was added to our cable package, I’d catch an occasional Blues game around Pacers programming – but I did not care for either team. I made the decision back then that if I was going to be a fan of anyone, it would be Nashville or Carolina instead of all the stupid teams in a radius around me (Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, St. Louis). I kept up with both via the internet just enough to know if it was a good season or a bad season, but not much more. Sometime during the 09-10 season, I drove over to Nashville for an afternoon after visiting my East TN family for a few days. I saw some folks in Predators shirts, and some items here and there in stores – and decided that it was time to actively put effort into following hockey again – and the Preds were going to be my full-time team.
Since then, I’ve networked with quite a few people who have similar fandoms as myself – Predators, Vols, and Braves typically being the most common bonds – and briefly met Justin through some common acquaintances before a Preds game in 2012. I’ve stayed in touch with him and several others via social media since then. I mentioned this idea to him while discussing food after I asked him for recommendations in a part of Michigan I’m visiting – and his response was basically, “dude, that sounds awesome, please send me stuff.”
Now let’s get this party started:
Opponent: New Jersey Devils
Location: Prudential Center – Newark, New Jersey
The Devils are named after the “Jersey Devil,” an odd looking legendary or mythological creature said to roam the forests of southern New Jersey. I’m copying straight from Wikipedia here: “a kangaroo-like creature with the head of a goat, leathery bat-like wings, horns, small arms with clawed hands, cloven hooves and a forked tail. It has been reported to move quickly and often is described as emitting a “blood-curdling scream.”
Honestly, I’m not sure if that’s a description of the Jersey Devil, or a description of the cast of the Jersey Shore, but either way it doesn’t sound too pretty. Also of note, their mascot at the games looks much more like a “cartoon devil” caricature than anything described above.
The Devils have played in Jersey since 1982 after brief lives as the Kansas City Scouts and the Colorado Rockies. They have three Stanley Cup victories – 94-95, 99-00, and 02-03. The tradition of each player on the championship team getting to spend a day with the Stanley Cup began in 1995 with Devils players through an ESPN marketing campaign. That year’s cup victory came amidst both a league lockout and rumors that the Devils would be moving to Nashville.
A lot of the cuisine in New Jersey shares similarities with those of New York and Eastern Pennsylvania. For this post, I chose the Jersey Tomato Pie, also referred to as the Trenton Tomato Pie. Essentially, it is an old school thin crust pizza with the cheese put on first – and then the sauce on top of the cheese. I added pepperoni to mine because I don’t believe in having a meal without some sort of meat product, but the traditional version does not have toppings. For great examples of what New Jersey residents would get – check out Papa’s Tomato Pies (est. 1912) and DeLorenzo’s Tomato Pies (est. 1947).
There are plenty more fun food things local to New Jersey. The state has well over 500 diners serving up all kinds of great foods. Deep fried hot dogs called “Rippers” are popular in the area. Rutt’s Hut started out as a roadside stand in 1928 and has only gotten more popular ever since. “Italian hot dogs” are also popular; these are made by stuffing a hot dog or sausage into a pizza bread roll (similar to a fat pita bread) with sautéed onions, peppers, and potatoes. Jimmy Buff’s in Newark has been serving these up since 1932.
Jersey Pork Rolls, most popularly made by Taylor Ham and Trenton Pork Rolls, are kind of a bologna and sausage hybrid that comes in an encased roll and is sliced off and used on sandwiches. Alongside these sandwiches and in most diners, you may find some disco fries, which are fries covered in melted mozzarella and brown gravy (not to be confused with Canadian poutine, coming in a later post).
I chose the Tomato Pie for a couple reasons – it’s easy and cheap to make, and a pizza related supper sounded pretty good today. We don’t have much super fancy kitchen equipment, so another goal is to show that some improv can go a long way if you don’t want to go buy extra equipment just to try a new recipe.
Here’s what you’ll need –
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting etc)
- 1 cup water
- 1 package active dry yeast (I used the fast acting kind)
- 1 pinch of sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 big can of peeled whole tomatoes, drained (mine was 18oz)
- 1 Tbl minced garlic
- 16 oz fresh mozzarella, diced and sliced
- glass of bourbon (for yourself)
Here’s what you’ll need to do –
- Put the yeast in a warmed mixing bowl. Add 1 cup water – warm but not hot – and a pinch of sugar. Mix. Let stand 5 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of flour and the 1 tsp of salt. Mix it until no longer clumped. Add the other cup of flour and mix until it starts to feel doughy. (Note: I ONLY use White Lily flour – ever – and until a market here started carrying it recently, I had to bring some back from TN each trip. My great-grandfather would load up the wagon to sell to the closest White Lily owned mill back in the day, so I have brand loyalty.)
- Flour a surface and start kneading the dough – about 5 minutes.
- Drizzle a little olive oil in a bowl and place the dough in it and keep in a warm place while preparing the rest of the ingredients. (Our oven does not have a “warm” feature, so I used our crock pot).
- Put the tomatoes and garlic in a blender or food processor and “pulse” a couple times. The goal is for the tomatoes to still be kind of chunky. I pulsed too long and it wasn’t as chunky as it should have been, but it was too late to go back at that point.
- Chop up the mozzarella into little chunks.
- Take the dough out, cut it in half, and roll out into two small shapes of whatever happens to happen when you start rolling. Geometry is not important.
- Put the cheese on first – then add the tomato sauce on top of the cheese. I added pepperoni because every meal needs meat in my humble opinion.
- We don’t have a pizza peel or a pizza baking stone, both of which are recommended. Instead, we ended up flipping our cookie sheets upside down and flouring them and it worked “well enough.” Obviously if you have the right equipment, go ahead and use it.
- Bake at 475 F for about 15-17 minutes.
It didn’t come out perfect – not having the proper baking surface made the crust cook a little unevenly, but the flavor was definitely fantastic and Danielle and I both enjoyed it! This is very simple and inexpensive to make, and gets a lot of flavor out of very few ingredients.