Friday, January 25, 2013

Super Bowls for the Super Bowl

As Super Bowl Sunday XLVII makes its approach, all talk turns to the highly anticipated football spectacle.  Even those who avoid the entire preceding season will embrace the excuse this February 3rd to gather with friends in a cozy living room to view the most-watched broadcast and delve into a buffet of fun foods.

Personally, I am not a football fan.  The viewers’ Neanderthal behavior displayed by supposedly grown men, even touted shamelessly in public restaurants that display weekly games on numerous flat screen monitors throughout their establishment, is a mentality that I simply cannot relate to, nor can my husband, thankfully.  Oh, but wait, did someone say food?  Well, now, that’s different.  If food is involved, I am a willing participant of the Super Bowl gathering.

Whether hosting a living room full of barbarians in your own home or a guest to your brother-in-law’s home because he has the 85-inch television, keep in mind that the food is supposed to be fun.  Once again, juvenile mentality yields finger food.  But hey, finger food is fun, it’s easy and there’s a lot less dishware to clean up!   Oversized platters piled with spicy Buffalo chicken wings, nachos smothered in melted cheddar jack cheese and quesadillas are all popular fare for a Super Bowl spread.  Piping bowls of chili are also delved into with reckless abandon.  The most coveted game time snack is the humble dip.  Bowls of various styles of dips and plenty of chips will keep fans happy through the duration.

Get into the team spirit by selecting dishware and paper napkins in the teams’ colors.  This year that includes purple, black and gold for the Baltimore Ravens and red for the San Francisco 49ers.  

Cold dips can be made in advance, requiring no cooking.  Just mix and go, it doesn’t get easier than that.  Hot dips can be prepared in advance in the baking dish, stored in the refrigerator and then cooked at the last minute.  Serve a combination of both varieties, and try to select a few different styles.

As an added culinary bonus this year, celebrate the location of the Super Bowl’s hosting city of New Orleans by incorporating some Cajun munchies to the tasty lineup.  This can be as simple as frying up slices of Andouille sausage, sticking toothpicks into them and putting them out with a bowl of honey mustard dipping sauce.  A bowl of Cajun-spiced nuts would be perfect as well.  Swap out the chili this year in favor of bowls of seafood gumbo, or serve fried shrimp Po Boy sandwiches instead of the same old ham and American cheese hero.  Mix up some Hurricane cocktails and offer Abita craft beers from Louisiana – I recommend their Turbo Dog and Purple Haze brews.

Here are a few simple recipes to kick off your Super Bowl Sunday.  Most of these are served in bowls, but as an added bonus I give you my recipe for southwestern quesadillas.

4 avocados, pitted and peeled
2 tomatoes, seeded and cut into eighths
½ onion, coarsely chopped
4 cans of diced green chilies
¼ cup lime juice
1 ½ teaspoons salt

Okay, pay attention, this is really difficult: place all ingredients into a large food processor bowl and process until combined.  Pour into a serving bowl and serve with corn chips or tortilla chips.

Black Bean Dip
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Once again, place all ingredients into a large food processor bowl and process until smooth.  Pour into a serving bowl, top with a thick layer of sour cream, leaving a 1-inch border of the dip visible around the edge, and serve with tortilla chips.

Cajun-Seasoned Crab and Spinach Dip
12 ounces crabmeat
16-ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed and well drained of liquid
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese or Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Combine the crab, spinach, mayonnaise, sour cream and Cajun seasoning in a baking dish (a 1 ½ quart Corning dish works well).  Top with the cheese and place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted.  Serve with crackers.

Blue Cheese Dip
2 cups sour cream
2 cups crumbled blue cheese (packed)
1 cup cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce

Place all ingredients in a food processor bowl until smooth.  Pour into a serving bowl.  Serve as an accompanying dipper for Buffalo wings and celery sticks.

Extra Crunchy Sweet & Spicy Almonds
½ cup honey
1 tablespoons orange juice
1 pound whole unsalted almonds
½ cup turbinado sugar (raw sugar)
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (more if you really love heat!)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt crystals

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.  In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm the honey and the orange juice until the honey is thin and the two ingredients are combined.  Remove from heat.  Add the chili powder and salt, combine.  Add the almonds and toss to coat each nut.  Add the sugar and toss once again until the almonds have been coated with the mixture.  Spread the nuts in a single layer over a nonstick baking sheet.  Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, tossing the nuts once halfway through cooking time.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with an additional tablespoon each of turbinado sugar and sea salt crystals.  Stir to combine and to loosen the nuts, as they will start to clump together as they cool.  Stir every few minutes until they have thoroughly cooled, then transfer them to a serving bowl.

1 package large size flour tortillas
1 pound chorizo sausage, chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 cans diced green chilies
1 pound Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced crosswise

In a skillet, fry the chorizo sausage over medium-high heat until cooked.  Add the red pepper and sautee for another two minutes.  Remove from heat.  In a clean skillet (I like cast iron for this one), place one tortilla.  Arrange some of the cheese on the tortilla, and then top with some of the sausage, pepper and chilies.  Cover with another tortilla.  Cook over medium-high heat until the underside starts to brown and the cheese starts to melt.  Carefully turn the quesadilla over and cook the other side.  Once the cheese is melted, slide the quesadilla from the skillet onto a cutting board.  Using a large, sharp knife cut the quesadilla into six wedges, just as you would a pizza.  With the help of a spatula, transfer the pieces to a serving plate, top each with a tiny dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of scallions and serve at once.

Of course, a Super Bowl party really doesn’t seem complete with a good, hearty chili.  Here’s my chili recipe, which can be made in advance and reheated just before the game starts.  Remember my trick for all entertaining scenarios: enjoy your own party by making a few offerings yourself and buying some high quality already prepared items as well.  For example, nothing beats homemade dips and chilies, but you can buy delicious cooked wings at many supermarket deli sections, just heat them up and serve with my blue cheese dip.  

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