A last-minute audible for game-day eating

by Brian Clarey

It’s unlikely, if you live in the Triad, that your favorite professional team has ascended to the championship game this coming weekend. But that’s cool – the game is usually a blowout anyway, and even if it isn’t, when you have no emotion invested in the contest then you can sit back and enjoy it the way it was meant to be, with a beer in one hand and the other used for stuffing food into your nacho hole while you beg for a meaningless field goal in the final seconds so your square will hit.

And even if you’re just in it for the commercials, there’s no reason you can’t join in the mid-winter festivities with all the rest of the superfans by throwing a big party on Super Sunday.

But most Super Bowl parties are predictable, with all four food groups – chili, wings, nachos and beer – represented in unimaginative an uninspiring ways. So here’s some ideas to… forgive me… spice up your Super Bowl party while you pray for the Colts to cover the spread.

Chili is a time-honored food for couchbound spectators and it’s really easy to make: just drop the ingredients in a crock pot and let it simmer all day. But this year you can take a different tack with your recipe by replacing ground beef with turkey or using hominy instead of beans. Also green chili, very popular in the ’70s, is making a comeback. Use tomatillos instead of tomatoes, canned or fresh green chile peppers (or jalapeños, if you’ve got the tongue for them) and sacrilegious as it seems, forego beans altogether.

Nachos are great for the sedentary spectator who likes cram a lot of tastes onto a tiny, triangular chip. But nachos, alas, have become so predictable as to be nothing more than ordinary. A few ways to dress up this dish include vegetarian varieties, multicolored tortilla chips and incorporating a variety of cheeses like sharp cheddar, Monterey jack and mozzarella. But you can throw your guests a curve ball by trying this variation of seafood nachos I learned from my sister while she was a college student in upstate New York. Atop the customary tortilla chips, add whatever type of fish you like – shellfish works best, but I’ve had success with all types of whitefish and especially that fake crabmeat that looks so realistic. No salmon. Then make a simple roux-based white sauce infused with jalapeños or other spices for some heat. A smoked cheese tops this one off wonderfully.

Wings are a no-brainer for any sports-related gathering, and the traditional Buffalo style is very simple to prepare: fry ’em naked and then soak them in a mixture of hot sauce and melted butter for a few minutes. You know the rest of the drill: bleu cheese, celery, all that. But the humble wing has come a long way in the last 10 years or so, reaching numerous incarnations like teriyaki, lemon pepper, wasabi, honey mustard and perhaps a hundred others. My preference is the curried wing, prepared the same way as the Buffalo style except for the sauce, which can be made with ginger, lemon juice, a touch of cumin, Dijon mustard and a good curry powder. If prepared correctly, there should be no need for an additional dipping sauce, but if you must you can whip up a cucumber yogurt sauce to cool them down.

As for beer… well, any kind will do for most serious fans. But it’s good to have a variety of dark brews or imports for everybody else. Generally speaking, it’s more important to have enough beer to last through a possible overtime period than it is to have a great variety. And some football aficionados craft a small store of Jell-o shots – made, of course, with a box of the confection mixed with any type of white liquor you’ve got on hand – to get the party lubricated. A couple of these and you might not even notice if there’s, say, a small wardrobe malfunction at halftime, even if it’s your own wardrobe that’s malfunctioning. Also, Jell-o shots count as dessert.

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