It’s the climax of the professional football season. Even if you’re not an edge of the seat sports fan, it’s likely you’re going to get together with some good friends with some tasty food and drink. Maybe you’ll just watch the commercial to see what the next viral sensation is. Or perhaps just a fan of the halftime act. Whatever your interest, you aren’t likely to be watching it without something in your hands to satiate your appetite. What to add to the spread? Read on…
By the way, all the images here can be licensed from my portfolio at Stocksy United. First off, you’ve got to have the easy to make nibbles. This covers simple things, like cheese and crackers. Or kick it up with marinated cheese cubes. Take monterey jack and cheddar cubes and black olives. Mix some pepperocini with juice, olive oil and basil together and pour over. Let sit for a day. Something you can just wander over and grab one, or a plateful. Shrimp, either steamed or grilled. Add lemon wedges and cocktail sauce. A bowl of olives – black, green, spiced, kalamata, stuffed with cheese (blue or feta). Spring for the mixed nuts and give them a boost. Follow the recipe here, using whatever nuts you like: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/sugar-and-spice-nuts . How about some candied bacon to get the guests excited?
Things you can dip! But don’t double dip. Chips and onion dip – easy. Get a big round of the brown pumpernickle bread, hollow it out, and fill it with some delicious reuben dip. Make the classic guacamole with tortilla chips. Be sure to get the avocados a few days before to give them time to ripen on the windowsill. Nothing worse than rock hard avocados. Scoop out the flesh, mash it salt, pressed garlic and lime juice. Plus it with chopped onions tomatoes and cilantro if you like. Delicious! You can even throw some bacon in there. Pretzel bread sticks with a variety of mustard dippers. Hot, honey, sweet and spicy.
We have the meats! Next course, of course, provides the real sustenance. And the big question. How do you like your chicken wings? Smoked? Grilled? Baked? Fried? I like to smoke them at home if I have the time. The oven, though, can give you some nice crispy wings. Follow this recipe from Alton Brown, though, so you don’t end up with fat splattering all over the place. Then what to put on them? BBQ sauce? Buffalo sauce, and if so – hot or mild or in between? Asian glaze or more of a South American fruity kick? Jarred blue cheese is fine to dip in, but take a minute and make some homemade. Add a little garlic to eat for some extra bite. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/219901/buttermilk-blue-cheese-dressing/
Don’t forget the ribs. Around here, we like baby back ribs, and I’ll rub them down with a nice sweet and smoky rub. I’ll then put them in the oven wrapped in foil at 280 or so, for 2.5-3 hours. Then I’ll throw them on a hot grill to get a little bit of crust from the sugars. Keep an eye on them, because they’ll flame up. Skip the Heinz BBQ sauce, and go with something more interesting. There’s a lot of new players coming out. In this house, we like Sugarfire Smokehouse’s Sweet and Smoky Sauce. I like it hot, so I might get out Holly’s Hot Sauce from Pappy’s.
Things with bread. That’s a great way to finish off. Who doesn’t like a good five foot long party sub? Or even individual sandwiches? My son’s go-to when he needs to make a hero for a school party is meat-centric. Get a nice crusty loaf of Italian bread, as long as you can find. Layer on lots of honey turkey and smoked ham. Up next is thick sliced cheddar cheese. Crispy bacon, and a lot of it, adds salt and crunch. Now for the surprise – apple slices – something sweet like honeycrisp. Add some leaf lettuce and a little bit of mayo and you’re good to start slicing. My tastes will go more towards the muffaletta end of things. Salami and other cured meats, spicy olive tapenade. Nutty swiss cheese. That’s what I like.
Another fun idea is to take a whole pack of Hawaiian buns and slice them all in half at once. Then put ham and colby jack and maybe a piece of avocado on each little sandwich. Put the top half of the pack back on top and then slice into 16 individual ‘wiches. Put condiments on the side for guests to choose.
Also in the realm of things on a bun are your burgers and sausages. Step away from the normal with your homemade burgers and stuff them with the cheese of your choice for a nice surprise. Word of warning – freeze your cheese cubes for a few minutes before stuffing and cooking, otherwise, the cheese may leak out leaving you with a hollow burger. Find some artisan sausages or bratwurst in your area. When we’re out towards Hermann, Missouri, we’ll stop at Swiss Meats and pick up a variety of their products. They sell some of their sausages in local stores, but it’s more fun to drive out there, and there’s a lot more variety. Many of the flavors leave out the MSG, which is a plus here. Johnsonville in the supermarkets tends to have MSG in all their products. Although if you buy in bulk at Costco, they don’t have it in there. Don’t know why. Like the ribs or the wings, pre-cook your brats in a pot of beer or water, and then finish them on the grill to get the real flavor to come out. Top with onions or kraut, and a nice deli mustard.
There’s some ideas for what to put out this Sunday. Hope it doesn’t ruin your diet resolutions too much!