Make your Super Bowl party work a pre-game show

Make your Super Bowl party work a pre-game show

By: By J.M. HIRSCH AP Food Editor

If you spend the day of the big game in the kitchen, you’re missing the point of a Super Bowl party.
Which doesn’t mean you can’t have great grub for the game. But getting the goods onto the coffee table shouldn’t detract from your time on the couch in front of the screen.
It’s easy to do a lot of the work in advance, since the very essence of sports-event eating is snack food, not complicated or exotic dishes. The key is taking flavors and presentation up a notch.
So sure, chips and dip are fine, but make sure the dips aren’t your standard affair. And setting up assemble-it-yourself dishes gives those less inclined to watch every play a good gathering spot with something to amuse themselves.
Here are some ideas for assembling touchdown-worthy eats for the Feb. 3 showdown.
• If your offerings will include veggies and dips, buy the produce washed and cut, or chop them the day before and refrigerate them in separate plastic bags, says Sarah Breckenridge, an editor at Fine Cooking magazine.
• The dips should be done the day before, too. Most benefit from a day in the refrigerator, which gives the flavors time to develop. This is especially true if your dips involve any powdered seasonings.
• Hearty soups and stews are a good do-ahead option, says Kemp Minifie, executive food editor at Gourmet magazine. But avoid any with seafood, as it is likely to overcook when reheated.
• Guacamole can be tricky to make ahead, as it discolors quickly. The best bet is to do it that morning.
And be sure to add lemon or lime juice, as the acid will slow the browning. Also, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the guacamole before refrigerating.
If you make it ahead, mix in some additional fresh cilantro and juice just before serving to perk up the flavors.
Or buy prepared guacamole; there are many quite respectable varieties at the grocer these days, and they are easily enhanced with fresh herbs or salsa.
• Consider a platter of cheeses, and grapes and pineapple chunks on skewers, says Barbara Fairchild, editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit magazine. The skewers can even be stuck into a football-shaped melon.
• Don’t ignore dessert. Brownies improve (and are easier to cut) with age, says Minifie. And topping them with ice cream and chocolate sauce adds nothing to your workload.
• Like dips, chili also benefits from being made the day before, says Breckenridge. The day of the game, reheat it in a slow cooker, then set out a variety of toppings for a have-it-your-way chili bar.
• Don’t bother with salads, which wilt with time. Instead, make a slaw. If it gets watery overnight, simply strain it and add more dressing just before serving, says Minifie.
• If you must have fresh salad, do a chef’s salad bar, says Zanne Stewart, media food editor at Gourmet. Buy salami, ham, turkey breast, Swiss and cheddar cheeses and cut into strips. Set those out along with halved hard hard-boiled eggs, chopped lettuce and dressing.
• While it’s not a good idea to do nachos ahead of time (the chips will get soggy), they can be prepped. Dice the tomatoes, chop the lettuce and brown the ground beef. Then it’s just a matter of assembling and heating.
• For a near instant dip that will improve overnight in the refrigerator, Minifie suggests stirring pesto into a tub of sour cream. Serve it with pita chips or sliced baguette.
• Limit the menu to one main dish, say the editors in the Better Homes and Gardens test kitchen. The trick is to surround that main dish with add-ins, such as shredded cheese, hot sauces and other toppings.
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This simple but intensely flavored salsa can be made a day ahead and refrigerated until served. If you can’t find slab bacon, substitute an equal amount of lean Canadian bacon.
To make the chipotle purée, use a food processor, food mill or blender to blend canned chipotles in adobo. This salsa has a medium heat, but you can lower that by removing the seeds from the chipotles before pureeing them.
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CHIPOTLE-BACON SALSA
Start to finish: 15 minutes
Makes 1 cup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound slab bacon, rind removed, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
10-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tablespoon chipotle purée
1 teaspoon lime juice
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the bacon, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 7 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess fat.
In a medium bowl, toss the tomatoes, onion and chipotle purée. Stir in the bacon, lime juice and black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
(Recipe from the November 2007 issue of Chile Pepper Magazine)
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This hearty, tangy dip from Diane Phillips’ cookbook, “You’ve Got It Made,” goes well with bread, tortilla chips, pretzels or sturdy crackers. This recipe can be made and refrigerated up to three days ahead.
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CHEDDAR BEER DIP WITH SMOKED SAUSAGE
Start to finish: 45 minutes (20 minutes active)
Servings: 6 to 8
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons Dijon or whole-grain mustard
8-ounce package cream cheese
12-ounce bottle dark beer
4 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
6 drops hot pepper sauce
Lightly coat a 1-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.
Add the sausage and cook until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain away and discard any fat.
Add the mustard, cream cheese and beer, then stir until the cream cheese has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese, a handful at a time, until it is all incorporated.
Stir in the hot sauce, then transfer to the prepared baking dish. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
When ready to serve, preheat oven to 350 F. While the oven heats, let the dip sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Bake the dip for 20 to 25 minutes, or until bubbling. Serve warm.
(Recipe from Diane Phillips’ “You’ve Got It Made,” Harvard Common Press, 2008, $14.95)
Published in The Messenger 1.23.08

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