Big game, Super Bowl food

Not viewing at least a little of the Super Bowl, which will be on this Sunday, is like saying you hate fireworks on the Fourth of July. It’s not a football game, it’s a national eating holiday. Sort of like Thanksgiving, but without the family drama.

There are a couple of philosophies you can have about feeding the mob. One, provide a continuous stream of munchies. Two, offer some snacks early, then bring out the big food at halftime. There’s no need to look for more wardrobe malfunctions, so you might as well be eating. And the Hub and I can’t imitate the Black Eyes Peas. We did, I feel, a credible version of The Who last year, although I almost threw out my shoulder doing the Townsend Guitar Swing.

Chili is classic Super Bowl big food, and sometime you have to go with tradition. Here’s a recipe from my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home.” It was inspired by the flavors of Mexican mole sauce. Add cornbread to the bowls for something different.

Marvelous Mole Chili

5 dried ancho chilies

4 dried pasilla chilies

5 dreed guajillo or New Mexico chilies

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 quarts chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

Place the chilies in a bowl, pour in enough boiling water to cover them and let soak for 30 minutes. Use a sauce to weigh down the chilies if they float to the surface. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Lightly brown the beef but do not overcook it. Remove the beef from the pan and drain out any liquid from the pan.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the same pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft but not browned. Remove the pan from the heat.

When 30 minutes are up, drain the chilies, remove stems and seeds by holding under running water, and pat dry. Puree the chilies to a smooth paste in a food processor.

Put the pan back over high heat, add tomato sauce and chicken broth, and bring ot a boil. then stir in the beef, chile paste, bay leaf and cinnamon. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook uncovered, for 1 hour. Then add the oregano, cumin and cayenne. Let simmer uncovered, for 1 hour. Add a little water or broth if the chili becomes dry or overly thick. Taste, then add salt.

Makes 6 servings.

Tailgate controversy at Duke

Tailgate nation, what do you think of this:

From The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Duke’s Tailgate falls to school’s better judgment

Woo Woo for football

The proper libations are crucial to a successful tailgate, be it at home or on the road. Anyone can buy a six-pack, but it takes a truly dedicated tailgater to open the bar. Jan Odgers of Raleigh, N.C. (a former Ms. Wuf for North Carolina State University, so she’s really a fan) and her husband, Ted, enjoyed a beverage in New Orleans so much that they nagged the recipe out of the bartender. They now serve it at every tailgate. It’s even the right color, if you’re an N.C. State fan.

Obligatory disclaimer here: Don’t be stupid and drink at the wrong time, in the wrong place and to the wrong amount. Check the rules for your tailgate location, and pick a designated driver.

Here’s the Odgers’ recipe for their tailgate treat, the Woo Woo: Into a large glass full of ice, pour 1  1/2 ounces peach schnapps, 1  1/2 ounces vodka and  3  1/2 ounces cranberry juice. Squeeze a lime wedge around the rim of the glass, then squeeze the wedge into your Woo Woo.

The real football battle

I’m surprised it took this long for the Food Network to latch onto a hugely popular thing like tailgating, but it finally has. And an indication of how big they think it is: The network is featuring its current fave host, the spikily coiffed Guy Fieri. The series, Tailgate Warriors, pits fans of two competing NFL teams against each other.

The first segment pitted top tailgaters for the Green Bay Packers against Seattle Seahawks fans. The next contest, Raiders vs. 49ers, was recorded in August. Check here for the rest of the schedule.

Even though desserts are not a big thing at most tailgates, the Food Network required the competitors to have one on their menus, showing a lack of appreciation for the free-form nature of most tailgates, in my opinion. Check it out and see what you think.

The snack bowl

Fans have two approaches to tailgating. One is to bring all the fixings to cook a big pre-game meal in the parking lot. The other goes for munchies, finger food that you can put out for hours of noshing.

The grazing approach has many advantages, one of which is that it can be easy on the head tailgater. Many appetizers can be made ahead of time, and offer a lot of variety. They can be hearty, and even include (gasp!) vegetables. Go beyond the simple chips-and-dip approach to make a good do-ahead meal of nibbles. Balance lighter fare, like tabouli and pita, with more substantial tummy-fillers, like chunky chicken salad, cold fried chicken or this high-flavor, low-effort cheese ball. Form it in the shape of a football! Have fun!

Nutty Blue Cheese Ball

From “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” by Debbie Moose

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Place cream cheese, blue cheese and Dijon mustard in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add chives and pulse just to blend in.

2. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface. Spread chopped walnuts in the center of the sheet. Place the cheese mixture on the walnuts and pull the plastic wrap around it, pressing and rolling to adhere the nuts. Twist the plastic wrap to seal and shape into a ball, or your preferred shape. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Serve with crackers.

Serves 6

Prep now for a smooth gameday

Every coach says it: Preparation is the key to success. It’s true for the tailgate, too. It’s so stressful to be running around at the last minute, grabbing things that you could have had ready to go. When you’re distracted, you run the risk of forgetting something vital, like charcoal – or the tickets.

Tailgate Kickoff Tip: Pack things like plates, cups, forks, paper towels and napkins – disposables that you’ll need for every game – in a plastic bin with a lid. Fill the bin early in the week, then check it after you get home from the game. Refill as needed, and the bin will be ready to toss in the car the following Saturday. That’s the kind of preparation that makes coaches proud and tailgates legendary.

Pizza for the tailgate? Yes!

It can be fun to judge local cooking contests, because I can see how much creativity is out there. The downside is discovering how many people have Cool Whip and aren’t afraid to use it, but you take your chances. Recently I was a judge for a cornmeal recipe contest sponsored by Yates Mill in Raleigh, N.C., a beautifully restored stone gristmill that still operates (and sells stone-ground cornmeal).

The clear winner was a recipe that would be great for tailgating, because it combines two things sports fans love: Pizza and the grill.  Brad Herring of Raleigh created a pizza with a cornmeal crust, topped with bacon, butternut squash, garlic and peppers, which he cooked in a cast-iron frying pan in his smoker. Herring said that any kind of grill with a lid would work, and that the components of the recipe could be made at home, then assembled and cooked at the tailgate.

The crust had a great texture, even after it had been sitting out a while before the judging. The butternut squash was a nice touch, as was the garlic cream. Find Herring’s recipe here.

21st century tailgating

As I wrote in my cookbook “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home,” the concept of tailgating may go back as far as the late 1800s, depending on who you believe. Yale claims it was the site of the first football tailgate in 1904, when fans came in by train and brought food with them. Rutgers and Princeton say they were the first, at the schools’ first football game in 1869, when fans brought picnics in their carriages.

Either way, the idea of bringing food, fans and football together is more than 100 years old, but is stronger than ever. Today, I have some tips from the next generation of tailgaters, who use the latest technology to keep the party going.

A group of high school students who call themselves the Leesville Loonies Grill Team in Raleigh, N.C. organize tailgate parties before every Leesville High School football game – home or away, doesn’t matter. As many as 125 students show up for the tailgate, which is held (with permission) at a nearby swim club. The organizers use a Facebook page to provide information about the tailgate and drum up support for the team.

“Social media is a really good way to organize,” says Leesville senior Kyle Holtman, a member of the Grill Team. “You can remind everybody where we’re all meeting up or where to park.”

Kyle had other advice: “Have a group of people working on [the tailgate] rather than just one or two. And always have enough burgers.” Words to live by.

Do you have advice for organizing the tailgate or a great recipe? Send it on to me at debbie (AT) and I’ll share it with other fans here.

It’s tailgate season

Ah, the thunk of the football, the smell of the grill…. Everyone is a winner at the tailgate. Sports fans are almost as superstitious as the players, and many have special food that you must have, to beseech the tailgate gods to sway the game. And it tastes good, too.

Look for Tailgate Kickoff starting this Thursday, a weekly feature where I’ll share tips and recipes I learned while writing “Fan Fare: A Playbook of Great Recipes for Tailgating or Watching the Game at Home” and other experiences along the way. I hope some of y’all will offer your advice, too.