As the big game approaches, even bigger buffets are being planned. Come February 2, everybody is a football fan, if not for the game itself, but for the wired and wonderful taste sensations found in “Bowl Feasts” across our great land. This is such an American time… when it’s completely socially acceptable to throw the pig skin around and at the same time eat it fried. It’s the Super Bowl, baby!
Through many years and Bowl parties, I’ve had my fair share of fanatically fantastic fare that blew my mind and taste buds. Everything from “Rippin’ Ribs” that were so saucy they slipped from my grip to “Cha-ching” chili that came with two sides: a disclaimer and a fire extinguisher. I was awarded $5 from the host just for finishing a fiery serving. Something about football makes me loosen my food conventions and just go for it…like the two point conversion.
Not having to plan the entertainment is just about the best part of Bowl parties. The game does all the talking for me and the food can be as colorful and scattered as Terry Bradshaw’s broadcasting style. Three kinds of dip and six kinds of chips, fine! Hot dogs and cocktail franks, why not? Nachos and pizza…the best idea ever! When that long, lonely, last two weeks of January finally draws to a close, a super fun and extra tasty kick-off to February is not only apt, it’s necessary, especially if our favorite team is fighting for the Lombardi trophy.
The Game Plan
The trick is to bring an underlying harmony to what could easily become a gastronomic dog pile. As the host, you must pace yourself for all four quarters and keep the buffet fresh by rotating your starting lineup. If you’re doing potluck, try to “team-up” items that play well together. Complement each item on the buffet table with another item that covers its blind side. If someone brings a crock pot of chili and another guest brings a big bag of corn chips, don’t put them on opposite sides of the playing field, place the chips by the chili along with some chopped onion and shredded cheddar; then sit back and watch the happiness unfold. Guacamole for example, plays great with tortilla chips, but how about teaming it up with your sandwich bar for a zippy spread on “build-it-yourself” turkey and bacon heroes? A strategy of synergy gives every goodie on the culinary bench a chance to get into the game and win you over. What if, like me, you just can’t hand off the ball and the control of your super spread to others? Then it’s up to you to create a menu that’s fitting for the day with athleticism and staying power. Rotate in fresh hot foods with room temperature tidbits and keep the all-day munchies and drinks well-stocked and in constant reach. My super plan, below, keeps everyone happy and fanatically fed. No matter how you opt to celebrate the big game, whether you paint your body with team colors, or wear foam accessories from head to toe, the most tasteful display you can create will be on the buffet table. Go Team!
The Playing Field
Imagine your buffet table like a football field. If you can have traffic pass on both sides of the table follow this schematic:
End Zones: plastic ware, plates, napkins
Red Zones (from each End Zone to near Mid Field): up to four side dishes
Mid Field: two hot main dishes and one cold main dish
Side Lines: On separate tables: chips and dips, store bought desserts and beverages.
In The Stands: Bowls of all-day munchies such as mixed nuts, assorted candies or pretzels throughout the room.
BBQ Beef Sandwiches
1 boneless beef chuck roast (3 pounds)
1 ½ cups ketchup
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup bottled barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
12 sandwich buns, split
Sliced pickles, or pickled jalapenos
Cut roast in half and place in a 3- or 4-qt. slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, liquid smoke if desired and seasonings. Pour over beef. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender. Remove meat; cool slightly. Skim fat from cooking liquid. Shred beef with two forks; return to the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until heated through. Using a slotted spoon, place 1/2 cup on each bun. Serve with pickles and jalapenos if desired.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup FRANK'S® REDHOT® Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce or FRANK'S® REDHOT® Buffalo Wing Sauce
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cans chunk chicken breast, drained
1 bunch celery, washed and cut into sticks
Heat oven to 350°F. Place cream cheese into deep baking dish. Stir until smooth. Mix in salad dressing, Frank's RedHot Sauce and cheese. Stir in chicken. Bake 20 min. or until mixture is heated through; stir. Serve with crackers or vegetables. Note: dish can also be prepared and transferred into a crock pot to keep warm on the buffet table.
Roasted Veggie Dip
2 red peppers, seeds removed, rough chopped
2 yellow peppers, seeds removed, rough chopped
1 small onion, rough chopped
3 green zucchini, rough chopped
3 whole garlic cloves
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chopped veggies on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toss till all are lightly coated, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread veggies out in a single layer and bake for 20-30 minutes or until all veggies are soft and beginning to brown. Remove veggies from oven. Cool for about 5 minutes. Place roasted veggies in food processor with cream cheese and blend until desired consistency. Chill dip until ready for use. Serve with crackers or as a spread on bruschetta.
Apple Pecan Salad
12 ounces salad greens (spring mix)
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup pecan halves
6 ounces blue cheese chunks
2 whole apples, cored and sliced very thin
1/4 cup olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or more to taste)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix the greens, cherries, pecans, cheese and apples into a large salad bowl. Mix the olive oil, Dijon, maple syrup and vinegar in a small jar and sprinkle with and salt and pepper. Put the lid on the jar and shake well to mix. Pour a little of the salad dressing over the top of the salad and toss to combine. Taste the salad and add more dressing to taste. To keep this salad from wilting too much on the buffet table, toss just the apples in some dressing, than mix them into the greens and other ingredients. Keep remaining dressing on the side.
Risa Friskey is a home gourmet and independent marketing/branding specialist.