Super in bowls
For the big game, line up these self-serve dishes on one side, your guests on the other and let them go at it
Super Bowl Sunday is a day of indulgence, a smorgasbord of appetizers, snacks and chili. The food is the focal point for many party-goers, the game only an amusing backdrop.
Game-day gatherings are so darn much fun. And that joviality can extend to the cook's vantage point, as long as the menu is kept super casual. More formal occasions might call for individually portioned hors d'oeuvres, such as hoity-toity smoked salmon pinwheels or puff pastry tartlets. Super Bowl fare is more about big bowls of yummy, trough-style treats that guests can portion out to suit their XLVI appetites.
The host puts them out. Guests scoop or ladle up the goods. Easy.
For many, chili has become a traditional Super Bowl entree. Not only is it delectable, it can easily be made a day in advance, tucked into the refrigerator and the kitchen cleaned up long before guests arrive. For serving, I reheat it and slip it into a slow cooker on low setting (or if I have enough time, I simply reheat in the slow cooker — but remember that cold chili can take well over an hour to heat).
Next to the pot, I put a stack of bowls, a ladle and all the optional toppings: diced avocado, minced cilantro, finely diced red onion, crumbled tortilla chips, bottles of hot sauce and sour cream.
There's been a lot of brouhaha about "real" chili — chili without beans. But for many, we've tired of the debate because "with beans" is the chili of our childhoods — a comfort food served with a tall stack of saltines. The recipe that I am using.
As for the other scrumptious bits and pieces for the party, I've included two hot dips and a luscious truffle-salt popcorn.
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Full fat or fat-reduced mayonnaise, it's up to you. Both work beautifully in this hot crab dip, but, of course, the full-fat version tastes richer. If the bread crumb topping doesn't brown to your liking, turn on the broiler to toast it. Turn on the oven light and watch it. It probably will take about a minute; walk away and it might turn to cinders.
BAKED CRAB DIP
Yield: about 2 cups
6 ounces crab meat, well drained, patted dry with paper towels
1⁄2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1⁄4 cup thinly sliced green onions, including dark green stalks
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise or reduced-fat mayonnaise
4 ounces whipped cream cheese
1-1⁄2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco, see cook's notes
1⁄4 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1⁄2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (colored portion of peel)
For serving: pita chips, sturdy crackers, crostini
Cook's notes: A half teaspoon of hot sauce gives this dish just a whisper of spicy hotness. For a spicier mix, increase the hot sauce to 1 teaspoon. Why no salt? I assume that the dippers are salted. If using raw vegetables as scoopers, add a little salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper along with the mayonnaise.
Place the crab meat in a medium bowl and flake with your fingers. Stir in the bell pepper, parsley and green onions. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the mayonnaise, cream cheese, lemon juice and hot sauce. Transfer to a shallow, 1-quart baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the Panko and lemon zest.
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Just before baking, sprinkle the Panko mixture on top and bake until the Panko is toasty brown and the dip is bubbling at the edges, about 12 minutes. Serve hot with pita chips, crackers or crostini.
Do-ahead: The dip, without the Panko topping, can be prepared, covered and refrigerated up to one day in advance. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. The topping can be prepared up to eight hours ahead and sprinkled on just before baking.
Source: adapted from "Skinny Dips" by Diane Morgan (Chronicle, $18.95)
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Chili is a one-pot meal that is great for casual entertaining. Set out an assortment of optional toppings, and guests can augment their chili to suit individual taste. Provide bowls of diced ripe avocado, minced cilantro, finely diced red onion, crumbled tortilla chips and sour cream. Also provide an assortment of bottled hot sauces for fire-loving diners.
Yield: six to eight servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium sweet yellow onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, chopped
1 large stalk celery, trimmed, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1-1⁄2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey, see meatless tip
2 cans (14-1⁄2 ounces each) whole tomatoes with juice
2 cans kidney beans (15 ounces each), drained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1-1⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Optional toppings: diced avocado, minced cilantro, finely diced red onion, crumbled tortilla chips, bottled hot sauce, sour cream
Cook's notes: Season the chili to suit your taste. You may wish to increase the amount of chili powder or add a pinch of dried red chili flakes.
Heat olive oil in 5-quart pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic; cook until onions soften, stirring frequently and lowering heat if needed to prevent onion from browning. Add beef or turkey; cook, stirring frequently, until meat browns and is cooked through.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil over high heat. Decrease heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Ladle into bowls. Provide toppings for optional garnishes.
Meatless tip: Omit meat. Instead add 1 can (15 ounces) drained and rinsed black beans along with kidney beans in Step 2.
Source: "Melissa's Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce" by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, $29.95)
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The inspiration for this casual-but-delicious dip came from Rick Bayless, the Chicago-based restaurateur and cookbook author who won "Top Chef Masters" with his 27-ingredient mole; only five ingredients here, plus the tortilla chips for dipping. This dish is delicious served alongside a big bowl of guacamole. And it sings out for a cold bottle of beer.
SALSA-BAKED GOAT CHEESE
Yield: 18 (two-scoop) servings
1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, or whole pine nuts
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1 log (5.5 ounces) goat cheese with herbs and garlic
1 cup salsa, see cook's notes
Garnish: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
For serving: sturdy tortilla chips
Cook's notes: If the salsa is chunky, strain it and pulse it in the food processor so the pieces won't be too big and the salsa will have a thicker base. I use a medium or mild salsa unless I know that all my guests are fond of spicy heat. If you like, put out a bottle or two of hot sauce as an optional topping.
Adjust oven rack to middle position; preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until lightly browned, about six to eight minutes. Transfer to bowl and allow to cool for five minutes.
Add cheeses to bowl and combine thoroughly, stirring and mashing with a sturdy spoon. Scoop cheese mixture into middle of a 9-inch pie pan; pat into a 5-1⁄2-inch disc. Spoon a little salsa over the top and pour the rest around the cheese.
Bake until heated through, 13 to 16 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve as a dip with tortilla chips.
Do-ahead: Prepare the cheese mixture and pat into a disc in pie plate. Cover and refrigerate up to 36 hours ahead. Remove from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 25 to 30 minutes before adding salsa and baking.
Source: "The Best American Recipes 2004" by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens (Houghton Mifflin, $26)
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I heard Oprah Winfrey talk about this popcorn on the Dr. Oz TV show. The popcorn is topped with a smidgen of fresh lemon juice to help the truffle salt stick. Truffle salt is available at gourmet shops.
OPRAH'S TRUFFLE SALT POPCORN
Yield: about 15 cups
1⁄2 cup popcorn (uncooked kernels)
3 tablespoons canola oil
Fresh lemon juice, Meyer lemon juice preferred
Truffle salt, to taste
Place corn and oil in heavy-bottomed 6-quart pan (Dutch oven). Place over medium heat and cover with a lid, setting the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. When popping slows, remove from heat.
Transfer popcorn into two large bowls. Sprinkle with a little lemon juice, about 2 teaspoons per bowl; toss. Season to taste with truffle salt; toss. Best served immediately, but is still delicious served within four hours of popping.
Source: adapted from Oprah Winfrey