Let your Super Bowl feast steal the show

January 30, 2013 

There can be little debate that Super Bowl Sunday is a serious food event, perhaps one of the most important on America's calendar. With the big game being held in New Orleans this year, your menu might reflect that distinction or you could go out on your own and be creative.

Prepare out-of-the-box po-boys; instead of rice and beans, try of white bean and sausage stew, spicy fried shrimp or a great new take on America's favorite comfort food, mac and cheese.

If there is a debate at all over what to serve friends and guests on Super Bowl Sunday, it is whether finger food or everything in a big-pot meal is appropriate. Finger food is easy to handle and certainly casual, everyone helps themselves, and, with several dishes, it's easier to have something for everyone. An attractive tray of sandwiches, deviled eggs or something from the

grill, along with several sides like chips and dips, is always welcomed by game fans.

But a big pot of spicy chili, red beans and rice or jambalaya is a little less labor intensive to prepare and makes for a hearty meal for all. Add to that a few snacks and a loaf of crusty French bread, and there will be few that will complain. This combination might hit the spot, especially if the big day is on the chilly side.

CURRY CHICKEN PO-BOY

This recipe uses the po-boy platform that a New Orleans streetcar strike made famous, with a South East Asian flair. It is simple to make, spicy and delicious. This inspiration came from Le Bakery in Biloxi. It can be made even easier if you buy a can of prepared curry at the Asian market.

4 chicken thighs

1 can coconut milk

1-2 tablespoons red or green curry paste (do not use powder)

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup basil leaves

1/2 jalapeno per person

1 po-boy loaf per person

Sauté the chicken in a little oil until just done, remove the meat from bone and cut into bite-size pieces.

Mix the coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce and brown sugar and simmer in a sauce pot for 15 minutes, add the chicken and basil and simmer just until the basil wilts.

Load the po-boy loafs with chicken and a few tablespoons of sauce, garnish with your favorites garden vegetables and the jalapeno and serve immediately.

Try this spicy sandwich with a good Riesling or pinot noir, or a local craft beer.

WHTE BEANS AND SAUSAGE STEW

4 cups cooked white beans (Italian cannellini or Great Northern)

1 chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

4-6 toes chopped garlic

1 cup sliced smoked sausage

1 cup cubed pumpkin

Black pepper, red pepper flakes

Pinch or two of cumin (optional)

Sprig of rosemary

Sauté the sausage until well browned; take your time and get them almost crispy. Remove and, in the same pan, add the pumpkin, cook and toss until tender and browned. Remove and set aside.

Add the onions and bell pepper (add olive oil if necessary), cook for at least 10 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Taste and season accordingly. Add the beans, sausage, rosemary and pumpkin and toss well.

This stew goes nicely with a liberal garnish of a good quality olive oil, but do not add it until it is individually served. Don't forget the crusty French bread.

This hearty stew goes equally well with white or red wine. Try this with a pinot grigio or a Beaujolais.

SMOKED SALMON AND CAPERS

1 (4-ounce) package smoked salmon

3 to 4 ounces crème fraiche

3 to 4 tablespoons capers

1/4 cup chopped red onion

There are two basic types of smoked salmon, and both will work with this recipe. Cold smoked salmon is thinly sliced and delicate. Hot smoked salmon usually comes in whole filets or thick slices. The best capers are stored in salt and require a good wash before you use them. Otherwise buy the best quality you can find. If you cannot find crème fraiche, use sour cream.

If you are using cold smoked salmon, cut the thin slices into strips, 2- to 3-inches long and perhaps 1-inch wide. Roll it into a ring before filling. If you are using hot smoked salmon, cut it into cubes. Garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche, top with capers and scatter the red onions on the serving platter. Serve this dish cold.

If smoked salmon is not your thing, this recipe works well with boiled shrimp or even jumbo lump crab meat.

Serve this dish with a cold Pouilly-Fuisse or Meaursault.

SERIOUS MAC AND CHEESE

1/2 pound rigatoni

3-4 tablespoons butter

2 eggs

6 ounces sour cream

10 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Hot sauce

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and then return to the pot along with the butter. Toss to coat.

Whisk the eggs, sour cream, and salt and pepper together. Add this mixture to the pot (make sure the pasta is still hot), along with the cheese and stir well until the cheese is melted. Taste and re-season as necessary.

Serve this mac and cheese with a bottle of hot sauce on the table; some of your guests might like it with just a bit more spice.

PANKO FRIED SHRIMP AND SPICY DIP

This is always a crowd pleaser, but it is important to serve it immediately. Anything fried starts to degrade in flavor and texture after just a few minutes.

1 pound jumbo shrimp already peeled

1 package tempura powder

1 package panko bread crumbs

Tony Chachere's seasoning

Black pepper

Fill a large pot to half (no more) with oil; heat the oil to 240 degrees. Place the panko and tempura powder in separate bowls. Season the tempura aggressively with Tony's and black pepper.

Toss the shrimp in the tempura and then set aside until ready to cook. The shrimp must become tacky before the panko will adhere to them (you can speed this process up by spritzing them with a little water).

Just before ready to serve, toss the shrimp in the panko, shake to remove excess and fry a few at a time in the hot oil until well browned; only 1 to 2 minutes will be needed. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

DIP

In a food processor, combine 1 to 2 cups mayonnaise, the juice of one lemon, a little Tony Chachere's seasoning and one avocado. Blend and chill before serving.

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