Cravings Blog

Super Bowl? Super bacon!

How do you make any Super Bowl appetizer better? Add bacon.
How do you make any Super Bowl appetizer better? Add bacon. St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS

There is a simple way to make food fit for a Super Bowl party: Take any appetizer you like, and then add bacon.

Do you enjoy guacamole? Add bacon. Pigs in blankets? Pigs in bacon blankets are better. And if you happen to have dates lying around that have been stuffed with thin pieces of Parmesan cheese, by all means wrap them with bacon.

As much as we hate to add to the tiresome and reflexive national fetish for bacon – and we do hate to add to it, believe me – we will make this one exception for the Super Bowl.

All your rowdy friends are coming over to watch. They’re going to want bacon. After all, football isn’t played with a cow skin.

So the challenge is to come up with snacks that will distract you, if not from the game itself, at least from the commercials for Pepsi and BMW.

I made a few that I think will do the trick. You’ve got to go with the King, so I began with a classic, the Elvis sandwich.

You’ve probably heard of it; it was reportedly Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich: peanut butter, mashed bananas and bacon on white bread, fried in butter like grilled cheese. Perhaps you, like me, scoffed at it when you first heard about it. But admit it – that sounds kind of great, doesn’t it?

As it turns out, it tastes as great as it sounds. Nothing goes better with peanut butter than banana, and bacon goes with everything.

For my next bacon-laden Super Bowl snack, I made a dish familiar to anyone who has ever been to a sports bar: poppers. Poppers are jalapenos that are stuffed with cheese before being cooked, but these have a couple of twists.

The first is that, while poppers are traditionally fried, these are baked in the oven. That cuts down on the calories and also allows the flavor of the jalapeno and cream cheese (or other cheese) to shine through. The other twist, of course, is that they are wrapped in bacon.

Jalapeno, cream cheese and bacon. It’s pretty much the perfect Super Bowl party treat.

For a more elegant dish, I turned to one of New York’s most celebrated restaurants, Union Square Cafe. Owned by former St. Louisan Danny Meyer, who has found equal acclaim with his Shake Shack chain of restaurants, Union Square has been at the top of the list of New York favorites for more than 30 years.

So naturally I was intrigued to see its recipe for baked sauerkraut. Of course, sauerkraut is an ideal Super Bowl side dish, but this version is far more elegant than most.

Bacon-wrapped poppers

Makes 16 servings

Recipe from “Man-Made Meals” by Steven Raichlen.

16 large jalapeno peppers

8 ounces cream cheese or other cheese, see note

16 sprigs fresh cilantro

8 slices artisanal bacon, cut in half crosswise

Note: You could also use cheddar, jack, pepper jack, Manchego or smoked mozzarella.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If you have a wire rack, place it on top of a baking sheet.

To stuff a whole jalapeno: Cut the top (stem end) off each pepper. Scrape out the seeds with a jalapeno coring tool, the blade of a vegetable peeler or a thin knife. Place the cheese and cilantro in the jalapeno. Replace the top.

To stuff a jalapeno by cutting it in half: Cut each jalapeno in half lengthwise through the stem, and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Place the cheese and cilantro in half and place the other half on top.

Wrap each reassembled jalapeno crosswise with a piece of bacon, securing the end with a toothpick. Arrange the jalapenos on the baking sheet. Bake until the bacon is browned and crisp and the jalapeno feels soft when squeezed, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain on paper towels, then serve at once.

Per serving: 115 calories; 9 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 25 mg cholesterol; 5 g protein; 5 g carbohydrate; 3 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 210 mg sodium; 23 mg calcium

Elvis sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

2 slices white bread

2 tablespoons peanut butter

 1/2 banana

1 slice bacon, cooked

 1/2 tablespoon butter

Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread. Mash banana and spread on the other slice. Break bacon in half, put on one slice of the bread and form a sandwich. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Fry sandwich in butter until golden brown on both sides.

Per serving (using creamy peanut butter and unsalted butter): 473 calories; 28 g fat; 8 g saturated fat; 23 mg cholesterol; 16 g protein; 45 g carbohydrate; 13 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 505 mg sodium; 155 mg calcium

Nutrition analysis used creamy peanut butter and unsalted butter.

Baked sauerkraut

Makes 4 servings

Recipe from “Second Helpings From Union Square Cafe” by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano.

4 ounces thickly sliced slab bacon, cut into  1/2 -inch pieces

 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion

 1/2 cup peeled, coarsely chopped carrots

 1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery

2 pounds best-quality sauerkraut, rinsed well and drained

15 juniper berries

2 bay leaves

1  1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1  1/2 cups dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crisp the bacon over medium-high heat in a 3-quart ovenproof saucepan, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion, carrots and celery to the saucepan and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the sauerkraut, juniper berries, bay leaves, salt and pepper; stir to thoroughly combine all of the ingredients.

Pour in the wine and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lay a round of parchment paper over the sauerkraut, cover the pan with its lid and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the lid (but leave the parchment paper) and bake 20 minutes longer. Serve hot.

Per serving: 289 calories; 15 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 20 mg cholesterol; 11 g protein; 14 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 7 g fiber; 2,431 mg sodium; 77 mg calcium

Cheesy grits with bacon

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Recipe from “Recipe Revival: Southern Classics Reinvented for Modern Cooks,” by the editors of Southern Living.

5 cups water

1  1/2 cups uncooked regular grits

1 teaspoon salt

 3/4 cup (1  1/2 sticks) butter

8 ounces Velveeta or similar product, cubed

1 cup milk

5 large eggs, beaten

10 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan, and whisk in the grits; reduce heat, and stir in salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until grits are creamy and tender. Stir in the butter and Velveeta until melted.

Combine the milk and eggs; stir in a small amount of hot grits. Stir the milk mixture into the remaining grits, stirring constantly until well-blended. Stir in the bacon. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheddar cheese. Bake for 40 minutes.

Per serving (based on 10): 410 calories; 29 g fat; 16 g saturated fat; 198 mg cholesterol; 15 g protein; 23 g carbohydrate; 3 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 859 mg sodium; 259 mg calcium