This year, it’s the Ravens and 49ers. I don’t have a dog even close to this fight, so I’ll stick to the food. Here are some tried and true crowd-pleasers.
Great balls of meat (or meat substitutes)
Let’s start with meatballs – those little things are too often overlooked as a simple party food, easy to make and take in a slow cooker, and easy to eat on a skewer. Make them the size for one bite each. So much you can do, flavorwise, with these things. I tapped a bunch of cooks/chefs to tell me what they put in theirs.
Taking a cue from my late mother, do the 1960’s favorite party version using equal parts grape jelly and Heinz bottled chili sauce. My mom made them along with bourbon-mini-hot dogs (ala tipsy dogs) – also good (see recipe below). A former co-worker, Mike Smith, uses a spicy barbecue sauce and the grape jelly. (Not sure why apple or some other flavor isn’t used, but grape is the resounding choice.)
Another former co-worker and great cook, Christopher Huhn, likes a smoky barbecue sauce – he prefers the Sonny’s brand from Sam’s Club. This he mixes with cranberry sauce (equal parts) and cooks the meatball in the mixture.
Friend Jessica Zabel, who usually is more seafood oriented, uses bottled Asian sweet and sour sauce instead of the grape jelly – and does a 50/50 with chili sauce. (Spice things up with Sriracha sauce -that garlic-chili sauce with a Rooster on the bottle.) Another terrific home cook, Arthur Algonas of Delray Beach uses frozen meatballs and makes a dark brown roux, then brings it to a gravy with garlic, finely chopped onion, mushrooms and beef stock.
A lot of cooks start with frozen turkey or ground beef meatballs out of a bag. Really? How hard is it to mix your own, then roll them out?! You could have friends over and make a zillion – then freeze the balls in quart bags – way too easy. And vegetarians or gluten-free diners can use ingredients that fit their diets, with rice or seitan or other ingredients. For traditionalists, hear this: Don’t rely on an Italian mama’s name on a bag to ensure tender, tasty meatballs. Jim Furci, a sometimes event chef and caterer, shows his Italian heritage with meatballs made from ground veal, pork and beef, with oregano, garlic and freshly grated Parmesan. He simmers them in his own marinara.
Chicken Wing Dip
I have written before about the Chicken Wing Dip given to me by yet another former co-worker at The Palm Beach Post. Tory Malmer is one of the newsroom’s best cooks, and shared with me her recipe for a dip that was a huge hit with every party planner I knew. Go here to see the story about it and get the recipe.
Stadium meat and cheese platters
These slay me! Some creative cooks got the idea to shape their antipasto or sandwich trays like football stadiums. A lot of caterers are now making and selling these meat stadiums – and unless I were hosting a game (read my lips – nearly never) I’d likely buy one. This isn’t something I’d waste my time making. It’s more for visual impact – but might be fun to try just once. They’re hugely varied – check out that website to see many more.
Bacon-wrapped anything is a winner
I have been making what Jim Furci calls “meat candy” – bacon wrapped dates – for parties and friends. Susan Spencer-Wendel – yet another former co-worker and now author of Until I Say Goodbye (get your order in for this inspiring book now!) was my guinea pig for these and asked for them again. They’re so simple: dried, pitted dates, wrapped in a half-slice of bacon are set on a baking sheet sprayed with baking spray (I cover the sheet with foil and spray it). Bake at 400 degrees in the center of the oven till bacon is done – 20 or so minutes, watching to prevent burning.
You can gild the lily by stuffing the dates with cheese or nuts or a combination. Use a chestnut, almond or cashew for crunch, then feta or goat cheese for the filling. Or, roll the bacon-wrapped date in brown sugar mixed with cayenne for a bite. The sweet-salty mix is, as Furci describes, like meat candy. (You can also use dried figs, apricots or prunes in place of the chewy dates.)
Tipsy Dogs – bourbon mini hot dogs
Here’s mom’s recipe for bourbon mini-hot dogs.
Nellie’s Bourbon Mini-Hot Dogs
2 packages mini-weiners (or 1 pound hot dogs of your choice, cut into 2-inch pieces)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup bourbon
1 cup ketchup (or chili sauce)
Apple juice for thinning liquid
If using regular hot dogs, slice. In a medium saucepan or small slow cooker, stir together brown sugar, bourbon and chili. Heat over medium heat until steaming – do not boil. Add hot dogs and reduce heat to low. Cook 2 hours (see note), watching to prevent scorching. If too thick, add 1/4 cup apple juice or water as desired. Mixture will cook down and thicken.
Note: These are done in 40 minutes, but the longer they cook, the better they taste. Some cooks cook them overnight on low in the slow cooker, adding 1-1/2 cups bourbon. The alcohol cooks completely out of this dish.
Serve on toothpicks. Makes 12-18 servings.
More party food ideas on JanNorris.com
I’ve posted tons of great party recipes on my site – noodle around under the Party Foods category and find things like guacamole, Mozzarella caprese pops, pulled pork tacos and more. There are a wealth of deviled egg ideas, too, courtesy of my buddy Debbie Moose, who wrote the cookbook on the popular things.
Party hearty and tastefully – but remember not to drink and drive! Get home safe, football fans!