By Rory Callaghan
For Super Bowl Sunday, let’s raise the bar from wings and nachos to something more interesting that’s still easy to make. The cook deserves to enjoy the game and not just be a server.
Finger food is fun but can also be a lot of work. Sliders are versatile, and if you choose your fixings wisely, they’re not messy. If your gang can be trusted with a steaming bowl of chili or stew that they won’t spill when their team scores, they’ll be better nourished – and you are off the hook of doing a lot of prep, cooking and clean-up.
Sliders can be made from just about any food and are almost as easy as a one-pot dish. You must pick ingredients that you can prepare easily, so shrimp tempura, which is one of my favorites, is out of the question when you want to keep it simple. Instead, make a big pan of Spanish tapas-style gambas.
Liberally douse the bottom of a pan with olive oil and a crushed garlic clove and bring it to medium heat. When it’s hot enough to sizzle, add the shrimp. Do not move them around or they won’t brown. Cook them for a minute or two, and then flip and cook them for another minute. Serve them in a bowl with a large spoon. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley. Guests can make their own sliders using mini dinner rolls.
Sloppy Joes are popular, but the problem is that they are indeed sloppy. Instead of pan cooking the meat, mix cooked onions, spices and aromatics into a bowl with the ground meat. Pour the mixture into a cake pan and bake it for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Let it cool a little before cutting the meat like brownies. The meat will hold together enough to go on a bun. Plant-based ground protein cooks very well using this same method, if you want a vegetarian offering.
Soup, stew and chili are winter fare with stick-to-the-ribs goodness. Plus, they are all easy to prepare and easy for guests to serve themselves. The ingredients you choose hardly matter. When you cook food slowly in a big pot, it usually turns out well. Vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores alike can enjoy a bowl of steamy food, served with bread or tortillas.
My chili is Texarkana style taught to me by a Choctaw Native American. It consists of several kinds of peppers from mild to fiery, onion, corn, beans and maybe stew beef – no tomatoes. Thicken the mixture with corn meal or cheese and brown everything a bit before adding liquid so it caramelizes. Warm your tortillas directly on the burner, but be quick about it – they burn fast.
Ribs are also a party bite, but who has the time to put them on a grill for hours to tenderize, especially in winter? This is why I love my combi steam oven. All in one move, I can cook the ribs until tender, and then switch to steam broil to char them to perfection in a third of the time. Same goes for pork shoulder. And there’s only one pan to clean up. Combi steam ovens start at $300 for the tiny Cuisinart, $600 for Anova and $3,000 and up for built-into-cabinet models.
Half-baked baguettes are available in most grocery stores. Ten minutes in the oven and you have delicious, fresh bread perfect for accompanying anything. Score the bread vertically, but don’t cut it all the way through in order to create slices for dipping into whatever dip you buy or cook up.
Depending on which team you’re cheering for, the big game can often be a disappointment, so don’t let your food be one too. Salvage a boring game or heartbreaking defeat with hearty fare. And don’t spend too much time in the kitchen. Spend it with family and friends.
The writer is kitchen planning director at M&M Appliance and Cabinets on South Washington Street. Contact him at roryc@mandmappliance. com or 301-537-3515.