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Updated: Feb 9

Some suggestions for feeding your

Super Sunday gathering.

This is definitely no place for a wine glass... or even silverware.

What is "Super Bowl food?" I would sum it up succinctly as follows: fun, bold-flavored, beer-friendly, and easy to eat while watching the game. And I would add that it should be easy to prepare in advance for a good-sized crowd.

If the American public had to pick ONE SINGLE item to serve for Super Bowl gatherings, pizza would likely spring to most minds. Now, I admire the art of great pizza-making as much as the next guy, but being married to a strict glutenista has moved me well away from the grain silo. (And besides, I have nothing in particular to add to anyone's knowledge of pizza.)

I'm guessing that my personal choice-- chili-- would score respectably high in such a nationwide poll.

To me and many others, chili is a quintessentially American dish. (The Mexicans adamantly deny parentage.) And yet recipes vary greatly by region; orthodox Texas chili, for instance, contains neither beans nor tomatoes. Some versions of chili contain beer, others chocolate. In Cincinnati they serve their finely minced, multi-spiced variant over spaghetti or hot dogs. (HERE is their recipe.) There is even (gasp!) a credible vegan version of chili. Having grown up on weekly "Chili con Carne" in our school cafeteria, I regard chili as a mildly spicy stew of kidney beans, ground beef, tomatoes, onions, and peppers, so I work from that basis.

If you are cooking for just yourself or a smallish game-day gathering, I have an easy basic chili recipe for you-- a few months back I worked up what I dubbed MINIMALIST CHILI, a recipe comprised of the smallest possible quantities of the fewest possible ingredients.

The bare minimum for a batch of delicious chili.

For a bigger batch you can simply double this "minimalist" recipe... or you might go back in time four decades to this culinary masterpiece:

Upon its release in 1982, THE SILVER PALATE COOKBOOK (Rosso & Lukins) quickly became the decade-defining foodie bible for thirty-something baby boomers. The Silver Palate chili recipe-- CHILI FOR A CROWD-- was an especially huge hit... even though it calls for NINETEEN different ingredients. The authoresses graciously suggested varying their recipe according to one's tastes and whims; accordingly, I strongly recommend omitting (or at least substituting for) their canned black olives. It might have seemed like a good idea four decades ago, but our ever-increasing aversion to chemical additives (like the dye used to make green olives black) drives most of us to the olive bar for pitted kalamata olives in lieu of the canned crap. Chili doesn't really need any type of olives, but the kalamatas work just fine. (If you opt to include them, I recommend taking the time to halve them lengthwise.)

Which brings us to another ubiquitous Super Bowl staple-- Wings.

NO, dammit-- I meant BUFFALO Wings! (Then again, "Wings at Halftime" might've made a great tie-in.)

Prior to 1964 the lowly chicken wing was destined for either the stock-pot or the trash can. But then a couple of Buffalo restaurants started serving fried wings with hot sauce (history is unsure which restaurant came first) and a low-end culinary revolution was begun.

I meant THESE Bad Boys, complete with celery & blue cheese sauce.

Hard to believe they've been with us for half a century now.

But no-- as popular as they are, I'm not suggesting Buffalo chicken wings for your Super Bowl gathering. That's because one really needs a commercial-grade fryer-- a.k.a. a "Fry-o-lator"-- to cook them properly. What's worse, thanks to limited supply and overwhelming demand, chicken wings aren't "low-end" anymore.

I reflexively glance at a lot of prices when I'm grocery shopping just to keep track of the big economic picture and market trends. While doing so, I've noticed that the price of chicken wings has crept upward to rather expensive considering that they are approximately 50% bone by weight. In response, I've spent the last few years trying to replicate the flavor of wings in the far meatier chicken drumsticks that still sell for about a dollar per pound.

And Dear Reader, I have met nothing but failure after failure. But then I tried treating drumsticks not like wings, but rather like... chicken. Here's my latest version (and variants) that I believe is suitable for Super Sunday:

Salt the drumsticks and let them stand for half an hour or more. Soak them overnight in buttermilk. Pat dry, then soak for four hours in Frank's Hot Sauce. Pat dry, then dust with your choice of spice rub. (HERE is a perfectly good basic recipe you can make yourself.) Roast on a rack at 425ºF to an internal temperature of 160ºF. If you must, here is a recipe for "Buffalo Sauce" for dipping or brushing them after they're cooked.

Alternatively, you can approximate traditional firehouse BBQ chicken-- just skip the rub and brush the drumsticks with your favorite BBQ Sauce (HERE is mine) and roast to 160ºF while monitoring the deepening color. When you hit the target temperature, feel free to brush on more sauce and broil for a brief spell if you like a good dark scorch.

And if the idea of buttermilk doesn't exactly excite you, I recommend the "Amish version." When I used to truck through central Pennsylvania, I regularly stopped at the Amish barbecue stands for their delicious chicken. When I asked one of the straw-hatted young fellows to show me his "secret recipe," he laughed and pointed to a case of commercial Italian salad dressing in which they marinate their chicken before grilling. (I used this as a basis for last year's A HACK FOR ROAST CHICKEN.)

So whether you marinate them in buttermilk or salad dressing, whether you coat them with dry rub or BBQ sauce, I think you'll find drumsticks easy to prepare and also a great alternative to wings.

And of course you ARE serving chips, right? And I mean crackly, salty TORTILLA chips. For optimal favor they should be big and oily. Please consider skipping the fancy flavored and fat-free versions and instead purchase plain chips that cry out for the perfect dip. Toward that end, I recommend that you purchase your salsa in a jar but make your own guacamole from scratch... or, perhaps, mine--

DannyM.'s Favorite Guacamole

  • 4 ripe avocados

  • 4 tomatillos, peeled, rinsed, and quartered

  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped (You'll use 1/4 cup)

  • 1/4 cup (or more) pickled jalapeno, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup Cilantro, finely chopped

  • juice of  1 lime

  • 4 peppadews, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon pureed garlic

Cook the tomatillo pieces in pure (NOT extra virgin) olive oil until quite tender. Add garlic and simmer briefly and then turn off the heat. Combine in a good-sized bowl the onions, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeno, peppadew, and salt. Mix thoroughly, then add the tomatillo and avocado. Mash everything together with a potato masher, gently enough to keep it a little chunky. Serve sooner rather than later.

And then there's the question of... Super Bowl WINE??

While beer and football seem made for each other, there is indeed a sub-category of wines that pair well with the bold favors we associate with Super Sunday. In fact, there are bottlings of big strapping reds in the $9-12 range that are seemingly blended and marketed for just that purpose. Two decades ago I nicknamed these wines "ball-scratchers," for they are not unlike the perfect man for you ladies to have on hand in a snowstorm or a power failure-- sturdy and powerful, if perhaps a tad on the simple side.

I recently strolled through a large wine department to refresh my memory about this category, and I was delighted to find three familiar gems: Red Truck Red Blend (Petite Sirah & other grapes), Ménage-à-Trois Red Blend (Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) and Bogle Family Vineyards "Essential Red" (another Petite Sirah-dominant blend.) While no one would serve these with, say, Wagyu Tenderloin, they are perfectly at home with football food.

I find it hard to imagine a white to specifically pair with such powerfully-seasoned fare... however, homemade Sangria is a perfectly delicious and appropriately festive idea. (Recipe HERE.) I cannot imagine a better wine with football food. And yet if you or any of your guests insist upon Sauvignon Blanc, I dare say you should A.) commend them on their excellent taste; and B.) direct them to my above-referenced guacamole. They'll get along just fine. (See THE WORLD OF SAUVIGNON BLANC.)

While enjoying all this great food & drink, please keep in mind that the Super Bowl runs nearly four hours, significantly longer than regular season games because of the extra commercials and the lengthy halftime show. Pacing one's consumption accordingly is a very smart idea. (I learned this the hard way with Super Bowl LI (51)... after cooking all day and then drinking a lot of wine, I snoozed through Brady & the Patriots clawing back from their 28-3 deficit for the most epic comeback in Super Bowl history.)

Whichever team you are rooting for, my wish for all of you is great food and a great time with great friends and cherished family... and also a great game that isn't decided by some controversial officiating call.

* * * * * * * * *


Way back when the AFL and NFL first agreed to play each other in an ultimate professional football championship game, they adopted Roman numerals for these games to avoid the confusion caused by the season spilling over into the next calendar year. If you weren't taught Roman numerals in school, HERE is a primer.

Super Bowl LVIII (58) will be played in Las Vegas on Sunday, February 11th... a day that is closer on the calendar to the first day of spring than to the first day of winter. CBS will carry the live broadcast; kickoff is at 6:30PM EST.

Just prior to the opening kickoff, country music legend Reba McEntire will sing the National Anthem. The late Whitney Houston's 1991 rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV (25) is almost universally considered the greatest in Super Bowl history--

Some person named USHER is performing for this year's halftime show. I have no idea who he is. FWIW, this was the NFL's idea of a halftime show 44 years ago--

I'm not suggesting we return to "Up With People," but at least it sounded like music as I know it.

As for the game itself, here's what to watch for and think about--

The NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers are slight betting favorites to defeat the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs.

The 49ers have a 5-2 record in their previous Super Bowl appearances. The Chiefs are 3-2.

The Chiefs' victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV (4) is my favorite Super Bowl of all time, for a number of reasons.

The 49ers' victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII (23) featured an all-time EPIC game-winning drive quarterbacked by 49er legend Joe Montana.

This year the Chiefs have the better defense, while the 49ers have the more potent offense. Which will prevail when the 49ers have the ball?

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is better than 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy... however, unlike boxers or NBA centers, NFL quarterbacks don't play directly against each other. Mahomes is so far the greatest QB of the post-Brady era, while Purdy-- drafted dead-last out of college-- is what the pundits call a Cinderella story, a player who continually defies and exceeds all expectations.

Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco has recently emerged as a major star. Meanwhile, 49ers running back (and Olivia Culpo's future husband) Christian McCaffrey is an established SUPERstar. This game might well be won on the ground.

Both teams have excellent tight ends-- George Kittle of the 49ers and (current Taylor Swift boyfriend) Travis Kelce of the Chiefs. This game might well be won through the air.

Whenever either McCaffrey or Kelce score, watch for cutaway shots to the luxury suites to see their girlfriends and their families wildly cheering.

And finally, make sure not to miss the commercials... there should be a few memorable gems. Here are two all-time favorites that actually get your Grumpy Old Mansplainer a little misty-eyed:

"2016's Commander," for an Audi supercar--

And 2013's "God Made a Farmer," for Ram trucks--

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