Sunday, February 05, 2006

Trashy Treats for the Big Game

Well, it’s here at long last—Superbowl Sunday--and the Food Network can finally move onto chocolate pornography in anticipation of Valentine’s Day and be done with tail-gaiting shows for a bit (though, in my none-too-humble opinion, both are infinitely preferable to the sanctimonious low-cal programming that they subject us to for most of January!). As I mentioned in a previous post, I detest nearly all sports, but as I adore both a big media event and cooking into a theme, I eagerly anticipate the Big Game along with most of the rest of America. Of course, I will not be watching it, per se. No, in fact, I will be found reading a good book instead (currently, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which I am shamefully behind on for my “Happy Hour Readers” club at school) and only foregoing it intermittently to catch the commercials and the halftime extravaganza! I will also be grazing happily throughout the afternoon and evening on the wonderfully trashy fare that I have lovingly prepared for this most testosterone-laden “holiday.” Indeed, Superbowl Sunday may even be trashier than that other delightfully tacky food celebration, the Fourth of July BBQ/picnic (don’t even get me started bragging about my show-stopping, three-layer, red-white-and-blue Jello mold flag!). This is not a time for (sorry, Martha!) coconut and lemon grass-infused prawn tostadas with a pickled red onion garnish. Yes, yes, I know it sounds good, but on today of all days, we must not attempt to gild the proverbial lily, but stick religiously to the four basic food groups: devilled eggs, seven-layer dip, cocktail weenies, and wings. (I heard that gasp, and DON’T roll your eyes!) I’m sure that the erudite and sophisticated foodies out there will be horrified, but I think it’s lots of good fun! And at least I didn't buy a football-shaped crockpot, though I was secretly tempted to! Of course, I can’t help but zhooszh up the menu items a wee bit. The devilled eggs are jazzed up with a bit of curry or, my favorite, minced pickled jalapeno slices (props to my friend, Mike, in Vegas who conceived of that welcome amendment!), although minced pepperocini is also great. Oh, and what’s that you say? You DON’T have your own backyard flock of beauties who have just recently started back to laying the most gorgeous, tastiest brown and blue eggs for you? Well, I know you at least have the Tupperware-type carrier with the egg-shaped depressions, so critical for potlucks and parties. ;-) Then the cocktail weenies (Nathan’s, naturally!) luxuriate in a crock-pot bath comprised mainly of the onion-garlic-pepper jelly made from all 30-something varieties of peppers that grew in my garden last year. The wings...well, I don’t imagine anyone can really improve upon the definitive recipe on the back of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, except by adding a heaping tablespoon of freshly-minced garlic…yum! However, instead of the deep-frying-and-dousing methodology, I am sometimes given to using my signature spice rub and then baking the wings. Now, Paula Deen (LOVE her—that infectious giggle and her penchant for using butter and/or mayonnaise in everything!) has a “house seasoning” that is simply salt, pepper, and garlic powder. My own house seasoning would probably be the following BBQ rub, lifted largely from the man who should have been my husband, Alton Brown. We use this on EVERYTHING—ribs, of course, but also to coat a chicken before baking, to grill rib eyes or pork chops, or thrown into a dip for shrimp. And in fact, I packed this in little Christmas tree-shaped bags and gave it away for holiday gifts a couple of year ago at work! I would probably bathe in it if it didn’t stain so horribly. ;-)

Gina’s Sweet-and-Sassy BBQ Rub
(I use 1/8 cup as my “part” which yields, oh, 3-4 cups of the rub)
8 parts brown sugar
1 ½ parts (kosher) salt
3 parts chili powder (I prefer dark!)
1 part Old Bay seasoning
½ part cumin
½ part ground coriander
½ part cayenne (I would call this rub medium-hot, so adjust this to taste)
1 part onion powder
1 part celery salt
2 parts garlic powder
1 part thyme (rubbed or leaves look pretty in it, too)
1 part paprika (smoked, if you can find it)
½ part black pepper (preferably, on the coarse side)

Next is my favorite layered Mexican dip. This recipe comes from a little church cookbook. I am, as I’m sure many of you are as well, an AVID cookbook collector. And my very favorites are the home-spun recipes prepared by Christian women, and then also, those kitschy ones from the 50’s with congealed salads (YEGADS!) and “ethnic” foods like Italian spaghetti and meatballs or Chinese stir-fry to delight your man with exotic cuisines when he gets home from work. Tee hee. But I digress. Here is the Layered Mexican Dip that is, admittedly, only about five layers. I believe the sixth should be tomatoes, which I am philosophically opposed to eating except in September and October. (One day, I will have my own restaurant called The September Tomato!) Plus, I prefer to add salsa to the refried bean layer to make it more flavorful and also tenderer so that it doesn’t bust up your chips. And the seventh layer should be lettuce, but this party-sized dip lasts us a few days, and the lettuce doesn’t.

Layered Mexican Dip
31-oz. can refried beans
½ cup salsa (optional)
hot sauce, to taste (optional)
3 avocados, mashed (Haas, of course!)
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon granulated garlic (optional)
16 oz. carton sour cream
1 pkg. taco seasoning
8 oz. grated cheddar cheese (or a Mexican blend of cheeses is yummy)
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 bunches green onions, chopped (or chopped red onions are good)
16 oz. black olives, sliced

I mix the beans with about a half cup of salsa and a good glug of hot sauce. Then spread it on the bottom of a 12- or 15-inch tray or platter (I use a 9x13 baking dish myself). Mash the avocados with lemon juice (which I up to at least 2 T and then add lots of garlic powder). Layer this on top of the beans. Combine the sour cream and taco seasoning (or some of the house BBQ rub!), then spread this on top of the avocado layer. Toss the cheese and chili powder together and sprinkle on top of the sour cream layer. Top with the onions and black olives. Serves with corn or tortilla chips (if you can afford them without taking out a second mortgage, I highly recommend Tostitos Gold).

Last but not least, we need something sweet. Keeping to lazy afternoon/trashy game day cuisine, I just made cupcakes from a box mix. (Again, I ask you to refrain from rolling your eyes and sighing.) Normally, I make all manner of complicated desserts from scratch, but once in awhile, nothing beats a good old box mix. First of all, as good as a homemade cake is, the texture is never as fine as a box cake, as the industrial machines they use can get a much, much finer grind on the dry ingredients. Plus, you can always throw a few things to make the cake your own, like chocolate chips or the scrapings of a vanilla bean or citrus zest, and so on. The trick is, I feel, to bake the cake from a mix, but make the frosting from scratch. From the time I was a wee girl, my mom always frosted my birthday cakes with whipped cream, because I HATED frosting! But what I have come to understand as an adult is that I hate canned frosting or institutional bakery frosting—that thick, gritty, cloying abomination. But I am all about a proper butter cream or decadent ganache. The chocolate frosting below is one of my favorites, and is basically just a whipped ganache that becomes like a truffle topping once it sets up a bit. So frost your box mix cupcakes with this frosting, and no one will be the wiser! (Now why do I suddenly feel like that culinary poseur and pretender, Sandra Lee?)

Chocolate (Truffle) Frosting
1 ¼ cup whipping cream
¼ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup (1 stick) butter
1 lb. chocolate, chopped (semi-sweet, bittersweet, or milk chocolate if you have use for that wimpy stuff!)

Combine cream, corn syrup and butter in heavy large saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture begins to simmer. Add chopped chocolate. Reduce heat to low and whisk until frosting is smooth, about 1 minute; transfer to large bowl.

Fill another large bowl with ice. Set bottom of bowl with frosting atop ice. Whisk until frosting is cool and begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Place bowl of frosting on work surface. Using electric mixer, beat until color lightens and just until frosting becomes thick enough to hold peaks when beaters are lifted, about 2 minutes (frosting will continue to thicken as it stands).

Ok, that’s the entire menu for the Big Game. I hope you’ll try some of these fabulously trashy recipes while you watch and root for your team. GO, Seahawks! (I don’t really care, except that I lived in Seattle for two years while I attended grad school at UW, and I miss it so!)

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