Plan a party, watch the game

January 31, 2020
Thanks to relentless advertising, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the annual NFL Super Bowl game will be played this Sunday. As a result, every lifestyle blog and food-oriented website is filled with suggestions for party menus. You’ll find favorites like “pigs in a blanket” as well as trendy, pseudo-healthy items like cauliflower-crust pizza.
If you’re planning to host a party to watch the game, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind. First, the kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., but there are pre-game shows that run all day. You’ll need to decide how many hours before the game you want your guests to arrive.
Based on the length of time you’ll be hosting, you might need to plan a menu that covers everything from appetizers to a main course to dessert (preferably served with coffee to counter the effects of adult beverages consumed during the game). Since you want to be able to watch the action on the field as well as enjoy the commercials, the food should be easy to make and preferably self-serve.
Another aspect of the menu is food safety. Cold dishes, especially anything with mayonnaise, need to be kept cold, and hot food should be kept hot. One example of the latter is baked spinach-artichoke dip, which is made with cream cheese and sour cream. You’ll want to clear it away if it isn’t eaten within an hour or so.
If you’re serving chili and want to have it available for second helpings throughout the party, keep it continually heating in a crock pot or slow cooker (just be sure to stir it from time to time to keep the bottom from burning). There are also room-temperature foods (like guacamole) that don’t turn bad when left out, but certainly become less appealing to look at.
From a housekeeping perspective, you’ll want to choose items that are easy to eat without spilling or dropping too many crumbs. Small, handheld items work best – sliders, mini quiches, meatballs, skewered cherry tomatoes with cheese. Although chips and salsa are standbys, they are efficient stains just waiting to decorate your furniture.
If you have pets, you may want to advise your guests about any house rules regarding extracurricular feeding. When friends visit us, we find they’re often susceptible to our cats’ insistence on treats whenever anyone eats just about anything – and not much of what we eat is very good for them.
One final thought has to do with liquid refreshments. Beer and football are longtime companions, and most guests expect to be served alcoholic libations as part of the celebration. No matter what you choose (beer, wine, cocktails or all three), my only suggestion is to regularly offer water and soft drinks throughout the party.
Now, as you build your menu, decide whether or not you want to reflect the signature foods of the two teams’ home towns – Kansas City and San Francisco. For KC, the list includes barbecue ribs, chili and cinnamon rolls (the latter often served together). In SF it’s a traditional seafood stew called cioppino, sourdough bread and Ghirardelli chocolate.
Because there’s fanatical devotion to regional recipes for ribs, I won’t say much more about the ones in the photo, except cook them low and slow, and if you serve them slathered with sauce, you’re showing your support for the Chiefs. San Francisco fans may want to visit Old World Breads to pick up some sourdough boules. And, to round out your menu, I’ve included recipes for a surprising appetizer that combines bacon and figs, along with dessert to honor the stadium’s Florida location – key lime bars.
Bacon Fig Bites*
5 oz slab bacon
3 T maple syrup
8 fresh figs
2 T red wine vinegar
1/4 t crushed red pepper
Slice the bacon 1/2-inch thick lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a small bowl with a slotted spoon. Pour off the fat, retaining 2 T in the skillet. Add maple syrup to the skillet over medium-high, swirling to combine. Slice the figs in half lengthwise and place in the skillet cut side down. Cook, stirring the liquid until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove the figs and place on a serving platter cut side up. Press pieces of bacon into the flesh of each fig; set aside. Return the skillet to medium high and stir in vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened. Drizzle syrup over figs and sprinkle with pepper. *Adapted from Bon Appetit.
Key Lime Bars
15 graham crackers
1/4 C sugar
6 T butter
3 egg yolks
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 C key lime juice
1/4 t salt
zest of 1 lime
lime slices
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to form crumbs. Transfer 1 C crumbs to a small mixing bowl (reserve remaining crumbs for another use). Add sugar and melted butter; stir to combine. Press mixture into the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Bake until slightly crisp, about 10 minutes. While crust cooks, beat egg yolks in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Add condensed milk, key lime juice, salt and zest; beat until smooth. Remove crust from the oven and pour in filling. Bake until set, about 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to come to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Cut into bars and garnish with thin slices of lime.

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