I love the Super Bowl.
I don’t love it for the football because, although I have five sons, a husband, a father, and two brothers who love it madly, I never did get the hang of the rules. So it appears to be a bunch of bulked up men running around the field hitting each other.
I don’t love it for the commercials even if some of them are clever. I love it for the food.
You’re shocked, right?
I have a deep, abiding, unalterable affection for snack food. I was in my glory when my mom attended college, worked full time and was often too exhausted to cook dinner. She would apologize, look annoyed with herself, and put down a box of huge sourdough pretzels, a bowl of cheese sauce, and a big green salad. I was rapturous.
Anything crunchy, cheesy, gooey, bready, carb-loaded, or otherwise ‘questionable’ for your health is in my comfort food wheelhouse.
I try to keep it reigned in most of the time. There’s really only so much of that you can justifiably consume with or without a Polar Vortex. The result of my self-restraint is that whenever something pops up that could be construed as a cause for a party or a reason to break out the finger food, I fling myself into it wildy, turning cheesy, bready, crunchy, creamy, deep-fried, baked, buttery, and otherwise decadent munchy foods like my life depends on it.
The guys seem to be okay with it. It’s hard to judge, really, since they’re in a carb coma on the couch for quite some time and they don’t respond to questioning unless I wave a fresh-from-the-fryer corndog in front of a fan.
For “The Big Game” we have a rotation of classics much in the same way most folks do for Thanksgiving.
We always have wings, pretzel wrapped little smoked sausages, and seven-layer dip. Those are certain. Every year, we rotate a new recipe into the mix. The only rules when it comes to game day noshing is that it has to eat-able in our den. Nothing that requires a stable eating surface is allowed. Here are a couple of recipes that would make the cut for any big game party table!
White Spinach AlfredoFrench Bread Pizzas
1 loaf French bread
2 T.extra virgin olive oil
2 c. garlic Alfredo sauce, purchased or homemade (See foodiewithfamily.com for a fabulous Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce recipe.)
1 bag frozen, cut spinach, cooked according to package directions, drained, and squeezed to remove excess moisture
3 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Optional but tasty: four thin slices of prosciutto, torn into rough strips
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Cut the French bread in half end-to-end like you’re going to make a giant sandwich. Cut those halves in half again and arrange the pieces of bread on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil evenly over the cut surfaces of the bread and place the pan in the oven, toasting until the edges of the bread turn golden brown.
Remove the pan from the oven and spread the Alfredo sauce over the toasted bread. Divide and scatter the spinach, then mozzarella cheese over the Alfredo sauce.
If using the prosciutto, arrange that over the top of the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted and bubbly. If you like the cheese to have little toasted brown areas, you can leave the pizzas in for another 5 minutes or until it is done to your liking.
Let the pizzas rest for five minutes before slicing into servings. Serve hot or warm.
Giant Garlic Butter SoftPretzel Rods
4 c. (1 lb. 1 oz., by weight) bread flour
1 T. non-diastatic malt powder (preferably) or sugar
11/4 t. kosher salt
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. hot tap water
2 t. SAF or instant yeast
2 qts. water
2 T. baking soda
1 T. brown sugar or sucanat
Coarse sea salt, kosher salt or pretzel salt
4 T. butter, melted, mixed with 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced (or 1/4 t. granulated garlic)
To make the dough by hand:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, malt powder or sugar and yeast. Set the whisk aside and switch to a sturdy wooden spoon. Stir in the milk and tap water until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a generously floured surface and knead, adding small amounts of flour as needed to keep the dough from adhering to the counter. You do not want a firm dough… it should be fairly slack, a little tacky and soft, yet smooth. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.
To make the dough by stand mixer:
In the work-bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, malt powder or sugar and yeast. Mix on low just to combine dry ingredients. With mixer still on low, carefully pour in the milk and water. Continue mixing on low until you have a smooth, soft, slightly tacky dough. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.
To make the dough by bread machine:
Add the milk, water, flour, malt powder or sugar, and yeast to the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the “Dough” or “Dough Only” cycle and hit start. Allow the cycle to complete.
To form pretzel bites:
Line two 11-by-13-inch baking sheets with silicone or Teflon pan liners. These pretzels have a tendency to stick to parchment. If you don’t have silicone or Teflon pan liners, generously grease your pans. Set next to your work area.
Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. Use a bench knife to cut the dough into four equal pieces. Cut those pieces in half again, then once more, yielding 16 pieces. Roll the piece like play-dough until you have a snake of dough about 8 inches long. Transfer the dough pieces onto the lined baking sheets, being sure to leave generous amounts of room between pieces and rows. They will expand both as they rise and again as they boil and bake. When you have dealt with all the dough, cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy looking, about 20 minutes.
To cook the pretzels:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a stainless steel or other non-reactive pan (enameled cast-iron, tempered glass, etc…) When water boils, add the baking soda and sugar. Gently lift the pretzel rods one at a time into the boiling water. (You can boil more than one at a time, but be sure not to crowd the the pan as they will expand as they boil. Let simmer for about 45 seconds, flip the pieces and simmer for another 45 seconds-1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to drain and return each piece to its place on the pan. Continue until all pretzels have been boiled and returned to the pan.
Sprinkle with coarse salt then use a sharp knife to make a couple of shallow, diagonal slashes in the top of the dough. Place pans in oven and bake at least until golden brown (at least 20 minutes), but you can bake until they are deep brown. It’s up to you!
Remove the pans from the oven and brush the pretzels with the garlic butter. If you have leftover garlic butter, you can place the pretzels in a large mixing bowl and toss with the remaining butter.
Serve warm or room temperature. I like mine with classic yellow mustard.