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The Super Bowl snack time show: Appetizer recipes inspired by the LA Rams and Cincinnati Bengals

Sweet and spicy wings with blue cheese dipping sauce. (Kathy Gunst)
Sweet and spicy wings with blue cheese dipping sauce. (Kathy Gunst)

It’s generally the most-watched TV event of the year. Gather around the set to watch the game with a collection of soda, beer, wine and cocktails. But what to eat? This year, here are four new recipes that are a nod to the stars of the 2022 Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Even if you’re like me and don’t care much for football, there’s always the Halftime Show and the commercials to enjoy. No matter what you serve, it needs to be easy, mostly made ahead of time and a dish that doesn’t require a whole lot of fuss.

Start with a mocktail or cocktail. Los Angeles is home to so many great winter fruit and vegetables. But February is citrus season and this blood orange and mint mocktail is refreshing, colorful and will brighten up any winter day. Add a touch of light rum, tequila or vodka, and you’ve got yourself a Super Bowl party.

Super Bowl eating tends to be finger food. Yes, go the traditional route and serve a dip. (Let’s face it, dip and the Super Bowl go together like egg nog and the holidays.)

My five onion dip would be a good place to start. Or, maybe a guacamole dip with taco chips.

Los Angeles Rams blood orange and mint mocktail/cocktail

Los Angeles is heating up with football fans ready to cheer on their team. But did you also know that the California citrus season is in full swing? Lemons, limes, grapefruit and every type of orange you can think of. Most exciting is finding fresh blood oranges. Not only is the blood-red/orange color potent and powerful but the sweet, low acid flavor makes it the ideal citrus for drinks.

Here I make a simple syrup and simmer it up with blood orange juice (yes, of course, you can use regular navel oranges but you might want to add a hit of pomegranate juice so you get the exquisite color). The syrup can be made days ahead of time.

Fresh mint is “muddled” in this mocktail/cocktail. (To “muddle” is simply crushing fresh herbs or fruit to release their scent and flavor before adding other ingredients to a drink.) The mint leaves are muddled in a serving glass with the syrup or light rum, vodka, or tequila, then seltzer is added and finally ice for a refreshing cocktail or mocktail (with a slice of blood orange and a sprig of fresh mint on the side of the glass). This recipe can easily be doubled.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅔ cup water
  • ¾ cup blood orange or regular fresh orange juice, from 3 large or 4 small oranges
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
  • About 3 to 4 cups seltzer
  • Light rum, tequila or vodka to taste
  • Ice
  • 4 thin slices of blood orange or navel orange
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds, optional


Instructions

  1. Make the simple syrup: In a medium saucepan mix the sugar and water together over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the orange juice and simmer for 5 additional minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and cool. Place in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  3. To prepare the drinks: Place the mint in a cocktail shaker or a metal mixing bowl. Add about 1 ounce of the vodka, light rum or tequila or, if making a mocktail, add a tablespoon of the orange syrup. Using the bottom of a rolling pin or another unvarnished wooden spoon, press down on the mint leaves and gently twist down. The mint scent should be released after a minute.
  4. Stir about 1 cup of the orange syrup to the cocktail shaker or bowl. Divide the mixture (with the muddled mint leaves) between 4 cocktail glasses and top off with the seltzer and more rum, vodka or tequila if desired. Add ice cubes. Cut a small slit in the orange slices and attach to the side of your glass. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and pomegranate seeds, if desired.

Bengal’s Cincinnati-style chili

Turns out that Cincinnati is crazy about chili. But not just any chili.

There are several elements that distinguish a Cincinnati-style chili: First, there are no beans. Second, there is unsweetened cocoa to give the chili a rich, subtle chocolate flavor (think of Mexican mole).

The recipe is said to come from a Macedonian immigrant in the early 1920s. The Kiradjieff family started a small Greek restaurant in Cincinnati. Their version is infused with cinnamon, cumin, allspice and other spices. (Think of the flavors of the famed Greek dish, moussaka.) And then, as if this chili wasn’t different enough, locals served the chili on top of spaghetti, mounded with finely shredded yellow cheese and finely diced onions, with a hot dog with chili and cheese on the side.

In my version, ground beef is simmered in water. Onions, garlic, spices, vinegar, and unsweetened cocoa are sauteed in crushed tomatoes and the mixture all comes together, slowly simmering for about an hour. Like most chilis and stews this is best made a day ahead of time. And, if you have a large family, feel free to double the recipe.

I serve it topped with finely grated yellow (a nice aged cheddar) cheese and with taco chips, but feel free to spoon it over hot dogs and/or spaghetti.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water or beef broth
  • 1 pound ground beef (80/20 mixture)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped, about 1 ½ cups
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon chili powder or chili flakes (depending on how spicy you want the dish to be)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes or plain tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoon cider or white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • Garnishes: 1 cup finely grated aged cheddar, ½ cup finely diced white onions, and taco chips; or spaghetti or hot dogs if you prefer a more traditional route


Instructions

  1. Place the stock or water and beef in a medium-large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat, covered, for 30 minutes. You’ll want to use a spoon to break up the beef so it’s in small chunks and not one large piece.
  2. Meanwhile in a large skillet, heat the oil over low heat. Add the onions and garlic and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring for 10 minutes. Stir the tomato paste into the mixture and cook for 1 minute. Add the chili powder or flakes (start with ½ teaspoon; you can always add more later when you see how spicy it gets), cumin, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Raise the heat to moderate and add the crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Gently whisk in the cocoa and simmer for 5 minutes. Add this spiced tomato mixture to the pot with the beef and stir. Cook over a gentle simmer for about 1 hour. Season to taste, adding more salt, pepper and chili flakes or powder as needed. (The chili can be made a day ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate. The next day you can remove any excess fat that has risen to the top.) Reheat over low-medium heat until simmering.
  3. Serve in bowls topped with grated cheese, onions (if you like) with taco chips on the side. Or serve on top of spaghetti and/or hot dogs.

Sweet and spicy wings with blue cheese dipping sauce

What’s a Super Bowl without wings? This sweet and spicy BBQ sauce combines ketchup, fresh ginger, honey, miso, hot pepper sauce (or chili crisp) and soy. The recipe can easily be doubled.

Serves 2 to 4.

Ingredients

The sweet and spicy BBQ sauce:

1 cup ketchup

  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons Chinese chili paste, chili crisp, or hot pepper sauce*
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 finely chopped scallion
  • 1 ½ tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • *Chili crisp is a fiery condiment made of oil infused with crunchy bits of chili pepper, onion and other aromatics. You can substitute it with chili sauce, chili paste, or hot pepper sauce.
  • The wings:

    • 1 ½ pounds chicken wings, about 8
    • 1 ½ tablespoon vegetable oil
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


    The blue cheese sauce and vegetables:

    • 5 ounces blue cheese, softened and crumbled (about 1 ¼ cups)
    • ¼ cup finely chopped scallions
    • ½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
    • 2 ½ tablespoons milk
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 ribs celery, cut down the middle into 4 sticks
    • 4 carrots, cut lengthwise into thin sticks


    Instructions

    1. Make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine all the BBQ sauce ingredients, adding as much or little hot pepper sauce as you like. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Set aside. The sauce will keep covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.
    2. Make the blue cheese sauce: In a small bowl, mash the blue cheese with the back of a spoon until almost smooth – a few chunks are desirable. Mix in the scallions, sour cream and milk until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The sauce can be made a day ahead; cover and refrigerate.
    3. On game day, cook the wings: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
    4. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish.
    5. Dry the wings with paper towels. Arrange on the parchment paper without overlapping and toss with the oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place on the middle shelf and bake for 30 minutes. Gently flip the wings over and bake for 10 minutes. Flip over again and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread the BBQ sauce all over the wings, making sure to coat them thoroughly. Bake for about 5 to 8 minutes, or crisping up and turning brown. Place under the broiler for about 3 to 5 minutes to crisp and brown up even further.
    6. Serve hot or room temperature with the blue cheese sauce and the celery and carrots.


    Find more chicken wing and fried chicken recipes here and here.

    Brownie ‘cake’ wedges

    I don’t care what team you’re rooting for, in order to keep up the energy of cheering on your favorite team, you need a quick, easy chocolate-filled dessert. What’s better than a simple plate of brownies?

    Sometimes nice surprises happen when you have a problem. I am staying at a friend’s house and she didn’t have an 8-inch square baking pan — which I always use to bake brownies. All I could find was a round 8-inch cake pan. I made the brownies, baked them in a round cake pan and cut them onto wedges. The round pan created a dense, fudge brownie with a wonderful crunchy crust. The brownies can be made a day ahead of time and then covered and refrigerated.

    Serves 4 to 6.

    Ingredients

    • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, plus some for greasing the pan
    • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or chocolate cut into small pieces
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 medium to large eggs
    • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour, 1.6 ounces or 45 grams
    • Coarse sea salt for topping, optional


    Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch round cake pan or an 8 -inch square baking dish.
    2. In a medium pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and salt. Whisk in the sugar and eggs until smooth and fully incorporated. Gently stir in flour until no signs of flour are apparent.
    3. Bake on the middle shelf for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly dry. Cool. Cover and refrigerate.
    4. To serve: Cut into wedges or squares and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, if desired.

    This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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