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What will you serve on Super Bowl Sunday? January 31, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, and yes, I’m going to talk about those sandwiches again. That is to say, the sandwiches featured in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal’s “Off Duty” section in an article called “Super Super Bowl Sandwiches.” (See yesterday’s post, “The python purse or a new car?” for more on this.)

The Journal noted that sandwiches had actually become—gasp!—trendy, so they’d asked six famous chefs to create one sandwich each for Super Bowl Sunday. Here’s what the chefs came up with: Braised Short Rib Sandwich with Moroccan Harissa, Romaine and Meyer Lemon; Serrano Ham, Ricotta and Nettle Pesto Sandwich; Shrimp and Sausage Po’Boy; Grilled Cheese with Curds, Prosciutto and Tomato Marmalade; Roast Pork Sandwich with Fontina, Bread and Butter Pickles and Sauerkraut; and Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato with Egg and Cheese.

But wait, it’s a lot more complicated than it looks. Making all the ingredients by hand, zillions more ingredients than you’d expect from the titles, making dressing and dressing the lettuce before adding it to the sandwich, pressing this, shredding that, processing the other—you’re talking about at least one entire day in the kitchen, up until Super Bowl time, anyway. The only simple sandwich was the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato with Egg and Cheese, from the most famous chef of all, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se, and it was exactly as advertised.

Now, mind you, I thought some of these sandwiches looked really interesting. And the sandwich does have a noble heritage, being named for John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, an eighteenth-century English lord who is said to have preferred eating his meat between two slices of bread while playing cards (i.e., gambling, a popular form of aristocratic entertainment at the time) because it kept his fingers (and thus the playing cards) clean. The fashion caught on and the name “sandwich” was born.

But let’s get back to reality here. Is someone really going to prepare any of these sandwiches for Super Bowl Sunday? (If you’re, pardon the pun, game, check out the recipes at www.wsj.com.) As I was recycling the week’s newspapers this morning, I saw the front page of a circular from Wal-Mart, also addressing Super Bowl fare. It showed a happy family sitting in front of their giant TV screen, along with huge platters of fried mozzarella sticks, fried chicken, fried mini-eggrolls, huge slabs of greasy pepperoni pizza, and—in an apparent attempt to counter all this grease—a small bowl of celery sticks accompanied by, of course, a big bowl of bacon ranch dip.

Is this Nirvana for Super Bowl fans? You betcha. All that’s missing is the beer and peanut M&Ms. Oh, and the Chex Mix, pretzels, chips, seven-layer dip, breadsticks, burgers, wings, wieners, and more hi-cal dips, pleeze. But it’s really not our fault. Our bodies are hardwired to prefer fat, sugar, and alcohol—the three most calorie-dense foods—because we needed as much of all of them as we could get our hands on to survive back when every calorie could make the difference between life and extinction. It’s a preference we share with all animals to this day. Though we live in an age of unparalleled abundance, we just can’t shake those cravings. But does that really condemn us to the 10,000-calorie Super Bowl explosion?

There is the middle road, exemplified by a brochure I picked up in my local grocery featuring that platinum-haired, jewel-encrusted, bad-car-driving good-time guy, Guy Fieri. Working with his sponsor, Kraft Foods, Chef Guy tells us how to make all sorts of bite-sized football fare, including Ritz Asian Shrimp Toppers, Ritz Meatball Poppers, Ritz Half Moons, Ritz Southern BBQ Bites, Ritz Cheese Steak Sliders, and Ritz Big Island Pork Bites. The Kraft Kitchens staff has rounded out the brochure with recipes for Wheat Thins Veggie Pizza Dip, Triscuit Sloppy Joes, Wheat Thins Kickin’ Chicken Spread, Triscuit Ham & Swiss Melts, Fully Loaded Baked Potato Dip, Philly Buffalo Chicken Dip, Triscuit Chicken Parm Snackers, and Southwest Avocado Bean Dip.

Now far be it from me, a Southerner, to say one bad word about Ritz Crackers. They were the crackers of choice for any high-end occasion during my childhood, and a more buttery, melt-in-your mouth indulgence you will never find. Given the nutrient-free, hi-cal hit, these days our friend Ben and I go for the Triscuits instead, which are made with whole wheat and are high-fiber and (comparatively) low-cal. We especially like the new Triscuits Thin Crisps and black pepper-olive oil versions. I’ll even give Chef Guy his due and note that he tells brochure readers how to make things like Roasted Red Bell Pepper Aioli, Pineapple Savoy Slaw, and Ginger Aioli.

These cracker toppings and dips look appealing enough, but I have a feeling most people would go for the Velveeta Famous Queso Dip made with (gack) Velveeta imitation cheese product and Ro*Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies featured toward the back of the brochure, maybe pick up a box or two of crackers along with their chips and Chex Mix, and leave it at that. But perhaps I’m just a cynic.

Unlike other feast days like Thanksgiving, where people may stuff themselves and even consume horrendous but traditional glop like green bean casserole with canned mushroom soup and canned sweet potatoes coated with marshmallow goo, but at least try to eat some real food, for Super Bowl Sunday, all bets are off. It’s perfectly fine to eat all that fried, ooey, gooey, fat-laden stuff in front of the TV, and forget about trying to eat anything that qualifies as actual unprocessed food. After all, it’s only once a year.

Wondering what we’ll be eating here at Hawk’s Haven on Super Bowl Sunday? Frankly, I don’t know yet, but a good guess would be pizza and salad. The pizza will be homemade, with pesto, tomato sauce, and shredded mozzarella, topped with an Italian herb mix and sliced mushrooms, sweet onions, black olives, red bell peppers, and artichoke hearts (or sliced jalapenos in place of the artichoke hearts on a second pizza if our heat-loving friend and fellow blog contributor, Richard Saunders, and his girlfriend Bridget join us). The salad will be big and crunchy, with lots of veggies on top the way we like it.

And yes, I probably will make a platter of raw veggies, tortilla chips, fresh salsa, cheese, and blue cheese dip so the guys can sustain themselves as the game goes on. OFB will want margaritas, and we’ll probably have some Yuengling porter, another OFB favorite, on hand. I’ll have a glass of cabernet with my pizza and salad, thank you, and find something else to do during the game—there’s only so much seating around here, after all—I think I hear my knitting, or possibly writing, calling. OFB and Richard can tell me if their beloved Steelers have won. (And God help all of us if they lose!)

So what will you be serving up for Super Bowl Sunday? Hmmm, maybe a big pot of chili and a pan of hot-from-the-oven cornbread would be just the thing, after all…

          ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

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