The Super Bowl is upon us, and while there’s debate over whether Philadelphians should cheer for Andy Reid, the truth is that many in this area won’t be invested in the game.
All, however, will care about the snacks. Whether your gathering is at home or away, it’s time to push past chips and party dogs and elevate your appetizers-and-cocktails game.
For innovative, cross-cultural spins on familiar snack favorites, look to L.A. chef Josef Centano and Betty Hancock’s brilliant Amá: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen (Chronicle Books). You’ll find a superb pimento cheese amped with cascabel chili and piquillo peppers; turmeric- and ginger-spiked chicken fajitas with grilled onion and poblanos; and pork roast marinated in Madras curry powder, rosemary, chipotle, and garlic, cooked low and slow until fork-tender; and tiny puffed tacos popular in San Antonio. Deviled eggs are stuffed with yolks mashed with mayo, cilantro, oil-packed Calabrian chiles, and capers, then sprinkled with crisp bacon and Amá’s homemade spice mix, a blend of toasted dry chilies and sea salt.
Many recipes are grounded in Centano family tradition. Tía Alice Jo made the curry-chili pork roast — a hybrid between porchetta and carnitas — almost every weekend, and the deviled eggs with bacon were a frequent after-school snack at Nana’s house.
Replacing the pedestrian happy hour is Super Nacho Hour, a chapter devoted to bar snacks and drinks. Use the cascabel pimento cheese in chiles rellenos, make short rib chalupas, and whip up queso in the traditional form or a vegan cashew variety. Be sure to shake up one or two of the fabulous cocktails. The tequila- and Campari-based Nacho uses a sweet-tart chili-lime shrub that should be made a few days in advance, while the El Más Chingon comes over crushed ice, with muddled Fresno chili slices, agave, gin, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, and citrus.
Sybille Van Kempen’s Bridgehampton Inn & Restaurant (Loaves & Fishes Press) is an homage to hospitality and casual entertaining. Sybille’s mother, Anna Pump, was the legendary proprietor of the Loaves & Fishes Foodstore in the Hamptons and a cookbook author herself. Both Pump and Van Kempen worked at Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa store. The mother-daughter duo started the Bridgehampton Inn in 1994 and the restaurant in 2014.
Wonderful recipes for every meal abound, as do ideas for interesting cocktails, all beautifully photographed by Conor Harrigan. I found perfect grazing fare, much of it vegetarian, in the small plates chapter: beet falafel with basil hummus and lemony sumac yogurt, spicy kung pao cauliflower, and cremini mushroom fritters with horseradish aioli.
For Hamptons-appropriate Super Bowl fare, I was torn between lobster corn dogs and crab tots with green apple tartar sauce. Lobster tail coated in corn dog batter, fried, and served with a bright lemon-and-sriracha sauce won. I shared them with my neighbors, and to say they were loved by all is an understatement. Paired with the spicy margarita made with chili-infused tequila, homemade orange cordial, lime, and Cointreau, it’s guaranteed to please.
Beer-friendly fare from a world away
Looking to add something really different to your snack spread? Delve into The Gaijin Cookbook: Japanese Recipes from a Chef, Father, Eater, and Lifelong Outsider (Houghton Mifflin Court), the latest cookbook from Ivan Orkin and Chris Ying. Best known for East Village ramen restaurant Ivan Ramen and Chef’s Table on Netflix, Orkin lived in Japan after college and embraced Japanese food and culture, eventually opening two ramen shops there. Ying is the cofounder of the now-defunct Lucky Peach.
Chapters are organized by facets of Japanese life. “Good Times,” a collection of dishes best served with an adult beverage, is perfect for a Super Bowl gathering. I tried the grilled rice balls (yaki onigiri) and the gingery chicken meatballs (tsukune). (You will also find everything for hosting an Instant Ramen Party, with recipes for broth, toppings, and garnishes.)
The rice balls are grilled in a pan and basted with a blend of soy, dashi, and mirin. The meatballs are panfried, then glazed with a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sake, and sprinkled with togarashi, a magical blend of spices and aromatics that packs a little heat. While it’s suggested to serve the meatballs hot, I can attest that they are absolutely delicious the next day, straight out of the refrigerator.
Pizza for the home cook
Move over thin pizza; there’s a new slice in town — and it is thick. Deep-dish pizza is trending and Peter Reinhart’s Perfect Pan Pizza: Square Pies to Make at Home, from Roman, Sicilian, and Detroit, to Grandma’s Pies and Focaccia (Ten Speed Press) will take you there. The James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and bread authority includes recipes for doughs, sauces, toppings, and condiments written for the home cook, with no specialty equipment required. While you’ll have to hop between recipes to construct a complete pizza, the results are glorious — right down to the beautifully caramelized crispy edges.
Out of the three master doughs in the book, I used the white flour recipe. It came together beautifully, just as instructed. Step-by-step photographs guided me through panning and dimpling the dough. To top it, I opted for the olive and artichoke medley, a winning vegetarian combo that includes cherry tomatoes and fresh red peppers brightened with lemon juice.
Reinhart, who grew up in Philadelphia, includes two topping recipes that reflect his roots — Philly-style roast pork with broccoli rabe and, naturally, a Philly cheesesteak. Fun fact: The author’s favorite cheesesteak is from Mama’s in Bala Cynwyd and his pizza recipe uses rib eye steak, just like Mama’s. Provolone and mozzarella would be the cheese blend of choice here. The finished pie is drizzled with a puree of pickled cherry and jalapeño peppers, garlic, oil, and vinegar, one of the book’s secret sauces. I like to think the Philly pies represent our team at the table. There’s always next year!