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Cape Flavors

Let the good times roll with spicy Super Bowl snacks

By Denise Clemons | Feb 01, 2013
Photo by: Jack Clemons Spicy chicken wings are served with blue cheese dipping sauce to help cut the heat when you eat.

For the past week, there’s been a constant barrage of hype about Sunday’s football game. Super Bowl XLVII (47 for those of you who don’t speak NFL) will be played between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. While many viewers are interested in the action on the field, there’s also a set of people who are more attracted to the entertainment at halftime and the debut screening of clever commercials. This is not just a game; it’s an all-day event and a good excuse for a party.

Since the game will be played in New Orleans, my plan - instead of the ubiquitous chili and nachos – is to focus our menu on some signature dishes from that unique city. One of the best appetizers to combine spicy heat and fat (two important features of New Orleans food) is cheese straws. The first time I tried making these, I used a recipe from a Junior League cookbook and had to trash the entire mess. I discovered you need the right balance of butter, cheese and flour to create dough that’s sturdy, but not too dry.

Rumor has it these snacks taste better the second day; spending the night in an airtight container allows the flavors to deepen. I’ll have to accept the possibility that rumor may be true, because every time these come out of the oven, they disappear in a flash.

Jambalaya is another New Orleans dish that works well for a crowd at a party. This potent combination of sausage, rice and seasonings is simmered in a single pot, filling the kitchen with an enticing aroma. The secret to making jambalaya is to make sure the fat rendered by the sausage completely coats the rice grains, keeping them from turning into mush. Although the list of spices may appear overly long, the result is worth the effort.

One small comment about authenticity: Do not ever add tomatoes, tomato sauce or any type of tomato-based ingredient to your jambalaya. I’ve seen a number of recipes that call for tomato and have never been able to understand the reason. Why in the world would you hide the complex flavor slowly and painstakingly cooked into your rice by drowning the dish in tomato? Just don’t.

Since six-foot-long sandwiches have always been a popular Super Bowl crowd-pleaser, we’ll go with the famous New Orleans sandwich, the muffuletta. A circular loaf of seeded Italian bread is cut in half horizontally and layered with ham, salami, cheese and the key ingredient: olive salad. You can either make your own from olives, capers, pickled vegetables and seasonings, or try one of the jarred varieties available at gourmet shops (and of course, online).

This is an easy party food because it needs to be wrapped and allowed to sit for a time before serving. The objective is to have the juicy olive salad permeate and soften the bread.

Some New Orleans restaurants will also heat the assembled sandwich to melt the cheese, but that isn’t required (except at the Napoleon House).

Finally, although Buffalo chicken wings originated far north of New Orleans, the game wouldn’t be the same without them.

However, I will break with tradition when it comes to preparing chicken wings, dispensing with frying and drowning them in a butter sauce.

The wings in the photo were dredged with a spicy sauce and oven-baked until crispy. To perfect the blue cheese dipping sauce (important for its heat-relieving properties), mix crumbled blue cheese into a bottle of your favorite blue cheese dressing.

All in all, this is an exemplary New Orleans dish: high in heat and fat.

Cheese Straws

7 oz extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
4 T softened butter
3/4 C flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 T milk or cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Combine the cheese, butter, flour and seasonings in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse off and on until you have coarse crumbs. Add the milk or cream and process a few seconds until dough forms a ball.

Place the dough on a piece of wax paper and cover with another sheet. Roll the dough into an 8x10-inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Remove the top sheet of wax paper and cut dough into thin strips, about 1/4 inch wide with a knife or pizza cutter.

Gently transfer each strip to the prepared cookie sheet, arranging them about 1/4 inch apart.

Bake until the ends are barely browned, about 15 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Jambalaya

2 T butter
2 C chopped onions
2/3 C chopped bell pepper
1/3 C sliced green onion
1 T minced garlic
2 T parsley
1 lb lean pork, cubed
1 C diced ham
2 lbs sliced smoked sausage
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/8 t cayenne
1 t chili powder
1 t basil
2 crushed bay leaves
1/2 t thyme
1/4 t cloves
1 1/2 C rice
3 C beef stock

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven. Stir in vegetables, parsley, pork and ham. Stir over low heat until vegetables are softened and meat is slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the sausage and seasonings and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the rice and stir to completely coat the rice. Pour in the beef stock, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to very low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes.

Muffuletta

1 8-inch round loaf of bread
1 cup olive salad
1/4 lb sliced ham
1/4 lb sliced Genoa salami
1/4 lb sliced provolone
1/4 lb sliced mozzarella

Cut bread in half horizontally. Generously cover the cut side of the bottom half with olive salad; layer on meats and cheeses. Cover with thin layer of olive salad and replace top half of loaf.
Seal tightly in plastic wrap and allow to sit for at least one hour. Slice and serve.

Spicy Chicken Wings

2 lbs chicken wings
3/4 C Sriracha sauce
1/4 C ketchup
1/4 C flour
2 T melted butter

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside.

Trim off the tip third of the wings (reserve to make broth or discard) and cut the wing at the joint into two pieces.

Pat dry and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Using tongs, dredge the chicken pieces in the sauce, turning to coat thoroughly.

Arrange coated wings on prepared baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake until starting to crisp, about 25 minutes. Serve with blue cheese dressing. Yield: 3 dozen pieces.

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