Why hello there, and welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes Quick Tips, where everything’s gonna be…just…fine. I’m your no-stress narrator, Jon O’Guin, and I’m doin’…just…fine. And while my blissed-out tone might make you think I’ve turned up, tuned in, and dropped out, the fact is, I’m just trying to maintain, man. This weekend is the ‘Big Game’, I’ve got family comin’ into town, scripts to memorize, sites to write, and…something just went ‘pop’ in the back of my brain. My give-a-damn is straight up busted, to borrow Jo Dee Messina’s lyrical turn of phrase. So today, we’re doing some weird shit. Because if it doesn’t work, well, that’s Future Jon’s problem. We’re going to talk about how to keep your parties chill, dishes you can choose, and throwing up some options for nosh for this weekend. Good, bad, I’m the guy with the blog, let’s do this.
Chillin’ Out, Maxxin’, relaxin’ all Cool
So, you got a super-bowl party coming. Let’s talk about how to keep things relaxed and cool. Like me. Cool as a cucumber.
Waterlogged and gassy as one, too.
Firstly, you’re gonna have this impulse that you need 8 different dishes, all of which you made yourself. That’s the crazy part of your brain talking. Don’t let it win. In my estimation, here’s the list of things you “need” at a super-bowl party to look like you got that shit on lock.
And like, 2 sweets.
While that may sound like I’ve just contradicted myself, listing 12 dishes when I said 8 was too many, that’s because I was talking like a child, and haven’t explained myself yet. Trust in me, dude. This is much easier than it looks.
“Trust in Me” is a phrased universally used by cool dudes. This is fine.
By “Crispies”, I mean “Chips, or another crunchy, handheld snack.” Like two bags of tortilla chips? One of the crispies down. Big ol’ bowl of Chex mix? That’s a Crispy. A couple bags of All-Dressed Chips, because you want some Canada in your American pastime? That’s what it’s all aboot. The point is to just have three distinct varieties, so your guests feel like they have choices. I would count each distinct FLAVOR of potato chip as ½ an option. So like, Chex Mix, Tortilla Chips, Original and Barbecue chips would be a fine line up. Or Do like, Pretzels, and 4 types of chips. Or whatever, man, I’m not your chip supervisor.
Similarly, Dunks are super easy; particularly since most people would call them “dips”. Things like warm queso, a salsa, and like, a bowl of straight-up Ranch dressing would be a perfectly serviceable line up. A tub of French-onion dip could slot in, of course. If you wanna spend effort here, you can make Guacamole, or a Seven-Layer Dip, or any of your own dips. I use the term “dunk” for this section to inspire greater creativity, and to appease a culinary idol: Alton Brown, in the Dip episode of Good Eats, contends that a true “dip” has to pass the “3-foot rule”, where it can be carried on its crispy vessel over 3 feet of carpet without making a mess, which he uses to exclude ‘salsa’ as a true dip. Which…sure, I guess mentally I don’t think of salsa as a ‘real dip’, but it is certainly something I dip things IN. But by looking at the category as broader than just ‘dips’, you can also challenge your conceptions. What about a beer-cheese fondue? Bacon Jam? Push the idea of what you can dip things in, by dunking them instead.
I found this picture labeled “bread dip”, for instance. Is it FOR bread? OF bread? I don’t know. We’re expanding our horizons.
The Meaties are where things get a little wobbly. See, on the East Coast, the Game goes from 6:30 PM until like, 10, 10:30. On the West Coast, it’s from 3:30 to 7:30. And that’s an awkward timing, because it means it’s probably overlapping dinner. Hence, you want something with protein, and something substantial, to help people power through. That’s what I mean by “meaties”: both something that HAS meat, and something that has some weight. This is where things like “pulled pork sandwiches” or “pizza” land: they’re here for staying power, and to make sure your guests don’t get hangy. However, you CAN cheat here, by subbing quantity for size: a dozen chicken wings is about 800 calories before sauce, and 20 little smokies are about 640 calories without sauce. So if you’ve got a crockpot with 200 smokies, that can be a “meatie” on its own.
Apparently The Lil Smokies are a ‘progressive Bluegrass’ band. I don’t know what that means, but who cares? Those are great glasses.
Veggies I’ve included because, well, going green is the thing, and the number of vegetarians and vegans is constantly growing. Also because, typically, this is a day with a LOT of high-fat foods flying around, and so giving some healthy options a seat at the table isn’t ever a bad idea. Now, proper choices back in the Crispy and Dip section can keep them going: guacamole is vegan, and a veggie tray gives them something to munch on or dip with. You can also look at faux-meatie choices: As we’ve written about before, Cauliflower baked in breadcrumbs is a solid sub for chicken in terms of texture. You want to make Buffalo Cauliflower “wings”? I hear great things.
The controversial choice on that list is the two sweets: for some reason, people are perfectly willing to spend 4 hours eating enough saturated fats to grease an axle, but the idea of there being a dessert at a super-bowl party strikes them as absurd. And to those people, I say: “Dessert stomach”. By which I mean the phenomenon where you can be completely full from dinner, and yet still have room for dessert. This is due to a psychological effect whose name I don’t remember, and I don’t care enough to look up: basically, part of the reason we get ‘full’ is because our brain gets ‘bored’ of the same textures and flavors. Exposing it to a new set of flavors, textures, and temperatures ‘wakes it up’. Thus, even if you don’t want straight-up desserts at your party, just a collection of fruits with a sweet dip will provide some contrast to the barrage of meats and cheeses you’re eating.
Pretend that the umbrella in this picture is a slice of pineapple.
And here’s the other thing about these categories: there’s a LOT of overlap and interplay that can go on between them. A sheet-pan of nachos is both a Meaty and a Crispy, for instance. You can have, say, “sweet Chili chicken wings” for a mix of Meatie and Sweet. Potato Skins can be a half-veggie, half-meaty. The goal of these categories is to give you things to play with. Assign them however you like.
Drink wise, I’ve heard that you should plan for 2 drinks per guest per hour. So, since the game is 4 hours, that’s at least 8 drinks per person. But those drinks don’t have to be consistent. 2 12 packs of soda and 4 six packs of beer can cover 6 people, as could cocktails and wine. Two bottles of wine, two six packs of beer, some soda and water can also cover it. These days, the mocktail trend is doing some very interesting things, for those who are going to have to drive deliriously happy/drunkenly depressed family or friends home after the party.
So, if you’ve got all these options, of course, you can buy a lot of them at the store, but I think you SHOULD personally make about 2-3 of them. It’s just enough of a commitment to show your guests you care, without killing yourself with prep time or dishes.
Luckily, you’ve wandered into the house of a man with options to spare, so SURPRISE, MOTHERFUCKERS, it’s a LIST OF LINKS! I’ve finally made it as a cooking website: I’ve made a post whose pay-off is “go read my other shit.”
But yes, here’s some collated options for the various categories listed above, from our own stock.
A Big Ol’ Honkin’ Chain of Links
And before we begin, it would be remiss of us to not call out all our proceeding years’ Super Bowl posts:
KC 10 – Snicker Snack is a collection of four recipes, one for my go-to party recipe of Buffalo Pierogi (potato and cheese dumplings, tossed in Buffalo sauce), which I would tentatively put as a Meaty or a Crispy. (really, this is my own fault for not including a “Spicy” category, which is valuable for the same reason as the Sweet category is: variety of flavors.) There’s also Sausage Rolls (meaty), Tomatillo Salsa (a Dunk, clearly), and Mississippi Mud Pie (Sweet)
KC 52 – Crab-Cake Cook-Off Is, of course, a recipe for Crab Cakes, which would be Meaty.
KC 103 – Stromboli and Pretzels are mostly both Meaty options, being bread heavy.
KC 153 – Three French Dips gives you options for Meaty mains, as well as a Veggie option in there.
Let’s go into more broad categories. And let me make a couple things clear: I tore through our archives looking for foods that I felt that I could make during or before a Super Bowl Party. And I found 37 recipes. And that felt like a few too-many links for this section, so I’ve reduced it down even further to 18. There are plenty of other recipes on the site that are perfectly viable for these categories, I’ve just trimmed it to what I thought wasn’t an eye-sore.
Second, of course, this is not a recommendation that you make all of these things this weekend. Find 2-3 recipes that really speak to YOU, and give them a shot.
KC 72 – Sunchoke Chips and Plantain Chips. I’m not going to lie, I’m not actually recommending these recipes. HOWEVER, they’re useful as an example of the kinds of crispies you can find and make: Veggie Chips instead of Potato.
KC 111 – Fried Chicken Skin in Buns. I do recommend this, especially the chicken skin and I also think it’s a useful example of more interesting crispys: Fried Chicken Skin, Pork Rinds, Cheese Chips, you can make a bunch of interesting stuff.
KC 142 – Pesto Parmesan Twists: Easy, and quick if you get the right dough, and a fairly elegant options for this course, if you want to lean more upscale.
KC 96 – Bacon Jam. A Meaty Dunk, and one I already referenced earlier. Make it on Saturday, and warm it up on Sunday.
KC 104 – Muhammara. Turns out I haven’t done homemade hummus for the site, but if you’re looking for a healthier dunking option, this red-pepper and walnut mix is tasty enough to impress.
KC 151 – Spinach Dip. What? I told you it was my family’s go-to for big events. OF COURSE it’s an option here.
I want to note that, before I trimmed it down to 3 options, this category was easily the largest. I have 4 different recipes for ribs ALONE. (and I just cheated them in, haha) Anyway, let’s get to the real suggestions. For this one, I’m going to suggest some multi-ethnic options, since that FEELS more impressive, and also because I just loaded us up on barbecue.
KC 42 – Carnitas. Great for Nachos, Tacos, or Burritos, this recipe is also a winner because you can throw it in the pot at noon and have it done before the game, or start it at 1, and just pop in to stir it in between plays for the last hour.
KC 79 – Gatsby. It’s a Sub sandwich with Fried Bologna and Fries. It’s weird, but also familiar enough to not be too shocking. You can also fill it with other meats, so you could make 2-3, for a variety.
KC 127 – Vietnamese Chicken Salad Sandwiches. I’m of two minds about this one. On the one hand, I think most people want their meat options warmer during the game. On the other, I did quite dig this sandwich, and I think it sits in the same “familiar but exotic” territory the Gatsby does.
KC 44 – Broccoli Confit. If you’re going to sneak in a veggie option, why not do it in the Dunks? This is warm, rich, and remarkably pleasant, and like the carnitas, is mostly a “set it and forget it” recipe. Note that the addition of anchovies means it’s neither vegetarian nor vegan, though it is pescatarian. This is just a slightly healthier option for carnivores. (Though you could also just replace the anchovies to fix it.)
KC 46 – Black Pepper Tofu. This one is tricky, because I’d ONLY recommend it if you can get another pair of hands in the kitchen to help you make it. But if you can, it’s a relatively quick vegetarian option that is strong enough for even the meat-eaters to sample.
KC 87 -Cauliflower with Bang Bang sauce. A good sub for chicken wings, or just a nice treat for the vegetarians. Only need to swap out the eggs and mayo to make it vegan.
KC 23 – Grilled Fruit and Cheese. A lot of people are going to be grilling before or during the game, and there’s no reason you can’t use some of that Grill space for fruits and cheeses, either for your vegetarian friends, or just for the change in flavors.
KC 61 – Mini Lemon Tarts. A quick and easy little dish that gives you a burst of sweet and sour to cleanse the palate.
KC 32 – Sweet Tea. This is a bit of a cheat, since it also includes a recipe for Stove-top popcorn that you can use for the Crispy, but various types of Iced Tea could be a solid drink option, and a nice little spot of uniqueness.
KC 49 – Jalapeño Poppers. As I mentioned earlier, I really should have thrown in a “Spicy” category. But bacon, cheese, and peppers are a hit more often than not.
KC 74 – Thai Red Curry Taquitos. Crispy and Meaty, Taquitos are a definite hit for parties like these. You can use this slow-cooked Thai variety, or just go buy some storebought taquitos.
KC 115 – Broccoli Heroes and Turkey Burgers. I felt bad for using a non-vegetarian vegetable in their section, so I threw this one in. The Broccoli Heroes are Vegetarian as far as I know, and the Turkey burgers provide another meaty option.
Before we go, I wanted to be honest with you, and tell you what I, personally, am planning on doing.
The Spread In My Head
I have two recipes I’m looking at making for the day: Chef Jon’s warm Queso Dip, because I want to see how it stacks up, and Food52’s Spicy Korean –Style Gochujang Meatballs. Otherwise, my family is in mostly a “heat up whatever” mode: probably some store-bought taquitos and flautas, a thing of chips and guacamole, and some sort of centerpiece meat product for dinner. Maybe I’ll conscript my family into helping me do a taste testing. Or maybe we’ll get some more ideas in the next two days, and fight through the shopping swarms to get stuff. Who knows? I don’t, and I don’t care. That’s Future Future Jon’s problem.
MONDAY: JON TALKS ABOUT A RECIPE HE DIDN’T MAKE, FROM A LAND HE DID GO DOWN UNDER TO SEE. AUSTRAL-ASIAN PULLED PORK SANDWICHES.
THURSDAY: IF JON BULLIES HIS FAMILY INTO THE TASTE-TESTING, WE’LL CONTINUE OUR THEME OF AUSSIE EATS. IF NOT, HE’LL HAVE TO COME UP WITH SOMETHING.