It’s No Fantasy What’s on My Football Menu - No. 80
Artichoke dip, homemade onion dip & a caviar from Texas feed us at the Super Bowl and beyond
My apologies to newsletter friends outside the United States, but this is the time of year when American football (not soccer) fans don their team jerseys and dive into food that looks terribly bad for them.
And I’m not going to be that food writer looking down my nose at dip and chips or any of the stuff we’re allowed to eat this time each year. Because the whole point of making food for the football playoffs and Super Bowl - not sure it qualifies as cooking so I’ll call it ‘’making food’’ for now - is something to eat as you watch the sacks, punts, field goals, and hopefully a few Hail Marys.
Or console you if your team doesn’t win, which happened all too recently for my team, the Tennessee Titans. (She leaves the room briefly to sob…)
Now, I could select an appetizer for each of the teams left in the playoffs but that’s far too contrived for someone like me who has been writing about Super Bowl fare as long as Terry Bradshaw has been talking football. In those pre-Peyton days - are there any? - this is the food you’d expect on weekends all the time. In fact, I’ll venture to say the good stuff - minus hummus - we lay out to munch on while watching football is a throwback to decades when it was perfectly fine to toss Vienna sausages in a Crockpot with grape jelly and chili sauce.
But I’m not sharing that recipe.
I’m going to zero in on the all-stars, the franchise recipes, those foods we can count on to please. They are the Artichoke Dip (often with spinach), Onion Dip (now upgraded with caramelized onions) and Texas Caviar, a salsa-meets-black-eyed pea combination that feels a bit like salad. It pairs nicely with rich and cheesy stuff.
These recipes are the Dream Team, even if that analogy came from basketball.
How I became a football mom
I’m not a football mom in the sense that my children played football. That would be too grueling to watch. I’ve never been so miserable as watching my son those years he wrestled. How many ways can a body contort and come out of it able to walk away?
No, football is too brutal. But I suppose well-paid professionals are conditioned. I do appreciate how the camera pans to their moms in the crowd - they have my full admiration.
My style of being a football mom is being able to know enough about the game to watch it and not drive my son and husband crazy with questions. I know you’ve got to get 10 yards in four tries. That kind of stuff. What always throws me is overtime and rules that differ in pro ball versus college. And the commentators. Don’t get me started on the commentators!
Football moms also must be able to make football food. Buy Fritos. The big Scoop kind and drive all over town until you find them. (Note to self: Shelves were bare of Tostitos Scoops, so check on those this week.) Or, in a pinch, go back to the big, flat tortilla chips where the dip sort of rides on top of the chip and if you get bumped, everything falls into your lap, or worse, back into the dip bowl!
Also, football moms have plenty of cold beer in the fridge, remember the sour cream for the chili, put the chili in the Crockpot, buy avocados now so they’re already ripened and ready to smash into guac. That kind of thing.
And sometimes make real chicken wings.
When my son turned 12 he had a group of friends spend the night, and for dinner I fried chicken wings like the Anchor Bar in Buffalo does. But that’s another newsletter…
Three superb dips for game day
When the Steelers defeated the Cowboys in Super Bowl X in 1976, something called artichoke dip started appearing on party menus. It was a baked dip with mayonnaise and Parmesan, plus some seasonings, and two cans of drained, chopped artichokes. Looking through old newspaper food stories, I found a gazillion artichoke dip recipes, all cold. But the recipe I was searching for was warm and it improved in flavor if you left it in the oven longer. That’s how we learned to bake it until deeply, darkly golden.
I was thrilled to find an article in the Greenville (Mississippi) Delta Democrat-Times about a Susan Nelken who made this artichoke dip with 1 cup each mayonnaise and Parmesan and flavored it with Tabasco and lemon juice - nice touches! - and baked it until bubbly - that will do! - for her guests. (We can always count on the good cooks in Mississippi to pull through.)
But the recipe I’m sharing is better, something that came from years of practice, years of sitting in front of the TV watching football. It’s got feta cheese and more seasoning and is ridiculously good as a side dish in the summertime with grilled steaks and sliced ripe tomatoes.
The second recipe on my team was passed along years back by my sister Susan in Atlanta and was something she made for neighborhood parties - Cowboy Caviar, she called it. I love this recipe because you can use any canned beans you’ve got, but black-eyed peas are the correct bean.
In 1940, which was well before the Super Bowl was first held in 1967, Helen Corbitt was the head chef at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. She was asked to write a menu using only Texas products. And one of those products was black-eyed peas, which Helen Corbitt hadn’t been raised on in New York. So she did what anyone of Pennsylvania Dutch background would do and she pickled them, or to be more correct, she placed them in a vinaigrette with oil, vinegar, garlic, and onions, and called it Texas Caviar. It was so popular that Neiman Marcus would later can and sell it in their stores.
And lastly, how can you watch sports and console yourself over a lost trip to the Super Bowl without onion dip and chips? While most of us think of the French onion soup mix recipe, you can do a much better dip if you caramelize fresh onions and construct your own dip in the food processor. This recipe comes from my husband’s cousin in Houston, Texas.
So next weekend or before pull out one of my recipes - or all three! - and throw caution to the wind. You will thrill everyone coming over to watch the big game. Even if your team does poorly, even if there are too few touchdowns to keep the game interesting, even if the halftime show tanks, the food will be super.
What are your favorite football recipes?
The 3 Recipes:
Pat's Artichoke Dip
Let's face it, artichoke dips have been around a long time, but when you need that hearty big gooey, rich dip for football parties, or even teenage birthday parties, the artichoke dip always comes to the rescue. This recipe was one of my mother's favorites. It came from her friend Ella who got it from her friend Pat. What makes it better? Crumbled feta and garlic. You can add 1 cup drained chopped frozen spinach to this recipe if you like.
Makes 12 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 20 to 25 minutes
2 cans (14 ounces each) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 packages (4 ounces each) crumbled feta cheese
1 cup mayonnaise (or 1/2 cup mayo and 1/2 cup sour cream)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 jar (2 ounces) diced pimentos, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
Tortilla chips for serving
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place the chopped artichoke hearts, feta, mayonnaise, Parmesan, pimentos, and garlic in a large bowl and stir to combine well. Turn into a 2-quart baking dish and place the dish in the oven.
3. Bake until the dip is bubbly and deeply golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. (Keep it in the oven until it gets brown around the edges.) Serve warm with tortilla chips.
Fleurie’s Caramelized Onion Dip
Cousin Fleurie slowly caramelizes onions and lets them cook down until they’re sweet and mahogany-colored and pulses those with the rest of the dip ingredients in a food processor. I’ve tweaked her recipe over the years and for more flavor will dribble in a little good balsamic vinegar while the onions are cooking down. Give the onions time to cook down, and don’t try to double batch this recipe because you need surface area around the onions for them to caramelize. You can use whatever onion you have on hand - yellow, white or purple. And you can also use whatever you like for dipping - bagel or pita chips, but my favorite remains ruffled potato chips. Be careful with the salt if you are serving with salted potato chips.
Makes 2 1/2 cups, about 10 to 12 servings
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
4 cups sliced onions (3 big onions, peeled)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt, if desired, or Creole seasoning
Potato chips or bagel or pita chips, for serving
Place the butter or olive oil in a large (12-inch) frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until they caramelize and turn a golden brown, about 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let them cool 10 minutes.
Place the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, cayenne, and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until smooth. Scrape the onions into the processor and with pulses, combine the onions with the cream cheese mixture until the onions are just distributed and still in small pieces. Taste for seasonings adding more cayenne if needed. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve.
Susan’s Texas Caviar
Thanks to my sister for sharing such a lovely recipe that I’ve adapted along the way. It changes depending on what is in the fridge or cupboard. And it’s a crowd pleaser! People will hover over the bowl!
Makes 4 cups, about 10 to 12 servings
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Hot pepper sauce to taste (couple of big dashes)
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 cup canned or fresh corn
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh avocado
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Tortilla chips, for serving
Place the vinegar, olive oil, cumin, hot sauce, garlic, and pepper in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Place the black-eyed peas, corn, avocado, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro in a mixing bowl and gently stir to combine. Pour the dressing over and toss just to coat. Spoon into a serving bowl, cover and chill until time to serve. Serve with chips. Leftovers are delicious as a salsa for grilled fish or chicken.
This Thursday for Subscribers:
Cooking for One. And my first Open Thread! Let’s talk about recipes for smaller kitchens and food that suits these cooler months. If you’ve got recipe ideas you want to share with others or need some help with a particular recipe, this is what you’ve been waiting for! (Or if you crave some real-time conversation with other cooks!) I’ll send the Thursday post to your inbox as I usually do. Following that will be a separate post posing a question and discussion. Feel free to chime in! As this is my first Open Thread there are bound to be mistakes. But I can guarantee you no wardrobe malfunctions! (That’s a halftime joke!)
Have a great week!