It has been estimated that next to Thanksgiving, more Americans celebrate with food and drink on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. That may be so, but cooking for football parties is so much simpler and more casual.
More often than not, entertaining includes a collection of dishes that are easy to eat. Guests often bring some of the food.
Some football fans and partygoers find it hard to get motivated until they know which teams are playing in the big game. “Food is planned at the last minute,” said Ed Bartko, one of the “two regular guys” who wrote the cookbook, 2 Regular Guys Cookbook: Menus and Other Tidbits for the Football Season.
“I'm a Raiders fan,” he said, adding that if the Raiders had made it into the Super Bowl, he would be more excited about the game. But it was not to be - the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants will be on the field at about 6 p.m. on Jan. 28.
“And it depends on how many people come [to the party], too. Everyone usually brings a dish - their choice. Last year, someone brought turkey enchiladas.”
At Rick Kaufmann's annual Super Bowl party in Sylvania Township, the group is more tuned in to the event than the game.
“This is a real social group. We look for any event to get together,” Mr. Kaufmann said.
He and his wife, Louise, have been hosts for this event for 10 years; many of the guests are former neighbors from the Archwood neighborhood in South Toledo. “At one point the core group of us lived on Archwood Lane in Toledo,” Mr. Kaufmann said about the 25 couples on the guest list.
Submarine four or five-foot-long sandwiches are ordered as the anchor of the menu. Then everyone brings an appetizer, said Luther Norris, who is among the guests for the annual party. “I usually take [steamed] shrimp with cocktail sauce.”
One couple, who are Lebanese, brings grape leaves, which everyone looks forward to. The menu also includes barbecued chicken wings; ribs; a gourmet cheesecake with a raspberry sauce on top; monkey bread, which you pull off chunks of sweet bread; meatballs; stuffed mushrooms, and a veggie tray. “We serve soft drinks, beer, and wine, and there's enough food for three days,” said Mr. Kaufmann.
If you don't want to take a potluck approach to the party, you can request guests bring certain items if they ask, “What can I bring?” Or make cooking a participatory sport, with you as the coach. If you guests hang out in the kitchen, give them a job to do.
Need help with the veggie tray or the antipasto platter? Assigning an earnest football fan a job in the middle of a big play will not win you any points. So pick your helpers carefully.
Instead, it's best to prepare fun foods that are easy to make in a minimal amount of time. Select recipes that allow you to do most of the chopping and cooking ahead of time so you can enjoy the game with your guests. Stromboli is a hot sandwich that you can make ahead, but bake when the guests start arriving.
Main-dish, make-ahead recipes such as chili need only a salad, perhaps an antipasto, and hearty bread to complete the meal.
Everyone has their favorite chili recipe, but Super Bowl evening might be a good time to try a White Chili made with pork loin or chicken mixed with white navy beans and chick peas.
If authentic Mexican flavors interest you, in contrast to the spicy Tex-Mex versions, try Party Chili. It is prepared with unsweetened cocoa, which gives a thickening effect similar to a mole poblano made with bitter chocolate. The brown sugar adds a molasses flavor. This combination of ingredients brings an authentic Mexican spiciness without the heat of Tex-Mex.
Then, there's the thrill of the grill. “This is winter, and this is too far north,” you say. But folks like Janet and Joel George of Toledo have been grilling all winter.
“During the winter, we just pull the propane grill closer to the back door,” said Mrs. George. “We did a three or four-pound tenderloin on the grill for our Christmas Party. Joel has it timed. He marinates it overnight, uses the hood, a thermometer, and his nice winter coat and hat. I also got him barbecue gloves that are suede. He can use them for the heat [of the grill] and the cold.”
The beef tenderloin is sliced thin and served on crusty bread laced with herbed butter for an open-face tenderloin sandwich. It serves 20 to 25, said Mrs. George. Rest assured, this recipe is so good it will be gone within the first hour it's served.
The grilled chicken for Spicy Apricot Sesame Wings is always a favorite at football parties. This recipe can also be baked in the oven.
Whatever the menu, plan on letting guests serve themselves. A casual buffet is perfect for entertaining football crowds.
Some foods lend themselves to buffets, such as make-your-own fajitas, using the thinly sliced tenderloin grilled outdoors. Or have a baked potato bar, using the chili and fixings of cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and any steamed or sauted vegetables you desire.
Finally, consider a winning dessert such as homemade brownies or super-size chocolate chip cookies.
Whatever you chose, have plenty of food on hand. Remember to check for special diets and offer non-alcoholic beverages to guests.
Decorate your house with a football theme. Ask guests to dress in team colors or T-shirts. Give away inexpensive football souvenirs.
That's the game plan. Now sit back and enjoy.