It’s here at last, Super Bowl XL. But who's playing hardly matters. The more important question is: Who's cooking?
Let’s get to the meat of the matter. When it comes to Super Bowl Sunday eating, it’s all about the grill.
But wait -- it’s winter. In most of the country, the grill hasn't been touched since Labor Day. But you can use the grill in the garage if you leave the door open. Still too cold for you? Uh, light the grill. Better, right?
Here are a few simple recipes that will help turn an average Super Bowl cookout into your very own thrilla by the grilla:
Put On a Skirt
Skirt steaks are more popular out West, but they are available at most big name grocery stores. If you want to make a delicious discovery, get to the one closest to you. Follow these simple tips and you’ll think twice the next time you reach for a $25 T-bone.
First off, think beer. Beer’s a good, reliable marinade base that both tenderizes and flavors, with the added advantage of being something you always have around the house. You can get fancy and experiment with more exotic brews that will cause very slight flavor variations, but for now, just grab whatever’s in the fridge and follow this recipe:
Six cuts of skirt steak. Two cans of beer, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Take a large casserole dish. Pour in two cans of beer. Add 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, a tablespoon of garlic powder and however much salt and pepper you feel comfortable with (health tip: get into the habit of going heavier with the pepper -- it's twice as spicy and half as bad for you).
Mix it all together, lay the steaks in, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate. It's best if left overnight, but it will still work if you have only a few hours -- if you go under three, brush on the excess marinade during grilling. Sear at high temperature and cook on medium for about 8 minutes on each side.
These steaks are thin, so keep an eye on them. Don’t be afraid to char a little bit on the ends -- it makes them very flavorful.
Serve with narrow-cut fries or slice them up into strips and put them out buffet-style with tortillas, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and chopped onions and have your guests make their own.
Buy more steaks than you think you need. Skirt steak shrinks during grilling and an average guy can easily eat two.
Be the Burger King
If you’re going to make a burger, you can just throw the patties on the grill. Or you can make them taste good. Instead of serving a medium-rare condiment catcher, try these two recipes and put the ketchup back in the fridge:
Ground sirloin, a handful of green chilies (1-2 per patty), garlic (three cloves per patty), coriander.
Mince up the chilies as small as you can and put in a bowl (TIP: a razor blade is just as good if not better than your average paring knife). Press the garlic into another bowl. Don’t shape the meat into patties yet, just roll it up into oversized meatballs.
Take a patty, tear it in half and roll it around in the bowl of minced chilies. These guys are hot so you might want to start conservatively -- over-spicing might require a beer run in the second quarter.
Take the other half and do the same in the bowl of garlic. Powder each half liberally with coriander and then knead them together. Press into patties and slap ‘em on the grill. (TIP: If you depress each patty a little in the center, you won’t have to press the juices out of them when they plump up).
Serve on toasted onion rolls with thinly sliced pickle.
Ground sirloin, large bermuda onion, BBQ sauce, garlic (1-2 cloves per patty), chili powder, breadcrumbs.
Chop the onion as tiny as you can. Press the garlic. Combine the two in a bowl, ball up the sirloin and combine with the onion/garlic mix the same way you did with the Eastern Style. Roll the ball in a bowl of BBQ sauce and get your hands gooey by kneading it well. The BBQ sauce will loosen the meat. That’s what the breadcrumbs are for. Pour them into a bowl and roll the meat around, adding just enough breadcrumbs to help keep things together (TIP: You can get flavored bread crumbs that can spice things up). Press the balls into patties, depress a bit in the middle and grill.
Serve on a hearty toasted roll with sautéed mushrooms, the cheese of your liking and a touch of ranch dressing.
Fish is easier to cook on the grill than you’d think, and you can get creative easily. The Orange Roughy is one of the leanest fish in the sea and therefore one of the leanest substances on earth. All it is is protein and taste.
What does it taste like? Nothing. White fish are the saltines of the sea -- they’re just waiting for you to dress them up. The Orange Roughy, though, is one of the least fishy fishes you can find -- pretty much a blank canvas.
Orange Roughy fillets, olive oil, capers, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, shallots (1-2 per fillet), dill, garlic (1-2 cloves per), black and/or red pepper.
Rinse the fillets and pat them dry. Then lay them out on strips of aluminum foil and rub with soy sauce. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Be generous. All vinegar and oil do is make food better and life longer.
Dress with a couple slices of onion, a chopped shallot, a clove of pressed garlic and a handful of capers. Add your pepper and then loosely wrap the aluminum foil. Grill them longer than you would anything else -- 20-30 minutes on a closed medium/high grill. They’re done when the fillets can be pulled apart easily with a fork.
Serve with steamed vegetables or make fish tacos with fresh cilantro, chopped onion and a teaspoon of teriyaki sauce.
Note: One fillet is not enough for a 14-year-old boy, much less your buddies. The fish should be served as a bonus dish (i.e., something for the ladies).
These are all easy dishes and bound to score on game day. Marinades are anything but exact. If you like one ingredient more than others, go heavy on it. Don't be afraid to experiment. Try stuffing chopped pickles into your burgers instead of green chilies. Trade in pineapple juice for the beer in your marinade.
It’s your party. Just don’t run out of beer. Otherwise, the quarterback won't be the only one who gets sacked on Sunday.