By SHANNON WATKINS
It’s a very special, joyful time of year, one that I look forward to for several months: namely, the Monday after Superbowl, because football season is over.
At the risk of being considered the Grinch of the athletic world, I have to confess I’ve never even remotely cared about sports. (That said, I hope your own various favorite teams win every game in every sport every year, because I’m fond of you and I want you to be happy.)
But perhaps you yourself really, really love the Superbowl, or possibly you live with someone who does, and you want to make something good to eat during the game, because you’re a thoughtful, generous person, whether or not you could identify a forward pass without a guidebook.
The first thing to recall about Superbowl food is, nobody’s in any frame of mind to appreciate dishes with complicated flavors or Continental flair. Save that for Valentine’s Day, also a time when possibly all parties involved will be too keyed up to appreciate what they’re eating, but for different reasons, and at least it’ll give them something to talk about. “Really, lamb chops with raw garlic and white-chocolate-covered Brussels sprouts!” they’ll say, gamely chewing. “I would never have thought of that. Say, are we in a relationship or do you just want to be friends?”
No, for this event, you want something that is a combination of at least two of the following: 1.) spicy; 2.) sweet; 3.) salty; 4.) cheesy; 5.) crunchy; 6.) creamy; or 7.) meaty. Also, and this is imperative: good with beer. Plus it’ll have to make you swear off ever fixing it again when someone spills it on the couch cushions and you have to have them professionally cleaned to get it out, which is also a hallmark of good game day food.
(Be honest, you’re already salivating at the thought of all those qualities, aren’t you? OK, except for that last one. You know exactly which one of your guests is going to upend a bowl of chili all over your new furniture in their excitement during a crucial play, and it’s almost enough to make you serve Saltines and bottled water instead.)
For most stuff like that, you can refer back to earlier recipes (remember the holiday hors d’ouerves menu?) like brown-sugar sriracha hot wings and spiced nuts, though I personally wouldn’t look down on you if you ordered out for pizza and fried chicken, or made up platters of cold cut sandwiches, or just tossed salsa and melted cheese over tortilla chips and called it a day.
However, it’s nice to have something warm and homemade to serve, which will make you seem like a memorable host or hostess. Also something that’s fairly quick to make, so you can either catch most of the game or retreat to a quiet corner of the house with a good book.
This week’s recipe hits most of the above criteria; it’s creamy, spicy and cheesy, with salty meat and a crunchy topping. Note that the ribs and seeds inside fresh jalapenos make up most of the heat, so trim those or leave them in according to your preference. As for the bacon, fry some for breakfast and just hold a few slices back.
Jalapeno Popper Dip
6-7 slices crisp fried bacon, crumbled
2 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 c. mayonnaise (my opinion: use Duke’s)
1 4-oz. can of chopped green chiles, drained
5 chopped fresh jalapenos, or 4 oz. canned chopped jalapenos
¼ c. chopped green onions
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
½ c. shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 c. panko breadcrumbs (check the Asian aisle or next to the regular breadcrumbs)
½ c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
4 Tbsps. melted butter
Preheat oven to 350F and a spray 1-qt. or so oven-safe dish with nonstick cooking spray. Break out your mixer and blend the cream cheese and mayo until smooth. Stir in the all other ingredients except panko, parmesan and butter until mixed well. Mix the panko and parmesan with the butter and sprinkle evenly over the top of the dip. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the topping is lightly browned.
Let it cool down before taking it to a couchful of people who are far too intent on the TV to pay attention to what they’re eating and might scorch themselves (and, in the process, baptize the carpet with scalding cheese). Serve with tortilla chips, potato chips, pretzel chips, veggies, toasted rounds of French bread, or whatever you’d like to scoop it up with.
Then get yourself some pizza/chicken/chili/sandwiches and a drink, and settle in to enjoy yourself. Or, if you’re like me, fix up a plate and express polite interest by asking everyone who just kicked the puck furthest for a home run. After everyone stops and stares at you, clearly impressed with your sports knowledge, wander off to catch up on your reading, and maybe look up the number of a good upholstery cleaning service.