A “Super” Celebration

In the United States, Super Bowl Sunday is a holiday.  Sure it is not an official holiday, but it might as well be one.  The Super Bowl is the second biggest food holiday after Thanksgiving.  In a single weekend, Americans consume 1.38 billion chicken wings, 88 million pounds of cheese, 63.5 million pounds of pepperoni, 12.5 million pizzas, 325 million gallons of beer, and 200 million pounds of avocados.  We had every single one of those at my Super Bowl party.

I volunteered to host a Super Bowl party a few years ago, and I have been the go-to host every year.  I am the most natural host, as I actually follow the NFL and I love making Super Bowl food.  I honestly don’t know what I enjoy cooking for more: New Year’s Eve or the Super Bowl.  Okay, it is probably the Super Bowl with all the oodles of guilty pleasures.  I like to craft a unique menu, but it revolves around the traditional football foods.

I had an extra challenge this year trying to make some gluten free food that I could eat.  I wasn’t eliminating gluten from the menu, but I do love to eat what I cook, so that left me to get creative.

I started with a couple batches of chicken wings.  After all, that is the most popular food for the Super Bowl.  I have not been a fan of any of the wings I have had from pizza shops around town, especially not Domino’s (where I typically order pizza for the Super Bowl).  I had made chicken wings for the first couple years, but I got lazy and ordered them from Domino’s last year.  They were awful.  Nothing  like a good rubbery chicken wing to get you in the mood for the Super Bowl.  This year I did not make the same mistake.

Fortunately, a co-worker introduced me to this new food blog, Carlsbad Cravings.  I will admit that at first I thought this was a guy named Carl who had bad cravings.  Little did I know, it is actually written by a woman who lives in Carlsbad, CA.  That is an odd name for a city, but this food blog is extraordinary, so I will take it.

I made two types of baked chicken wings: crispy ancho wings and chipotle honey lime wings.  Both added a fantastic flavor to my table.  The ancho wings had a nice balance of sweet and spice.  I have been into ancho chile ever since I made Marcela Valladolid’s ancho chile pork tenderloin.  When I saw this recipe for these wings, I knew there was no way I could turn down making them.  The recipe also includes an avocado ranch dip that added another level of flavor to these wings.

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Moving onto the chipotle wings, there was some overlap in the spice rub but with enough variants to make a different flavor profile.  Plus, they are finished off with a honey lime hot sauce glaze.  I was able to bake both batches of chicken wings at the same time, so they got pulled out of the oven just as people were arriving.  I did get some comments about people being impressed in making my own spice rubs for the wings.

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I honestly don’t know which wings I liked more.  I think they were both amazing in their own right.  I loved the spice rub on the acho wings, and when dipped in the ranch, they were a perfect bite.  I absolutely adored the glaze on the chipotle wings.  I just want to grill all day and slather that sauce all over some meat.  The only criticism I really have on these wings is that neither of them were “hot.”  I know not all wings are hot, but I thought with the names of things wings plus the promise of “hot sauce” that there would be more heat.

I made one other thing from Carlsbad Cravings for the party, and that was some slow cooker salsa verde honey lime chicken.  This recipe was like a combination of salsa verde chicken and the chipotle wings.  I started my day by popping this chicken into my slow cooker and allowing the flavors to develop in this dish.  Instead of tacos as pictured in the recipe, I turned this chicken into some baked taquitos.

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Taquitos are one of my favorite things to make for people.  All you need is a delicious filling and some tortillas.  I have made taquitos with both corn and flour tortillas.  I find the flour tortillas easiest for party-planning as you don’t have to pre-heat the tortillas in order to work with them.  To assemble the taquitos, I take a tortillas and spread some filling down the center and roll as tightly as possible.  I do like to add toothpicks to keep them together while baking, but once out of the oven, they will stay put without the tooth pick.  To get the crispy edges, spray the taquitos with cooking spray and pop into a 400 degree oven for roughly 20 minutes.  To get the crisp on both sides, flip halfway through.  Do be careful not to burn the taquitos.  A little browning is good, but they can scorch pretty easily if forgotten.

While I am on the subject of tortillas, I want to share my favorite tortilla brand.  I absolutely love Mission Foods.  A Texas company, Mission offers an array of flour and corn tortillas, tortilla chips, and even some jarred salsa and queso.  I was obsessed with Mission’s yellow corn tortilla chip rounds for the longest time.  I would buy them almost every time I go to the store.  They are salty, thick, and go perfect with salsa.

I bought two Mission products for the big game: super soft flour soft taco tortillas and gluten free flour tortillas.  Nothing I served to the guests were made with the gluten free tortillas.  Those were just so I could eat a couple taquitos and quesadillas (my next item on this list).  I was incredibly impressed with these tortillas.  If I didn’t already know they were gluten free, I wouldn’t have guessed it.  They were soft with a nice chewy texture.  They were pliable and did not fall apart.  I am so happy I thought to get these, because now I have an option for when I want to make tacos.  I was so sad thinking I couldn’t eat tacos anymore, but now that I know these are here and taste so good, I feel much better.

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The rest of the tortillas went to make quesadillas.  I randomly had two cans of refried beans in my cabinet, so I decided to turn those into some quesadillas.  It was a super easy dish.  I emptied the two cans of beans into a large bowl.  I added two drained cans of Rotel tomatoes and green chiles, a little bit of taco sauce, and salt.  To assemble, I put a large frying pan over medium-low heat and sprayed with cooking spray.  I layered one tortilla followed by the bean mixture, shredded cheddar cheese and then the top tortilla.  After a couple minutes I flipped to allow the other side to cook and the cheese to finish melting.

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Quesadillas are a great way to feed a crowd.  I use a pizza cutter to slice my quesadillas.  I definitely made too many quesadillas though.  No worries though, because my co-workers finished them off yesterday.

I made one last savory dish to finish off my spread, and this was the biggest hit of the night.  I made these buffalo chicken cheese balls from Aaron McCargo Jr. on Food Network.  I had picked out this recipe awhile back, but I never really looked at the recipe until the morning of the Super Bowl.

It makes absolutely no sense how this recipe works, but somehow it does.  There is absolutely no binding agent in the cheese balls prior to dredging them.  It is just shredded chicken, cheese, hot sauce, and some seasoning.  I was very worried about how these were going to stay together.  I even put the bowl of chicken and cheese in the freezer prior to constructing the balls hoping they’d be easier to form.

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Dredging the chicken in flour and then eggs prior to rolling in the bread crumbs must have bound all the ingredients together because they did not fall apart when frying.  They are served with this creamy blue cheese sauce that was easy to whip together.

This is the one dish of the night that completely disappeared.  I had to re-fill the plate before kick-off even happened.  I would say that is a successful dish.  The greatest part is that I used gluten free flour and gluten free panko for this recipe, and I don’t think anyone noticed.  I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to taint anyone’s mind on this dish before trying it.  I think “gluten free” carries such a stigma that people don’t expect it to taste good, but in reality, it is such another type of ingredient that can work just as well for many things.

Of course to finish off, I had to serve something sweet.  Desserts during the Super Bowl are a fun time to get a little creative.  I made chocolate cupcakes (not gluten-free) with cream cheese frosting that I dyed green to look like astro turf and topped them with plastic Patriots helmets.  A few people asked me why the icing was green, but most people appeared to get it.  I suppose I could have also done red and blue icing, but I thought the green was a cute idea.  (Though my one dozen cupcakes in the tray would get the team a foul for too many men on the field.)  My idea with the cupcakes came a bit out of spite for my friends giving me such a hard time last year when the Patriots lost the Super Bowl.  If they wanted to have a cupcake, they needed to touch a Patriots helmet.  That was part of my retribution.

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The whole night was so amazing.  Of course I was thrilled that my team won.  (I always am.)  I wanted this for Tom and the team pretty badly.  Actually, I still want one more Super Bowl win before Tom Brady retires, so that we can have the GOAT quarterback with the GOAT coach on the GOAT team.  That would be the ultimate victory, but for now, I will be happy with this win.

The win wasn’t even the best part of the night though.  I got to spend a day cooking amazing food for my friends and then got to spend the evening with them.  I timed everything perfectly, and pulled the last quesadilla off the stove as the National Anthem started.  That was record-breaking time management for me.  That means I got to actually sit and watch the game with my friends.  This is likely the last Super Bowl party I will be hosting with this group of friends since I am planning to move soon.  It’s bittersweet to think about, but at least I finished on a high note.  The game hadn’t even started when I told I had outdone myself.  I can’t think of any better compliment on one of my favorite days of the year.

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