It’s hard to believe we’re going into the eighth season of Foodball and the Football Foodie. You’d think I would have given up and moved to just ordering pizza every week or at least given one or two of my friends heart-attacks by now.
Nope. Still here, still watching football all day and stuffing myself silly because that’s what you get to do on Sundays as reward for eating bare salads, fruit and sautéed vegetables all week.
Football will always be fun no matter who you watch it with or what you snack on while watching the game, but it’s always so much more fun when you make football an event. As my friend Wanda once said to me, football is a miniature Thanksgiving every weekend to celebrate eating and just hanging out with family and friends under the guise of watching sports, either at a tailgate or in gentle glow of your own television in your own living room. Make the most of it, because you only get so much time to sit down and ignore the rest of the world in the name of relaxation and camaraderie.
Wait, relaxation? Who am I kidding? We stress-eat through these dishes because our favorite hobby is possibly one of the least relaxing parts of our lives. I see a bubble screen and suddenly an entire bag of potato chips has disappeared in the matter of seconds. Close game going into the fourth quarter? Who has a block of cheese handy? No. We need the snacks to reassure us no matter how the game ends, we’ll be just fine.
With the eighth season of Foodball there is one change. It will no longer be a weekly column, more like a “every few weeks” column. Will you be shortchanged on recipes? No, I would never do that to you, my intelligent, witty, beautiful readers. They’re all going to be super-sized posts crammed with enough recipes to keep you going for several Sundays.
Good? Good. Now enough with the yakety-yak and more with the food porn to inspire you this kickoff weekend. That is unless you’re trying to be inspired for the Jets-Raiders or the Washington-Houston games, which in that case, I suggest pounding SoCo and Drano as soon as you possibly can.
This week in your Super-Sized Foodball: Pineapple Blue Burgers, Smoky Hatch Chile Bacon Pimento Cheese, Hatch Chile Infused Vodka, Beer Battered Jalapeños and an amazingly spicy Middle Eastern dip, Muhammara.
To the recipes!
Pineapple Blue Burgers
It’s still really hot here in Los Angeles and we’re looking at it being in the mid-90s both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Because it’s going to be so hot, I cannot imagine I’m going to want to spend a ton of time cooking, even if it is for football.
In this heat, the simplicity of a great hamburger is what I’m in a the mood for. A grilled, juicy burger with tangy blue cheese to cut through the sweetness of pineapple, the softness of the cheese and meat tempered by a crunchy cole slaw and a chewy English muffin that soaks up every last bit of flavor. Want a little extra kick? Brush just a little bit of teriyaki sauce on the patty to caramelize on your burger over the flame.
My cole slaw recipe is pretty straight forward, same way my mom and my grandmother made it. You want the taste of the cabbage to come through, not be weighed down by too much sugar since the carrots already bring the sweet to the party. If you have your own preferred cole slaw recipe, by all means use it. Just don’t be afraid to put it on your hamburger.
Don’t like hamburgers? (COMMIE AND PROBABLY A COLTS FAN.) This method makes an excellent grilled chicken sandwich.
You will need:
1/2 small head of red cabbage, cored and shredded to desired texture
1/2 small head of green cabbage, cored and shredded to desired texture
3-4 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
If desired, you can toss in some extra ground mustard or Dijon mustard in the dressing for extra tartness. If you like a little more crunch in your cole slaw, add a shredded bell pepper.
On large bowl, toss together the shredded cabbage and carrots. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seeds, mustard seeds, sugar, salt and pepper. Let the cole slaw dressing rest for a couple of minutes and taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Toss the cabbage and carrot mixture with the dressing until lightly coated and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
Pineapple Blue Burgers
1/4 ground beef per patty, preferably a 20-28% fat ground chuck
Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste
1/2-1 ounce mild blue cheese per patty, either thinly sliced or crumbled
Fresh pineapple, cored and sliced
Teriyaki sauce (optional)
Gently form each individual patty by hand, seasoning the beef with a generous amount of kosher salt and pepper as you go. If using teriyaki sauce, just use a light brushing of it on each side of the patty.
Over a very hot grill, cook each patty a couple of minutes on each side to desired wellness and remove from the heat, adding the cheese to each patty about a minute or two before removing from the heat.
Since each grill is different, each person’s relationship with their grill different, each fire different, I don’t dare give exact recommendations on how many times to flip your burger and when. I will tell you I am a one-flip and one-flip only, Vasili griller. I prefer removing when on the rarer side and covering with foil so it can steam a little longer while cooking to a nice medium rare to medium. If it cooks a little too long? Well, this is why you use a high-fat blend in the first place over the fire, so you don’t accidentally end up with hockey pucks.
Once you pulled the burgers off the grill, grill the pineapple slices for a minute or two on each side while the English muffins can be toasted split open, face down.
Stack a burger on the English muffin, add a slice or two of grilled pineapple and top with a small amount of cole slaw and serve.
Smoky Hatch Chile Bacon Pimento Cheese
Is this recipe very similar to my chipotle pimento cheese? Absolutely, but Hatch chiles give this pimento cheese a completely different profile. Both are a smoky pepper, but Hatch chiles match so well with the bacon, I’m pretty annoyed I didn’t have the idea to switch up my pimento cheese until this summer, as are pretty much all of my friends who I have served it to over the past few weeks.
You will need:
8 ounces (1/2 pound) bacon
8 ounces (1/2 pound) smoked cheddar, grated
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces mayonnaise, preferably Dukes
3-4 roasted Hatch chiles, stems removed and coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper (1/2 – 1 teaspoon each, optional)
1-2 scallions, chopped
If you don’t have Hatch chiles readily available, you can use Anaheim or canned chiles.
Chop and gently cook the bacon over low heat until crispy then drain and cool. While the bacon is cooking, grate the cheese and combine with the softened cream cheese and mayonnaise. Fold the chopped Hatch chiles into the cheese mixture and once combined, gently fold in the cooled bacon. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired. Top with scallions and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the favor develop.
Pimento cheese can be offered either chilled or warm. Just gently bake the pimento cheese in a shallow gratin dish at 325º for 15 minutes until melted. Serve with crostini, crackers, vegetables or even use as a filling in a sandwich on toasted bread.
Hatch Chile Infused Vodka
Anyone who follows my Twitter account know that I haven’t been able to shut up about Hatch chiles this pepper season. (This is different than my usual not being able to shut up about anything because it’s about chiles and not say, Ben Affleck’s terrible accent in RUNNER, RUNNER or yelling about anti-vaxxers.) For breakfast I’m putting Hatch chiles in my scrambled eggs and my cottage cheese, for lunch I’m putting Hatch chiles on turkey sandwiches, for dinner I’m tossing them on chicken tacos, burgers and salads. Hatch. Hatch. Hatch.
So it was on Twitter that a reader named Rick suggest I try infusing my vodka with Hatch chiles. He and his wife have done it for years to give their bloody marys an extra kick. I’d infused vodka with fruit before, so why not try it with Hatch chiles?
The results were amazing, better than any pepper infused or flavored vodka I had tried to date. Hatch chiles have a real floral element to them and when pared with vodka, the fruity element of the chile really sings. You don’t even need to wait to put it in your breakfast cocktail, serve chilled over ice and it is great sipping spirit. If drinking straight vodka isn’t your idea of a good time, I’ve used it in place tequila in a margarita, in a vesper and in lemon drops.
You will need:
1 750 ml bottle of good vodka
3-4 roasted Hatch chiles, mild ones make for a better spirit but you can also you hot
A large canning jar
Do not think you can get away with using a cheap vodka. My first batch was made with Skyy and while the vodka was okay, heat from both the chiles and the vodka really didn’t make for a good drink. Subsequent batches made with Tito’s have been much, much smoother.
Combine the vodka and the chiles in a jar and let set at room temperate for at least 24 hours and up to a week, the longer you let the chiles infuse the spicier and smokier the vodka gets. In the batches I’ve made, 24-36 hours seems to be the sweet spot of getting the balance just right.
Once you’ve got the chile taste to where you want it, strain out the Hatch chiles using a clean cheesecloth into a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl. Squeeze the last of the vodka from the peppers and pour back into your jar. Cut off a few slices of pepper and put them back in the jar for decoration and refrigerate before serving. Do not freeze as infused vodkas will freeze nearly-solid.
Beer Battered Jalapeños
If you don’t have access to this year’s bounty of Hatch chiles it doesn’t mean you have to do without something spicy this season. My garden is overgrowing with jalapeños and frying them up for a game time snack is a great way to have the spicy bite without having to go through all the hassle of making Jalapeños Stuffed with Chorizo and Corn Bread, Jalapeño Crisps, or something as heavy as my Smoky Habanero Jalapeño Popper Bread.
You will need:
12-20 ounces of pilsner beer, preferably highly carbonated variety like Miller High Life or Iron City for a light batter
2 cups of all-purpose flour sifted for the batter, plus 1/2 to a 3/4 cup of flour for dredging
2-3 teaspoons garlic powder, plus a dash more for the flour dredge
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt for the batter, plus a little more for dredging
1-2 teaspoons ground pepper, plus a little more dredging
2-3 cups sliced jalapeños, preferably fresh but you can used drained pickled jalapeños
1 cup buttermilk
Oil for frying
Scallions or chives for garnish
Ranch dressing or sriracha-style hot sauce for serving.
Want to make the batter spicy too? Add in some chili power or ground cayenne. Another way to control the heat is by removing the seeds from jalapeño rings.
Mix together 2 cups sifted flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the cold beer a few ounces at a time until all the flour lumps are broken down and then stir in the rest of the beer until the batter reaches the desired consistency. It should be thick, but not so thick and heavy it doesn’t drizzle off your whisk or spoon. It usually takes between 12-20 ounces of beer to reach this stage, depending on your flour.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the batter rest in the fridge for at least 30 to 45 minutes, up to a few hours. In my experience over the years of frying nearly everything in my kitchen, a cold beer batter fries better than a warm beer batter. You get a puffier and chewier bite which is important when you’re frying such a small pepper.
While your beer batter is setting up in the fridge, get your dredging plate of flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder readying. Why season your flour? Because typically you want your seasoning to carry through every layer and step of the way.
In a medium-sized bowl, coat your jalapeno rings with buttermilk and let sit for at least 15 minutes.
Once ready to fry, heat about an inch of oil in a large frying pan to 350º (a pinch of flour should immediately sizzle when you drop it into hot oil), or if you happen to have one, use your deep fryer.
When your oil is ready, start frying. Pull the sliced jalapeños a few at a time out of the buttermilk and shake off the extra liquid. Dredge in flour and then drop into your beer batter. Do this until you have the number of jalapeños you want per small batch and then fry.
Why cook in small batches? Remember the first rule of frying is to keep your oil as hot as possible, and a crowded pan means cold oil and soggy, grease-soaked food. Fry for a couple of minutes on each side. The batter should puff up and turn a nice golden brown.
Drain on a paper towel-lined pan in a warm 200º-250º oven while you finish frying the rest of the jalapeños. Garnish with chopped scallions or chives and serve with ranch dressing or sriracha.
Have some extra beer batter left? That’s when you also fry up some okra to take the edge off eating just jalapeños.
This is a sneaky dip. I’m not talking sneaky like the Seahawks running the Auburn offense against the Packers, I’m talking sneaky like the Seahawks running a flea flicker against the Bills. It doesn’t seem like this dip should be so spicy, but ground Aleppo pepper has a front of the tongue heat the builds the more of it you eat, but at the same time has this great fruity taste to it. Much like how I feel about za’atar, once you start using the spice you won’t be able to stop putting it nearly everything you make.
It’s also much meatier than your normal dip, even more so than hummus, thanks to walnuts and panko bread crumbs filling out the mixture. Pomegranate molasses play sweet to the Aleppo’s spicy, lemon and sumac brighten everything up, and garlic gives the dip the right depth.
You will need:
16-19 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 cup bread crumbs, preferably panko-style
1 cup walnuts
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 teaspoons pomegranate molasses, to taste
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt (to taste)
1-2 tablespoons ground Aleppo pepper, depending on desired heat
2-3 teaspoons ground sumac (optional, but if you don’t use it )
Juice from 1/2 a lemon, about 1-2 tablespoons
1/4-2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, depending on desired consistency
Pita chips for serving
Don’t have a local Middle Eastern market or a grocery store that carries such items? Alton Brown has a good pomegranate molasses recipe (and you’ll want it for much more than this dip) and you should be able to find Aleppo and sumac at most good spice markets. Still can’t find it? Substitute about a tablespoon of red chili flakes in place of the Aleppo and add a little more lemon in place of the sumac.
Toast the walnuts in a 325º for about 10-15 minutes and then roughly chop once cooled.
In a food processor or blender, chop together the drained peppers, chopped walnuts, minced garlic, pomegranate molasses, salt, ground Aleppo and sumac. Once you’ve got a nice thick paste, blend in the panko. Blend in the lemon juice and then slowly add olive oil while mixing until you reach your desired dip consistency.
Serve with pita chips. And yes, it’s a much better bargain to make your pita chips. Just simply brush or spray with olive oil, kosher salt and ground oregano — add lemon zest if you really want to be fancy — and toast for 3-5 minutes on each side in a 350º oven.