(The photo is Deebo getting ready for a Big Snack!)
It's finally football season! There's a certain crispness in the air, although in the case of Pittsburgh this week the crispness is just the crunch of the masses of acorns my pin oaks are throwing on the sidewalk in their desperate race to reproduce themselves before it is too late. There's a pungent smell of barbeque in the air as the sacrifices begin wafting heavenwards to the football gods. And, most tellingly, the little Steeler flags and Steeler yarmulkes and Terrible Towels are blossoming like some sort of late-summer perennial in my neighborhood. Yup, the Steelers are playing soon!
So it's time to dig out the recipes and make some food for Sunday night. No giant bags of nacho chips and florescent orange "cheese" dip for me. We expect extraordinary things of the players, and why should we expect any less of ourselves?
Every year it seems somebody starts a fanpost, or several, with recipes for tailgate food. Some of the folks on this site are obviously pretty awesome cooks! But I prefer lighter fare, something a shade more elegant than the typical tailgate food. So here, for your dining pleasure, are some Steelers-themed recipes to add panache to your party and brio to your banquette.
8 Portabella Mushrooms (This is an estimate. If they are the really super giant ones, the ones the size of a small pizza, you only need a few. If they are more modest in size — linebacker size, say, or even a DB, rather than Hampton-sized, you'll want more. Use your discretion. You might want to make this critical decision before you start, um, celebrating...)
4 T. butter (do not, I repeat, do not use margarine!)
1 small bunch green onions (scallions)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
12 oz. frozen crabmeat, thawed, drained, picked over (for random shell bits and so on) and flaked
Preheat broiler. Butter, spray with Pam, or otherwise prepare a shallow baking dish suitable to hold your mushroom caps.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Don't throw them out. Now place your mushroom caps, gill side down, in your dish, and brush them with olive oil. You want them to be well sealed so the inside doesn't dry out, but you don't want them to be swimming in the stuff, either. Utilize any remaining discretion you may have. Put them under the broiler for about 3 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven, flip them over, and lightly salt and pepper the gill side. Feel free to brush a bit more olive oil on the gill side if they look dry. You don't want them to be dry, in case I haven't mentioned this. Stick them back under the broiler for another minute or three. You want them to be about as cooked as you like them at this point, because the further oven time doesn't do much more than heat up the filling. Take them out when you think they are ready and turn the oven to 350 degrees. (If you wish to prepare the mushrooms to be ready to bake later on, just turn it off.)
Back to those mushroom stems you didn't disgard. Trim, chucking the woody bits at the end of the stem, and chop finely. Mince the green onions—use the whole bunch, including a good bit of the green tops, if you like onions, and modify accordingly if you're not so keen. Melt the butter and saute the mushroom and onion bits until soft. Mix in the breadcrumbs, then gently stir in the cream cheese and crabmeat.
Evenly divide your crabmeat/breadcrumb/etc. mixture between the mushrooms and spread it on. At this point you can wrap the whole thing up and refrigerate it until later. Or else stick them in the oven. If you're cooking them right away, bake them for 8 - 10 minutes, until the filling is nicely heated up. If you refrigerated them, you'll have to cook them a bit longer. How much longer? I don't know. This is where you have to hope you saved a few more shreds of discretion. You want the filling a bit bubbly but not toasted.
Serve these babies on a plate. Cutlery might be a good option as well. Unless you've got hands as big as Casey Hampton, this isn't really finger food...
Serves - well, I don't know how many people. It depends on whether they like mushrooms and crabmeat or not. If you're only inviting a few people, you might want to halve the recipe.
Black and Yellow Deeboed Eggs
1 dozen large eggs
3 T. minced Vidalia onion
2 t. dijon mustard
3 T. sour cream
1 T. mayonnaise
1 T. capers, more or less, depending on how much you like them. If you don't like them at all, don't put them in.
1 small jar cheap black caviar (or use expensive caviar if you like, although then the eggs are too large and it doesn't look right...)
Hard-boil the eggs. Try not to overcook them so they don't get that funky greenish ring around the yolk. On the other hand they don't work very well if everything is oozing out when you try to peel them. You do know how to hard-boil an egg, right?
Anyhow, cool down your hard-boiled eggs in cold water, and when they are sufficiently cool to handle, peel them. Slice them lengthwise and place the yolks into a smallish bowl. Remember, this is 2012, and all things NFL are kinder and gentler. Lower them gently to the bottom of the bowl, just like James Harrison tackling a quarterback without getting a fine.
Once you've lovingly divested them of the yolks, arrange the egg whites artistically on a platter. Add everything except the caviar and the egg whites to the yolks. Mash it all up, but leave some texture. You don't want these as smooth as normal deviled eggs. Add a bit of salt, but don't go overboard, as the caviar is salty. So are the capers, if you're using them. Add a bit more sour cream and/or mayo if it seems dry.
Divide the yolk mixture among the egg whites. If you are AR you can use a melon scoop or some such to make it look tidy. Decorate with the caviar. The idea is to be able to see a good bit of the gold egg mixture peeping shyly out from under the bits of caviar. If you're REALLY AR you can place the caviar, bit by bit, on the yolk mixture in the form of a hypocycloid. Let me know how that works out. You are unlikely to need the whole jar, so save the leftovers for future recipes!
Makes 24, unless you messed up some of the egg whites. Try not to do that. Roger Goodell will fine you $75,000 smackers, like as not. (I don't guarantee you won't be fined, just for the name.)
Chicken wings seem to be a big part of sports viewing events. But surely we can do better than plain old chicken wings:
Ike and Antonio's Royal Squab(ble)
1/3 c. Crown Royal
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 T. Thai chili sauce
2 T. jerk seasoning, mesquite seasoning, or whatever other flavor you fancy
several crushed garlic cloves
Squabs, at least one per person, cut in half lengthways - your friendly squab butcher will probably be happy to do that for you. If your squab butcher is REALLY friendly, s/he might partially debone them for you, which has its advantages. Alternately you could use quail, or, I suppose, pheasant. If you're really desperate you could use chicken wings, preferably the drumstick bit of them. Don't tell me if you do. The marinade is sufficient for 4 pounds of "drummettes," but probably less squab or quail, because of the surface area issue. So if you want a lot of squab, make more marinade.
Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add your fowl, mix well so it is all thoroughly coated, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours.
When you're ready to grill them, let them warm up for 30 minutes or so. Spray the grate with Pam and heat the grill to medium-hottish. (If you spray the grill after you heat it you'll get flames whooshing up. Which is pretty cool, but not entirely safe. Please don't ask me how I know this.) Grill your fowl of choice for 12-18 minutes, for chicken. You'll have to adjust the time for squab or quail. Turn them often and baste them with any remaining marinade for the first half of the cooking time. After that refrain from further basting, because of the whole raw-fowl-juice-in-the-marinade-salmonella thing.
These are too nice to serve with buffalo sauce or anything like that. You may sprinkle them with chopped peanuts and scallions if you wish. Or an upscale brand of hot sauce. Sprinkle! Not drown! If you're going to put good whiskey in the marinade it's a waste to cover up the flavor with anything else. Serve with cloth napkins. Hopefully someone else does your laundry.
Finally, we have the quintessential late summer taste, with an Ambassador Rooney twist:
Lettuce, Tomato, and Bacon Jam Sandwiches
1 pound bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed in a garlic press
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup (the real thing, not in a bottle shaped like a lady, if you get my drift)
1/2 c. Guinness (accept no substitutes)
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. hippie mustard (you know, the kind that you can still see the mustard seeds in it)
Good bread with some integrity to it - ciabatta or some such
Good tomatoes with some integrity to them. Preferably heirloom tomatoes you grew yourself, or got from the farmer's market. They must be red, not pink (unless they are a different heirloom variety which is supposed to be pink.) They must have flavor. If you're desperate, you can get the stem tomatoes from the grocery store. The RED ones...
Good lettuce, preferably red oakleaf or something pretty and buttery
Butter. Preferably Irish butter. Really. Not mayo, in this case, although if you don't tell me I'll never know, I suppose.
First you have to make your Bacon Jam. Here's how:
Fry the (chopped) bacon over medium heat until it is browned. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Remove all but a couple of tablespoons of bacon grease from the pan, and gently fry the onion in it. When it is translucent and just beginning to brown throw in the garlic and cook a few more minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic. If you do, you'll regret it, as it gets bitter.
Add in everything except the bacon and mix it up well. When it is amalgamated add the bacon, and continue stirring and cooking until it gets darker and stickier and starts to look like, well, jam. Or overdone marmalade, really. Turn the heat off.
Depending on how thoroughly you chopped your bacon and onions and so on, and how much texture you like, you may find you are now the proud owner of bacon jam. If you want it a bit smoother, feel free to chuck it in the food processor for a few spins. If it seems too stiff add a bit of your favorite liquid - maple syrup if you want it sweeter, balsamic vinegar if you want it more pungent, or Guinness if you want it more - well - Guinness-y.
Cool it down. DO NOT EAT IT ALL STRAIGHT OUT OF THE PAN. You will have trouble making the sandwiches in that case, for various reasons.
To make the sandwiches—do I really have to tell you this? Well, okay. If you want to make cute finger-sandwich-size sandwiches, cut circles of your good bread slices with a biscuit cutter. Or make them square. The shape doesn't matter all that much, although you'll want to make it roughly equivalent to the size of your tomato slices. What matters is that you only have bread on the bottom. These are going to be open-faced. Although if you put a second slice on top I suppose I'll never know about that, either.
Butter the bread. Liberally. This is especially important if you are making them ahead of time. Put a leaf of lettuce in a tasteful fashion on the bread. Dry the lettuce first. You did wash it, didn't you? Put a suitably-sized slice of tomato on top of the lettuce. If they are heirloom beefsteak tomatoes right out of your garden (or other-thick-skinned varieties) you may want to peel them. Otherwise don't bother. If you cut the tomatoes latitudinally (side to side instead of top to bottom) not quite as much of the insides gush out. If you're lucky. Spread a goodly dollop of bacon jam on top of your tomato. Voilà, as they say in la belle France. (A place, I might add, where they don't make bacon jam.)
You can, of course, put out the fixings and let people make their own sandwiches. But first thing you know your uncle Fred has eaten all of the bacon jam, and where does that leave the rest of you? You have been warned. Don't let Uncle Fred in the kitchen while you're making the jam, either, as he may drink the Guinness (or even possibly the maple syrup) before you can put it into the pan. You've got to watch out for Uncle Fred.
That's all for today. As the weather progresses towards that appropriate for fall I'll post some more recipes for cooler weather. The mushrooms are probably pushing it as it is, unless you've cranked the AC all the way up.
Here's wishing us all a gratifying viewing experience. Hopefully it will be gratifying because of the result of the game. But if not, there's always food!