Chefs’ Picks: Big-Game Snacks

We spoke to chefs across the country about recipes from their own party playbooks that always please the crowd.

Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

When it comes to football’s biggest day, few things are as important as the spread — the snack spread, that is. We spoke to chefs across the country about recipes from their own party playbooks that always please the crowd. Ready, set, go get that oven fired up. It’s time to win at your own big game bash.

Dip, Baby, Dip

No game-day party is complete without some kind of dip, perfect for dunking between plays. For Chef Phil Kastel of Laurel Point in Studio City, California, the undisputed champion is the White Cheddar Crab Dip. “This is a twist on a classic appetizer,” Kastel says. “Melted cheese always feels indulgent, but the spice and the crab make it something incredibly special.”

White Cheddar Crab Dip
Pimento Cheese Spread:
5 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
14 ounces mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
4 ounces pimentos, drained and minced

Combine all ingredients for the Pimento Cheese Spread and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until needed.

Crab Dip:
Pimento Cheese Spread
1 pound Dungeness crab meat

1/2 ounce shredded cheese for topping (Cheddar, Provolone or Mozzarella work well)

1 teaspoon parsley, roughly chopped
Ciabatta or sourdough bread, grilled and sliced, for serving
Olive oil to brush bread

Mix the pimento spread and crab meat until thoroughly combined. Place desired amount in an ovenproof dish or cast iron skillet and top with shredded cheese. (The dip can make several small gratin dishes or one larger one for sharing).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the dip in oven for 8-10 minutes until heated through. Turn on broiler and caramelize the top of the dip until additional cheese is melted and golden brown in spots. Make sure it doesn’t overheat, or it will break. Remove the dip from oven and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Lightly brush the sliced bread and place in oven or outside grill until toasty and charred in several spots. Serve the bread with the dip.

Just Wing It

It wouldn’t be game day without chicken wings. But a basic bird won’t do for Chef Martin Kester of the upcoming seasonal New American restaurant Summit House in Summit, New Jersey. He takes the standard party staple to the next level by combining the wings with roasted cauliflower and adding in a dry rub for some zing. Kester suggests serving the wings on a platter with lime wedges and some honey on the side, so guests can add a hint of citrus and a drizzle of sweetness on top.

Roasted Chicken Wings & Cauliflower
2 dozen large chicken wings
1/2 cup water
1 head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon espelette pepper powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 limes, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare chicken wings ahead of time by spreading them out on a small sheet pan and seasoning them evenly with half of the salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup of water to the tray. Bake until chicken wings are cooked through and water is gone, approximately 30-40 minutes. (This step will speed up your final cooking time and give you a crispier wing because the fat has already been rendered. You can do this up to one day ahead of serving).

Prepare cauliflower by turning the head upside down and cutting around the stem to remove the core. From the inside, free the florets by cutting the connecting stems. Next, cut the florets into pieces approximately the size of your chicken wings by splitting them through the stem into two or four pieces.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the chicken wings and cauliflower separately with olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Arrange each separately onto small sheet pans without pieces touching. Bake until the wings and cauliflower are crispy and caramelized to your taste.

Transfer to a mixing bowl and season liberally with the spices and salt, tossing to coat them. Arrange on platter and serve with slices of lime for your guests to squeeze over their plates. You can also drizzle with honey or serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Photo by: Anjali Pinto

Anjali Pinto

Cauliflower with a Kick

One culinary pro forgoes the wings altogether and serves a platter heaped with Buffalo cauliflower instead. “Our Buffalo cauliflower is perfect for the Super Bowl because it is a modern twist on an old classic,” says Chef Chris Morvis of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab, which has locations in Washington D.C., Chicago and Las Vegas. “It's lighter and healthier than chicken wings, and carries just enough heat that you'll want to eat more.”

Buffalo Cauliflower
Yield: 1 serving
5 cauliflower florets
4 tablespoons Buffalo sauce
6 tablespoons Tempura Batter (recipe follows)
Pinch chopped parsley
3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe follows)
Tempura Batter:
3 3/4 cups tempura flour
2 1/2 cups soda water

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Gently mix in the soda water. Do not overmix; the batter should be lumpy.

Blue Cheese Dressing:
Yield: 2 1/2 cups
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
1 tablespoon green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles (to finish)

Combine all ingredients, minus additional blue cheese, and puree with a hand blender until smooth. Finish by folding in remaining blue cheese crumbles.

Directions for Buffalo Cauliflower:

Coat cauliflower in the prepared batter. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until temperature reaches 350 degrees F. Drop cauliflower into oil and cook for three minutes, or until crispy. Strain well and season with salt and pepper. Toss with buffalo sauce and finish with parsley. Serve with side of Blue Cheese Dressing.

Keep It Crunchy

Don’t be deceived by the fine dining background of Executive Chef-Owner BJ Smith of the Smokehouse restaurants in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. After all, he’s one pro who loves to dig in and get messy — evident by the pork cheeks, spare ribs and other smoked barbecue meats on his menu. Smith also makes a starter that’s sure to be the all-star of any party platter. His hearty, family-style Frito pie features corn chips smothered with smoked brisket chili, cheddar cheese and red onion.

Family-Style Frito Pie
4 4-ounce bags of Fritos
1 quart Smoked Brisket Chili (recipe follows)
1 pint shredded cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons small diced red onion

Pour Fritos into a casserole dish, top with the hot Smoked Brisket Chili, cheese and onions.

Smoked Brisket Chili:
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons bacon fat
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

5 pounds chopped smoked brisket (ground beef can be used as substitute)

3 cups chicken stock
1 can beer
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons masa

Sweat onion and garlic in the bacon fat. Add the spices and bloom. Add beer and chicken stock. Fold in chopped brisket. Cook for about 2 hours. Add brown sugar and vinegar. Thicken to desired consistency with masa.

Photography courtesy of Laurel Point, Summit House, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab, and Smokehouse Restaurants

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