Tradition, Teams & Texas – a menu for game day
January 24th, 2011
08:00 PM ET
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CNN photojournalist Jeremy Harlan is based in Washington D.C. He and his wife are having a baby and you can read all about it. And wow, does he love BBQ.

The mad dash for chips and chicken limbs has begun.

With the Steelers and Packers having secured their spots in Arlington, Texas for Super Bowl XLV, folks across the country soon will blitz their local grocery stores in search of the perfect snacks for a Super Bowl Sunday soiree.

In our household, this is not taken lightly. My Super Bowl menu requires research, planning, imagination, and execution of the highest degree. After all, short of Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest culinary gorge-fest in this country. If you’re inviting friends and family over, you need to bring your best game plan. Chips, salsa, and a veggie tray may work in the preseason, but they won’t cut the mustard come February.

I begin sculpting my feast weeks in advance. For me, the hardest part is finding a balance between the dishes that returning guests always expect, and new additions that aren’t worth punting by the second quarter.

This year, I’ve concocted a simple formula to help me narrow down the options: Tradition, Teams, and Texas.

Tradition: This dish is the old standby. You make this dish every time, and every time it’s the first plate to be picked clean. In fact, people invite you to their party just so you’ll bring this dish and make their party better.

For me, this is guacamole. I’m not too humble to declare that my guacamole is the bee’s knee (and this knee doesn’t mysteriously go bad during the third quarter of the NFC Championship game, *cough* Jay Cutler *cough*). If Axl and Slash sat down and ate my guac together, there’s a good chance we could get the real Guns ‘N Roses back together. It’s that good. But don’t expect me to divulge the makings of this avocado awesomeness in these pages – this intellectual property stays close to my vest. If people knew how to make it my way, I’d lose my automatic invite to pretty much all social gatherings.

Teams: This is the most challenging category, but also what separates your menu from others in the division. Adding well-known dishes from the cities of the participating teams gives the party a fresh look every year. Thank goodness I was just a young pup when the Buffalo Bills went to four straight Super Bowls. There are only so many ways to prepare chicken wings.

This year’s playoff field provided some great and some not-so-great options. The New Orleans Saints are always money in the bank when it comes to dish options. The Indianapolis Colts? Not so much. When they went to the Super Bowl last year and in 2006, the options came down to pork tenderloin sandwiches, popcorn, or a sugar cream pie.

This year, both of these teams went out in the first round. It was beginning to look like we’d have a pizza battle between Chicago deep dish and New York thin crust. But as Sunday proved, if your quarterback wore #6 on his jersey, you weren’t #1 on the scoreboard.

So here we are with the cheeseheads and the steel workers. We can work with that.

Let’s start with Green Bay. If the game were on a Friday, a fish fry would be a must. Walleye, perch, or cod would do just fine. But for a Sunday, I’m going with bratwurst. For an especially nice Wisconsin touch, why not simmer the brats in a locally-brewed beer? Sure, Miller Lite or MGD would be an easy choice. But, if you can find it, go with a more signature brew, like the Leinenkugel’s Red Lager. Top the brats off with a slice of classic Wisconsin cheddar and you’ll have yourself an outstanding authentic dish from the Badger State.

As for beverages, there is no shortage of beers from which to choose. But if your friends are not ones for barley and hops, I suggest cranberry gimlets. Wisconsin is the largest producer of cranberries in the United States – so much so that cranberries are the state fruit. And, hey, if everything else on your menu fails, you can crack open that leftover can of cranberry sauce that’s been sitting in the cupboard since Thanksgiving and shake it up with some clear booze..

Next up: Pittsburgh.

This one’s a little trickier. The easy out is a homemade version of a Primanti Bros. sandwich. If you’ve never heard or had a sammie from this Pittsburgh institution, here’s the gist: make any kind of sandwich you like, take the sides of coleslaw and fries that come with the sandwich, and put them in the sandwich. Done.

But I’m looking for a little something less obvious. There’s Isaly’s chipped ham - good for making sandwiches without inner fries. Other Pittsburgh fare includes pierogies, Snyder’s potato chips, Clark Bars, pepperoni rolls, and Devonshire sandwiches. Just make sure your table condiments begin and end with Heinz ketchup.

Iron City beer is a must for Western Pennsylvania folks. If it’s hard to find, Yuengling and Rolling Rock will suffice.

In need of a sweet finish from the Steel City? In that case, one question: what would you do for a Klondike bar?

Texas: I’ve been waiting for a while for the Lone Star State to host a Super Bowl. Once Jerry Jones built that Texas Taj Mahal in Arlington, I knew I finally had a perfect reason to scrape the ice off of my backyard smoker. It’s never a bad party when brisket and ribs are in attendance.

For liquid refreshment, you can wash it down with some Lone Star, Shiner Bock, or Dr Pepper. (Actually, Diet Dr Pepper might be a wiser choice if you’ve partaken in all of the previous suggestions.)

With these three anchors, the party is just about set. The grocery list is long, so I’d better get going. I would hate to not have chips for the guacamole. And it could be embarrassing for the guests to eat it with their hands – or a bratwurst.

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Filed under: Holidays • Super Bowl • Tailgating

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Aaron Hendon

    Great article! vnoeihbgt

    January 27, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  2. George

    You guys are lucky. A friend has been throwing a Super Bowl party for about 15 years so it's a tradition that I can't avoid. It started when he couldn't think of what to do with a turkey his company gave him as a Christmas present. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy are good but they make lousy Super Bowl fare. I want subs, chili, wings and the like. I take a sub bun, slap on some turkey and grab a handful of chips. It beats mashed potatoes.

    January 26, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  3. txsilver

    If Texas is being worked into your menu, you have to stuff some jalapenos. It's not a Super Bowl party in Texas without them!

    January 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  4. Stacey S

    I wish I had Yuengling in Louisiana!

    My Guac is also the "bees knees" and it is a staple to every party I am invited to or host. I really like the pierogies idea... may have to try making them for the game.

    January 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  5. Anita Souschef

    Brats, for certain. Beer steamed brats with onions. NEVER EVER PRICK THE BRATS! Tongs only. And what about split-top hot dog rolls? Where did they go? New England? For Lobster Rolls. Those sneaky New Englanders with their clams and oysters and shellfish. You can mail order them but they just aren't as good. Pretzel rolls are good but hard to find. Must have mustard. And TATER TOTS!

    January 25, 2011 at 8:46 am |
  6. RichardHead

    Excellent choices all but did need to say there is no "." in my beloved DrPepper. Don't want to cause a riot in Dublin Texas!

    January 25, 2011 at 8:00 am |

    LOVE the Superbowl feast every year. Gives me a reason to delve into another state or city's cultural history and recipes.

    January 24, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
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