With the Steelers one step higher on the Stairway to Seven, we know you're more than ready for some football. Here's what you might still be trying to figure out: What to eat when they take on the New York Jets in the AFC championship game Sunday at Heinz Field?
Just a blessed few make the playoffs so, delicious as they might have tasted during the regular season, you're going to want to think beyond traditional nachos and Buffalo chicken wings or dip for your tailgating and halftime menus; as an esteemed member of the Steelers Nation, it's not just a fun idea to step it up a notch for family and friends, it's your Black and Gold obligation.
We're realists here in Pittsburgh, though, so we understand that you want to be able to watch the game with as few interruptions as possible, kitchen or otherwise. The answer is to choose appetizers and buffet-style dishes that can be prepared a few hours or even a day ahead of time, or be quickly assembled during commercial breaks or at halftime.
Here are a few tasty ideas to get you started on your game day celebration; more will follow in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 in Arlington, Texas.
We tried to choose finger-friendly recipes that were familiar but at the same time offered a bit more flair. Admittedly, most won't help with your New Year's diet -- this is football food, after all, best served with a cold beer and plenty of napkins -- but you can always tighten your belt after the Steelers take the title.
Home-Baked Tortilla Chips with Fresh Pineapple Salsa
Chips you bake at home are so much tastier, and healthier, than the fried ones you find in a bag. The good news is they're also easy. They're best warm, right out of the oven, but also can be stored in an airtight container. In a rush, I made the accompanying salsa with canned Dole pineapple instead of fresh (be sure to drain the juices) and organic grape tomatoes because both were on sale. My kids were none the wiser.
For a sweet treat, substitute flour tortillas for corn, brush with melted butter instead of oil and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
- 2 7.5-ounce packages 5 1/2-inch corn tortillas (12 tortillas)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 cups diced fresh pineapple
- 1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lightly chopped red onion
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
To make chips, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the tortillas in a stack (do in batches) and cut the stack into 6 equal triangles. In a bowl, toss tortillas with olive oil and salt.
Spread tortillas in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Bake, tossing occasionally, until crisp and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool.
Makes about 4 cups of chips.
To make salsa combine pineapple, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, onion, jalapenos, lemon juice and salt in a bowl.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
-- "The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up" by Jamie and Bobby Deen and Melissa Clark (Ballantine, April 2011, $25)
Caramelized Onion and Blue Cheese Dip
Bread bowls aren't a new idea, but they never fail to please. This onion-y dip is pretty heavy on the cheese, so to cut calories, consider serving it with crudites instead of bread. Or, go full out and offer it to guests with an order of homemade or take-out Buffalo wings.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, thinly cut into rings and halved
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese, softened
- 1 cup cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1- to 1 3/4-pound round loaf of bread
- Bread from the hollowed-out bowl or crudites, for dipping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute about 10 minutes, or until brown and caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place the blue cheese, cream cheese, sour cream and pepper in a food processor, and pulse until blended. Transfer to a medium bowl, add onions and stir until well combined.
Cut top off loaf of bread with a serrated knife and remove bread from inside, making it hollow. Leave about 11/2 inches thick on the inside.
Spoon mixture into bread bowl. Wrap bowl with aluminum foil, leaving top uncovered. Place bowl on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven, and bake about 10 minutes or until the dip is heated through. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking another 3 minutes.
Serve with pieces of sourdough bread or crudites.
Serves a crowd.
-- "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook" by John Vrattos and Lisa Messinger (Square One, $14.95)
Shrimp Pot Stickers with Sriracha-ginger dipping sauce
The Chinese call these pan-fried dumplings jiaozi; Steelers fans know them as pot stickers. Either way, they're delicious, especially when they're served with this vinegary, slightly spicy dipping sauce. (Sriracha gives it kick.)
I stuffed them with a paste made from shrimp and scallions, but imagine they'd also be terrific with a pork, chicken or veggie filling. Pot stickers typically are made with round wontons, but if you have to settle for square, like I did, not to worry.
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 5 tablespoons white vinegar
- 4 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- Scallion greens (optional) for garnish
- 2 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium carrot, diced medium
- 1 large egg white
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 36 wonton wrappers
- Nonstick cooking spray
In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, Sriracha, sugar, ginger and sesame oil; set dipping sauce aside. Make pot stickers: In a food processor, process scallions, carrot, egg white and half the shrimp until a paste forms. Transfer to a medium bowl. Roughly chop remaining shrimp and add to bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons dipping sauce.
Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time, place 1 scant tablespoon shrimp mixture in center. With a wet finger, moisten edge of wrapper, then fold over filling and press to seal. Cover filled dumplings with a kitchen towel while you work.
Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over high. In batches, cook dumplings until golden brown on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Carefully add 1/2 cup water to skillet, cover and cook until water has almost evaporated and dumplings are tender, 3 minutes. Uncover and cook until remaining water evaporates (reduce heat to medium if dumplings are over browning). Transfer pot stickers to a plate. Wipe skillet clean between batches. Add scallion greens to dipping sauce if desired and serve alongside pot stickers.
-- "Everyday Food," Jan./Feb. 2011
Tired of the same ol' guac? At Seviche in the Cultural District, Chef Jeffrey Caulkins adds zip with tomatillos and jalapeno.
- 4 medium tomatillos (5 ounces)
- 3 jalapenos, seeded and stems cut off
- 1/4 Spanish onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 avocados, diced
- 1/8 cup minced red onion
- 1/8 cup chopped scallions
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Place tomatillos, jalapenos and chopped onion in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and boil veggies for 3 minutes. Strain off water. Chop tomatillos and jalapenos.
Combine boiled ingredients with lime juice, cilantro and salt; mix to blend. Allow to cool. Add remaining ingredients, toss and enjoy!
Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.
-- Jeffrey Caulkins, executive chef, Seviche
Gretchen McKay: email@example.com or 412-263-1419.