If you're reading this, you're probably not whooping it up in the parking lot of Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. I'm not at the NFL's biggest game of the year either, which is a total drag, because the official Super Bowl XLVII menu sounds pretty darn awesome.
New Orleans cuisine is steeped in the Creole and Cajun traditions, so much of what will be dished up by Centerplate, the hospitality company charged with feeding the 70,000-plus ticket holders at the Superdome, will be heavily seasoned and spicy -- my idea of the perfect tailgate food. Along with 700 gallons of chicken-and-sausage Cajun gumbo, fans can expect to nosh on fresh local seafood such as Louisiana Gulf Coast white shrimp, barbecue shrimp and grits and crawfish baked into Natchitoches pies. Meat eaters, meanwhile, can chow down on roast beef po' boys and celebrity chef Donald Link's chicken sauce piquant, a spicy one-pot Cajun classic. It's served over rice.
Feeling adventurous? The authentic dishes also will include alligator chili made with locally sourced alligator sausage.
Not wanting to send fans on a last-minute chase for crawfish and alligator, we offer a few Cajun-style appetizers that use ingredients readily available at most supermarkets.
Spicy Garlic Shrimp
The sauce quickly seeps into the cornbread, so if you don't serve these right away, be sure to offer forks. The shrimp also would be excellent on top of rice or stuffed, po' boy style, into a crusty French bread loaf.
-- Gretchen McKay
For garlic mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon or Creole mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 pound small medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly
4 2-inch squares cornbread (I used a Jiffy mix)
Make garlic mayonnaise: Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate to allow flavors to blend.
Prepare shrimp: Mix oil, spices, salt and garlic together in a bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and let marinate in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
Heat medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, marinade and onion; cook until shrimp are pink and firm, 4 to 5 minutes, depending on size of shrimp.
Split cornbread squares and spread both halves with garlic mayo. Divide among 4 plates and spoon shrimp over bread.
-- "Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food: More than 225 of the City's Best Recipes to Cook at Home" by Tom Fitzmorris (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $19.95)
Emeril Lagasse's Shredded Chicken Nachos with Pico de Gallo
I know, I know -- New Orleans isn't exactly known for its nachos. Football fans, however, love to eat them, so as a happy medium, I found this recipe from one of the city's most famous celebrity chefs, Emeril Lagasse.
I accidently bought Xochitl's Cajun-style tortilla chips instead of plain corn chips, but that turned out to be a good thing. Dusted with crab seasoning, red pepper and paprika, they added even more spice. If you're in a hurry, substitute shredded rotisserie chicken instead of cooking it from scratch.
-- Gretchen McKay
For the chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast diced into 3-inch strips
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups chicken stock
4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice
For the nachos
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 small can chopped green chiles, drained
2 cups grated sharp yellow cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 to 10 cups corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup finely sliced green onions
3/4 cup sour cream, for garnishing
1/2 cup sliced pickled jalapenos, for garnishing
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnishing
Pico de Gallo (recipe follows) or jarred salsa, for serving
Prepare chicken: Set a wide-mouthed 3-quart saucepan with lid over medium-high heat and add the oil to the pan. Season the chicken pieces with the chili powder and salt and toss to evenly coat. Add the chicken to the pan and sear for 3 minutes per side. Add the onions to the pan and saute for another 3 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and saute for 1 minute. Pour the chicken stock over the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat and cover. Continue to cook the chicken until very tender, about 1 hour. Stir the chicken to shred it and continue to cook, covered, for another 30 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, stir and mash to shred the chicken meat and add the lime juice to the chicken. Set aside as you prepare the nachos.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not allow the flour to color. While whisking constantly, add the milk in a steady stream. Add the green chiles and bring the sauce to a boil.
Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and bubbly. Add the cheddar, salt, and cayenne pepper and stir until the cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Cover and remove from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large ovenproof shallow casserole or on a large baking sheet, spread half of the tortilla chips in an even layer. Top with half of the chicken and half of the Monterey Jack cheese. Top with the remaining tortilla chips and chicken. Pour the hot cheese sauce over the chicken, then evenly spread the remaining grated Monterey Jack over the top. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the nachos are heated through, 8 to 10 minutes. Garnish with the sliced green onions, sour cream, pickled jalapenos and cilantro. Serve with the Pico de Gallo alongside.
-- Emeril Lagasse
Pico de Gallo
Spicy, but not overly so.
14-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup chopped yellow onions
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
1 jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the ingredients and pulse until the salsa is of uniform consistency but still slightly chunky, about 7 pulses. Transfer to a bowl and set aside until ready to serve the nachos.
Makes 1 cup.
-- Emeril Lagasse
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.