It’s that time of year again. The time when appetizers and finger foods are piled high atop wobbly tables surrounded by rowdy sports fans. I love it.
In general, I am a huge fan of finger foods, hors d’oeuvres, tapas, appetizers, small plates, cheese plates, things stuffed with cheese, things wrapped in bacon, things topped with cheese/chili/other things, and of course, munchies. This time of year arouses my creativity as well as my hometown pride.
I am sure your Facebook feeds and inboxes are stuffed to the gills this week with plenty of cheese dips and spicy wings recipes, so I won’t add to that list. There’s no need to paint yourself into a foodie corner with your party menu.
Here are a few of my favorite party items. Try one or two of them this weekend (or for your next get-together) and let me know how you like them.
Prosciutto-wrapped cheese snacks
As you know from my many gleeful rants about cheese, you can make homemade mozzarella in about 30 minutes, at home, with no special equipment. It’s delicious, and it’s AAAH-MAZING when it’s fresh, creamy, and still a little warm. How could I make it better, you ask? Wrap it in prosciutto after you’ve worked it into a log, then slice it, place it on slices of crusty sliced French bread with a bit of salt and pepper, then a dash of olive oil and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. That’s it.
Well, as long as you’re making cheese, put some chunks of it on toothpicks with basil leaves, cherry tomatoes, and the same salt/pepper/oil/balsamic seasoning. Now your one appetizer has become two … plus, the vegetarian sports fans don’t feel so left out!
Seriously, two ingredients: tiny sausages and your favorite BBQ sauce. Heat and serve. Don’t forget the toothpicks.
This is another wicked simple recipe, so much that it’s not really a recipe (pork tenderloin and bacon). You will need a grill, however. It’s a great way to impress your party hosts (if you confirm ahead of time the existence of a grill), because you can buy your tenderloins and wrap them with good, thick bacon at home, then cook it at the party. If necessary, you may want to coat it with a little oil so it doesn’t stick to the grill.
Keep it on the upper rack so the bacon doesn’t burn before the pork is cooked through. If you cook an average-size tenderloin at 350 degrees for about an hour it should be perfect, just make sure the internal temperature is 160 degrees.
This recipe is completely adaptable for a small gathering or a huge party. Essentially, each date (use the big, soft ones, like Medjool) needs to be sliced open, pitted, then the empty cavity where the pit was is stuffed with a hunk of blue cheese. Then you wrap it with a half-slice of bacon and secure the whole thing with a toothpick.
I usually make a huge pan of them ( for me, this is just a little too much work to only make a few), and I drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil and broil at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Top it off with another drizzle of balsamic vinegar — or, if you really want it to pack a punch, reduce about a half-cup of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan for about 20 minutes or until it thickens and reduces by half, then drizzle THAT over the dates right before serving. It’s concentrated. It’s tangy. It’s on top of cheese-stuffed-bacon-wrapped goodness. It’s divine.
This is the most valuable of sports event dishes. It’s spicy, it’s hearty, it can be topped with anything you like, and it becomes a myriad of other tasty dishes … namely chili dogs, chili burgers, chili pie, and, of course, my favorite, the big bowl of chili with sour cream and cheese, served with a big hunk of steamy, sweet cornbread (see the next item below).
Many people get very picky about their chili; some dislike beans and some dislike meat. Personally, I like it all.
- 1 white onion, diced (plus another onion, diced, for topping)
- 1 head of smoked garlic, diced
- 1 whole smoked jalapeno, diced
- 1 can each of crushed tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, rotel (diced tomatoes and chilis), white beans, light red kidney beans, black beans and whole kernel corn
- 2 cans dark red kidney beans
- 2 lbs ground beef or turkey
- 1 tbsp. each of ground cumin, black pepper, chili pepper and paprika
- 2 tbsp. salt
- about a half-bottle of good beer
Brown the meat in a skillet with the diced onion, garlic and jalapeno. Mix it in a 5-quart crock pot with the canned ingredients and spices and let it simmer on high for about 4 hours (or, for the best, most slow-cooked flavored deliciousness, cook it on low for 8+ hours). Then add the half-bottle of good beer (or more if you like it less chunky, the beans absorb a lot of the liquid) and let it simmer another hour. Check the spices, add more if necessary, and serve while piping hot.
The single best accompaniment to chili is also pretty darn easy. I use a boxed cornbread mix (you know, the ones where you just add a bit of milk and an egg), plus I add a can of creamed corn and maybe a handful of pepper jack or some other spicy and/ or tangy cheese. Bake it according to the package instructions, as a cake or muffins.