Sunday, April 20, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Serve Super Bowl food with a regional flair

By Amanda Gold

With the 49ers heading to New Orleans next Sunday, my guests — not to mention viewers around the Bay Area — will be watching with a little more intensity. It’s a big job for the host.

Planted firmly in front of the tube for the better part of four hours, guests will expect a steady stream of couch-friendly dishes that will both soak up some of the accompanying booze and keep them satisfied throughout the game.

There’s something fantastically poetic about the thought of grinding a “bird” to a pulp in this game — raven, chicken; close enough — which was the inspiration for the meatballs.

Roll them small and stuff them in mini pita pockets, or simply serve them speared with toothpicks. The accompanying garnish, a vinegar-kissed blend of roasted red and golden peppers, adds a little team spirit and a lot of extra flavor.

And if you’re planning on feeding a huge crowd, add some homemade pretzels to the mix. These nibbles should keep everyone well fed until Beyoncé hits the screen.

Guests should be ready for round two around dinner time, so plan on offering something that’s more of a main course.

For a taste of San Francisco, we’re thinking Mexican — as in a burrito bar that guests can tackle themselves.

This is a vegetarian spread, featuring spiced sweet potato wedges and black beans to make up the bulk of the burrito. Lay out bowls for filling options, and diners can design their own during a commercial break. Avocados, lettuce, salsa, cheese, sour cream and cilantro will make for a colorful bar.

Of course, were we to be among the lucky ones attending the game, dessert might include a praline, New Orleans’ iconic sweet. For those of us cozied up on the couch instead, we’ve included a recipe here, which can either be eaten plain or crumbled to serve on top of ice cream.

Pecan Pralines
Serve these sweet confections straight up or crumbled as a topping for ice cream. A candy thermometer is essential for this recipe, as is timing. It may take a few tries to get the pralines just right, but the ones that don’t look perfect will still taste great.

The ingredients:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup whipping cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups pecan halves and pieces, toasted

Putting it together:
Line two sheet pans with silicone mats or waxed paper; set aside. In a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan set over medium heat, combine the sugars, salt and cream. Stir frequently until the mixture begins to boil, brushing the sides of the pan with a spatula to loosen any crystallized sugar.

Insert a candy thermometer into the pot, and cook the mixture until it reaches about 236°, just under the soft ball stage. Immediately remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool to 220°. Add the butter, vanilla and toasted pecans, and stir vigorously until the mixture thickens and becomes creamy-looking.

Working very quickly, use two spoons to drop portions of the mixture onto the baking sheets. The mixture will harden soon after you stop stirring, so it’s important to do this without stopping. You may even want to enlist help from someone to make this go quickly.

Once the pralines have cooled and completely hardened, remove them from the baking sheet, and either serve or wrap tightly until ready to eat. Makes about 2 dozen.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burrito Bar
Set this out as a buffet and let guests make their own. Add any other garnishes that appeal to you. If the tortillas are exposed to the air for too long, they’ll harden; to prevent that, keep them enclosed in aluminum foil, or under a hot towel.

The ingredients:
Sweet potatoes:
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, halved, each half cut into wedges about 3/4-inch at the thickest part
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

The beans:
2 cups canned black beans, drained
1/2 cup prepared salsa
Kosher salt, to taste

The burritos:
8 large flour tortillas (burrito size), warmed
2 to 3 cups cooked brown or white rice
Shredded Monterey jack cheese
Chopped romaine lettuce
Diced avocados
Cilantro sprigs
Salsa
Sour cream

Putting it together:
Preheat the oven to 425°. In a mixing bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, oregano, chili powder, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread out on a baking sheet in an even layer, without touching, and roast for about 20 minutes. Using a spatula, flip and shake the wedges, and roast for another 10 minutes, until softened throughout. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the beans and salsa in a pot, and heat over medium-low heat until warmed through. Season with salt, if desired; set aside.
To prepare the burrito bar, set out the sweet potato wedges, black beans, tortillas, rice, cheese, lettuce, avocados, cilantro, salsa and sour cream in separate bowls. Have guests fill and roll their own burritos as desired. Makes enough for 8 burritos.

Chicken Meatball Mini Pitas With 49er Peppers
You can buy mini pita pockets at many well-stocked supermarkets. Red and golden yellow jarred roasted peppers add a little bit of team spirit. If you don’t want to use the mini pita pockets, serve the meatballs with toothpicks, with the bowl of peppers alongside. If you can buy an end or thick slice of prosciutto, it will be easier to grind.

The ingredients:
3 ounces prosciutto, end piece or sliced thick
2 cups (packed) torn pieces of crustless Italian or other country bread
2 ounces Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 pound ground chicken
3/4 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 egg
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced jarred roasted peppers, a mix of red and yellow
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
40 mini pita pockets
Whole-grain mustard, for spreading

Putting it together:
Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the oven rack in the top third of the oven.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the prosciutto with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese until you have fairly even small crumbs. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and pour the milk over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the ground chicken, onion, garlic, egg, tomato paste and parsley, and mix well until combined. Season with salt and pepper. To check seasoning, you
can cook a small pinch of the meatball mixture in a pan. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. Roll the mixture into small meatballs, each about 1 inch in diameter.

Place the meatballs on a lightly greased rimmed baking sheet (you may need to do this in two batches), and brush the tops with the olive oil. Bake until fully cooked, about 20-25 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking, mix the peppers with the vinegar and set aside.

To assemble the sandwiches, split open the mini pita pockets. Add a dollop of mustard and a meatball to each one, and top with a spoonful of the pepper mixture. Serve immediately. Makes about 40 sandwiches.

San Francisco Chronicle

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