Friday, October 22, 2010

Football food

Despite my husband's best attempts to get me interested in football, I really could not care less about the sport. What I do like, however, is football food. I can't pinpoint exactly what makes a food a football food, but I'm sure you know what I'm talking about...something with a lot of flavor, a healthy amount of fat, that pairs well with beer, and begs to be eaten either outside at a tailgate party or in the company of loud men pumping their fists at the TV screen.

If you're a football fan, or simply love the atmosphere of football, then I have some recipes for you. Unfortunately they're not mine, but they are two of the greatest recipes I've made over the last few years. These are recipes that you print out and laminate for safekeeping. And keep extra copies in your purse because everyone who tastes these dishes will want to know how to make them.

#1: Buffalo Chicken Dip (click for recipe)

This recipe was passed along to me by my good friend Ange. She brought it to a potluck BBQ and everyone stood over the dish like vultures until it was gone. I then took it to a New Year's Eve party, where everyone stood over the dish like vultures until it was gone. This is seriously one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life. And one of the most fattening. So I highly recommend making it for a group function - to be left alone with an entire 9x13 pan of this stuff will surely spell disaster.

The recipe in the link is almost identical to the one Ange sent me except hers called for a full cup of Frank's hot sauce and two cups of cheddar. I also recommend using freshly cooked chicken breast or rotisserie chicken vs. the canned stuff.

And finally, it should definitely be served with Tostitos scoops instead of crackers.

#2: Sloppy Bombay Joes (click for recipe)

If you watched The Next Food Network Star this past season, then you know who Aarti Sequeira is and what her food is about. For those who didn't watch, Aarti is an Indian gal who puts an Indian spin on classic American dishes. I've only made one of her recipes so far, but it is by far the best thing I've made in a while. I knew it had to be after I saw it received a 5 star rating with 571 reviews on the food network site. Originally I wasn't even going to post about it since everyone and their brother already has; but since it was so delicious, I had to jump on the bandwagon and give it its well-deserved 572nd thumbs up. (note: I followed this recipe exactly, but left out the half and half to make it dairy-free. I can't imagine it would be any better with the half and half.)

And I almost forgot - I recently made a beverage that would perfectly complement both of these dishes on a crisp fall evening: The pumpkin bomb (recipe courtesy of Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine). To make this delicious fall-inspired drink, you dip the rim of a pint glass into some honey, and then into a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Pour 1 ounce of Goldschlager into the glass, then pour in 15 ounces of Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale (or any pumpkin beer you happen to find).

Now if only we had some fall weather around these parts...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Perfect panini

Preface: As I was writing this post, I kept typing "paninis," which caused a little red line to pop up under the word, indicating it was misspelled. A quick Google search turned up a few debates about the plural of "panini." It turns out the word "panini" IS actually plural. And although it's never used, "panino" is the word that indicates one singular panini. While I can't bring myself to use the word panino, I will oblige the true Italians out there by using "panini" to indicate one or more sandwiches.

Ahhh...panini. So simple, yet so luxurious. For years, I thought of panini as something only to be ordered in restaurants during leisurely weekend lunches with friends. Then, when my days of leisurely weekend lunches with friends no longer existed, I decided to start making them myself.

Two years ago I requested a panini maker for Christmas, and it has become one of my most beloved kitchen gadgets. Panini elevate the sandwich to an art form, transforming it from lunchbox staple into a hot, deeply satisfying meal. They make the perfect weekend lunch, and are also great for entertaining. I love making a variety of different panini at once, and then cutting them into small pieces so that everyone can sample more than one type at a time.

You don't have to have a panini maker to make panini. A George Foreman grill will work, or you can just get a panini press, which is a heavy iron lid with ridges on the bottom. Here's an example. I have the Cuisinart Griddler, which is awesome because it "triples" as a panini maker, griddle, and regular indoor grill.

I've done quite a bit of panini experimenting over the years. I can't say there have been too many failures (what can taste bad sandwiched between hot crusty slabs of artisan bread?), but there have definitely been a few standouts. So today I present to you my top five favorite panini concoctions.

Before I list the ingredients, I've got to talk about the bread. My favorite bread to use is ciabatta bread. But because it's so thick, you should pick the excess bread out of the middle after you slice it. My second favorite panini bread is sourdough. I'm sure there are other breads out there that would work too (focaccia comes to mind), but these two are tried and true.

1) Caprese panini: Spread pesto on the bread, then add thinly sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves. You can also add some prosciutto if you'd like.

2) Turkey & sundried tomato panini: Mix mayonnaise with some pesto and spread on bread. Add turkey lunchmeat, provolone cheese, and a few sundried tomatoes. You can also substitute roasted red peppers for the sundried tomatoes.

3) Chicken, brie & sage panini: Pound an uncooked chicken breast until thin, saute in a frying pan until no longer pink, and then slice horizontally to create a thin slice of breast. Cover one half of the bread with slices of brie (or you can slather with the spreadable kind of brie) place the chicken on top of the brie, and lay several fresh sage leaves over the chicken.

4) Fig, manchego, and arugula panini: Spread the bread with a fig spread (it's kind of like a jam). Top with slices of manchego cheese, some prosciutto, and some arugula.

5) Ham & cheddar panini: Spread the bread with a mixture of mayo and dijon mustard. Top with sliced cheddar cheese and smoked ham.

To make the paninis, just brush the top and bottom of the sandwich with olive oil (or you can coat the griddle/pan with olive oil. Press the top of the machine (or panini press) down as hard as you can for about 30 seconds. Then let it cook until you see those golden brown lines in the bread. Slice and enjoy!