Seasons by the Sea: Game Time!

Super Bowl Sunday is a great excuse to make lots and lots of food, from easy-to-pick-up finger foods to big pots of chili or stew
Chili with all the fixings Laura Donnelly

It’s time for Super Bowl LI (that’s 51 for those of you who failed Roman numerals in school). The Atlanta Falcons vs. the New England Patriots! Brady vs. Ryan, chowdah vs. frogmore stew! Lady Gaga will be performing at the halftime show. Again.

Super Bowl Sunday is a great excuse to make lots and lots of food, from easy-to-pick-up finger foods to big pots of chili or stew. Since the game will be played in Houston, I’m thinking chili.

If you’re rooting for the Patriots, some foods to consider serving are the aforementioned New England clam chowder, baked beans, brown bread, lobster roll sliders, and Moxie soda. (Atlanta is the home of Coca Cola so Moxie could be your anti-Falcons beverage.) Like many other soft drinks, Moxie began life as a “medicinal” drink. It was invented around 1876 by a doctor in Massachusetts named Augustin Thompson. It was called “Moxie Nerve Food,” and was sold as a syrup to be diluted with water or seltzer. The primary ingredient is gentian root, which gives it a somewhat bitter taste.

If your team is the Falcons, then your theme food could be a frogmore stew, full of shrimp, potatoes, and corn, biscuits or cornbread served with butter and honey or muscadine grape jelly, black-eyed peas, and anything peachy. Atlanta doesn’t really have any of its own regional foods so pretty much any Southern dishes will do. I am either making a big pot of chili with all the fixin’s or a lazy version of barbecued Texas brisket with spoonbread. The brisket has a dry rub and is baked all day with a homemade barbecue sauce.

True Texas chili does not contain beans or tomatoes, and the beef is cubed, not ground. It is called a “bowl of red,” the color coming from the array of dried chiles used to make it. I like beans with chili so I serve them on the side.

For the weenies in your crowd, you could make Cincinnati-style chili, a milder version with cinnamon, allspice, and a whisper of cocoa powder. This chili was created in 1922 by Tom Kiradjieff, a Macedonian immigrant. He and his brother opened the Empress Diner in Cincinnati, but business was bad. He created a concoction of mild chili with Middle Eastern spices, put it on spaghetti (gasp!), and called it “spaghetti chili.” 

Guests flocked to his restaurant. To make it with the works or “five way,” as it’s called, you serve the chili over spaghetti and top it with shredded cheese, chopped onions, kidney beans, and oyster crackers. There are now close to 200 chili parlors throughout Cincinnati serving Mr. Kiradjieff’s invention.

If you have vegetarian guests (do vegetarians enjoy this brutish sport?), you could make vegetarian chili with lots of vegetables and beans, along with some barley or tempeh or chopped up veggie burgers for texture.

My favorite chili parlor, Hard Times Chili is in Alexandria, Va. It makes all three of these versions, all excellent, and also sells spice packets to make your own version of Texas, Cincinnati, or vegetarian. At the parlor you can order the Texas chili “wet” or “dry.” “Wet” means you get plenty of the red-oil slick, which some believe contains a lot of the flavor. The chilies are served with huge onion rings and moist cornbread along with a variety of vinegary pepper sauces. I always come home with boxes of the spice mix for gifts.

Enjoy the game, have a humongous Super Bowl party, and try some of these crowd-pleasing recipes.

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