Bowl-game parties score major points with spicy, simple sports foods

Super Hot

January 26, 2000|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Some say they like the Super Bowl only for the commercials. Others say they actually like to watch the game. But what do they know?

The indisputable popularity of the day won't be found on the most expensive 100 yards in Atlanta this Sunday. It'll be in the sports bars and living rooms where the faithful bid adieu to another National Football League season with parties that rival New Year's Eve.

Consider Sandra Spanos. The Reisterstown caterer, who with her husband George owns Culinary Delights, has catered the same Super Bowl party for 10 years. "This crowd wants mainly comfort food -- even though they are trying to be good after the holidays," she said. "On Super Bowl day, all dieting is off."

The challenge with sports food, Spanos says, is to keep it spicy, simple and plentiful. In this situation, finger foods reign, the kind of grub that can be picked up, scooped into a plate of dip and sent down the hatch in one fell swoop. Effortlessly and continuously. Preferably washed down with a cold one.

So Spanos and the hostess offer an array of tangy appetizers at least one hour before kickoff. Warm Fiesta Corn Dip and Italian Dip are served with corn chips or tortillas and are as pertinent to the day as the coin toss.

In the second quarter, way before the epicurean escapades of halftime, out comes more: a feast of broccoli salad, baked beans, a roasted turkey breast and shredded pork for sandwiches -- soon followed by a dessert that includes an ice cream and chocolate sauce concoction.

"Mostly food that appeals to men," Spanos says, summing up the hearty menu of the day.

Amy Bernstein of Classic Catering said her customers prefer an array of spicy ribs and sates. The Owings Mills catering firm generally provides fiery foods to its younger customers, she said, like Crispy Orange Ribs, New Mexico BBQ Ribs and Chicken Sate.

"It's excitement for the taste buds," she says of her nibbles, which offer an Asian and Mexican tang. "Think of the feeling of euphoria -- it does something in the body and makes you crave it and want it more."

At the Inner Harbor's ESPN Zone, the party is set to begin at 5 p.m. with pre-game gab blaring from the 16-foot screen. Marketing manager Bonnie Downing says officials there expect fans to chow down on the usual grub -- half-pound burgers, ribs and hot wings. A few real men will opt for salads.

"We have hearty football food and a number of appetizers for the health-conscious fan," Downing says. "It's mostly American grill food, kind of like the things sports fans will find appealing. With hot wings and ribs, their adrenalin gets going and they get excited," she says of the party that is expected to draw 300.

In Baltimore County, football crazies can find lots of chicken wings at Timonium's Padonia Station. Manager Michael Lapinski said 1,000 pounds of fresh wings have been ordered to feed the expected crowd of 400 and fill carryout orders. The wings will be dressed in daring categories like "original, nuclear, wings from hell, honey mustard and Cajun" for $6.99 a dozen. "And we expect to sell out," he added.

Let the game begin.

Warm Fiesta Corn Dip

Serves 10

11 ounces Monterey Jack cheese

2 (11-ounce) cans Mexicorn, a fiesta-type corn

2 cups mayonnaise

1 tablespoon hot sauce (or more, to taste)

4 ounces chopped mild jalapeno peppers

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

red bell pepper strips for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients (except garnish) together and place in a 10-inch pie pan. Garnish with the sliced pepper strips. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve with corn or tortilla chips. -- From Culinary Delights

Italian Dip

Serves 8-10

8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

14-ounce jar pizza sauce

1/3 cup chopped onions

1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

6-ounce can ripe olives, drained and chopped

3 ounces sliced pepperoni, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press cream cheese into bottom of a nine-inch glass pie plate. Spread pizza sauce over cream cheese and layer remaining ingredients in order listed. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve with corn chips. -- From Culinary Delights

Crispy Orange Ribs

Serves 4-6

4 racks baby back ribs

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced ginger

1/4 cup sliced scallion rings

5 teaspoons crushed red chili flakes

zest from 2 oranges, finely chopped

2 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons hot bean paste (see note)

1 tablespoon sweet bean paste (see note)

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce (see note)

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons rice wine

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Parboil ribs in salted water to cover for about 30 minutes until meat is tender. Drain water from ribs and cut each rack into thirds. In wok, heat canola oil until very hot. Add garlic, ginger, scallions, red chili flakes and orange zest. Stir-fry for about 1 minute until aromatics are released.

Add the rest of ingredients through orange juice. Simmer 5 minutes.

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