Are You Ready For Some Football? Sample your way around the NFL on Monday nightsAlthough your boss might not be impressed with the idea of your hosting a Monday Night Football party every week this season, your friends, neighbors and co-workers would be – especially when they hear the proposed menu is food from the competing cities.
The idea didn’t originate with Sauce, but when a long-distance reader contacted us for a quintessential dish from St. Louis to feature at his party, we thought it was a great idea to pass along to our readers. And, if you need an extra excuse, it’s a great way to commemorate the final year of MNF on network television.
You won’t want to add to your usual Monday stress by coming home to a lot of food prep, so choose dishes that can be made ahead or whipped up quickly. This is a party for casseroles and tossed salads.
The first MNF game, ironically, is Thursday, Sept. 8: Oakland at New England. A matchup like that demands seafood, maybe Bay shrimp-avocado salad across the table from Boston Harbor seafood chowder. The salad: Toss shrimp, peas, corn and shredded carrots with vinaigrette, season the mixture and spoon it into avocado halves. Easy. The chowder will be a little more complicated. Believe it or not, the National Football League can help.
In conjunction with the Super Bowl, the NFL sponsors the Taste of the NFL, a food and wine extravaganza benefiting hunger relief organizations. Chefs from each NFL city contribute, and the resulting recipes can be found in a $20 booklet at www.tasteofthenfl.com. The Patriots dish last year? Chez Henri Smoked Cod Chowder with Lobster and Chile-Lime Butter.
You could rely solely on the booklet, but not all of the recipes have the stereotypical quality you’ll want. Take, for example, the first Monday of the season, when Philadelphia plays Atlanta in a repeat of the NFC division championship game. The booklet’s Philadelphia recipe is Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom Risotto with Maytag Blue Cheese … but your guests will want Philly cheese steak. To satisfy them, try the Philly Cheese Steak Casserole at http://maindish.allrecipes.com.
For the Falcons, Dana Rowe of Belleville, Ill., recommended “good ole Southern-style barbecue chicken (with bone and rib meat for flavor) on the grill. It is quick ? [you] can toss them on slow heat around the middle of the second quarter and have them ready to eat by halftime. Of course some mustard-based potato salad and brown sugar-baked beans and a tall glass of Southern-style iced tea (that’s tea with sugar in it, [not] packets off the table) make the event even better.”
The season’s highlight for Rowe will be New Orleans vs. Atlanta on Dec. 12. “I am sure Atlanta will knock them off this year … . Just don’t let my new boss know that ‘cause he is a big New Orleans fan.” Not wanting to spill the beans, I didn’t contact his boss – but the cliché does inspire the Saints side of the menu. Red beans and rice (with a hefty dose of Tabasco, so buy a big bottle!) comes in two versions: creamy (Creole style) and regular (Cajun style). Traditionally the time-intensive dish was cooked on wash day, which happened to be Monday. A good substitute for homemade beans is Blue Runner brand, available at www.bluerunnerfoods.com.
The Internet is invaluable for researching menus and ordering products that aren’t distributed here. Of course, in some cases Web sites won’t come through – Ken Homza of University City suggested Iron City Beer, “the essential element for a Pittsburgh football game,” but he didn’t know of an online outlet for the aluminum-bottled brew. However, you can get Iron City Beer nuts in a replica bottle at www.mikefeinberg.com. The site also ships Steelers plates, forks, napkins, balloons and tissue-paper footballs. You might as well order some, because you’ll get good use out of them. The Steelers – like the Eagles, Falcons, Packers and Patriots – play three MNF games this season.
Those who agree with Homza that “REAL football is NOT played in a dome!” can move the party outdoors, say for the Nov. 28 Pittsburgh game against Indianapolis or the Dec. 19 Green Bay-Baltimore matchup. If you do, you’ll want some strong antifreeze. Several people recommended Bloody Marys seasoned with the local flavor (crab seasoning for Baltimore, the omnipresent Tabasco for New Orleans).
Another party tip is to invite fans from opposing camps. My nemesis for the Sept. 19 Washington-Dallas game is Ryan Jackson, a Redskins fan in Fairview Heights, Ill., whose take on the game is this: “We are going to kick their a-- for the first time in about, oh, what is it, nine or 10 years?”
St. Louisans who’re wondering when I’ll get into the toasted ravioli-pork steak-Imo’s pizza debate for the Oct. 17 Rams-Colts game will be disappointed – I’m not touching that. However, I will recommend a great local Monday-night event: the St. Louis Rams’ Taste of the NFL, featuring local chefs and Rams players, on Sept. 12. The St. Louis Area Foodbank and the St. Louis Sports Commission split the proceeds, which were around $70,000 last year, according to Matt Dace, manager of individual gifts at the food bank. Tickets are $175 each.
Dace said this year’s party has moved to the Danforth Center after outgrowing its previous space at the Edward Jones company headquarters, but the latter is still its largest single contributor. It takes place the night after the Rams’ season opener in San Francisco. “The Rams are certainly being very kind,” Dace said. “Only seven or eight teams across the country do this.”