Alas, my Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn't find their way to Sunday’s game in Tampa. Fortunately, my appetite is good to go.
Sure it may be 30 degrees outside, but this is the big game, folks! Man up (or woman up) and light that grill. Last year, I made foie gras bacon cheeseburgers with grilled onions; a sandwich so good it takes seven words to name and rivaled only by Ray’s Hell-Burger's version (I, however, serve beer). Other years it was my 24-hour Guinness chili, a deliciously rich vehicle for many a protein, including beef, goat and your neighbor's cat.
Game-day meals this season have featured grilled chicken wings and Cuban burgers (I use Bobby Flay's recipe, though I don't press the foil-wrapped burgers with a heavy pan or brick, which tends to crush the sandwich. Instead, I gently use a spatula or my hand.)
As much as I like cooking for the game, I usually get stuck watching first downs through the front window. By the time the guests arrive and I get the grill going, the game has started and I've taken my place on the outside looking in.
Not this year, my friends. Oh no, not when it's this cold outside.
To ensure I'm in front of the TV at kickoff, I'm planning a simple menu that'll make everyone happy: tacos two ways. My grilled shrimp tacos will be topped with fresh guacamole and diced tomatoes. The grilled chicken tacos will start with a cumin and adobo rub, and will be topped with roasted chilies, black beans, and queso blanco. Both are finished off with a squirt of grilled lime juice.
Compact and delicious, tacos are ideal for these types of parties. You can prepare everything beforehand and leave it up to your guests to build their own tacos.
The chicken can be grilled Sunday morning and then broken down when the meat is cool enough to pull from the carcass. The shrimp should be grilled a little closer to game time, but they cook in a matter of minutes. Either way, you're not spending much time outdoors.
If you're expecting a crowd for the game consider picking up a 5 liter mini keg. Whole Foods and D'Vines carry mini kegs, including Bell's delicious wheat ale Oberon. The German Gourmet shops in Falls Church has the best selection of German beers in the area, a number of which are available in mini kegs.
And let's face it, tapping your own keg of beer at home is cool. It is.
As for the game, my heart will be with the Arizona Cardinals, a team that has known only futility, which reminds me of the Bucs. However, my head says the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to kick the crap out of them.
Good luck, Cards.
Tacos Two Ways
(Makes 8 servings)
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (fresh shrimp only)
1 3-5 lb. whole chicken, butterflied
1/2 lb. queso blanco, shredded
2 packages of flour tortilla shells (at least 24 total)
2 tbs. cumin
2 tbs. adobo seasoning
1 tsp. crushed red peppers
8 tbs. olive oil
3 avocados, hass or Florida
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 limes, halved
1 lemon, halved
2 onions, diced
2 15.5 oz. cans of black beans
3 Poblano peppers, left whole
2 jalapeños, left whole
6 Thai peppers, sliced
2 strips of bacon, diced
Salt and cracked black pepper
Hot sauce, lots of hot sauce
The night before the game, coat the bird in 3 tbs. of olive oil, including under the skin, and rub it with the cumin and adobo, also under the skin. Cover and stick it back in the refrigerator until you're ready for it.
When you're ready to cook, butterfly the chicken and set it aside while you light the grill. Once the grill is hot, place the bird skin-side up on the hottest part of the grill for two minutes. Turn the bird over and grill for another two minutes. Now, move the bird to a cooler part of the grill, put the lid on and grill for an hour.
For the shrimp tacos, skewer the shrimp and drizzle 2 tbs. of olive oil over them. Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Stick the shrimp in the back in refrigerator.
Heat a sauce pot over a medium high heat. Add the bacon and fry until it begins to brown and crisp up. Add one and a half onions and cook until they begin to soften and become translucent. Stir in the cans of black beans, cover the pot and turn up the heat to boil before turning it down to simmer. Cook for at least 30 minutes.
After the chicken has been cooking for an hour, remove the lid and place the limes, jalapeños and Poblano peppers on the grill over the hottest spot. When the skin begins to char after a few minutes, turn and repeat. Once the skin has softened and charred on all sides, pull the peppers, lime halves and chicken off the grill. Tent and chicken and allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes. Wrap the tortilla shells in an aluminum foil pouch and stick in the oven to warm.
As the chicken rests, seed and dice the grilled peppers, and mix together. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the carcass with a fork or your fingers and place in a bowl.
A few minutes before you're ready to grill the shrimp, pull them out of the fridge to warm up some. Oil the grates and place the skewered shrimp on the hot side of the grill. They cook pretty fast so don't go anywhere. After a minute or two, turn the shrimp and grill for another couple minutes. When the shrimp have curled slightly and turned whitish pink they're ready to come off the grill.
To make the guacamole, halve the avocados, remove the pits and scoop the meat into a bowl. Mash the avocado meat together with the final half onion, lemon juice, a table spoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.
Remove the tortillas from oven and give the beans a stir and taste. If the beans are ready, you're ready.
To make the chicken tacos, take a warm tortilla, fill it with the chicken, black beans and grilled peppers. Top it all with a few Thai pepper slices, queso blanco and hot sauce. For the shrimp tacos, spread the guac on a tortilla, toss on a couple shrimp and top with tomatoes and hot sauce.
Now, squeeze the lime, pour the beer and watch the game.