Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fight Night Goodies

Most normal guys would be happy to host a get-together for the Super Bowl. Some of them might even make a few tailgate-type dishes to keep guests company during the gridiron action and endless commercials. In my world, we skip the Super Bowl in favor of mixed martial arts and host a UFC watching party THE NIGHT BEFORE the big game (amazingly, my main UFC-watching buddies are all disinterested enough in the Super Bowl that they'd rather watch a totally different sporting event one night earlier in lieu of it. Try that with a random sample of 4 American males aged 35-47). Anyway, being a good host, I did provide a minor spread to accompany the flying fists and the bloodletting (on the TV, not in my house - my kids were sleeping).

Dish #1 was a fantastically good (and fantastically unhealthy) buffalo chicken dip that I wrote about in a February posting last year. My second offering was a hot spinach and artichoke dip stolen from the Food Network's Alton Brown (Spinach/Artichoke Dip recipe). This dip is very tasty and almost embarrassingly easy. If you do attempt it, be aware that my version has some slight alterations to it, namely 1) drain excess water from the spinach after heating it up, 2) use canned artichoke hearts instead of frozen ones (easier to find), and 3) add 1 clove of fresh chopped garlic and several dashes of hot sauce to jazz it up a little. You can either boil or microwave the spinach to heat it up (just follow the heating recommendations on the package). The animals in attendance pretty much licked the bowl clean on this one.

Guy appetizer #3 was another recipe from Mrs. Hackknife's cousin Glenn, or from his wife Cindi, to be more specific. The genius in this dish is in its simplicity: two ingredients, canned jalapenos and sugar. Someone figured out that if you put these two together in a bowl for a day or two, the jalapenos lose some of their heat and replace it with sweet, which makes a perfect topping for cream cheese and crackers. Here are the instructions:

Cindi's Jalapenos

1 26 oz. can sliced nacho-style jalapenos
1 lb. sugar

Drain most of the liquid from the jalapeno can. Place jalapenos in a large glass or plastic bowl. Pour sugar on top and stir. Cover and leave at room temperature for 24-48 hours, stirring once or twice a day. Separate into containers of your choice. Serve over cream cheese with crackers (such as Town House).

If you have trouble finding the right size can of jalapenos, any size will work as long as you maintain about a 1.6 jalapeno-to-sugar weight ratio (sorry - that's the scientist in me talking).

Last, but not least was the cheese bread. A little background first: growing up, my stepmom occasionally used to make the tastiest cheese bread to go with dinner. It was hot, buttery, tangy w/onion and Dijon mustard, and very, very cheesy. About 10 years ago, she assembled for all of her kids/stepkids a binder with some of her best recipes in it, with the presumption that we'd actually find this useful someday (which, at the time, I did not as Hamburger Helper was still a staple in my weekly bachelor menu). Fast forward to last week - I find this binder on my cookbook shelf and, lo and behold, here's the cheese bread recipe and it's not hard to make, and, why, if I only had a reason to make this, such as a social gathering of some kind. You get the picture. Anyway, it's not my normal modus operandi to try new recipes on guests, but I figured I'd do it anyway and it was a big hit, so much so that I made a second loaf this week to supplement my homemade gnocchi that didn't turn out so swell (posting to soon follow).

Ginny's Cheese Bread

1 large loaf of Italian bread or 2 small loaves French bread
8 slices sliced brick or Munster cheese
8 slices sliced Swiss cheese
1 stick butter
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

Cut a large loaf of bread on angles nearly all the way through (8 cuts total). Take 1 slice of each cheese and put between slices. Take a large piece of aluminum foil, lay sliced bread on top of foil on a cookie sheet, and fold the edges of the foil up loosely around the bread to form a "foil boat". In a small saucepan, heat the remaining ingredients until butter melts and stir thoroughly. Pour melted butter mixture on top of bread and bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes.

Ed. note - As I usually do when I read recipes containing ungodly amounts of heart-killing ingredients, I shuddered and thought "for the love of all that is good and decent, do we really need a whole stick of butter and a full slice of 2 cheeses between each slice of bread? Is Paula Deen everywhere in our lives now? Would this not be as good if I were to, say, use 1/2 stick butter and 1/2 slice of each cheese between slices instead? I made these AMA-recommended adjustments and, yes, it was just fine, but don't tell my stepmom (she'd heckle me).....

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