As I mentioned previously, I could usually not care any less about the Super Bowl. The actual game part, I mean. The food and drink are where my attentions usually lie; so this year, when my hometown team went to their first Super Bowl ever, I knew a party was in order, and that I needed to pay extra attention to the menu. What better homage to the Saints than a spread of New Orleanian food, shared with good friends?
Bowls of roasted chickpeas were of course on display, as promised a few days ago. Unfortunately for my guests, I didn’t notice until after everyone had left that the previously-crunchy things had softened quite a bit while being stored in their plastic bags. (Note to self: try everything I set out for a party.) The flavors held up beautifully, but the texture was chewy where it should have been crisp, disappointingly so.
An old standard for football games, spinach dip, also made an appearance. Paired with thick tortilla chips, the parsley- and scallion-laden dip was a fresh and familiar face; but this version scales down the dairy, typically so rich, into an item with a far more spinach-forward flavor. (You’ll find a recipe for this below.)
One dish, familiar to some New Orleanians, but foreign to most of my guests, was a platter of mirliton pickles. Also known as chayote, the mild-flavored mirliton is commonly used with shrimp or crawfish, and plenty of spices and aromatics. Here, sticks of mirliton soak up the flavors of carrot, red bell pepper, onion, and fennel, transforming into crunchy and bold pickles that improve by the day. (I’ll feature this recipe in the near future.)
The main entrée was a massive pot of smoked turkey and collard green gumbo, simmered for most of the day while I tidied up the apartment and prepared other dishes. The robust depth of the turkey infused the entire pot with a richness that the collard greens matched beautifully, the hearty leafy green standing up to the silken body of the soup.
For dessert, chocolate tahini sablés begged to be served, but they took a backseat to the king cake, sparkling with colored sugar.
As is traditional, I hid a tiny plastic baby (representing, of course, the Baby Jesus) in one slice; but this one referenced the nickname lovingly bestowed upon the Saints’ quarterback, Drew Brees. The Who Dat Nation has taken to calling him “Breesus”, so it was only natural that our party featured a miniature Baby Breesus in our king cake.
And if that joke makes you laugh out loud, then you are the Who Dat Nation.
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
Makes about 3 cups
- 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style
- 4 green onions, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely minced
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1. Thaw spinach at room temperature, or in microwave for 3 to 4 minutes at 40 percent power. Squeeze the spinach dry of as much excess liquid as possible.
- 2. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add the spinach, and toss together. Serve at once, or refrigerate for up to 2 days.
1. You can certainly make this by running all ingredients through a food processor, but I didn’t find it necessary. Just be sure to chop the garlic and scallions finely enough that you don’t end up with large chunks in the finished dip.