The Pats are out of the game this year, but that doesn’t mean your Super Bowl menu has to suffer. Local foodies share their touchdown pointers for game-day eats.
Pass the wings
Both chef Jay Nadeau of Billy’s Sports Bar & Grill and Andy Sanborn, owner and chef of The Draft Sports Bar and Restaurant agree: A good wing is all about the meat. It’s not about large portions, it’s about getting more meat off the bone.
“I only buy the largest wings you get on the market [on] any given day,” Sanborn said.
At Billy’s, Nadeau said the wings are breaded and fried before a toss in Billy’s signature sauces: buffalo, honey barbecue and the occasional special chipotle citrus sauce. There’s also the Jamaican jerk chicken wings at Billy’s, which are baked instead of fried.
“Baking them cuts down on cholesterol, fat. Not too much of a difference in taste, just difference in texture,” Nadeau said. “I think people would rather order [wings] from the restaurant. They’re harder to do at home because you need oil.”
Over at The Draft, Sanborn prefers wings without breading. Instead, he parcooks the wings to pull the fat out and fries them for a crispy texture.
Wings at The Draft can come in flavors like ginger sesame, six different barbecue sauces and its most popular, the homemade lemon pepper cajun sauce.
“Fifteen years ago you couldn’t make the sauce hot enough, where you’re sweating when you bite into the wings,” he said. “Over time we’ve gone from specials with 10 different flavors, other times we back it down to five or six. We like to keep it fresh.”
Nadeau said the honey barbecue is the least spicy, the Jamaican jerk has a kick, and the buffalo wings aren’t “super hot, but they’re not mild either,” he said.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the weather. It’s cold out. A lot of people get the buffalo wings, because it’s warming,” Nadeau said. “It’s just a comfort food for game days, like chili. It doesn’t really matter what sport it is.”
For homemade buffalo wings, Nadeau recommends starting with Frank’s Red Hot and butter as a base.
Down that dip
All a good dip needs is a crunchy dipping partner. Tortilla chips or potato chips (depending on your dip recipe) might be the classic pairing, but don’t forget pita bread, homemade croutons or veggies like celery for a good crunch.
Concord-based Mitchell’s Fresh makes salsas and six different flavors of dip, including artichoke, blue caesar, buffalo, chili con queso, spinach & cheese and sweet pepper. Owner Corey Mitchell recommends getting creative with game-day dips.
“The flavor pops when you heat it up. It totally changes the dip,” he said.
Some of his customers prefer mixing the spinach & cheese with the artichoke, while the blue caesar was inspired as a chicken wing dip. The sweet pepper, made with cream cheese and Peppadew peppers, was inspired by the combination of cream cheese and hot pepper jelly.
“It’s the classics. People love artichoke dip,” Mitchell said. “Make it your own. Take a salsa and mix it with cream cheese.”
Mitchell also recommended chopping up ingredients like pepperoni and olives and adding them to cream cheese for a creative dip flavor.
There’s artichoke dip and hummus on the menu at The Draft, but Sanborn said most customers order sauces to use as dips. The dill and ranch salad dressing gets paired with a plate of vegetables or the veggie nachos.
“Chipotle mayo makes a great dip,” he said, adding that most diners pair it with nachos and quesadillas. “For me, a good artichoke dip has a lot to do with vegetable-to-cheese ratio, and specifically what types of cheese. … You get the smoothness of the artichoke and the cream, and you want some sort of bite into the flavor.”
Huddle up with nachos
Nachos are a traditional game-day plate, and they’re easy to make — as long as you have the right ingredients.
“Lots of cheese,” Nadeau said when asked what makes a good plate of nachos. “We use a cheddar blend. Good melting cheese, that’s the way to go.”
“Fresh ingredients. If you have to twist or cut the top of a can off, it’s not going to be as good,” Sanborn said. He added that the thickness of a chip matters, too (he prefers a thin chip, which he makes in-house at The Draft).
Hermanos Cocina Mexicana in Concord also starts with its home-baked tortilla chips. Jonna Gaskell, a server at Hermanos for over 18 years, said the chicken and garlic nachos (not the classic traditional beef nachos) are the most popular.
To make the chicken and garlic nachos, Hermanos starts with its chips and adds a layer of chicken and jalapenos, then smothers it in a mix of Cabot Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses grated in-house.
“It’s like a softer texture but it makes the nacho chips crunchy,” she said.
Lastly, the nachos are topped with Hermanos’ signature garlic dressing.
As seen in the January 30, 2014 issue of the Hippo.