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The National Food-Ball League Playoffs – Divisional Round

Last week in the Wild Card Round of the National Food-Ball League Playoffs (where yes, they actually compete to win) the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers & San Francisco 49ers all came away victorious. That meant that I was perfect with my picks on Saturday and perfectly awful with my picks on Sunday. They say you can’t win them all and that is probably why the Las Vegas Casinos throw a ticker tape parade whenever I come to town but that is neither here nor there and irrelevant to this story. It also means that we are a week closer to determining who is going to wind up playing outside in Giants Stadium on that first Sunday in February.

Now if the Souper Bowl had been played this week, the Polar Vortex that gripped the nation would have been quite a factor in the game. I can tell you from personally pounding the streets of Manhattan that it was cold and the wind was fierce. In fact, with conditions like the ones we had this week, soup was on the menu at lunch just about every day, which led me to consider various types of soup when I started previewing the matchups this week in the National Food-Ball League Divisional Playoffs. So without further ado, let’s break out the ladle & bowls and start dishing on the games. (Boy did that ever sound cheesy) 

Saturday January 11

 New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

 Who Dat think they going to beat The 12th Man ? This is a re-match of a midseason blowout where the Seahawks dismantled the Saints like a fishmonger dismantles a salmon down at The Pike Place Market. Last week however, the Saints broke a franchise long losing streak of road playoff games by winning in Philadelphia so the Saints are on a high. The Seahawks have looked somewhat human over the last few weeks but the week off and the controversy over Marshawn Lynch not speaking enough to the media are really all the fuel that Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks will need. While I do love me some Gumbo of just about every shape, flavor & size I do feel that the Salmon Chowder that the 12th Man will be bringing in from the tailgating parking lots is going to seeing the next round of the playoffs.

 Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

 The chic pick by so-called Football experts is the Colts. Everyone fell in love with their wild second half comeback last week against the hated (by me) Kansas City Chiefs but now they have to come to Foxboro to face the Walking Talking Touchdown Tossing Ken Doll Quarterback & his Hoodie wearing coach. The quarterback of the Colts may be named Luck but in New England his luck is going to run out. The ball won’t bounce off the turf & directly into his hands like it did last week on the game winning touchdown. In Foxboro, the Gods of Football tilt the field in one direction and one direction only. (I still don’t know how Baltimore won last year) So you can pair that Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich from Indiana that I heard so much about in the comments last week with just about any soup out there and it isn’t going to beat the good old fashioned creamy thick New England Clam Chowder that Giselle will be serving up after the game.

 Sunday January 12

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers

At the beginning of the season no one could have seen this game coming. The Carolina Panthers were not a team on anyone’s radar other than a North Carolina State Trooper’s. The 49ers were the defending NFC Champions and were expected to waltz easily to the Championship Game. Funny thing happened, they actually played the season and during the season, the Panthers even beat the Niners in San Francisco in a smashmouth game 10-9. This time the game is going to be played in Charlotte in front of some seriously playoff starved fans who can somewhat remember what a Souper Bowl tastes like. The Niners however, unlike the Panthers, are road weary & battle tested after their trip to the Frozen Tundra at the foot of Mount Lombardi. I fully expect Colin Kapernick to be serving up a big bowl of Cioppino (and I won’t slice off a part of my finger eating it) to counteract the Hatteras Style Chowder that I just googled as the top regional soup in North Carolina for Cam Newton & the Panthers. The Sourdough on the side may have been the tipping point.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

The Chargers were the team I least wanted the Broncos to face in the playoffs in that they are hungry, have nothing to lose and they know the Broncos all too well. Quarterback Philip Rivers is full of so much swagger & bravado at the moment that he thinks that a Bolo tie is high fashion (too some yes, to me, no – it’s a source of ridicule). He also has an overachieving undersized running back in Danny Woodhead who is playing larger than life and like I said last week, rookie WR Keenan Allen is just plain deadly as he slices through the secondary. Don’t count Peyton Manning and his aerial offense out though just because the Chargers dealt him his worst game of the season in Week 15. All four of his double digit touchdown grabbing receivers & running back Knowshon Moreno are ready to go & ready for revenge so they only pre-game tears we will be seeing are those the chargers fans getting ready for their beating. As for the soups, well last week that lousy tilapia fish taco somehow beat out a bowl of Cincinnati Style Chili but this week that lousy tilapia fish taco is going in a blender and being served alongside an Elk Chili that stands as proud as the Rocky Mountains that spread across Denver’s skyline. (I thought about using Colorado Buffalo but the Buffaloes up in Boulder were HORRIBLE this year on the gridiron so we really don’t want to cross contaminate)

So there you have it. This week’s picks are The Seahawks & their Salmon Chowder, The Patriots & their Creamy Clam Chowder, The Niners & their Cioppino with a sourdough side and The Broncos & their Bugling Elk Chili. What do you think ?

Come back next week when we review where I was right & where I was wrong in this week’s game while giving you insights & recipes for the Conference Championships.

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What’s Cooking Behind The Shades – SuperDuperBowl Menu Review

The city of New Orleans and the whole state of Louisiana got a 74 yard head start on Mardi Gras last night when Tracy Porter stepped in front of Reggie Wayne, made off with a Peyton Manning pass and sprinted for the end zone. It was moment that will live in infamy and will be talked about for years. I wish I could say the same about my SuperDuperBowl Menu. It was good but it wasn’t 43 years worth of frustration good. So let’s see what I made.
1. Cubano Potato Skins – I shredded some pork & some ham (rather than thin slices), mixed in some mustard & relish (to take the place of the pickles) and topped with swiss cheese. A definite keeper for future Miami SuperDuperBowls.
2. Pulled Pork Paninis – I was in the Louisville airport the other day and saw a bottle of Wild Turkey BBQ Sauce staring at me from the shelf in the overpriced souvenir store. By the time I got to my gate it was safely ensconced in my carryon bag somewhere between my dirty shorts & socks. I pulled it out yesterday and mixed it with some shredded boneless pork ribs, sautéed vidalia onion & monterey jack cheese. Slapped it inside a mini portuguese roll and pressed them so they looked like little footballs. Nice understated taste that the kids loved. I kind of wish the Wild Turkey BBQ had a little more OOMPH to it.
3. Crawfish Cornbread (aka Crayfish Cornbread here at allrecipes.com) – I have made this once before and probably should have looked for my review or notes from that last time before I made this again. The recipe does call for a box of instant corn muffin mix so I used my Basic Corn muffins recipe from here instead. While the color is interesting, the taste is a touch flat. It could use some heat but I was reluctant to add any because of the kids. I could definitely see this somewhat polenta like cornbread serving as the base upon which a rich creole tomato based type of sauce is poured over. I still liked it and it was at it’s best when it first popped out of the oven.
4. Orange Honey Chicken Wings – I have been making these for so long I can do them in my sleep. The secret ingredient is a healthy splash of Uncle Dougie’s Chicken Wing Marinade. Not sure what I will do when my supply finally runs out but I am sure I will come up with something. The other ingredients include oj, honey, key lime juice & mustard. Low & slow heat makes the meat just fall off the bone.
5. Hot Asparagus Crab Dip – My lovely wife always requests one dip and every year I make something different. This year asparagus was on sale when I waltzed thru ShopRite so this year asparagus got it’s turn as the main ingredient. Throw in some red pepper, red onion, lime juice, sour cream, plain yogurt, crab and a Key West seasoning blend I found a few years back and we were good to go. I threw it in the oven at the same time as the wings and it came out hot, condensed & very dippable. I probably will not see any of the leftovers on this one.
6. Cheddar Bacon Deviled Eggs – The name pretty much says it all. Why make regular deviled eggs when you can jazz them up. Again it is another recipe that actually would improve with the addition of some Chipotle Tabasco but I left it out to appease the kids.
7. Yellow Split Pea & Apple Dal with Coconut Tarka – one too may flight delays led to my reading about various pea & bean dishes in the NY Times one trip and a recipe that called for Mung Beans, Apples & Coconut Milk just jumped out at me. Now I couldn’t tell you what a Mung Bean looked like if it was in front of me & labeled. On top of that, no store around me has any exotic or even different dried beans so I decided to take a slightly different direction and go for orange split peas. Well no luck on finding those either so I had resigned myself to trying with lentils though I wasn’t really thrilled with that option. as it turned out, I had to make one last stop at the store for a few forgotten items and came across a lonely pack of yellow peas which soon made friends with the rest of the forgotten items in my basket. While the peas, apples & coconut milk simmered away, I made a “Tarka” of butter, ginger, scallions, lime juice, shredded coconut & tumeric. The recipe called for mint leaves (unnoticed & forgotten at the store) so I went for a dash of mint extract. The result was a very different sort of dish for my family that was liked but technically not SuperDuperBowl food. It is getting a second chance by being served over rice with the grilled chicken for dinner tonight.
8. Alligator Chili – The latest addition to the allrecipes.com family (I now have 12 recipes to my name) is a SuperDuperBowl favorite. I used yellow & red peppers and some smoked paprika in addition to the recipe on the site and once again I am going to modestly say, I smacked that sucker out of the park. If I didn’t tell you it was gator, you would never know and I guarantee that you will be asking for seconds. Gator Chili will be my dinner tonight.
9. and finally, we topped it all off with a trio of mini-sundaes. I took mini-phyllo dough cups and baked them. then I scooped melon ball sized scoops of vanilla/chocolate, cookies & cream and mint chocolate chip into each cup. Drizzled Top Hat hot fudge over the trio and then topped it with whipped cream & multi colored jimmies. It looked like mardi gras in a bowl.
So that was this year’s offerings for the SuperDuperBowl. I appreciate all the ideas that were floated to me on previous blogs & websites and some of those ideas will see the light of the day or the light inside my oven in the weeks to come. I am just glad that my wife was happy and that the kids ate it all too. Most of all I am THRILLED that the Saints won the SuperDuperBowl.
That’s what’s cooking Behind The Shades until next time when maybe we should discuss kitchen disasters. Lord knows I have had a few of those…

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Planning the SuperDuperBowl Menu

The NFL Regular Season came to end last night when the Cincinnati Bengals rather than showing up in the freezing cold for a meaningless game decided to take the night off to go see the tree in Rockefeller Center & to see who survived the plane crash on Desperate Housewives. That’s all well & good but what does that have to do with cooking or food you may ask. Well that’s certainly a good question and I am just the man to answer it for you.

Super Bowl Sunday or as I prefer to refer to the spectacle, SuperDuperBowl Sunday, is virtually an unofficial national holiday. Friends & Family gather in front of large screen TV’s with piles of food in front of them or on the buffet by the kitchen while they watch the game, the commercials and the myriad of illegal 100 square pools & various other sundry sidebets they have going. The game itself is invariably remembered more often for the commercials & food than it is for the final score so it has been my goal ever since I learned how to cook for myself (thanks Mom) to have a more than impressive spread available during the viewing of the game.

Now when it comes to planning the menu, I begin as soon as the SuperDuperBowl is over. What worked ? What didn’t ? What did I hear about in the days after the game that other people had that I want to have ? What have I tried t other parties or restaurants that could be fun to twist ? What city is hosting the SuperDuperBowl ? And of course, which two teams are playing in the big game because we need to make sure that we have some regional respresentation in the cuisine. So let’s look at this year’s teams and let’s see where we might be headed since I need to start planning NOW !!!

NFC Teams

New Orleans Saints – crawfish pies, alligator chili – 2 dishes that have made the menu in the past – we could see some beignets this year too

Minnesota Vikings – hmmmm – deep fried walleye cubes ? deep fried snickers ? Lutefisk ? (I hope the vikings lose)

Dallas Cowboys – something tex-mex or maybe bbq, perhaps the Texas Crabgrass will reappear on the menu

Arizona Cardinals – Phoenix…..ummmmm……I’ll get back to you on this one

Green Bay Packers – Cheese, cheese dip, port wine cheese & crackers, a stilton perchance ?

Philadelphia Eagles – no cheesesteaks, no cream cheese, going to have to think on this one

AFC Teams

Indianapolis Colts – ummmmm – I know they celebrate with Milk at the Indy 500

San Diego Chargers – some hawaiian fusion, seafood, maybe a mexican influence while keeping it light or perhaps a zoo platter of exotic meats

New England Patriots – clam chowder ? a lobster roll ? baked beans ?

Cincinnati Bengals – they tell me that chili is big in Cincy so maybe I tie in my gator chili if they play the Saints

New York J-E-T-S jetsjetsjets – bagels with a schmeer ? hot pastrami sliders ? dirty water dogs ? street meat ?

Baltimore Ravens – Crab cakes or crab dip – could tie in with the Texas Crabgrass though I would shoot myself if I had to sit through Baltimore & Dallas in the SuperDuperBowl.

And of course, since the game is in Miami this year, we need to do something with a cuban influence to it.

I have also already decided that I have to try and recreate the Tennessee Tailpipes from Fat Annie’s Truck Stop in NYC and I will obviously make my honey orange hicken wings too along with a tray or two of corn muffins and mini sundaes in phyllo dough cups (a MUST according to the swamprats). Those are givens.

So that’s What’s Cooking Behind The Shades for now. Please help me fill in my culinary blanks and give me some other suggestions too. I am open to try just about anything…..once.

(this blog also appears at allrecipes.com)

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