You’d expect that a professional chef would know how to throw a no-holds-barred, great party at home, right? That’s precisely why, with a variety of bowl games already sprinting full speed into our lives and more to come (MSU plays Jan. 2 and U-M plays Jan. 3; 35 bowl games total through Jan. 9, and don’t forget Feb. 4 is Super Bowl day), we checked in with our favorite “kitchen quarterbacks.”
Cutting right to the party chase, here's the lowdown on everything from crowd-pleasing dips to big-guy sandwiches.
“When I have parties at my home, I like to use big, round sourdough or Tuscan loaves, like 10 inches in diameter to make great sandwiches,” said Chef Pete Loren of in Troy.
“These are different; everyone sees subs so this offers something new. I slice the round loaves like layer cakes into three disks, put meats and cheeses and whatnot in between the disks and then put back together and cut into big wedges. It ends up looking like a torte.”
Loren even goes as far as to make toothpick flags to help hold them together. The flags can be pennant-shaped and can represent your favorite football team, he said. “You can learn to do this on the internet; there are templates.”
Sometimes the chef will place the “sandwich torte” on a pedestal, which “makes a great centerpiece.”
Other game-day chow tips from Loren:
• Mini Munch. Purchase barbecue pork or chicken in the gourmet-to-go area of Nino’s and then place in slow cooker to keep warm during game. Place slider buns next to the cooker and let people help themselves to making little sandwiches. “People miss the boat if they put large buns out because then guests aren’t so apt to try other things; with smaller sliders you can enjoy a variety of items.”
• Wing It. Grab-and-go chicken wings are very popular, said Loren. “They’re in four flavors, pre-packaged and come in plaster containers that can go right into an oven or microwave, really!”
• A-Plus Apricots. “We do a sweet and sour roasted, smoked Dearborn kielbasa that’s like in two-inch segments in an apricot barbecue sauce we make from scratch. Pick some of that up and put it right into your slow cooker so people can enjoy it all afternoon.”
• Meatball Mania. “We’ve got Italian to Swedish to Barbecue meatballs,” Loren said. “Again, just place in your slow cooker to keep warm and available.”
• The Big Chil-i. “Our chili is super good; it’s got ground sirloin and chunks of roasted sirloin so you have two kinds of meat experiences when eating it. And it’s not too hot or too pedestrian. And if you want to make a dip out of it (I call that a ‘guy fondue’) add cheese and sour cream.”
Looking for simple, simple, simple? publicist Maggie Bahler notes that the company’s unofficial “Bowl Game Top Five” includes “pizza, chicken wings, fresh guacamole and chips, locally made beer and party platters.” And extra points are always guaranteed with the market’s two-bite brownies.
Winning Bowl Game Recipes from Area Chefs
Experiment with different shapes — pretzels and knots are fun. These savory treats can be stored in an airtight container up to two weeks or frozen up to two months.
Yields: 48 pieces
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Combine the flour, baking powder, cayenne, salt, grated cheese and butter in a bowl and mix until well blended. Use your hands or a mixer at slow speed. Add water a little bit at a time to make very stiff dough.
On a lightly floured surface, roll pieces of the dough into ropes, slightly thicker than a pencil. Cut into 4- to 5-inch lengths. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes or until lightly brown.
Tips: Great with chili. Make longer straws and gather them into a mug to serve. Great with different toppings, too. Beat together 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon of cold water. Brush the unbaked straws with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with poppy, caraway or sesame seeds or dehydrated minced garlic or onion. Bake as directed.
Mushroom caps may be stuffed and refrigerated up to 4 hours prior to baking.
Yields: 25 medium mushroom caps
- 25 mushrooms
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
- 1/2 Cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup parsley or basil
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
- Kosher salt
- ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove stems from mushrooms and chop stems. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan and toss mushroom caps in melted butter to coat. Remove from butter and arrange, stemmed side up, on a large baking sheet.
In the same pan, sauté the chopped mushroom stems and onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until mixture is softened and most of the liquid is cooked off. Remove from heat and stir in walnuts, parsley or basil, cheddar and bread crumbs. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Divide mixture among mushroom caps, mounding slightly. Bake on middle rack in the oven for 20 minutes. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon parsley or basil. Serve warm.
Blue Cheese-Dried Cherry Spread
The cheese mixture may be made and shaped up to 48 hours in advance. Refrigerate tightly covered with plastic wrap. Coat with the cherry-walnut mixture not more than 8 hours prior to serving. For a more intense nutty flavor, toast the chopped walnuts. Serve with crackers, baguette or apple slices.
Yields: 3 Cups
- 8 ounces blue cheese
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1/2 red onion
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
In a small bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the blue cheese and cream cheese until well blended. Mix in the diced onion then chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
Shape the chilled cheese mixture into a log, ball or disk. Combine the cherries and walnuts. Evenly cover the exposed areas of your cheese shape with the cherry-walnut mixture, pressing lightly into the cheese to adhere. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 8 hours before serving.
Brined Tailgate Bratwurst
This is a simple dish using fresh bratwurst, onions, and balsamic vinegar. It has a nice tangy flavor, and is excellent served in crunchy bread and topped with spicy mustard.
Yields: 8 servings
- 1½ medium onion, cut in strips
- ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
- 5 2/3 cup water
- 8 fresh bratwurst links
- 1 ½ teaspoons butter or margarine
In a large skillet combine onion, balsamic vinegar and water. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Place bratwurst in the simmering water; cover and simmer 20 minutes. Be sure the water is only simmering, not boiling.
Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil grate. Remove the bratwurst and drain liquid from pan. Add butter to the pan with the onions and cook over low heat until onions are browned. At this point you can wrap up the brats and refrigerate them until grilling time.
Grill brats over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Serve with onions.
(From Chef Jeremy Grandon, Jeremy Restaurant & Bar, Keego Harbor)
- 2 ripe avocados
- 1 small red onion
- 1 small tomato
- Small bunch scallions
- 1 bunch cilantro
- Juice of one or two limes
Halve and seed the avocados. Remove shell using a spoon and chop coarsely. Place in a bowl. Mince or small-dice the tomato and onion. Add to the avocado. Slice the scallions and roughly chop the cilantro, add to the bowl. Stir the guacamole, gently mashing it with the back of your spoon against the side of the bowl until the desired consistency is reached. Season carefully with salt, the lime juice, a dash of your favorite hot sauce and a dash of cumin.
Pico de Gallo with Fresh Pineapple
(From Chef Jeremy Grandon, Jeremy Restaurant & Bar, Keego Harbor)
2 large red ripe large tomatoes
1 small red onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
Juice of 1 lime
Dice the tomato into 1/2 inch cubes. Dice the pineapple into a similar size. Mince the jalapeño and red onion. Coarsely chop the cilantro. Combine all in a bowl. Season to taste with the lime juice, cumin and salt. Use within 1 to 2 days.
Cream Cheese & Veggie Treats
(From Chef Lynn Miller of Curious Cooks/Flavor Secrets in Bloomfield Hills)
“Here’s something pretty different and fun,” said Miller. “Never met anyone who didn’t like them and they are ‘make ahead,’ so they’re perfect. Make them the day before, then just take the tortilla rolls out of the refrigerator and slice them when your guests arrive.”
Yields: about 14 slices
1 large flour tortilla (Chef Miller prefers MexAmerica brand)
¼ red pepper, chopped and dried with a paper towel
¼ stalk celery, peeled and chopped
¼ cup leek, cleaned and chopped
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
½ small carrot
Pinch of salt
Pinch mixed pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
4 ounces cream cheese
½ cup chopped black olives
In a food processor with the blade running, drop in the red pepper, celery, carrot and then the tomatoes. Add the spices and Tabasco sauce. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then process for a few seconds more.
Add the cream cheese and process until smooth and ingredients look blended, about a minute.
Spread the mixture on the tortilla. Top with chopped black olives. Roll up (press down lightly as you roll to end up with a uniform shape) and wrap in plastic wrap. Twist the ends of the wrap and the tortilla until the roll is very tight. Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Slice and serve.
Black Bean Dip
(From the in Ferndale)
- 3 plum tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons diced red onion
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped, plus sprigs for garnish
- 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed.
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce
- Tortilla chips, for dipping
Place the tomato, onion and cilantro into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well chopped. Add the black beans, cumin, hot sauce and salt, to taste, and pulse until the mixture is mostly smooth. Scrape into a serving bowl and garnish with sprigs of cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips.