The New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl for the third consecutive year, for the team’s 11th appearance and quarterback Tom Brady’s ninth. Those facts are as mind-boggling to die-hard fans as they are to rivals and foes.
The annual Super Bowl is an electrifying, exciting, national celebration. New Englanders, especially Massachusetts natives, will once again be joyfully unified in support of our championship team. The Patriots’ reign of success is virtually statistically unfathomable: unrivaled in the world of professional sports, of any kind, throughout the course of recorded history.
There is so much to be valued and honored in the team, core qualities that symbolically transcend the significance of an enduring winning record.
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, the contemporary Patriots’ history and, ultimately, their legacy, are a reflection of the American dream. In Patriots Nation, anything is possible. Dream big, and believe: in yourself, your teammates, your coaches, your community.
Respect, unity, discipline, loyalty, self-sacrifice, hard work, accountability, trust, faith and sheer determination are emphasized above all else. These core values have been proven to prevail over seemingly insurmountable obstacles, setbacks, failures and detractors, year after year, season after season.
Team members from vastly diverse backgrounds form a family of sorts, playing their hearts out, literally offering their blood, sweat and tears for the benefit of the common good. “Patriotism.”
That being said, this year’s Super Bowl column offers hearty, casual and rustic fare. Dishes feature some of our wonderful local bounty, such as ground beef, sausage, corncob-smoked bacon and craft beer.
Food traditions and choices have become an intrinsic part of celebrating the ultimate American sporting event.
Bring it home, Patriots!
CLASSIC CHILI CON CARNE
This beef chili is rich, warm, satisfying and relatively low-maintenance. It cooks low and slow, it seems to get better with age (not unlike Tom Brady), and it is universally loved (as are the Pats in this region). Most chilis are too salty, too soupy, too bland and too “tomato-y” for my taste. My version includes fresh hot peppers (Fresno and jalapeño); lean, locally raised Black Angus ground beef; locally brewed dark beer; chicken stock; and lots of ground spices, giving it great depth of flavor. It also has more onion, garlic and kidney beans than typical chili con carne recipes. And it makes a great topping for my smashed potato bar (next recipe). Note: If you do not like spicy chili, remove the seeds from the Fresno and jalapeño peppers and omit the cayenne.
2 tablespoons canola or extra-virgin olive oil
2 large Spanish onions, diced
3-4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Fresno chile peppers, thinly sliced (with seeds)
2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced (with seeds)
1 pound lean, local ground beef
1 16-ounce can Newburyport Brewing Co. North Woods Maple Brown beer (or stout beer)
11/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 16-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 16-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained
1 whole guajillo or Ancho dried chile
2-3 6-inch corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
For the spice mixture:
1 tablespoon chile powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup scallions, thinly sliced
Small bowl of corn tortilla chips
Blend the spice mixture together in a small ramekin; set aside.
In a large cast-iron skillet, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, stirring with a wooden spoon until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and peppers, and cook for 2-3 minutes longer.
Add the ground beef, breaking up with a wooden spoon, cooking until no longer pink, 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with the spice mixture, stirring for 2 minutes to coat evenly. Pour in the beer, and allow it to reduce slightly, 2-3 minutes.
Add the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and kidney beans. Increase heat to medium-high, stirring until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Add the dried whole chile and tortilla strips, stirring for 2-4 minutes.
Reduce heat to low, and cook gently, stirring occasionally for 1-11/2 hours. You may need to skim excess oil off the top, and you may wish to add more stock, beer or water if the chili becomes too thick.
Serve in small bowls or crocks, with garnishes on the side.
SMASHED POTATO BAR
Smashed potatoes are the perfect finger food. Baby potatoes — I chose a mixture of red, white and blue potatoes in honor of our team, but any baby potatoes will work — are parboiled, then “smashed” and roasted until golden, crispy and scrumptious. To make these addictive little bites even more irresistible, allow your guests and family to customize them by serving an array of tasty toppings. Our favorites are guacamole, chili con carne, sour cream and chives, crispy bacon, sharp cheddar, and salsa. Plan on six baby potatoes per person for an appetizer portion.
For the smashed potatoes:
36 baby potatoes (approximately 2 pounds)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2-3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (or Parmesan), finely grated
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chives, thinly sliced
For the fixings bar:
1 cup chili con carne (see recipe above)
Guacamole (recipe follows)
6 slices local corncob-smoked bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 cup sour cream with 3 tablespoons fresh chives
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2-3/4 cup salsa, drained
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the baby potatoes, and cover. Boil until potatoes are fork-tender, but not soft, approximately 12-15 minutes.
Drain, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool slightly. Drizzle with olive oil. Spread the potatoes out evenly on two large baking sheets, spacing them out so they are not touching.
Using the bottom of a Mason jar or a potato masher, firmly “smash” or flatten each potato. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. Flip, and bake for 10 minutes longer.
Remove from oven, and sprinkle with the cheese, parsley and chives. Place back in the oven for 2-3 minutes, until cheese has melted.
Serve on a cutting board or right from the baking trays along with the toppings of your choice.
3 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
Juice of a lime
1/4 red or white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 jalapeño, finely diced, with seeds (discard seeds for less heat)
3-4 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
Gently crush the avocado, and combine all ingredients. Set aside.
PIGS IN A BLANKET WITH DIJON HORSERADISH HONEY DIPPING SAUCE
I have to admit that this recipe was a stretch for me, as I have never even tried a traditional “pig in a blanket.” Supermarket biscuit dough wrapped around a mini hot dog just does not sound appealing to me at all. But local Italian sausage, bathed in caramelized onions seasoned with fennel seeds and snuggled in a blanket of cream cheese and butter dough baked to golden deliciousness? Now we’re talking. There are a number of local markets where you can buy countless varieties of delicious, handmade sausages. I purchased the Bianco & Sons brand, made in Medford, from The Butchery, which has locations in Newbury and Danvers.
For the dough:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
For the filling:
8 sweet or hot Italian sausage links
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fennel seeds (optional)
1 beaten egg
For the dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon horseradish
1 tablespoon honey
In a large stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine the softened butter and cream cheese for 2-3 minutes on medium speed, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula. Add the sour cream, reduce the speed to low, and sift in the salt and flour, blending until the dough comes together loosely (again, scraping the sides), approximately 1-2 minutes.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and form into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the sausage on a lightly oiled baking tray. Bake links for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes for even cooking. Allow to cool slightly, then cut each in half lengthwise. Allow to cool completely.
At the same time, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and thyme sprigs. Cook for 5-7 minutes until onions begin to brown, stirring gently. Cover, and reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes until soft and golden. Remove from heat, and allow to cool completely.
Keep the oven heated to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a 14- to 16-inch circle. Brush dough with 2 tablespoons mustard, top with caramelized onions and sprinkle with fennel seeds. Using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, cut dough into 16 equal parts (like pie slices).
Roll up each sausage slice, starting at the wide end until completely wrapped. Place seam side down. Brush all over with the beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.
Transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Whisk all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small ramekin or bowl. Serve on the side.
Allison Lehane lives in Newbury, where she is a home cook who is passionate about locally sourced ingredients. Her recipes have been inspired by her world travels through her former career as an international home fashion buyer for TJX Corp. Contact her at email@example.com.