Despite my team being out of it, the NFL playoffs have made for some exciting TV the last couple weekends. And for me, good football pairs nicely with good food (and cold beer). But the go-to grub for a football spread tends to be fried, fattening, and void of some key food groups. If celery with ranch is the only vegetable on your spread, then your spread needs some work! And don’t worry – I’m not about to spring some lentils or tofu on you. And I wouldn’t even call this “healthy” food – it’s just good food….that won’t be hanging on your thighs/gut after the Super Bowl! So here is the spread – grilled Teryaki Chicken, Cucumber Boats, Baked Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa, and Buffalo Chicken Sausage in Wonton Cups.
We gotta have some wings. But they don’t have to be fried, and they don’t have to be dripping in a sauce whose main ingredient is butter (although, we will use some of that sauce towards the end of the post). Chicken is a clean slate for flavor – if you want flavor, you need to add it yourself. I started with wings and legs in a brine – salty and sweet, a brine will infuse the meat with moisture and ensure the end result is super tender. It’s ideal to brine the meat over night. But even 2 to 3 hours in a brine is better than none at all.
Take the chicken out of the brine about an hour before cooking time. This gives the meat a chance to rest, and for your dry rub to get comfy. The rub needs to compliment the finishing glaze – which for me is teryaki. So a simple rub of salt, pepper, and Chinese Five Spice will do. Coat the meat, and rub it in good. Let the meat hang out in the fridge, uncovered, until it’s time to cook.
Speaking of cooking – it’s time to fire up the grill! I use a gas grill because of easy/quick start up and very little clean up. If you are using charcoal, put your coals only on one side – we want to be set up for indirect heat. I start my grill on high and let it warm up. Then I turn 1 burner off, and 1 burner to medium-high. Put the chicken over the off burner, and leave it be. It will need to be turned eventually – but don’t mess with it too much. I’d say every 15 minutes, give the pieces a turn. If you are impatient, or just really don’t have the time – go ahead and grill them on direct heat. But the indirect method will yield a crispy skin and tender meat – simulating a fried wing, without all the fat.
Once the meat is thinking about divorcing itself from the bones, it’s time for the glaze. Turn your burner back on, and up to about medium (or just move the meat over your coals, if using a charcoal grill). Brush the wings and legs with the teryaki glaze, and allow it to cook for a minute I like the glaze to get cooked on, with some crispy bits – but be careful, the glaze can burn.
- 6 wings
- 6 legs
- Dry rub
- Teryaki glaze (store bought)
- 4 C. Water
- 1/4 C. Salt
- 2 T. Soy sauce
- 1/4 C. sugar
- 1 tsp. Pepper
- 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
Combine all ingredients. Whisk until sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over chicken and seal in a zip-lock bag. Allow to marinate at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice
If you ever look at Pinterest, then you have seen this recipe from Bite Delite. It looks fresh and flavorful, so I’m giving it a try! It seems an easy addition to our spread. I made some minor changes though. First, I added a little garlic infused olive oil. I aslo added a squeeze of lime juice. I also assembled the boats a few hours in advance. I put the unsliced, filled cucumbers on a plate, and wrapped tightly with plastic wrap. This helped to keep the filling in place when I sliced them.
Spinach & Artichoke Dip
WARNING! This dip may vanish in front of your eyes. For real…If you are having a big crowd, you may want to double up the recipe. If you have friends like mine (you know who you are!) you may want to triple it. And how is this “lightened” up, you may ask? Yes, it has mayonnaise and full fat sour cream….but is has twice the amount of vegetables, and half the amount of parmesan cheese as the Joy of Cooking Baked Artichoke Dip recipe.
Make sure that you don’t buy “marinated” artichoke hearts. They are swimming in olive oil, and we don’t want that for this recipe. I buy the quarters, and rough chop them. But feel free to leave them in quarters, if you prefer. This is easily made in advance, just leave the bread crumbs off until ready to bake.
- 1/4 C. onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/2 C. Mayonnaise
- 1/2 C. Sour cream
- 1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, chopped
- 1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- 1/2 C. Parmesan, grated
- 1/4 C. Panko breadcrumbs
Saute onion in olive oil until softened. Add in garlic, and saute for another 2 minutes. Combine Mayo, sour cream, onion mixture, artichokes, spinach, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a greased baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes. Dip should be bubbly and starting to brown. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or warm pita bread.
Grilled Corn & Avocado Salsa
This is a salsa that I like to make on Taco Night (AKA Margarita Thursday). It’s so colorful, and pops with flavor – the perfect topping to a grilled steak taco….man, I should make some grilled steak tacos soon…. But I always end up with too much of this stuff and find myself hovering over the bowl, with a bag of tortilla chips – it’s too good to let it go to waste! So today I’m skipping the tacos, and going straight to hover mode.
Feel free to change things up – add some jalapeno, different colored peppers, maybe roasted garlic? But don’t make too much – you don’t want leftovers. Avocados just don’t jive the next day – the texture changes, the browning sets in, and they just start to get funky.
- 4 ears of corn
- 1 orange bell pepper, quartered (ribs and seeds removed)
- 1/2 red onion, sliced into thick rings
- 1 avocado, diced
- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- Lime juice
- Olive oil
- Salt, pepper, cumin to taste
Brush corn, onion and pepper with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until corn is cooked through and other veggies are soft. Allow to cool. Cut the corn off of the cob and rough chop onion and pepper.
In a bowl combine corn, onion, pepper, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro. Squeeze the juice of two limes directly into the bowl and drizzle with olive oil (1 – 2 T.). Season with salt, pepper and cumin. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerated until ready to serve.
Buffalo Chicken Sausage in Wonton Cups
A few years back my mother-in-law made these Bob Evans sausage cups for a Thanksgiving appetizer. They flew off the plate. But they were a little on the heavy and salty side. I’m using the Bob Evans concept, but I’m lightening it up a little. First change, I’m not using Bob Evans sausage….sorry Bob.
- 24 Wonton wrappers
- 1 lb. chicken sausage, removed from casings (spicy, if desired)
- 1 C. Mexican blend, shredded cheese
- 1/4 C. yogurt Ranch dressing
- 1/4 C. buffalo hot sauce (Frank’s)
Lightly spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray. Line each cup with a wonton skin, to form little cups. Bake at 350F for 5 minutes, until lightly browned.
Saute sausage, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Drain. Combine cooked sausage, Ranch dressing, buffalo sauce, and cheese. Scoop filling into wonton cups, and bake at 350F for 10 minutes (or until bubbly).