Take it from a pro: To host a good football party, you need to bring the food out in waves. Food Network's Sunny Anderson is a veteran of Super Bowl parties, and she's learned a little something from the players on the field. Just like the big game itself, it pays to serve your guest by the quarter.
"You've got to space it out," she says. "You can't just slam your guests with food in the beginning. They won't make it to halftime."
It's important to draw up a game plan. First, she says, serve finger foods like chips and dip. Then, a variety of wings will keep the conversation moving. By third quarter, it's high time to pick up your guests with a bit of caffeine: "You really don't want them spending the night on your couch, so let's start on that coffee!"
In the final stretch, polish the meal off with some dessert — some brownies or, if you're in the mood to go against expectations, Sunny says, "I also love the novelty of an ice cream sandwich during cold weather."
Whatever your game plan, though, there's no debating that the big show comes at halftime. That's when Sunny breaks out the headliner of the meal: her Beefy Butternut Squash Chili.
Yes, you heard that right. Sunny spells it out: "It's a big pot of beefy, meaty chili studded with butternut squash."
As it happens, the recipe was a happy accident. The first time she made it, her chili had turned out a bit salty. She searched her kitchen without success for some potatoes to absorb the extra salt. "I didn't have any potatoes, but I did have a butternut squash. The same idea: It's ready to soak up flavor. So, I said I'm ready to break this behemoth down, and I'll put it into my chili."
And that's not the only surprising ingredient. Sunny also adds some pumpkin pie spice — but not too much: "Just a hint of it will really add a nice kind of, I like to say, 'hum.'"
Like any great halftime show, Sunny promises, the Beefy Butternut Squash Chili has the power to make even opposing sides agree.
"It's going to make the people that like butternut squash happy and the people that have never seen it before say, 'Huh?' And then pour themselves a bowl."
Serves 6 to 8
For the seasoning blend
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the chili
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound beef chuck (80% meat, 20% fat) or stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup finely chopped
Vidalia or sweet onions
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, grated on a rasp or finely minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons hot sauce (I like Frank's Red Hot here)
1 pound ground beef chuck (80% meat, 20% fat)
2 tablespoons fine cornmeal
1½ cups beef stock
1½ cups red wine (any inexpensive chianti will do)
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
Make the seasoning blend. In a small bowl combine the cumin, chili powder, pumpkin pie spice, oregano, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside.
Sear the beef. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over high heat until it begins to swirl. Add the beef cubes and sprinkle with half of the seasoning. Cook, stirring intermittently, until the beef is browned on all sides but not cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the beef chunks with a slotted spoon and set a plate.
Build the flavor. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, bell pepper, garlic, tomato paste, and hot sauce. Cook, stirring, until everything turns a dark reddish brown, about 10 minutes.
Complete the chili. Add the ground beef and sprinkle with the remaining half of the seasoning blend. Cook, stirring, until the beef is browned, then add the reserved beef chunks back to the pot along with the cornmeal, stock, wine, and squash. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the chili is thick and the liquid reduced, 40 to 50 minutes. Taste and season with another pinch of salt if needed, but the seasoning blend you've made should have this tasting perfect for you. If using cinnamon, add the stick 20 minutes before the chili is done, then remove before serving. Serve warm.
Tip! If you don't have butternut squash, substitute two or three sweet potatoes for equally tasty results.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
And we are ready for some football and a party.
SUNNY ANDERSON: I have done a Super Bowl party every year.
CORNISH: That's the Food Network's Sunny Anderson. She's a veteran of the gridiron grill and oven. We invited her back to share a Found Recipe today and to help plan our Super Bowl shindig. Her number one piece of advice: serve the snacks in stages.
ANDERSON: Yeah, you got to space it out. You can't just slam your guests with food in the beginning. They won't be able to make it to halftime. They're going to fall asleep.
CORNISH: Hey, and there is no sleeping in football. So, first quarter, it's finger food.
ANDERSON: Give them some dips. Give them some chips.
CORNISH: Second quarter, wings.
ANDERSON: Different types of wings so people can, like, have a conversation. I like this one better. I like that one better.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TREASURE")
CORNISH: Halftime means show time, so bring out the main meal.
ANDERSON: It's the chili. It's the pizza. It's the everything, whatever you're planning.
CORNISH: And by the third quarter, it's pick-me-up time.
ANDERSON: You don't want these people driving home drunk and you really don't want them spending the night on your couch, so let's start with that coffee.
CORNISH: The fourth quarter, that's the sweet so long, baby.
ANDERSON: Bring it home with that dessert. You know, a big tray of brownies. That's been fun. But I also love the novelty of an ice cream sandwich during cold weather.
CORNISH: Oh, yeah. That'll wake them up and get them out the door. Now, if you take Sunny Anderson's next suggestion, today's Found Recipe, your guests will talk about your halftime main meal all the way home.
ANDERSON: It's a big pot of beefy, meaty chili studded with butternut squash, and I want you to go with me on this.
CORNISH: That's right. Butternut squash in your chili, swimming around with diced sweet onion and bell pepper and, of course, juicy chunks of beef.
ANDERSON: So the first time I made this chili, it was a little bit salty. I know what you're supposed to do when a big pot of soup is salty. You add some potatoes. But I didn't have any potatoes, but I did have a butternut squash. It's the same idea. It's ready to soak up flavor, so I said I'll break this behemoth down and I'll put it into my chili. And I got to tell you, it's probably one of the smartest things I've done for chili. First of all, it bulks it up, so now you go from feeding just a few to feeding, you know, more than a few.
I think it's perfect for a big pot of something that's spicy to add something that's starchy because we all know starch is what mellows out spice. And this isn't chili for the weak.
ANDERSON: That's for sure. Now, my second surprising ingredient in my chili: pumpkin pie spice. Oh, yeah. Just a hint of it will really add a nice kind of, I like to say, hum. Just going to hum under there. Beefy butternut squash chili. It's going to make the people that like butternut squash happy, and the people that have never seen it before say, huh, and then pour themselves a bowl.
CORNISH: That's Sunny Anderson of the Food Network. You can get the recipe for that memorable halftime meal - beefy butternut squash chili - at our Found Recipe page at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.