The NFL’s biggest game of the year is fast approaching, and my guess is that football fans aren’t just trying to figure out where to watch. We’re also contemplating a winning tailgate menu for family and friends to nosh on during the game.
In years past, we’ve offered up some healthier takes on traditional tailgate food (seven-layer salad, anyone?) but we realize it’s probably in vain. Story clicks suggest that most readers look for, and undoubtedly will pig out on, the same dishes they always enjoy on Super Sunday, the second-biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving.
Loaded nachos and Buffalo chicken dip also are staple eats during major sporting events, followed by pizza, cheesy dips, salty snacks and simple desserts like cookies and brownies. And don’t forget the guacamole: Experts say more than 8 million pounds of the creamy (or maybe you like chunky) avocado-based Mexican dip is devoured during the big game each year.
Recognizing this is a day for indulgence — and not wanting to reinvent the wheel — we’ve pulled together six of our favorite game-day recipes to keep everyone well-fed through the fourth quarter. Each one is a winner!
Philly Cheesesteak Nachos
Serves 4. “Ultimate Nachos: From Nachos and Guacamole to Salsa and Cocktails” by Lee Frank and Rachel Anderson
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 red or green bell pepper, seeded and diced (I used both)
1/2 pound thinly sliced beef, chopped into bite-sized pieces
7 ounces corn tortilla chips, store-bought or homemade
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup Bechamel Cheddar Cheese Sauce, warmed (recipe below)
In a small pan over medium heat, add olive oil. Add onion and pepper and saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add beef and cook until brown.
Layer chips in a large roasting pan and evenly distribute the beef mixture and diced tomato. Cover chips with warm cheese sauce and serve.
Bechamel Cheddar Cheese Sauce
Super creamy, this sauce is a great base for homemade mac and cheese, too.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and black
In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir until a smooth paste forms, 5-6 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat milk until it is just about to boil. Be careful not to burn.
Gradually add hot milk to butter mixture, whisking continuously until smooth. Bring sauce to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, and remove from heat. Immediately add shredded cheese and stir together until evenly incorporated. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Serves 8 to 10. Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette
Have you ever been to a gathering that doesn’t include this spicy dip? Some recipes call for canned chicken, but I can’t imagine using anything but grilled or broiled chicken breasts. I use homemade blue cheese dressing but you could substitute homemade or bottled ranch. Depending on how saucy you like your dip, add more or less Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.
2 roasted or poached boneless chicken breasts, shredded (about 3 cups)
6 ounces (3/4 package) cream cheese, softened
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles, plus more for garnish
1/3 cup Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe follows), plus more for drizzling
1/3 cup of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, or more to taste
Chopped cilantro, pickled jalapenos or sliced green onion for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together shredded chicken, cream cheese, cheddar and blue cheeses, blue cheese dressing and Frank’s Red Hot. If it’s not spicy enough, add a little more hot sauce.
Spoon into a casserole and bake until cheese is hot and bubbly and chicken is heated through, about 15-20 minutes.
Garnish with chopped cilantro, pickled jalapenos and/or sliced green onion. Serve with crackers, pita chips or corn tortillas.
Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
Fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Place sour cream, blue cheese, milk, mayonnaise, salt, pepper and vinegar in a medium bowl.
Whisk thoroughly until completely combined. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired.
Serves 4. Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette
For some, the best part of a football tailgate is the big bowl of guacamole. Hosts like it because it’s easy to make, guests because it’s so dippable.
2 ripe avocados
1/4 red or sweet onion, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (leaves and stems)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 serrano chile, stem and seeds removed, minced
Juice 1/2 lime or more to taste
Generous pinch kosher salt
Generous pinch freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch Piment d’Espelette
1/2 small tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped
Tortilla chips for serving
Cut avocados in half and remove seeds. Scoop flesh into a bowl and roughly mash with a fork. (You want a few small chunks.)
Add onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, chile and lime juice; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Piment d’Espelette. Add more lime juice, if desired.
Just before serving, stir in chopped tomato.
Serve with tortilla chips.
Queso Fundido With Chorizo
Serves 4 to 6. Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette
This cheesy, stretchy dip belongs at every party. Crumbled Mexican chorizo, flavored with chile peppers, adds a spicy finish.
1 package white or yellow corn tortillas
2 tablespoons avocado or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1 or 2 poblano chili peppers
1/2 cup crumbled Mexican chorizo
1/2 medium white onion, very thinly sliced
12 ounces shredded Chihuahua or other Mexican melting cheese such as quesadilla, or a mixture
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut tortillas into 8 triangles by cutting them into quarters and then into eighths.
Place pieces in a large bowl. Drizzle oil and salt over triangles and, using your hands, mix well so everything is evenly coated.
Place tortillas in a large roasting pan or divide evenly between 2 baking sheets and spread into an even layer. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until browned and crispy. Remove from oven and set aside; chips will keep in airtight container for up to 4 days. Keep oven hot.
Make fundido: Place peppers directly on the burner of a gas stove turned to high heat. When one side of the pepper is fully blistered (takes about 5 minutes), turn it with tongs and char the other side. Repeat until the entire pepper is blackened. Alternatively, rub peppers with a little vegetable oil, place on a cookie sheet and cook under broiler, turning frequently, until they are charred.
Place peppers in a plastic bag and seal, or place in a bowl and cover. Allow to steam for about 10 minutes to loosen the skin. When peppers are cool enough to touch, rub the skin off with your fingers or a paper towel. Chop into thin strips and set aside.
Add chorizo to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, until sausage is crisp and brown. Remove to a paper towel-covered plate to allow to drain.
Add onions to pan and cook until they are starting to brown (you may have to add a little oil or butter), then add pepper strips and continue cooking another 3-4 minutes. Add half of the cooked chorizo back to pan and stir to combine.
Place half of the shredded cheese in a small cast-iron skillet. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until it has melted completely. Remove from oven and top with pepper-chorizo mixture. Cover with remaining cheese, then spoon remaining chorizo on top.
Place back in oven and bake for another 5 or so minutes, until cheese is oozing and browned along the edges. Top with chopped tomatoes and serve immediately with chips.
Big Game Brownies
Makes 16 brownies. Adapted from marthastewart.com
Every get-together needs some sort of dessert, and brownies fit the bill. I added chopped pecans, but walnuts or almonds would also add a nutty crunch.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Generous pinch of salt
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped, or more to taste
1/4 to 1/3 cup M&Ms
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Line bottom with parchment or wax paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Butter paper and set pan aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
Place butter and semisweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in microwave, 10 seconds at a time, until smooth, stirring occasionally. Stir in cocoa powder and oil. Add sugars, eggs, vanilla and flour mixture; stir to combine well. Stir in M&Ms and pecans, if using, then transfer batter to pan with a spatula.
Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs attached (or sooner to make sure they’re soft). Cool completely before slicing into squares.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. These also freeze well.