The Super Bowl is in New Jersey this year.
Yes, you read that right. New Jersey. MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to be exact. That's where the New York Giants and New York Jets play, and since it's a new stadium, the NFL has bestowed the facility and owners with the big, moneymaking game.
After a chilly winter start, forecasters are saying temperatures should be in the 40s on Sunday. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. on Fox. But like red carpet commentary for Hollywood awards shows, the coverage will start early in the day on various channels.
Even people who aren't sports fans will gather to "watch" the game and nosh chips and dip; wings and things; burgers and beer. The most-watched show of 2013 was the 49ers-Ravens Super Bowl in New Orleans (the Ravens won). People tune in for lots of reasons: the game, the commercials and even the halftime show. This year it's Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Enough about TV viewing habits, geography and weather. On to the eats.
You can theme your menu to the teams, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, but since the Garden State has such a strong culinary identity, I'd go that way. And by culinary identity, I mean Italian food.
E for dip ideas that celebrate Denver and Seattle, and some that are neutral.)
When I think Jersey football food, I think sausage and peppers (say it PEP-ahs) piled into pillowy hoagie rolls. This is a hearty dish that can be prepared in advance and then heated after guests arrive. I've even had it as a tailgate offering in the parking lot of the Meadowlands — the former stadium of the Jets and Giants — as hot sausage, peppers and onions fished from a thermos were plopped into split rolls. It's quite a trick to eat these bad boys standing up, and depending on how wet you make your sausage mixture, you'll need a few or a lot of napkins.
For those at your party cutting back on carbs or who are gluten-free, the bread can be omitted, and sausage and peppers becomes a knife-and-fork dish. The melange can also be served with polenta. (Remember that for the leftovers.)
I prepare sausage and peppers simply, and don't make any claims to Jersey authenticity, other than I married a native. First, I brown a mixture of hot and mild fresh Italian sausage in a bit of olive oil. When they are burnished properly, I remove them to a plate.
In the skillet goes a lot of sliced onions and green and red bell peppers. I let those soften, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, then add a couple minced cloves of garlic and a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes. Sometimes seasoned, sometimes not, depending on what I've got in the pantry.
I layer the browned sausage in a 9- by 13-inch pan, add the onions and peppers mixture, cover with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes.
That's it. Bada-bing, super easy.
The mixture is quite soupy so there's plenty of flavorful liquid to seep into the rolls.
There are two recipes accompanying this story that are a bit more complicated, and some might say more flavorful. I like the idea of grilling the sausage and vegetables, too. You could also grill the sausage and saute the vegetables, marrying them before serving.
If you're making sausage and peppers for a family dinner, you might not serve much with them. Maybe a green or potato salad; maybe some chips. But this is a Super Bowl, so you'll have to do better than that.
You could make baked ziti, a required dish at every Jersey gathering, but for this party, I'll suggest a Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad. The creaminess of the pasta salad will complement the sausage mixture by providing a light balance to the richness.
You'll blanch at the dozen hard-boiled eggs called for in the recipe, but remember, some of them go into the dressing. Plus the recipe serves 10 or more.
One other thing: Timing is always an issue for serving food at a Super Bowl party. Unfortunately, it's a work and school night, so some guests will head home after the halftime entertainment.
So have the food ready when people arrive — don't wait until halftime to feed them.
If the game gets boring, you can always search the tube for an episode of Jerseylicious. That's what's on the menu anyway.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @RoadEats on Twitter.
Sausage, Peppers and Onions
You can use different colored bell peppers, or just stick with green. This recipe uses a combination of sweet and hot sausages, but if you want a milder dish, use only the sweet sausages and reduce the amount of chili pepper flakes in the recipe. (Likewise, if you want it hotter, use hot sausages and/or bump up the amount of chili pepper flakes.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 Italian sausage links (sweet, hot, or a couple of each)
1 large sweet or yellow onion, sliced into ¼-inch half-moons
1 green bell pepper, sliced into 2- to 3-inch long strips
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 2- to 3-inch long strips
1 bell pepper another color (yellow, orange or purple), sliced into 2- to 3-inch long strips
Salt to taste
4 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
½ cup Marsala or red wine (optional)
1 (15-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan that has a lid. When the oil is hot, add the sausages and brown them slowly. If they sizzle and crackle too much, turn the heat down. You want a gentle browning, not a sear. Cook for several minutes, turning them occasionally so they brown on all sides. When the sausages are browned, remove from the pan and set aside.
Increase the heat to high and add the onions and peppers. Toss so they get coated with the oil in the pan and sear them as well as you can, stirring every so often. You want some blackening. Once the onions and peppers soften, sprinkle some salt on them. Once you get some searing on the onions and peppers, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Add the Marsala or red wine if you are using, and with a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the browned and blackened bits. Let the wine cook down by half.
Add the tomatoes, oregano and red pepper flakes (if using) and stir well to combine. Return sausages to pan. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the peppers are soft and the sausages are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
Sausage, peppers and onions will keep in the fridge for several days.
Serve over polenta, or with penne pasta, or load up in a hoagie roll. Any leftover sauce makes a great sauce for pasta.
Grilled Sausage and Peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided use
1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch rings
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch rings
1 medium onion, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
4 sweet or hot Italian sausages (about 12 ounces total)
2 individual hero, hoagie or grinder rolls (each about 7 inches long by 3 inches wide)
Prepare grill. In a small bowl, drizzle 2 teaspoons oil over pepper rings, tossing to coat well. Secure each slice of onion horizontally with a wooden pick (to prevent separation into rings) and brush with remaining teaspoon oil.
Grill peppers and onions on an oiled rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals 3 minutes on each side, or until tender. (Alternatively, peppers and onions may be grilled indoors in batches in a hot, well-seasoned ridged grill pan over moderately high heat.)
Transfer peppers and onions to a bowl, discarding wooden picks, and toss with Worcestershire sauce and vinegar.
Prick sausages with a fork and grill, turning them, until golden and just cooked through (about 160 degrees on a instant-read thermometer), 10 to 15 minutes.
Halve sausages lengthwise and rolls horizontally and grill, cut sides down, 1 minute, or until sausages are cooked through but still juicy and rolls are lightly toasted.
Divide peppers and onions between rolls and top with sausages.
Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces of large elbow macaroni
12 hard-cooked eggs
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons country Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
½ cup chopped sweet pickles
1 ½ cups very thinly sliced celery
Smoked paprika and/or pepper (optional)
In a small saucepan combine onion, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside.
Meanwhile, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and rinse well with cold water; set aside.
Coarsely chop one egg; set aside. Halve remaining eggs; separate yolks from whites. Coarsely chop egg whites; set aside.
For dressing, place yolks in a medium bowl; mash with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and onion and vinegar mixture. Gradually stir in tablespoon water, salt, paprika and pepper. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine the chopped egg whites, pickles, celery, macaroni and dressing; toss to combine. Top with reserved chopped egg; sprinkle with additional smoked paprika and pepper. Serve at once or cover and chill up to 6 hours.
If the mixture gets a little dry after storing, you can stir in a little milk.
Source: Better Homes & Gardens