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 [email protected] Follow @RoadEats on Twitter.