If you could ask anybody to prepare a Super Bowl feast in your home, it should be chef Carla Hall.
She can come up with a game-day menu at the drop of a ball. If she was in Tampa for the game, she would be making blackened grouper fingers — a favorite of hers from the days right out of college when she lived on Davis Islands and worked as an accountant.
Because grouper is difficult to come by in Nashville, she likely will substitute catfish if she makes the elevated fish sticks from her mother’s home for her own game day dinner.
Either way, she will be wearing her signature eyeglasses in red, in homage to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
If not for the pandemic, Hall would be blackening grouper on a stage behind Raymond James Stadium, sharing recipes with fans at the annual Taste of the NFL. Instead, this year’s Taste of the NFL @ Home will be live-streamed and feature award-winning chefs including Hall, Andrew Zimmern and Tim Love, along with some celebrity appearances.
The $100 tickets include recipes and ingredient lists so that fans can shop and then cook alongside the chefs. All of the proceeds will go to the Emergency School Meal Delivery Fund of GENYOUth (Gives Youth a Voice; Enhances Nutrition and Physical Activity in Schools; Nurtures Youth Leadership and Workforce Readiness). Hall, 56, said the organization “is near and dear to my heart” and has served on the board since 2011. Taste of the NFL @ Home takes place at 11:30 a.m. on Super Bowl Sunday. Tickets are available at tasteofthenfl.com.
“How often can you say that not only are you having fun but you are also benefiting a really good cause?” she said. “One in four children in our country suffers from food insecurity and the pandemic makes it even worse. We have to narrow that gap.”
Hall isn’t disappointed the event is virtual this year and thinks it may make it easier for more home cooks to participate.
“I think that having the taste virtually gives you access to so many people. I really feel that. I have done so many virtual events and you actually feel like you are in someone’s living room with them and I love that,” she said. And, guests don’t have to negotiate crowds or lines to join the party.
“This time you have to do a lot of the heavy lifting yourself,” she said. “You have to cook yourself but you also get to learn how to cook something.”
Hall is preparing her football favorite, Biscuits with Doritos and Pimento Cheese. While her own kitchen in Washington, D.C., is being renovated, she is living temporarily with her mom, Audrey Hall, in Nashville, where she was born and raised. Her mom’s kitchen is small, the counters are low and she doesn’t have any fancy gadgets.
“I’m taller than the refrigerator,” she allowed. “If I can make a recipe from her kitchen — anybody can make it.”
Other foods Hall doesn’t like to pass on for game time include chicken tortilla meatballs and a spicy ketchup with some kind of pickles alongside.
Many of her recipes allow for substitutions and a personal touch. For example, her Mexican dish with tortilla chips can be turned into a Greek-themed meal with feta cheese and oregano.
“I always want people to just get into the kitchen and surprise yourself with what you can do,” she said. “The same way that we experience the pandemic together we can experience the Super Bowl together by eating the same food. We are used to watching food television, so this is no different.”
Hall’s cooking career came about after she put her accounting career on the sidelines and traveled the world as a model. She decided she liked trying international foods more than trying on fashion.
While she will be watching the game and rooting for her former home team, Hall said she is more in the game for the grub than the gridders.
“I would always go to Super Bowl parties for the food,” she said. “You have those people who are watching the game and they would be in the other room. I stay with the food.”
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