For the beginning of February, there is surprisingly little Super Bowl buzz. Even The Facepage has little to say on the subject.
So, in case you hadn’t heard, the Super Bowl is Sunday and the Falcons and the Patriots are playing.
But of course, that is not particularly important. What is important are the snacks. Thanksgiving has turkey and Christmas has cookies but Super Bowl Sunday is a glorious celebration of the great American sport of gluttony.
Grease, goo, cheese, bacon, loads of fat and mountains of excess carbs are the order of the day. And, oh yeah, there’s football. preferably in a different room so the people paying attention to the game don’t put a damper on the festivities.
A successful Super Bowl party celebrates quantity over quality. This is not the time to be stirring pots of homemade sauce, rolling out artisanal ravioli or baking your own bread. Char up a bunch of tomatoes for some delicious salsa if you must, but no one is going to judge if you simply throw a few jars in your grocery cart.
If you just can’t stop yourself from making homemade stuff, fry up some homemade potato chips. They’re worth the trouble. But whatever you do — do not, under any circumstances, make homemade tater tots. That is the most pretentious thing you can possibly do, so don’t do that. There are perfectly serviceable tater tots in your grocer’s freezer. Throw a bag in your cart. Throw several.
Tater tots can create the perfect storm of childhood comfort food and grown-up indulgence. There is no time like Super Bowl Sunday to work that possibility for all it’s worth.
Take the old Super Bowl standby, nachos. Nachos are so good no one even cares that it’s almost impossible to eat them without dribbling something down your shirt. They’re difficult even under the best of circumstances and crouched over a coffee table surrounded by Patriots fans anticipating a touch down is not the best of circumstances. It’s going to get messy.
So what if you leave out the tortilla chips whose only function in the dish is to serve as a cheese and goo delivery system. A function that we have already determined they suck at. Replace those chips with tater tots and find a fork. You have seriously amped up the delicious factor and possibly averted a salsa disaster. This win-win is called Totchos (Tots + Nachos).
While you’re at it, wrap some tater tots in bacon. It is a scientific fact that people will scarf down anything wrapped in bacon. Sometimes, they don’t even look to see what the bacon is wrapped around. And even if they do, they’re going to be so happy to see a tater tot in there.
While on the tater tot theme, make some tater tot dip. What any other day would be a nice weeknight casserole on Super Bowl Sunday becomes a decadent dip.
It’s probably possible to do a completely tater tot based menu but if you don’t want to do that, do be thoughtful about maximizing the decadence of every snack. Sure, ravioli is good but wouldn’t it be better if you deep-fried it? And sure, everybody likes garlic bread but what if the garlic bread served as a little edible plate for a bite or two of cheese-drenched baked spaghetti?
Some of the following recipes give directions for “oven-frying” in case you don’t own a deep-fryer. But if you’ve got one, by all means use it.
More. More. More. That’s the mantra.
Tater Tots, meet Nachos. Nachos, meet Tater Tots.
1 medium tomato
1 recipe Charred Tomato Salsa (recipe follows) or purchased salsa
1/2 cups fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems
4 oz. Spanish or Mexican chorizo, finely diced
2 quarts peanut oil
1 (28 ounce) package Tater Tots or mini Tater Tots
1 recipe Gooey Cheese Sauce (recipe follows) or just buy a jar
1 small red onion, finely diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Finely dice 1 tomato and toss with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place in a fine mesh strainer set over to a bowl to drain. Set aside while you prepare the salsa. Place chorizo in a small skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Heat peanut oil in a deep fryer, wok, or Dutch oven and cook Tater Tots according to package directions, working in batches and keeping them warm in a 200°F. oven if necessary. Season to taste with salt. Place half of Tater Tots on a large serving platter and top with half of salsa, cheese sauce, chorizo, drained tomatoes, red onions, scallions and cilantro. Top with remaining tots and remaining toppings. Serve immediately.
5 medium tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 small white or yellow onion, peeled and split
1 jalapeño pepper, split in half
1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems, divided
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime
Preheat broiler to high. Split tomatoes in half and place on a foil-lined broiler pan or rimmed baking sheet. Add garlic, onion, and jalapeño. Broil until completely tender and well blackened on top side, about 25 minutes. Transfer all vegetables to a blender or food processor and add fresh cilantro and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper and allow to cool. Set aside.
Gooey Cheese Sauce
This is the cheese sauce you need for cheese fries, tortilla chips, burgers, or hot dogs.For a spicier version, substitute half the cheddar cheese with Pepper Jack and add 2-3 minced pickled jalapeños, or to taste. To reheat the sauce, microwave it on high heat, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds until it’s fully melted.
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated on large holes of a box grater
1 tbsp. corn starch
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
2 tsp. hot sauce of your choice
Add cheese and cornstarch to large bowl. Toss to combine. Transfer to medium saucepan. Add 1 cup evaporated milk and hot sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with whisk until melted, bubbly, and thickened (about 5 minutes). Mixture will look thin and grainy at first but will thicken and come together after heating. Thin to desired consistency with additional evaporated milk. Serve immediately with fries, tortilla chips, burgers, or hot dogs.
Bacon-Wrapped Tater Tot Bombs
2 cups frozen tater tots, at room temperature
1 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch squares
4 slices bacon, quartered
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional garnish)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside. Working one at a time, wrap each tater tot and cheese square in a piece of bacon. Repeat with remaining tater tots, cheese squares and bacon pieces. Dredge each tater tot in the brown sugar, pressing to coat. Place tater tots seam side down onto the prepared baking sheet. Place into oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, using metal tongs to turn at halftime. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.
Loaded Tater Tot Dip
Dip can also be made fresh and served like a casserole if there aren’t a dozen people watching football in your living room.
3 cups tater tots (about 45 whole tater tots), thawed and halved or roughly chopped
1 cup meatballs, crumbled
16 oz. sour cream
2 cups shredded cheese blend, divided (blend of Colby, jack, mozzarella or Monterrey Jack)
2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning blend, or to taste
salt and pepper, optional and to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F. and spray a 9-inch pie dish or similar oven-safe baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. Slice thawed tater tots in half or place a large pile on cutting board and roughly chop them; retain some size and texture and don’t chop them too small. Transfer tater tots to a large mixing bowl. Add the meatballs, sour cream, add 1 cup cheese, seasoning blend, salt, pepper, and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Top with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is bubbly and golden browned. Serve immediately with crackers, bread, pita chips or pita bread, tortilla chips, dip tater tots into it, or just eat it with a spoon. Store leftover dip in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Leftovers can be eaten taco casserole-style by setting a piece on top of a mound of crackers or chips and microwaving for about 1 minute.
Spaghetti Garlic Bread Boat
loaf of Italian bread, sliced in half horizontally
garlic butter or butter and a clove of garlic cut in half
left-over spaghetti tossed in meat sauce, warmed
extra warmed meat sauce, as needed
shredded mozzarella, as needed
finely chopped flat leaf parsley, (if desired)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread the garlic butter on the bread, or spread on the butter and rub with your garlic clove. Bake the bread for about 5 minutes, until slightly browned and crispy. Remove, top with spaghetti, extra sauce and a generous amount of mozzarella. Bake until cheese is melty, bubbly and delicious, about 10 minutes. Remove, top with flat leaf parsley.
Oven-Fried Cheese Ravioli
1 pound frozen cheese ravioli (about 40 pieces)
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
3 tbsp. grated Romano cheese + more for topping
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
marinara sauce for dipping
Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with nonstick spray. Add egg whites to one bowl, and in a larger bowl mix flour, bread crumbs, panko, Romano, salt and pepper. Bring water to a boil and cook ravioli for half of the recommended time. I let mine boil for a little over 2 minutes, then drained them and quickly spray through them with nonstick spray to help them not stick together. Once cool to the touch, dip each ravioli in egg whites then coat thoroughly with the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Place on the wire rack and repeat until finished. Spray each with a quick hit of nonstick spray. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until crispy and golden. Serve hot with marinara for dipping.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.