Small Bites For the Big Game #4: Edible Snack Bowl

Everyone's had this moment at a Super Bowl party. There you are, watching the big game from your favorite spot on the couch, parked next to a bowl of fantastic dip. Maybe it's onion dip. Maybe it's guacamole. Maybe it's queso dip with chorizo. Whatever the dip, inevitably this sad moment comes: you go to scoop and – GASP! – the bowl is empty. There's no more dip. The day is ruined.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. Maybe the day isn't ruined. But if you're smart you'll prevent your game day guests from experiencing such a snack letdown by trying this recipe for an edible bowl. That's right, an EDIBLE BOWL. Now, not only will your guests never hit the bottom of the figurative snack bowl, you can literally watch the Super Bowl and eat it, too.

Photo courtesy of FoodNetwork.com

Here's how you make this wonder of a snack bowl:
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 8 cups snack mix (such as Chex Mix or Asian rice cracker mix)
  • Cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Beat the egg whites and 2 tablespoons water in a large bowl with a mixer until slightly stiff peaks form. Add the snack mix and toss until evenly coated.

Generously coat a 3-quart ovenproof bowl with cooking spray and place the snack mix in it. Crumple a large sheet of foil and mold into a bowl shape about one-third the size of the 3-quart bowl. Coat the outside of the foil bowl with cooking spray and press into the snack mix to make a well in the middle, forming the snack mix into a bowl shape.

Place the bowl with the foil in the oven and bake until the snack mix sets, 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, 5 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. Cool 30 more minutes, invert the edible bowl onto a plate and cool completely.


Small Bites For the Big Game #3: Italian Meatball Sliders

When it comes to party appetizers, there are few things more adorable or magically-delicious than sliders. Think about it; miniature replicas of your favorite big burgers or sandwiches are an automatic crowd-pleaser. Say you're at a party and the host brings out sliders. They're gone before you can find yourself a plate. Three minutes, tops.

Here are two of my absolute favorite sliders:

Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders
(these were from our wedding!)

Pulled Pork & Cole Slaw Sliders
Photo courtesy of Maggiesmeals.com

But aside from these two miniature classics, there's a third I've been wanting to try. I've adapted it from Bon Appetit's January 2010 Meatball feature, which highlights a fantastic recipe for Spaghetti & Meatball All'Amatraciana. But when you take away the pasta, the homemade meatballs and accompanying marinara sauce seemed like a perfect match for Super Bowl sliders, especially when you put them on homemade brioche burger buns. So off I went, on a brioche-baking and meatball-making test run. Or frenzy, however you want to look at it!

I'm not going to lie; there are a lot of steps and time involved in making the meatballs and the marinara sauce from scratch. But my goodness is it ever worth it. Simply put, these meatball sliders are incredible; they are so flavorful and in my opinion, don't have that metallic taste of a typical ground beef slider. The addition of bacon, marjoram, roasted red pepper, garlic, egg and bread crumbs – in the patty alone, no less– makes the slider incredibly moist and full of textural contrasts. And double-cooking the patties – first in bacon grease and then in the marinara sauce – just adds that certain..."Ooomph." Not to mention "Ooh's" and "Aah's" from your party guests. Just top with a few shreds of mozzarella and freshly grated Parmesan cheese and you've got yourself one of the best Super Bowl sliders in town!

The Best Meatball Slider Ever
Note: The sliders are small; about 2 1/2" across. My photo is not to scale!

Meatball Ingredients:
  • 3 ounces uncured applewood-smoked bacon (about 3 slices), diced
  • 1 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 pounds ground beef (15% fat)
  • 1/3 cup chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar
  • 1/3 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup coarsely grated onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
  • 1 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice (preferably San Marzano)
  • 1 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 ounces uncured applewood-smoked bacon (about 3 slices), diced
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup beef broth mixed with 1/4 cup water (one cup total)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
Additional Sandwich Ingredients:
  • 12 mini brioche buns (recipe here)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Make the Meatballs: Place bacon in processor. Using on/off turns, grind to coarse paste. Transfer to large bowl. Using garlic press, squeeze in garlic. Gently mix in beef and all remaining ingredients. Let stand 15 minutes.

Grind bacon in food processor until a paste forms
Press garlic into bowl
Add beef & remaining ingredients, mixing gently
Let combined ingredients sit for 15 minutes

Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on sheet and press down gently so they have a flatter surface. (DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap; chill.) Note: I used a plate since my sheet pans were occupied by fresh brioche buns!

Roll meat mixture into 1 1/2" patties
Make the Sauce: Puree tomatoes with juice and garlic in batches in blender until smooth. Cook bacon in large pot over medium heat until crisp; transfer bacon to plate. Add 1 tablespoon oil to drippings in pot and heat over medium heat. Add half of meatballs. Cook until brown on all sides, turning carefully with small metal spatula, about 9 minutes. Transfer meatballs to baking sheet. Add more oil to pot if needed and repeat with remaining meatballs.

Puree tomatoes and garlic in blender until smooth
Cook meatballs in bacon drippings, one batch at a time
Cook meatballs until brown on all sides, about 9 minutes
Set cooked meatballs aside and cover with foil
Increase heat to medium-high. Add onions and crushed red pepper to pot. Sauté until golden, about 6 minutes. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, stirring up browned bits, about 8 minutes. Add tomato puree and marjoram. Boil until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add onions and crushed red pepper to pan
FYI: This is Marjoram, in case you were curious
Add tomato & garlic puree and marjoram to pan
Mix bacon into sauce. Add meatballs; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until meatballs are heated through and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Add bacon to tomato sauce
Place meatballs in sauce and cook for another 10 minutes
Assemble the Sliders: Heat your oven to 300 degrees. Slice mini brioche buns in half and place, cut-side up, on foil-lined sheet pan. Place in oven and bake until edges are toasted and golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and place bottom halves of buns on serving platter. Top with a meatball and a small scoop of marinara sauce. Drizzle shredded mozzarella and freshly-grated Parmesan cheese on marinara sauce. Add top-halves of brioche buns, serve and enjoy!

Slice mini brioche buns in half
Place brioche halves on foil-lined sheet pan
Enjoy your mini meatball sandwich (about 2 1/2" wide)!


Small Bites for the Big Game #2: Homemade Brioche Burger Buns

In preparation for the Super Bowl, I've been experimenting with homemade hamburger bun recipes. I've always wanted to make my own burger buns, especially after shopping for the perfect "slider" bun proved futile. Supermarket-made dinner rolls, at least in my book, aren't the best substitute because they're either too dry or too bland. Hawaiian bread rolls are incredibly tasty and soft, but too sweet for the Italian and Vietnamese sliders I'm making for a Super Bowl party.

So I decided to make my own. After several so-so attempts from a variety of recipes – the result was too dense, too flat, too bland, too small, etc. – I think I've found THE ONE. The recipe is adapted from Comme Ca, one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles. In addition to its incredible French cuisine (it gets my vote for the best Beef Bourguignon and pan-seared skate), Comme Ca has one of the best burgers in town. Forget the tender, excellently seasoned beef and let's focus on the game changer: the BUN. It's the perfect shade of golden brown, crispy yet buttery, and light and fluffy while maintaining its structural integrity against the heft of the burger and its toppings. Bottom line: the bun is a huge contributing factor to the deliciousness of the burger.

So if you love sliders, are frustrated by the lack of slider buns in mainstream grocery stores, or just interested in trying your hand at fabulous homemade bread, bookmark this recipe. Now. My Italian meatball slider recipe is coming soon as one of ten "Small Bites for the Big Game" Super Bowl posts, so between this homemade brioche bun recipe and amazing meatball sliders you'll be the star of the show!

Here's how you make them:
  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.

Combine water, milk, yeast and sugar, let sit until foamy

Beat one egg (mini whisks are great for this!)
In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, well-floured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be on the sticky side so it can be a bit messy, but keep in mind that the more flour you knead in, the tougher the buns will get. Note: I did not add ANY flour during the kneading process. If it stuck to the board, which only happened one time, I used a dough scraper to loosen it and added it back to the ball.

Pinch butter into flour mixture until "crumbly"

Add all liquids & mix until dough forms

Knead until elastic, 8-10 minutes
Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, one to two hours.

Return dough to bowl & cover with plastic wrap

Let proof until doubled in size, 1-2 hours
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one to two hours.

Cut dough into 15-20 small pieces, roll & place on baking sheet

Cover loosely with plastic wrap coated in non-stick spray

After 1-2 hours, uncover and prepare egg wash

Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds

Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, but not before slicing a hot bun and spreading on a pat of butter. I'm sighing with lust just thinking about it...


Smoky & Spicy Chipotle Chili

I've been waiting for a cold, rainy night like tonight...oh wait, we had about seven of them last week. Ironically I completely missed the bus on making chili, which in my opinion is the perfect stormy night meal. So tonight I was prepared, stocking up at Trader Joe's with ingredients for one of my favorite chili recipes: Pork & Beef Chipotle Chili. It comes from the Neely Family, new-ish to the Food Network cast of characters, but I've modified it to suit Bryan's and my tastes.

Without getting into the age-old "Do you make chili with or without beans" debate, I'll just say that I like my chili chunky, smoky, spicy and filled with meat and beans. But when I say "beans," I don't mean kidney, pinto and black beans that are so chunky and starchy that they get in the way of the chili's true texture and flavor. We've all had what seemed to be incredible chili, only to bite down on a spoonful of mealy, flavorless kidney beans. That's a big time YUCK in my book.

In my chili, I've got beans that are cooked down, starches released, so they help thicken the sauce but also provide a wonderful textural contrast to the meaty, spicy broth. No overpowering, mealy beans here. Not to mention, this recipe goes above and beyond by starting off with everyone's favorite protein: BACON. I mean, how can a recipe that starts by browning applewood smoked bacon be bad? In addition to the smokiness of the bacon, this chili has a serious, intense flavor kick as a result of chipotle chili, chili powder, cumin and smoked paprika. I add some Sriracha for good measure because selfishly, I can't get enough of it. Bon Appetit Magazine even named it the "Ingredient of the Year" in its most recent issue, so I'm justified. :)

Courtesy of BonAppetit.com

Once the chili finished simmering – possibly the longest hour and a half ever when you're starving – I scooped a bowl for my husband and topped it with a bit of shredded cheese and sliced scallions. Upon his first bite he said, "You don't make this nearly enough. This is amazing chili!" That's good enough for me. Hopefully it will be good enough for you, too!

Here's the recipe:
  • 6 slices thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup beer (we used Sam Adams Oktoberfest)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (24-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • Shredded Mozzarella, for garnish
  • Sliced scallions, for garnish
In large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until lightly crisp, stirring occasionally.

Once the bacon is browned, add the garlic, onions, bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, chipotle chili powder, oregano, smoked paprika and Sriracha sauce and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cook until the vegetables are tender and seasonings are aromatic. Add the beef and break it up with a wooden spoon. Once beef is broken up and beginning to brown, add the pork. Break up with wooden spoon like the beef, and brown, until no longer pink, roughly 4 minutes.

Stir in the beer and beans. Toss together, then add the crushed and diced tomatoes.

Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer the chili to serving bowls and garnish with shredded cheese and sliced scallions. Enjoy!

Crumbs of the Day: Tuesday, Jan. 26

Only 91 years in the making, Japan's "world's best blended malt" whiskey is finally coming to the U.S.! -Wall Street Journal

The iPhone rocks the cocktail world with phone-it-in drink apps. Cocktails at home? High-end booze recipes? Done & done. -SFGate.com

Saveur Magazine is sharing caviarandcodfish.com's Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes recipe. Simply put, it looks divine. A little sprinkle of truffle salt and I'm done! -Caviarandcodfish.com

I'd try this but I like eating too much! Mandometer helps fast eaters slow down to slim up. -www.unplggd.com

Let the debate begin: Tests add confusion to diagnosing childhood food allergies. Your kid might not be allergic at all. -WSJ.com

Courtesy of http://globalfjord.files.wordpress.com

Love meatloaf? Hate meatloaf? Luckily, you don't have to eat it; just LOOK at these hilarious "meatloaf creations!" -Meatloafcreations.blogspot.com

Pantry Staples: Five must-have vinegars for every kitchen. Great tips. -TheKitchn.com

WOW! Results of a six-month long journey to find the best pizza in New Jersey coming Friday! Wonder if they went to the JerseyShore? -NJ.com

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