Okay, so it’s a little after the fact, but I think the thoughts I’m going to share with you here are applicable at any time — whether you are entertaining friends or family, a holiday is approaching, or there is some other special occasion on your calendar. If you’re like me, these impending events excite you and perhaps make you think about all the wonderful dishes you’d like to prepare and share with your loved ones. Sometimes I let my heart speak to me and go all out, but at others I exercise more self-restraint and rein it in a bit. Either way, I mull over my options again and again and again before deciding my final menu.
This year for the Super Bowl, we found ourselves in the somewhat unusual place of not really having anywhere we were compelled to go, but okay with that because we have family in from out of town. As it turns out, some of us like to play it fast and loose during the game, ingesting Buffalo wings, onion dip with chips, and chilli with all the fixings, while the rest of us prefer a little less gluttony – without sacrificing flavor.
So as a sort of experiment, I thought I’d put out a buffet that offered a little of both, that would hopefully satisfy everyone’s taste buds, and afford me the opportunity to eat well without suffering the inevitable remorse. Here’s what I tried…..
The game hasn’t yet started, but our guests are arriving and they need to see something laid out, right? Typically they might want “poppers” those delectable cheese stuffed chiles? How ’bout I give ’em some tasty grilled Shishito Peppers? Drizzled with a little olive oil and some sea salt then thrown on a screaming hot griddle? They went down like water. With all that silky smoky goodness, I don’t think anyone missed the cheese. The platter was emptied in minutes.
We’re still in the first quarter, so it’s clearly time for snacks. Normally this would demand Buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese dressing. Instead, I’m making a sort of Korean baked chicken drumette – which by no means is ‘health food’, marinated in soy sauce, honey, fresh ginger and more overnight, then browned on the stove and baked in the oven – I wouldn’t recommend this for weight loss. They are delicious and a hit–but still.
As a healthier alternative to the drumettes, I’m offering oven roasted shrimp (SO much more flavorful than boiled!!) with a fresh tropical fruit salsa. Yum! Looks colorful and pretty and was gobbled up perhaps more quickly than the sweet, slightly spicy wings.
Next up, our main course, which will still be served as a small plates offering.
I really wrestled with the big beef sort of manly thing expected on such an occasion and, as I had a beautiful frozen beef brisket in my freezer, I decided to defrost it, reheat it smothered in its own gravy, and shred it to serve as sliders on gorgeous miniature buns from Rockenwagner Bakery in Venice, California. I’d top those with homemade chipotle mayonnaise and a couple of Famous Dave’s “Signature Spicy Pickle Chips”.
Not forgetting those of us looking for somewhat ‘liter’ fare, I decided to serve a Do-It-Yourself Cobb Salad; I provide all the traditional toppings (ie, chopped rotisserie chicken, crispy bacon, creamy avocado, tomatoes, hardboiled egg & crumbled bleu cheese), as well as some healthier selections. I bake a salmon filet that has marinated overnight in a Dijon mustard and white wine combination and roast up some turkey bacon to boot – ‘coz who doesn’t want bacon? Instead of a heavy bleu cheese dressing (my all-time fave), I whisk up an equally delicious, figure friendly tarragon-mustard vinaigrette that guests will spoon on as liberally or stingily as they like. These are perfectly fresh, individual custom-designed salads. Cool, right? Everybody’s smiling.
Buffet service that offers customizable meals is a great way to take care of ourselves and our guests, ensuring everyone is satiated and happy. The options are endless. Think about putting out a DIY taco bar with healthy and traditional toppings, or a sushi bar using brown rice or another whole grain instead of typical white sushi rice, a breakfast bar, Middle Eastern or Spanish tapas bar (you can sneak in lots of tasty veggie dishes on these and no one will complain). Use your imagination and replace some of the heavier toppings with an updated lighter version. Turkey burgers instead of beef, hummus or avocado in place of mayonnaise, whole grain pastas and rolls rather than those processed with white flour. I do these swaps all the time and will be sharing more ideas with you in future postings. And we’d all love to hear some of your ideas!
Back to the big game where, unfortunately, the drama on the field was no match for the drama in the den and dinner was ultimately not served! Whaaa? Fortunately, the wings and shrimp were served in abundance and no one went home hungry. In fact, there’s plenty of food leftover, which I’m sure we will all enjoy together in the coming days.
The important lesson here is that no matter what challenges we face, there are ways to gather our loved ones around us, accommodating all and making memories (for better and for worse!) that last a lifetime.