There is a simple way to make food fit for a Super Bowl party: Take any appetizer you like, and then add bacon.
Do you enjoy guacamole? Add bacon. Pigs in blankets? Pigs in bacon blankets are better. And if you happen to have dates lying around that have been stuffed with thin pieces of Parmesan cheese, by all means wrap them with bacon.
As much as we hate to add to the tiresome and reflexive national fetish for bacon — and we do hate to add to it, believe me — we will make this one exception for the Super Bowl.
All your rowdy friends are coming over to watch. They’re going to want bacon. After all, football isn’t played with a cow skin.
So the challenge is to come up with snacks that will distract you, if not from the game itself, at least from the commercials for Pepsi and BMW.
I made a few that I think will do the trick. You’ve got to go with the King, so I began with a classic, the Elvis sandwich.
You’ve probably heard of it; it was reportedly Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich: peanut butter, mashed bananas and bacon on white bread, fried in butter like grilled cheese. Perhaps you, like me, scoffed at it when you first heard about it. But admit it — that sounds kind of great, doesn’t it?
As it turns out, it tastes as great as it sounds. Nothing goes better with peanut butter than banana, and bacon goes with everything.
Be sure to use cheap white bread. Nothing fancy. After all, Elvis would have left the building if faced with artisanal batards crafted from ancient grains.
For my next bacon-laden Super Bowl snack, I made a dish familiar to anyone who has ever been to a sports bar: poppers. Poppers are jalapeños that are stuffed with cheese before being cooked, but these have a couple of twists.
The first is that, while poppers are traditionally fried, these are baked in the oven. That cuts down on the calories and also allows the flavor of the jalapeño and cream cheese (or other cheese) to shine through. The other twist, of course, is that they are wrapped in bacon.
Jalapeño, cream cheese and bacon. It’s pretty much the perfect Super Bowl party treat.
For a more elegant dish, I turned to one of New York’s most celebrated restaurants, Union Square Café. Owned by former St. Louisan Danny Meyer, who has found equal acclaim with his Shake Shack chain of restaurants, Union Square has been at the top of the list of New York favorites for more than 30 years.
So naturally I was intrigued to see its recipe for baked sauerkraut. Of course, sauerkraut is an ideal Super Bowl side dish — it goes equally well with hot dogs and hamburgers — but this version is far more elegant than most.
To begin with, you rinse off most of the acidity that gives sauerkraut its distinctive assertiveness, leaving only a pleasant pickled flavor. Then you simmer it in mirepoix, a mixture of onions, celery and carrots, plus some white wine tempered with chicken stock.
Juniper berries contribute a crisp tang. And of course it has bacon, which adds a smoky undertone to the whole dish. It is a rare delicacy indeed; even tasters who do not like sauerkraut were raving about it.
For my final party dish, I went to a Southern favorite, Cheesy Grits With Bacon. Everybody likes cheese, everybody likes bacon and almost everybody likes grits, so it is certain to be popular at a football party.
It’s a casserole, so it is easy to make and convenient to take with you. But it is also technically a custard (eggs plus milk equals custard), so it has an unexpected richness and fullness of flavor.
And there is one other ingredient too, which makes it extra creamy: Velveeta. It melts right into the grits, boosting the richness and providing the perfect medium for the bacon.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be Velveeta brand. Any pasteurized prepared cheese product will do.
As long as it rhymes with Melveeta.