J.R. Reed and his teenage daughter make a Big Event out of little things, like bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese.
Football Sundays are a big event at my place but I didn’t realize just how big until a few days ago.
I was thinking about some of the best meals I ever had and was truly stuck. Is it the killer tacos from that shack in Rosarito, Mexico or could it be the buffalo wings from Duffs in Buffalo, NY? I’ve had a few good steaks over the years and lived blocks from La Nova Pizzeria in Buffalo, arguably the best pie in the U.S.
I couldn’t decide on the best so I asked my teenage daughter, who I lovingly refer to as Drama Queen, what some of her favorite meals are and she began naming off appetizers and finger foods that I make on Sundays when we watch football. I knew that she likes the grub I put out but had no clue my jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon was one of her favorites. The same with my wings, albondigas soup, empanadas, carnitas, guacamole, tortas and mango salsa. That’s a huge compliment and one I don’t take lightly.
When I said Sunday are a “big event” earlier I didn’t mean that we have a large crowd over. In fact, it’s generally the two of us. I mean “big” as in I go all out and fix stuff that we love and almost always prepare way too much.
My daughter is fifteen and has vowed to watch a little football with me this season so I went out and bought her a Raiders hat with the pink breast cancer ribbon on the back and big pink stripes on the front. She promised to wear it when we watch football and in return I promised to take week one’s food and make it truly her best meal ever.
At quarterback for this meal is the London broil I marinated for twenty-four hours before cooking. Also in the line-up are the stuffed jalapeños, wings with sauce from Duffs, freshly made guacamole, a Roma tomato salad, andouille sausage bites in a blanket and for dessert, the extra crescent roll dough (from the sausage bites) cooked with a little butter and cinnamon sugar.
“Yo!” I shouted to my Drama Queen on Saturday night. “Want to hear tomorrow’s Week One menu?” I only heard four steps which means she took the stairs five at a time on her way to the kitchen.
“Are we having jalapeños?” She asked.
“Duh,” I replied. “And wings with the last of the Duffs sauce. Plus a tomato salad, London broil and a new twist on pigs in a blanket. You down with that?”
“You have to blog about this,” she squealed. ‘This will be the best meal ever.”
“Word,” I replied while laughing. “I’m sure I will.”
I walked out of church Sunday afternoon asking the Lord how He was spending His Sundays now that He doesn’t have to bail out Tim Tebow every week. Also that He helps my Raiders open up a can of “Who’s Your Daddy?” on the Chargers Monday night.
Later in the day I asked why I started Cam Newton instead of RG3 in fantasy football. I never did get a reply on any of my queries. Oh well. I had cooking to do.
After assembling a pile of ingredients on the counter I went about prioritizing my tasks. The plan was to have the London broil and tomato salad at halftime and to have the appetizers ready by the start of the Sunday night game.
I like things a little spicier than most so I’m not listing amounts of the ingredients I use. Consider them a starting point for you own culinary adventure.
The first two things in the oven were the wings and jalapenos. Normally I would cook the chicken and London broil on the grill but someone (me) forgot that the grill isn’t putting out much heat, thus the oven.
I took large jalapeños, cut them in half then de-seeded and de-veined them. The heat in the pepper comes from the seeds and veins so please wash your hands immediately when this task is done. Under no circumstances should you rub your eyes or scratch anywhere until you wash with soap and water. Trust me on this one. I learned my lesson years ago.
At this point Her Majesty strolled in to see how I was progressing. Satisfied that I was working efficiently she returned to her homework.
Next I took softened cream cheese and mixed it with some shredded cheddar. Using a spoon I placed generous amounts of the sweet cheesy goodness on the whole length of the jalapeño and proceeded to drape bacon (cut to size) on top and followed that with a drizzle of spicy BBQ sauce.
After breaking down the whole wings I put them on a tray, ground a little black pepper on them and stuck them in a 350-degree oven below the stuffed jalapeños. While the kitchen filled with the intoxicating smell of bacon, jalapeños and cheese I began making my locally famous guacamole.
Along with avocado I put sea salt, cumin, ground chipotle, lime juice, Roma tomato, fresh cilantro and red onion in a bowl and mixed away. While sticking the guac in the fridge I peeked in on the London broil to make sure it was still chilling in its wet marinade.
Next it was on to the sausage bites. After rolling the crescent roll dough on to the cutting board I cut the andouille sausage links. In the past I’ve used chicken apple sausage, Italian sausage and linguica. If you have access to Trader Joes or a store that sells fresh pizza dough you can roll that out to use as a damn tasty crust.
The jalapeños and chicken take about forty-five minutes to cook and I purposely left room for the sausage bites on the tray the peppers were now cooking on. There was a method to my madness and with twenty minutes left on the timer I put the sausage bites on the tray and let them finish cooking.
Next I quickly diced up Roma tomatoes and mixed them with fresh basil, roasted red peppers, onion, garlic, balsamic vinegar and a touch of sea salt for a low calorie salad with a ton of flavor.
At this point I summoned my daughter to come sit with me as we watched the week one highlights on TV. I explained that we respect Peyton Manning as a player but that like John Elway before him, he was just another good quarterback that was likely to smack us in the mouth twice a year. I was getting ready to explain the Big Ben Roethlisberger likes to hit women but my Muse (a Ravens fan) texted her with that info just as I began the story.
The buzzer for the grub went off as Faith Hill was grinding on screen and telling everyone that it was time for Sunday Night Football on NBC but I let it go off until I was done watching her make Tim McGraw proud.
While living in Buffalo, NY I learned a bit about how to properly do wings. The key is in the sauce: I prefer Frank’s Red Hot either straight up or mixed with a bit of butter. Believe it or not, butter is the key ingredient in sauce and is how most wing joints take down the heat in their sauces.
The smile on my daughter’s face as she tasted each item I’d made was a reminder of why I enjoy being a parent. We talked and watched through the first quarter and as the second quarter began I turned the oven to broil and put the London broil in the oven. Eight minutes later I went in and used tongs to flip the meat and set the timer for ten minutes. (Eight to ten minutes per side in the broiler should get you medium rare). After letting it rest for six or seven minutes I sliced it thin, grabbed the salad and prepared to enjoy halftime the right way.
As I washed the dishes I smiled at the realization that even though there are a lot of things I get down on myself about, my daughter thinks my cooking is the shiz. You have no clue what an amazing feeling that is.
And yes, there are plenty of leftovers for Monday night’s Raiders v Chargers Monday Night Football game. Leftovers are an added benefit of Best Meal Ever.
The jalapeño recipe is from a guest post on Sex and the Single Dad in December, 2010. Thanks to Terri Schlather for her recipe.
If you try any of these recipes please hit me with a reply (good or bad) to let me know what you thought.
Images courtesy of the author