Superbowl LIV approaches! The Chiefs versus the 49ers. And this year, you’re the game day host — excellent! And whether you care which team wins, or whether you even really know what’s happening on the field, you’re going to need to think about a menu. In my experience, watching people exert themselves in a pressured situation on television makes people hungry.
I’m not going to pretend to be interested in the game — I had to ask my son who the opposing teams are — but I absolutely love hosting game day parties, and I live in a household of people who do care. Game day gatherings are low pressure and just plain fun. The food should be happy and uncomplicated and copious, there should be plenty of beverage choices, and everything should flow from kick off to the final buzzer in a smooth and relaxed manner. That’s what game day parties are all about, especially this big one.
Here’s a sort of a mix-and-match menu for a big gang — but if you need to double anything, go for it.
While the line between appetizers and main dishes blurs a bit during game day parties (dishes tend to just rotate in, and get replenished, and it’s far from a planned multi-course meal) I like to have some things to munch on throughout, if you’re not in the moment to commit to a full plate.
Fun and interactive, and vegetarian (unless you want to throw some sautéed chorizo or chili into the mix as an option). Make all of the toppings beforehand, and just rotate trays of cheese covered tortilla chips into the oven as needed.
After people graze for a while, they will likely want to pile up a plate or a bowl and settle in for the long haul (with a break for Jennifer Lopez and Shakira of course). And for me, big game day parties pretty much always center on one thought: chili for a crowd. So flexible, so easy, so make ahead, and leftovers freeze brilliantly. If you choose the nacho bar route, offer a small bowl of chili as part of this buffet, so people can top their nachos with chili if they like.
Some chili choices:
Beef, Black Bean and Jalapeno Chili: This is a very solid, classic ground beef and bean chili. No fancy footwork, no fancy ingredients, just the kind of chili everyone is very happy to see on the table on a winter night.
Instant Pot Vegetable Chili: The classic perfect vegetarian chili recipe, reinterpreted for the Instant Pot. You may want to make this and one other meaty chili, so everyone has options (and the omnivores can double down).
Buffalo Chicken and White Bean Chili: This recipe is quite ridiculously easy, and because the chicken cooks fast and because the hot sauce does a lot of the heavy lifting flavor-wise it takes very little time to cook, unlike many chilis which need to be simmered for quite a while.
Whatever you choose, I actually think (and I feel pretty sure many of you will agree) that the toppings make the chili. Sour cream, scallions, yellow or red onions, avocados, guacamole, jalapenos (jarred or fresh), salsas of all kinds, fresh diced tomatoes. And lots of shredded cheese which you can switch up from cheddar to Monterey Jack to Havarti to fontina to a Mexican blend. Or try crumbled cotija, dry and tangy and a little salty, not dissimilar to feta. Delicious. Or queso fresco cheese, milder and softer, still crumbly — many cheese opportunities to explore.
Chili is really an all-in-one meal, so you can either just put out a whole lot of toppings, and some fluffy rice (brown or white — your choice), and call it a day. But I usually like to add a salad to the menu, but keep it pretty simple. Here are a few salads that won’t add much kitchen time to your life.
This salad is utterly gorgeous, and very easy to make. Good quality cherry and grape tomatoes are much more available year round, so you should grab those instead of bigger tomatoes, which may be lacking in texture and flavor.
This addicting green on green on green salad is delicious but packs a big nutritional wallop. The goat cheese adds nice tang, but you might want to leave it out, if you have lots of cheese going on in the rest of the meal. And boy is this fast; make the dressing while you are waiting for the water to come to a boil, and slice up the romaine and kale while the broccoli steams and drains.
At some point, if the game is good, tensions will start to rise, and the stakes will get higher. This is the moment to pour sugar all over that pressure. Or at least offer up a bite of something sweet. And hey — if one of your friends offers to bring a dessert, the only answer is “YES, thank you.” Take something off your plate — you’re still the host with the mostest. I usually skip plated desserts that require forks in favor of something that can be held and eaten out of hand. There are more than enough dishes by this time.
Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook".