The big game is a big deal in its own right, but it’s also a fine excuse for getting together with friends and spending the afternoon chowing down on some good ol’ game day treats. We’ve got you covered with some simple and tasty recipes that are, well, completely hands on. Just put on your game face, and never let ’em know how quick and easy it was.
Spicy Buffalo chicken wings would be perfect game food, if it weren’t for the greasy fingerprints and piles of bones left behind. You can solve those problems in a heartbeat and make the chicken even more irresistible by scattering it over tortilla chips. Yeah, Buffalo chicken nachos. Who knew? It’s a fast treat to put together, as well.
Get out a cutting board and chop or shred 2 to 4 cups of rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken breast. Toss it with your favorite Buffalo chicken sauce. Fill a parchment-lined baking sheet with tortilla chips and cover them liberally with shredded cheese and spicy chicken. From there, extra toppings are up to you. Crumbled blue cheese and minced celery go with the chicken theme, but you could use traditional nacho-style toppings as well. Serve with a choice of salsa or ranch dressing as dips.
This Little Piggy
Let’s face it, men are mostly kids at heart — especially on game day — so grownup versions of kid food should be a touchdown. Pigs in blankets are a fine example. Instead of using half-wieners or itty-bitty cocktail sausages, man ’em up with good-quality pepperoni. Pepperoni sticks are just the right diameter, if you can find good ones. Otherwise, just get a regular pepperoni and quarter it lengthwise.
Lay out crescent roll dough or cut thawed pizza dough into skinny triangles. Lay a piece of pepperoni on the base of each triangle, along with shredded mozzarella cheese. Roll ’em up and bake at 400 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit until they’re golden brown. Serve them warm in a cloth-lined basket with marinara sauce on the side for dipping. What could be better than pizza piggies?
Little Bites of Heaven
Supposedly, the shape of traditional pretzels was intended to represent hands folded in prayer. Pretzel bites don’t have that shape, but they taste just as heavenly. If you have a good pretzel recipe, roll the dough into strips but then cut it into 1-inch morsels instead of twisting it. Boil, salt and bake them as usual. If baking pretzels from scratch isn’t your idea of a good time, you can easily use frozen soft pretzels as a shortcut. On game day, warm them, snip them into bite-sized pieces, and you’re good to go.
The only thing better than soft pretzels is soft pretzels with something tasty for dipping. Bowls of melted garlic butter, or good deli mustard, are easy options. If you want to take it a step further, dice up cheddar or another tasty cheese into blocks. Drop them into your food processor, and add a few tablespoons of wine. Process the mixture into a smooth paste, adding wine as needed. Set out bowls of the dip while your pretzel bites are baking. To keep them warm and tasty for longer, transfer your pretzel bites to a preheated stoneware casserole dish for serving.
Things on Sticks
It’s an odd fact of life that almost anything tastes better when you nibble it from a stick. That’s also a great way to turn “plate-needed” foods, like an antipasto tray, into finger-friendly game-time treats. Start by roasting or grilling some sweet peppers, then marinate them in a good vinaigrette with artichoke hearts — go ahead and use canned, nobody will tell — and tiny balls of bocconcini cheese. If you can only find larger bocconcini, cut them into halves or even 1/4-inch slices.
Cook up a batch of chicken or cheese tortellini and toss those in your vinaigrette as well once they’re cool enough to handle. Slide a few bites of marinated vegetable onto each stick with a bocconcini in between and maybe a leaf of basil as garnish. Purple basil makes a statement if you can find it. Finish each skewer with a tortellini. Stand the skewers, food-side up, in decorative Mason jars. They’ll look like bouquets of exotic flowers — but very tasty ones.
Tone It Down
Any player will tell you that one of the keys to surviving a big game is pacing yourself. That’s true in the living room as well. Ideally you’d like to keep the drinks flowing freely throughout the game, but if you’re not careful it could easily become too much of a good thing. That’s where shandy comes in. It’s a light and simple drink, easy to make even during the busiest of halftimes.
The basic recipe is a few simple steps. Just fill your favorite sports fan’s mug to the — ahem — 50-yard line with beer, then top it up with lemonade. That’s it, you’re done. If lemonade isn’t your thing, feel free to substitute ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, grapefruit juice or anything else that appeals to you. Dress up the mugs with fresh mint leaves or garnish them with wedges of lemon for a more festive appearance.
Onward and Upward
Whether your day centers on the game itself or the socializing, you can never have too many quick and easy finger food recipes in your arsenal. These will get you started, but there are plenty of other great ideas out there to be shared.
What are your best game-day plays? Come on, show us what you’ve got.