Super Bowl Sunday is many things: a cash cow for Frito-Lay, the once (and future?) showcase of the “wardrobe malfunction,” a socially acceptable excuse for body-painting. One thing it isn’t? A serious culinary experience. Yes, the Super Bowl is one of the great requisite snacking days in the American culinary year. And yes, we put aside thousands of dollars—and calories—to ingest a variety of wildly artificial, artery-clogging delights. But when push comes to shove (comes to tackle), the Super Bowl has about as much to do with quality cuisine as Valentine’s Day has to do with meaningful sentiment.
Fortunately we’ve got a few aces in the hole—chefs from Atlanta, Georgia, and Austin, Texas, who are bringing the pride and decency back to Super Bowl snacking. The method: a little bit of creative rule breaking (e.g. giving off-cuts a loving makeover and chucking foie gras at a carnival staple). The resulting snacks could easily replace their mediocre counterparts across bars and in living rooms everywhere. But fear not, inveterate old-school snackers, we’ve not only asked these chefs for beer pairings, we’ve asked them to cop to their favorite low-brow snacks, too.
As a child, Chef Shane Devereux was no stranger to “weird pig ears,” part of the offal-and-odd-bits-heavy pantry of his father’s Vietnamese heritage. They might seem like mealtime punishment to most kids, but Devereux actually liked pig ears (a clear indication he was destined to be a chef). “I always loved the crunch of the cartilage and the gelatiny-ness,” he says. But as chef at Atlanta’s The Lawrence, Devereux knows he’s catering to an ear-estranged clientele. So instead of serving the plain, braised pig ears of his youth, Devereux takes a cue from a revelatory bar snack he had in Portland, Oregon, frying pig ear strips into crunchy little bites that are then dusted with fennel salt and cinnamon. “This is a great way to get people to eat an otherwise ‘gross’ item,” says Devereux (not to mention get rid of scraps in a heavily nose-to-tail era). As for its brewskie accompaniment: “I would definitely drink a light, pilsner-type beer with these,” says Devereux. “The salty and herbaceous quality couldn’t handle too much hops.”
Recipe: Crispy Pig Ears
Chef Devereux’s Favorite Super Bowl Snacks: “My vice is chicken wings. I love chicken wings. And I would really eat anything Vietnamese during the Super Bowl: summer rolls, egg rolls, Banh mi, etc.”
These are not the stuff of Coney Island. These are the stuff of snacking dreams. And they’re the brainchild of corn dog-loving Chef Andrew Wiseheart, recently announced 2012 StarChefs.com Austin Rising Star. “I think the corn dog is a great snack,” says Wiseheart. “It’s a classic.” Of course, like any chef faced with a classic, Wiseheart doesn’t respect the corn dog too much to tinker with it, which is how he came up with one of the more unexpected, delightfully rule-breaking snacks we’ve had: the Foie Gras Corn Dog. Wiseheart ups the de facto deliciousness of meat-on-a-stick by replacing the dog part with a little nugget of frozen foie gras. The result tastes like the culinary equivalent of a movie star slumming it—George Clooney doing an ad for Oscar Meyer. To go with this perfectly crisped, meltingly lush nub of lobe? “The beer I enjoy the most with it,” says Wiseheart, “is Thirsty Planet’s Thirsty Goat.” A sweet, malty Amber ale from local Thirsty Planet brewery, the beer gives foie a dose of sugar as Sauternes would under stuffier circumstances. (Wiseheart also recommends a fruit gastrique accompaniment, though a second beer might be an equally good option.)
Recipe: Foie Gras Corn Dogs
Chef Wiseheart's Favorite Super Bowl Snacks: “My favorite football snacks are chicken wings, almost any meat that's grilled, sliced, and eaten with my hands, and, if it's a cold day, a large bowl of pozole—extra spicy.”
We’re calling Philip Meeker chef-poet. He's the chef-de-cuisine behind Buffalo Wing-style Pig Tails at Chef Robert Phalen’sHoly Taco. Meeker describes the mundane ritual of processing pig tails with gusto, where braising becomes “the full back end of a swine ripe in a cloud of steam blooming through the kitchen.” Once you taste them, you’ll know Meeker isn’t exaggerating the romance—if ever a pig tail deserved poetic flourish, this is it. Infused with aromatics overnight, breaded, deep fried, and drenched in a zingy chipotle-chili sauce, these pig tails make you rethink any lingering pork belly obsession. In fact, says Meeker, “it tastes like pork belly—but fattier.” Unlike so many odd bits preparations, these tails aren’t built on “the momentary attraction of the exotic.” They’ve endured a year and half of menu changes because, quoths Meeker, “they [combine] the best of two Southern favorites: the crispiness, spiciness, and intimacy (fingering the saucy meat while having to gnaw it off the bone) of Buffalo wings, and the rich fattiness of pork belly.” As for a beer to round out that sublime pairing? If you’re at Holy Taco, says Meeker, go for a Schlitz. “But I’m sure an IPA could provide the same palate-washing crispness.”
Recipe: Buffalo Wing-style Pig Tails
Chef Meeker’s Favorite Super Bowl Snacks: "I wouldn’t be at a Mexican restaurant if I didn’t like different salsas with chips. And for me there’s nothing better than guacamole with some deep-fried corn chips, the fresher the better. Other than that, give me a well-made submarine with some beer, and I’m happy for the rest of the evening, unless the Colts are playing and losing."