from the Britcom Blackadder
Men in packs are prone to testosterone poisoning when football and beer are at hand. Humor can quickly devolve to rude body noises and crude barnyard below-the-belt waggery. Victims may become easily incensed by what they perceive as the lack of intelligence of sports figures and judges or referees. They may yell and wave their fists and make obscene threats against the players on both teams, any of whom could casually reduce them to smudges on the artificial playing surface while in the middle of a lucrative endorsement taping.
Guys need food to soak up some of the beer when they're watching sports but even normally easy-to-please men get wily about what they want to eat. They want to burp and grunt to football, that most primal of organized American team sports. They want guy food. Chili. Wings. And sausage.
Sausage is primo football food. Men love sausage. They identify with sausage as with no other food. Sausage expresses their "guyness" and elicits raunchy boy behavior. It's no mystery why all-male gatherings are called "sausage parties." Even with more women following football than ever, it remains biggest sausage party going. And each season ends with millions of fans tractor-beamed straight for the mothership--the Super Bowl.
If you don't care that much about sitting through a game for whatever reason, and have been duly elected food purveyor for an all-guy football-watching marathon, get the food ready well beforehand. Easy does it. You can throw together a herd of hotdogs, fill the fridge with beer, have salsa, dip and chips around and make your exit without a backward glance.
Feel free to engage in anti-football activity to your heart's content. Catch a movie. Head for a cultural event you might not see otherwise. Take the kids and/or dog to the park. Visit your best friend. If her guy's a superfan she'll appreciate the company. Or lock yourself in your bathroom and spend some quality time with your tub. Give yourself the works--manicure, pedicure, facial. Pick up the novel you haven't had a chance to read. If the tv's out of earshot you can even have a gloriously peaceful nap. You have plenty of time.
But what's a girl to do if she really wants to see the game, only without quite so much male bonding behavior? Make it a coed party. Lots of women enjoy the spectacle of the sport. Sure, the guys will still be guys, but isn't that part of their charm? And you won't miss out on "the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat."
Figure out an approach to food and beverages everyone can enjoy. Here are a few suggestions to keep it simple, followed by a couple of recipes that satisfy the manly beer-and-sausage urge while lightening the hormone heavy atmosphere to levels tolerable for mixed company. You can pick up the side dishes at the deli or have homemade, as you like.
- Do as much as you can the day ahead. Both recipes store well.
- Add wine and soft drinks to your beer bar, along with some light beer. Consider serving a variety of beer. Some stores have a mix and match six-pack available. Try a few international beers and offerings from some outstanding micro-breweries along with the old standards.
- Put out bowls of crunchy snacks. Nuts and pretzels are the classics but have whatever the crowd will enjoy.
- Augment the two sausage dishes with your favorite bean, pasta or potato salad and/or coleslaw.
- Add wings if you like. Have you ever heard of leftover wings?
- Guests might appreciate a bowl of crispy fresh apples to lighten the meal or substitute for a calorie rich dessert. Use the standard size if you like or pick up a bag of the small fruit many stores sell for lunchbags.
- Finish with cupcakes or big honking brownies. Or buy those round mini brownie bites at the supermarket. Serve as-is or smush in the middles and fill the dent with orange marmalade, cherry or raspberry jam.
One unexpected bonus is that these recipes share many of the same ingredients, yet have completely different flavor profiles. You'll have a shorter shopping list and can double up on some of the prep. Do both dishes ahead, even the day before. Be sure to follow food safety guidelines. Cover food to store and quickly get it to either the hot or cold end of the unsafe temperature range--below 40 degrees cool or above 140 degrees warm.
Remember to preheat the oven and pop the filo spiral in the oven 45 minutes before kickoff. It'll be ready to start the first quarter. Warm up the rolls and reheat the sausages for sammies at halftime.
Sausage and Mushroom Filo Spiral
This little cutie is flaky and savory and I love how it mirrors old timey spirals of sausage once seen in butcher cases all over the country. It's user friendly--guests can slice off pieces to suit their appetites. More bonus: the recipe calls for 8 ounces of a 12-ounce beer, leaving 4 ounces at the cook's disposal.
- 1 pound Jimmy Dean hot bulk sausage
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion
- 1 tablespoon diced red pepper or pimiento
- 1 cup sauerkraut
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons dried breadcrumbs
- 1 cup beer or ale
- 1/4 cup chopped pimiento filled green olives
- 1 tablespoon grainy dijon mustard
- 1 scallion, finely chopped
- Filo sheets
- Cooking spray*
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and use a fork to break it up. Cook until browned, about 10 minutes.
Add onion, pepper or pimiento and mushrooms. Cook until onion is soft, about 3-5 minutes.
Sprinkle in breadcrumbs and stir until well blended. Add beer and cook until liquid reduces, about 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool before assembling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a pizza pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
Follow package directions for thawing and handling the filo dough. Place one sheet of the pastry on a flat surface with long side facing you. Spray with cooking spray and top with another sheet. Repeat. You will have a stack of three sheets.
Divide filling into four equal amounts. Spread one part filling over the filo in a band about two inches wide, leaving a one-inch margin on long edge and one-half inch on the short sides.
Roll up from the long side to form a coil, spraying as you go. Pinch ends together and carefully lift coil to the baking sheet and gently form into a spiral. Lightly spray top of pastry with more baking spray.
Prepare the three remaining coils ONE AT A TIME.
Fit the end of the new coil to the end of the coil on the baking sheet and continue the spiral. Make the next coil and fit to the end until you have made and fitted all four pieces together.
Spray top of pastry with another round of baking spray.
Bake for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to serving dish.
Guests can cut pieces from the spiral according to how much they want.
*I find cooking spray a lighter and easier alternative to butter for coating the filo sheets. Use butter if you prefer it.
Beer Braised Sausage Sammies
These little hoagies are a perfect size. One might be enough for smaller appetites, while heartier eaters won't think twice about piling on two or three. Where I live, the fresh Italian sausages come five to a package but if yours come by six, no worries.
Have a large crowd? You can cook a double batch if you use a large pan. Just increase the cooking times to adjust. Be sure to hollow out the rolls a bit so more of the outrageously good vegetables can snuggle down under the sausage. Mustard optional.
- 1 12-ounce beer
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 fresh hot Italian sausages
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1 large onion, cut into strips
- 1 green pepper, cut into strips
- 1 red pepper, cut into strips
- 1/2 of a pint container grape tomatoes, split in half lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon pesto
- 10 potato rolls
Preheat oven to 200 degrees for rolls. Pour beer into a pan large enough to hold all the sausages. Add bay leaf and salt. Note: beer will foam up when you add the salt. Bring just to a simmer over low heat. Add sausages. Cover and cook over medium low heat for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the braising liquid and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes. then split in half crosswise. Sausages may still be slightly pink in the center but will finish cooking during the next step. Reserve the 1/2 cup of the braising liquid to use later in the recipe.
Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium high heat and add oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer place the cooled sausage halves evenly in the pan. Allow to brown on all sides, including cut ends. Turn frequently as needed. When well browned remove from the pan.
Add the onions, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook until well caramelized, adding reserved cooking liquid to the pan about 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Stir frequently and allow the liquid to absorb before adding the next infusion of liquid. Continue until all liquid is added and absorbed. Add tomatoes, then peppers and garlic. Cook an additional 5 minutes, then add sausages back to pan along with 1/2 cup reserved poaching liquid. Reduce heat to lowest setting and cover.
Cut a wedge-shaped piece from potato rolls and compress the inside to make room for filling. Heat for 10 minutes at 200 degrees.
Stir in pesto just before serving. Pile peppers and onions into roll. Be sure you have some of the pan juice with them. Place sausage on top and finish off with a few more vegetables on top.
Note: If you're reheating the sammie sausages, add about 1/2 cup water or beer to rehydrate the mixture.