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Celebrating Houston and the Big Game

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Indian-Spiced Pork and Red Grape Brochettes

GAME CHANGER Spiced meat plus sweet red grapes on a skewer update a football-party classic in Indian-Spiced Pork and Red Grape Brochettes. (Photo: The Junior League of Houston)

Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.

Houston has a lot to celebrate these days. I’m sure you know that Houston has the honor of hosting the Super Bowl this month. Are you also aware that our hometown has been lauded nationally by food critics and chefs as a foodie destination?

I thought it would be fun to host some friends to watch the game while also celebrating the food we are so lucky to enjoy here. An abundance of restaurants and grocery stores representing diverse cuisines means that it is easy to mix favorites from my own kitchen with take-out treats.

When I think of football parties, I think of dips and spreads. And when I think of dips and spreads, bacon and cheese are the first two ingredients that pop into my mind. I mean, how can you go wrong with Bacon Tomato Dip from Stop and Smell the Rosemary? The very first ingredient is bacon, and as a bonus, it can be made up to two days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Curried Snowball, also from Stop and Smell the Rosemary, is another option that can be made a day or two in advance. It has a hint of curry within a cheeseball and is covered with mango chutney, green onions, peanuts and coconut for a bit of international flare.

Houston is home to some amazing Tex-Mex restaurants and food trucks. I frequently pick up tamales to serve at football parties. In order to make the tamales a bit more “my own,” I’ll whip up some salsas to serve alongside. I love the traditional Pico de Gallo and the less traditional Mango Chile Salsa, both from Stop and Smell the Rosemary, as well as Avocado Salsa from Peace Meals. These are equally as good with tortilla chips.

As a nod to the world-class Vietnamese food we can find here, I like to pick up several bánh mì sandwiches from my favorite Vietnamese place and cut them up into smaller sections so that they’re more appetizer portioned. This is always a hit; newcomers are usually in love with this Vietnamese treasure of a sandwich – commonly a crusty baguette filled with spiced meat, cucumbers, jalapeño and pickled carrots – by the time they leave my house.

If you were lucky enough to pick up a Pre-Game Party-to-Go package from The Pantry at The Junior League of Houston, with meatballs and dipping sauces, you’d be set on savory dishes. If you weren’t so lucky, then perhaps the Indian-Spiced Pork and Red Grape Brochettes from Peace Meals would hit the spot. These skewers can be made and marinated overnight for easy preparation, and quickly cooked over a grill or grill pan. The Indian-inspired spices combined with the sweetness of the red grapes on a skewer are a perfectly updated take on a football-party classic.

What would a celebration of Houston and our flavorful food scene be without a nod to our Louisiana neighbors? I love the Pecan Pralines from Stop and Smell the Rosemary. This combination of sugar, butter, bourbon and pecans is divine and easy to make ahead of time.

And lastly, drinks for the Big Game. I’ll have a spread of beer from local breweries to highlight what amazing work they’re doing in our city. What beverage goes better with football than beer, right? But, I’ll also have this gem from Monica Pope, found in Peace Meals: the T’afia Ratafia. The ultimate make-ahead drink, this combination of whatever seasonable fruit, veggies or herbs look best, vanilla beans, sugar, vodka and crisp white wine that is mixed and refrigerated for several weeks is certainly a cocktail that will stand out in a crowd. Just like our hometown. 

To buy a Houston Junior League cookbook, see jlh.org or call 713-871-6608.

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