A Locavore's Guide to Wings and Muffulettas
I don't know much—er, anything—about football. I know that this year's Superbowl it's the Indianapolis Colts versus the New Orleans Saints, and because I like to make judgements based on food, I'm going to be rooting for the Saints. And while I might be a little weak on the finer points of touchdowns, first downs and tackles, I have very extensive knowledge in the field of salty snacks. I am a salty snack master from way back, and Superbowl Sunday gives me ample opportunity to eat things I normally don't. For example, I have not yet sampled Doritoes' zesty taco chipotle ranch flavor. I know, where have I been?
But in the interest of trying to give a NorCal, Pollan-esque spin to the snackery, I've put together a guide for how to make the most local, luxe version of some favorite game day snacks. Guilt, while not entirely ameliorated, may be somewhat diminished.
Is there a more iconic football food? Invented in the snowy, always freezing town on Buffalo, New York, where you need things like blue cheese-dipped, hot sauce-coated, fried chicken to keep you warm, our gourmet deluxe version preserves the spirit of the dish.
Pick up your Fulton Valley Farms wings (raw) at Bi-Rite Market for $3.99/lb. The wise among you will pre-order: 415-241-9760, and though they will be selling precooked (in 'original' flavor and soy-honey) for $9.99/lb., these are a breeze to cook. While you are there, pick up some super-fancy butter (you'll need that for the glaze).
Frank's Hot Sauce is all fine and good, but for your local version you want to use Youk's hot sauce, which is made from a fiery blend of red serrano, jalapeño and cayenne peppers grown on Mariquita Farm, then masterfully combined by Maverick chef-owner Scott Youkilis (a project launched with his brother, Kevin, a Red Sox player. Bonus points for double sports crossover!).
Go on, get snobby: for your version of blue cheese dressing, make your own mayonnaise, then stir in some heavy cream and a good amount of blue cheese. You could use some imported garbage, but not for this. You want Point Reyes blue for your deluxe version, the only artisanal blue made in the entire state of California. Cowgirl Creamery stocks it ($15.65/pound) and the clerk tells me it makes a mean dressing.
With all your pedigreed wing ingredients on hand, it's go time. Here's a step-by-step recipe (with photos) that even a child could follow (though it should be said, a child should probably not be hacking up wings and deep-frying. But you knew that).
This year, in honor of the Saints (see above), it seems only right to include a classic muffuletta sandwich on your Sunday menu. I don't know what claim to culinary fame Indianapolis has (tell me in the comment, will ya?) but this NoLa sandwich, comprised of olive salad, cold cuts aplenty, and two kinds of cheese, is a year-round specialty that seems especially game day appropriate. Now, if you had planned ahead, I would tell you to order the olive salad from Central Grocery (where the sandwich was said to have been invented in 1906). But it's Thursday, which means you've blown it and will have to approximate the genius on your own.
First, you'll have to make the giardiniera, a pickled mixture of cauliflower, carrots, peppers and the like. If you haven't cured your own olives, you'll need those. Rainbow Grocery is a good source, and you can also pick up the cheese there. Though the cheeses used vary (yes, even in New Orleans), provolone is almost always present, with supporting roles from Emmentaler and mozzarella. But for the meats, of course, you'll have to look elsewhere.
Capocollo and Mortadella, two key ingredients, can be easily sourced in this charcuterie-obsessed town, but two fine versions are made at Boccalone. Though genoa is the classic hard salami used in the sandwich, you can't go wrong with something from Fra'Mani—maybe even go a little NorCal nuts and substitute their superlative Toscano (go on, we won't tell). You can find it all over town, from Boulette's Larder to Whole Foods.
Having assembled all of these artisanal versions of muffuletta standards, you're now ready to face the biggest hurdle of all: the bread. Tradition and good sense dictate a round loaf, soft but not squidgy, topped with a smattering of sesame seeds. A Sicilian-style loaf. For god sakes, do not use a Dutch crunch, which has a cult following here. Sad news: you're not going to find a very good substitute here. But the best we can recommend are zampanos ($1.50 apiece), sold daily at Arizmendi Bakery. Soft and yielding, with a dusting of parmesan and red pepper flakes, they're on the small side (think hamburger bun), but that'll allow you to take a little sandwich license and make individual sandwiches, rather than one big round. It's not perfect, but we're a long way from New Orleans.
Having crafted the ultimate locavore's ribs and muffuletta, I suggest you round out the rest of your menu with the type of trashy snacks that your guests have come to expect and appreciate. After all, if you're anything like me, this could be your one chance this year to try those taco chipotle ranch chips all the kids are talking about.