The big time

Times Staff Writer

What's Thanksgiving without turkey, or New Year's without eggnog? A pathetic fumble! Big ritual occasions need the right consumables.

That includes the Super Bowl. In the last XXXVI years, it's gone from merely the national football championship game to the biggest party of the year. With just about every TV in the country blasting it out, friends and relatives gathered to howl and cheer, it has outgrown, we submit, the ad hoc menu of regular old nachos and Buffalo wings that has accumulated around it.

Wrong, wrong! This is the most two-fisted eating occasion of the year. Super Bowl is just plain too big for chicken wings.

So with Sunday's game looming, we started thinking, how about Buffalo chicken legs? There's a snack you can wrap a paw around.

Now we seemed to glimpse, as if from afar, a vision of the true Super Bowl menu -- indeed, the Super Bowl menu of the future: great big food.

The madness began to gather. Instead of nachos made with tortilla chips, we started thinking, let's use giant tortilla wedges, as big as you can cut out of a tortilla, and pile on beans, chicken and cheese, with scoops of salsa, guac and sour cream as soon as they come out of the oven! Each nacho chip a serving in itself!

And really, who wants to mess with dinky baby back ribs while watching hundreds of pounds of beef crash into each other? Beef ribs! Not little short ribs, but prime ribs, great big honking prime ribs, big enough for martial arts purposes, with lots of meat on them! Everybody likes barbecue, so the kitchen gave the ribs a 'cue-type rub of cumin and two kinds of hot pepper.

Super Bowl is sandwich season, and we started out making a giant submarine full of cold cuts and coarsely chopped green olives. It was good enough, but you can get a giant sub any day of the year. The occasion demands the biggest French dip sandwich you ever saw: tender roasted pork butt topped with a horseradish mustard sauce for sopping in pork juices.

You have to have your vegetables. We accept that. But at least they don't have to be those silly little bits that usually share Buffalo wings' blue cheese dip. Why not have whole skewers of them?

For dessert, we figured on cookies as big as pizzas. To be in proportion, we used chocolate chunks instead of chocolate bits, and we added toffee chips for crunch and a drizzle of melted chocolate for, well, more chocolate.

We stood back to assess our depth of field. The ribs were like a solid wall. The chicken legs had enormous strength (due to a dose of rough, smoky chipotle sauce). The sandwich went long, the crudites were quick, the nachos knew all about pepper. That cookie -- it was a flying saucer.

Actually, this titanic feast turns out to be convenient to serve -- it's easier to make a couple of big things than a lot of little ones. Since the ribs are prime ribs, they don't even need long cooking -- 15 minutes on the grill is enough for medium rare; the halftime show won't even be over. You can cook the chicken legs in advance and heat them up as needed. The sandwich serves itself, and people can choose as big a slice as they want (but don't look when somebody cuts a small one).

Now, that's a party. And next year, maybe we'll try Buffalo turkey legs.

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Buffalo legs

Total time: 1 1/2 hours

Servings: 24

Note: Donna Deane, Times Test Kitchen director, suggests serving these with bamboo skewers of fresh vegetables, such as broccoli crowns, red and yellow pepper pieces and cucumber slices.

4 (4-ounce) packages

blue cheese

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1 cup plain yogurt

2 tablespoons white

wine vinegar

Salt

White pepper

24 chicken legs

Flour, for coating

Butter

Oil

1/2 cup chipotle hot pepper sauce

1. Crumble 2 of the blue cheese packages into a bowl. Mash together the cheese and mayonnaise with a fork until blended. Stir in the sour cream and yogurt. Add the vinegar, 1 teaspoon of salt and white pepper to taste. Crumble 1 1/2 packages of the blue cheese into the dip, stirring to combine. Place the dip in a serving bowl. Break up the remaining half package of the blue cheese and sprinkle over the top of the dip. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Roll in flour to coat.

3. Fry the chicken in 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a large skillet until browned on all sides and the meat is no longer pink around the bone, about 20 minutes. Fry in batches, if necessary, adding more butter and oil as needed. Drain on paper towels and keep warm (if frying in batches).

4. Melt 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter and combine with the pepper sauce. Dip the chicken legs in the mixture to coat; serve with the blue cheese dip.

Each serving: 414 calories; 675 mg. sodium; 107 mg. cholesterol; 30 grams fat; 13 grams saturated fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 0.34 gram fiber.

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Touchdown cookies

Total time: 35 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling

Servings: 24 (3 cookies)

Note: From Donna Deane

3 cups flour

1 1/2teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups chocolate chunks

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons English toffee bits, divided

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

1. Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt.

2. Cream the butter and brown and granulated sugars. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in the vanilla, then the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chunks, 1 cup English toffee and nuts. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Use a 9-inch cake pan to trace a circle onto each of 3 parchment-lined baking sheets. Divide the dough into thirds. Press dough evenly to fill the circles. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

5. Bake the cookies until browned and done in the center, about 20 minutes. Drizzle the melted chocolate over top and sprinkle with the remaining toffee chips.Cut into slices.

Each serving: 360 calories; 241 mg. sodium; 41 mg. cholesterol; 20 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 44 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 1.73 grams fiber.

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Linebacker ribs

Total time: 35 minutes

Servings: 24

Note: From Donna Deane. Look for powdered ancho chile pepper and chipotle chile pepper in the spice aisle of well-stocked supermarkets.

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 tablespoons ancho chile pepper

2 tablespoons chipotle chile pepper

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Beef ribs (about 10 1/2 pounds)

3 large cloves garlic, cut in half

3 limes, cut in half

1. Toast the cumin and fennel seeds in a small skillet over low heat until lightly browned and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle, then combine in a small bowl with the ancho and chipotle chile peppers, the sugar, dry mustard, garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

2. Rub the meaty surfaces of the ribs with the cut cloves of garlic. Season the ribs with salt to taste. Sprinkle the spice mixture over ribs and rub onto all surfaces of the ribs. Cover and let stand 30 minutes.

3. Heat an indoor or outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Grill the ribs, in batches if necessary, until browned and crusty, about 15 minutes for medium to medium-rare. Remove the ribs to a serving platter and squeeze lime juice over the top.

Each serving: 310 calories; 112 mg. sodium; 67 mg. cholesterol; 25 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 0.55 gram fiber.

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The biggest French dip you ever saw

Total time: 4 hours

Servings: 16

Note: From Mayi Brady of the Times Test Kitchen.

1 head garlic

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 (4 1/2-pound) boneless pork butt

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons hot mustard

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

4 cups beef broth

1 small onion, cut in half

1 small carrot, cut in half

1 stalk celery, cut in half

3 baguettes

Pickle spears, olives and cornichons, for garnish (optional)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Separate and peel the cloves of garlic. Place in a food processor along with the salt and pepper. Process until a paste forms, about 10 seconds. Rub the paste all over the pork, then place the pork in a large roasting pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast until the meat is very tender, about 3 hours.

3. Meanwhile, stir together the sour cream , mayonnaise, mustard and horseradish. Chill.

4. Bring the beef broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion, carrot and celery. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 35 minutes. Strain the broth, discarding the solids, and add to the roasting pork. Replace the foil and continue cooking.

5. When the pork is tender, uncover and continue to roast until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from the pan, reserving the juices. Cover the pork loosely with foil and let stand, about 30 minutes, then shred the meat. Skim as much fat as possible from the juices.

6. Cut the baguettes in half lengthwise then dip each half, cut side down, into the juices. Divide the meat among the baguettes. Garnish with pickle spears, olives or cornichons, if desired. Serve with the remaining juices and chilled mustard mixture on the side.

Each serving: 472 calories; 1,194 mg. sodium; 87 mg. cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 48 grams carbohydrates; 32 grams protein; 2.92 grams fiber.

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Macho nachos

Total time: 50 minutes

Servings: 12

Note: From Mayi Brady. Use your favorite guacamole and salsa recipes.

Chicken

1 1/2 pounds ground chicken

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons oil

1. Combine the chicken, salt, pepper and garlic in a bowl. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the chicken, stirring, until cooked through, about 7 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Beans

3 tablespoons oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion has softened, about 4 minutes. Add the beans and cook, lightly mashing the beans with the back of a wooden spoon until hot, about 6 to 7 minutes. Set aside.

Assembly

24 corn tortillas

Oil, for frying

1 (2 1/4-ounce) can sliced black olives

3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Guacamole, sour cream and salsa, for serving

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut each tortilla into a triangle that is about 5 inches on 2 sides and 3 inches on the bottom side. Reserve the leftover tortilla pieces.

3. Heat one-half inch of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the triangles, in batches, until light golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Fry the remaining pieces, if desired, and use as chips.

4. Arrange the triangles on 2 baking sheets. Divide the chicken, beans, olives and cheese among the triangles.

5. Bake until the cheese has melted and the ingredients are warmed through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and top each with the guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 234 calories; 297 mg. sodium; 35 mg. cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 17 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams protein; 2.47 grams fiber.

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