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Grilled and Smoked: Super Bowl LI

Top left photo by Richard Dallett; top right and bottom left by Lucy Schaeffer.

The suspense is over: The New England Patriots will face the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI (that’s 51 if your recall of Roman numerals is rusty) on Sunday, February 5, at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

If you’re among the estimated 45 million Americans who will be hosting game day festivities at your house, the party planning can now begin in earnest.

Super Bowl Sunday is, after all, one of the biggest eating days of the year, second only to Thanksgiving. And planning a menu—especially around grilling and smoking—is half the fun. There are several different approaches you can take:

  1. Play to the crowd by reprising favorites like ribs, wings, brats, sliders, etc.;
  2. Go regional by featuring food that represents the contenders’ home turf;
  3. Since the contest is in the Lone Star State this year, you could justifiably put out a spread worthy of Texas—brisket, chili, hot links, and so on.

As you decide, here are points to keep in mind:

  • Keep it simple: You’ll want to enjoy your guests and the game, so don’t plan a menu that requires lots of prep and hands-on time with the grill or smoker.
  • Include some do-ahead items: Dishes that can be prepared ahead and served at room temperature (or at least reheat well, if they must be served hot) are a host’s friend.
  • Have a game plan: Organization and time management are the hallmarks of a skilled pit master. Do you really want to babysit a whole packer brisket for up to 18 hours in advance of the party? (Kick-off is at 6:30 p.m. ET, by the way.) If not, stick to meats with shorter cooking times. If you have multiple items to grill, determine their order. Note: It’s wise to select foods that require the same grill temperature.
  • Accept guests’ offers to “bring something”: Allowing people to contribute to the feast not only takes some of the burden off your shoulders, but invests them in the success of the party. Or allows them to accommodate their own dietary needs. I know a vegan who ensures she always has something to eat by bringing something that has broad appeal, like homemade hummus and a grilled veggie platter.

Finally, here are just a few of the menu ideas we’re planning. (Since Steven is a part-time Massachusetts resident, we’re not exactly bipartisan.)

Barbecued Peanuts: In a nod to the Atlanta Falcons’ home state of Georgia, we present barbecued peanuts from Steven’s BBQ USA. Salty, spicy, and smoky, we can’t think of a better beer-friendly pre-game snack.

Smoked Deviled “Falcon” Eggs: These may be the best deviled eggs you and your guests will ever experience. (They certainly rocked the set of Project Smoke.) Creative optional toppings could include slivers of black olives and roasted red peppers—black and red are the Falcons’ team colors—or brisket, pulled pork, smoked salmon, or bacon.

Grilled Clams

Grilled Clams with Sambuca and Italian Sausage: Clams are one of the iconic foods of coastal New England. Steven rakes his from Katama Bay near his home on Chappaquiddick. These, stuffed with savory Italian sausage and a splash of anisey sambuca, will win over even people who think they don’t like clams. (A shellfish rack is a handy tool for keeping them upright on the grill.) Don’t forget to provide a bowl for the shells.

Fire-Eater Chicken Wings or Drumsticks: Americans demolish chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday; last year, we ate 1.25 billion of them while watching the game. And while we love wings, we’re open to substituting meatier chicken drumsticks in this incendiary recipe. Your choice. (If children will be attending your party, grill some plain wings or drumsticks. Their parents will thank you.)

Jalapeño Poppers

Crab Jalapeño Poppers: Another popular Super Bowl bite is jalapeño poppers, known in barbecue circles as ABTs. (We’ll leave that one to your imagination.) Assemble them the day before the party. We occasionally add corn (grilled at a previous grill session) for texture and visual appeal. Just slice it off the cob using long strokes of a chef’s knife.

Grilled Pound Cake with Team Color Berry Salsa: This dessert, a favorite at Barbecue University, can be customized to support either team: use blueberries and raspberries for the Patriots; blackberries and raspberries for the Falcons. You can even grill the pound cake the morning of the party.

Our halftime show? More Super Bowl ideas next week.