My husband and I generally shy away from inviting people over for the Super Bowl, which probably seems odd given that I like to cook and we have a ridiculously large t.v. downstairs in the man-cave. It seems natural that we’d be up for throwing a party, and some years we have. Most times though, we go it alone on game day, for several reasons.
Reason 1: If the game is boring or if it’s a blowout and your team is getting their asses handed to them, it’s kind of a buzzkill. In those instances, we want the freedom to turn the game off and do something else. If you have a house full of guests, you’re sort of obligated to watch the whole game, even if it’s making everyone miserable.
Reason 2: We never, ever want to watch the halftime show during the Super Bowl. It always sucks way hard and then you feel cheated and honked off that you wasted 45 minutes watching that crapfest. But if you invite a crowd over, someone always wants to watch the halftime show, so you’re trapped.
Reason 3: As the host of the party, you feel responsible for everyone’s good time, which usually means small talk and being sociable. Quite frankly, my husband and I just wanna watch the doggone game.
It also goes without saying that this year, everyone within shouting distance is very invested in a Broncos win. If Denver plays more like jackasses than bucking Broncs, it’s gonna be a bitter and sour crowd. I mean, when the Broncos lose a Super Bowl, they lose big. It’s a historical fact. The Broncos don’t just lose a Super Bowl, they lay down and die. And while I have great respect for this year’s Denver defense, those Panthers looked scary in the playoffs. S-c-a-r-y.
So yeah, we’re cowards.
We’re staying home, and we’re cool with that.
But it’s still the Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl means yummy and festive fare, even if you’re flying solo. The only challenge for me is deciding what to make. When I’m expecting a huge crowd, it’s natural to fall back on the usual suspects–chili, sloppy joes, nachos, giant Italian submarine sandwiches. One year, I made a huge batch of gumbo for 12 (don’t do this–gumbo is a gigantic pain in the ass). If it’s just us, though, it doesn’t really make sense to serve any of those things.
I think I’ve settled on this recipe for chicken tinga tacos for Super Bowl 50. Tacos are great because you can set out a bunch of fixin’s and everyone helps themselves and gets what they want, and they’re easy to eat, and let’s face it, they’re tacos! Tacos are delicious. Even better? The filling for these tacos is made in the slow cooker, so you can make the filling a day or two before the big game. If you have a large slow cooker, you can double the recipe easily.
This recipe is drop dead simple; the only things that take a little bit of finesse are the spice level and the cooking time. You’ll notice that I’ve given a wide margin in regard to the amount of chipotle chiles used in the recipe. If you are a spice lover, go for the more generous amount. It’s probably wise to err on the side of caution at first and then add in more after you taste it–your call. Also, you do need to keep an eye on your chicken, since the recipe uses chicken breasts, which dry out quickly if you’re not careful. My slow cooker cooks “fast” by slow cooker standards, so my chicken was done in 90 minutes. Depending on the type of slow cooker, it could take 3 hours to cook. My suggestion is to test your chicken after 90 minutes and keep checking on it every 20 minutes or so. Alternatively, you could use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead. They’re higher in fat and a little more forgiving than breasts.
Another reason I like this recipe? It features homemade pico de gallo (with the addition of pineapple). Every Super Bowl, there is one food item that I absolutely, positively have to have on the buffet table: a bathtub-sized bowl of homemade pico de gallo. Everyone else can keep their guacamole and their buffalo wings and their sour cream and onion dip. For me, Super Bowl=homemade pico. It’s non-negotiable. I only make homemade pico de gallo a few times a year, because it’s a hassle (especially in large quantities) but it’s worth all of the chopping because nothing else compares. I always joke that homemade pico de gallo is a litmus test for where you stand with me; I only make homemade pico for my most loved and cherished people.
This year, I’ll still make my humongous bowl of pico, but I’ll set a little aside and add pineapple to it for the tacos. The pineapple really adds something to the tacos, so I wouldn’t skip it. We’ll devour the “virgin” pico de gallo at kickoff and then enjoy it again at halftime on tacos. I’d call that a win-win. Even if the Broncos lose.
Whatever team you’re rooting for, and whether you’re alone or with a gaggle of revelers, I hope you enjoy the big game and some festive, delicious fare. It’s good, clean American fun. Except for that halftime show.
Chicken Tinga Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
adapted from Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution
2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into small pieces
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1 cup chopped, seeded tomato
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 finely chopped seeded jalapeno
dash of salt, dash of cumin, dash of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 minced garlic cloves
2-4 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup tomato puree or tomato sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 (12-ounce) bone in split chicken breasts, skin removed
salt and pepper
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
garnish: cheddar cheese, cotija cheese, avocado, lime wedges, shredded cabbage or lettuce
Combine pineapple, 1/4 cup lime juice, onion, cilantro, tomato and jalapeno in a bowl. Add salt, cumin and cayenne to taste, or leave it out altogether if you’re a purist. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, combine canola oil, chili powder, garlic, chipotle, coriander and cumin. Microwave for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Transfer to a slow cooker.
Stir in the tomato sauce and sugar to the slow cooker. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper and place in the slow cooker, turning to coat with sauce. Cover and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 2 hours on low (check at 1 1/2 hours–depending on how your slow cooker runs, the chicken could be done in as little as 90 minutes or as long as 3 hours).
Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for at least ten minutes. Shred chicken into small pieces using 2 forks (or your hands). Discard bones. Transfer chicken back to sauce, warm through. Add 1 tablespoon lime juice to the sauce and stir. Taste for seasoning. If the sauce seems too thick, you can add a little hot water to thin it.
Serve chicken in warm tortillas with the salsa and whatever garnishes you like.