February 2, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII preview

Super Bowl XLVII is tomorrow, and the unofficial American holiday that is the National Football League's championship weekend is in full swing. The Internet is awash with stories previewing the big game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.

There are in-depth strategic and statistical previews. There are two-and-a-half-minute video previews that somehow say nothing. There are even stories written with second-grade sentence structure about drugged-up reporters at Super Bowl Media Day!

I won't be getting into any of that, though. Especially the drugs. This blog strives to be more family friendly than your average Super Bowl halftime show. And unlike the Super Bowl halftime show, this blog aims to be something you can pay attention to without wanting to vomit or put your head through a wall.

To that end, today's Super Bowl XLVII preview takes a hard look at the foods I'm planning to cook for Sunday night. My idea is a simple one: put together a meal representing the cities battling for the Lombardi Trophy.

Baltimore posed no problem for this quest. The city on the Chesapeake Bay is nearly synonymous with crab cakes. San Francisco, on the other hand, proved to be a bit more of a challenge. Maybe it's because I'm on the East Coast, but I never associated any food with the Bay Area except Rice-A-Roni. And I wanted something more challenging.

Eventually, I settled on bread called San Francisco sourdough. You probably guessed its basic formula. It's sourdough from San Francisco. So, armed with printed blueprints for bread and crab cakes, I set out for the grocery store last night to purchase the required ingredients.

As is often the case in this imperfect and unpredictable life, things did not go as planned. It was all sunshine and rainbows as I made my way through the produce section, successfully purchasing scallions, a jalapeno and chives for the crab cakes. I even picked up the panko -- Japanese bread crumbs -- without issue.

Then I came to the seafood section and the sticker shock it brings. Have you seen the price of crab lately? It's enough to make anyone crabby! I think something fishy is going on with the seafood industry, where the suppliers, fishermen and grocery stores are swimming together to scale up the price of crab meat.

Buying crab will put you in a financial pinch.

... Sorry about that last paragraph. It's just too hard to resist fish puns. The fact remains that I was faced with a serious problem, however. Crab meat came with a price tag of $28.99, which was awfully hard to swallow. And it was even harder to force down the gullet when I noticed the pack of imitation crab lurking a few shelves down for just $3.49.

If you don't know which option I went with, you haven't been reading this blog long enough. Into the cart went the fake stuff, and my plot for Baltimore crab cakes suddenly became one for Baltimore imitation crab cakes. The change probably won't be noticeable what with all the seasoning that goes into the recipe anyway, right?


Another problem popped up in the mustard section. I was 99 percent sure I had the Dijon mustard required for the crab cakes sitting in the refrigerator at home. Alas, that level of certainty wasn't good enough, and I had to pick up a whole new yellow bottle. (Returning home I would find Dijon mustard tucked safely in the door of the fridge, so if anyone has some good recipes that use it, I'm all ears.)

Ah, mustard! Present in the fridge, if not my memory.

Those crab cake issues were nothing compared to the challenges posed by San Francisco sourdough. I'd shrewdly used the Wegmans website to look up the location of yeast before I hit the store. It told me to search in the dairy section. Which I did. Unsuccessfully. After about five minutes of perusing, I gave up, resolving to circle back after locating the rest of the necessary baking goods.

Then I couldn't find any sourdough starter to save my life. After the yeast's refusal to rise into my field of view, this was too much. Like an overworked stay-at-home parent, I had to scrap my idea for homemade bread and turn to a box of Rice-A-Roni to save me.

Next to the Rice-A-Roni, I spied some Zatarain's, which claims to be a New Orleans tradition since 1889. New Orleans happens to be the city hosting the Super Bowl this year, so the Zatarain's went into the cart beside the San Francisco treat. A new plan came to mind, one pitting the prefabricated rice dishes against each other.

As I wrapped up my planned shopping, I realized I was going to have a lot of scallions left over from my crab cake cooking. Scallions, in case you were unawares, are similar to leeks. Therefore, I decided to do a riff on a potato and leek soup, too.
A quick phone-call assist from Deb, the official fiancée of Rick's Food Critique, gave me a list of the other ingredients I'd need. Yukon gold potatoes. Heavy cream. Buttermilk. Vegetable broth. Just like that, after 90 minutes, my pre-Super Bowl grocering was complete.

There's your preview of what I'll be eating on Super Bowl Sunday: Baltimore imitation crab cakes, Rice-A-Roni, Zatarain's and potato and scallion soup. A balanced meal it does not make, although I'd wager it will be tasty.

This is also a preview of the blog posts you can expect in the coming week. While time won't permit me to reflect upon my culinary successes and failures on this site tomorrow, you'll see new posts on each of the foods in the following days. Currently I plan one post covering the crab cakes, another swishing around the soup and a third declaring a winner between the two boxes of rice.

I hope you get a kick out of all of them. And enjoy the game!

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