Hearty fare can ease March Madness fever

There are plenty of ways to celebrate basketball’s tournament season in style — even if your bracket is busted

If you — and your bracket — survived the opening rounds of March Madness, there is plenty of basketball yet to be played and enjoyed this season.

But to truly enjoy the games, snacks and hearty meals are called for.

After all, you can’t adequaterly cheer — or jeer — without a full stomach.

You can try to set out a themed spread, perhaps using school colors as an inspiration.

Or you can take a look at regional favorites when deciding on the menu — Southern dishes for Southern schools, for example.

Or you can just set out a plethora of your favorite things.

Easy dishes are the best, since you want time to talk strategy. Sliders, pulled pork and chili are favorites, although there are plenty of other options out there.

You can serve traditional potato chips and dip, or make potato skins.

Try different toppings to create various flavors, such as Reubens.

There are plenty of varieties of salsa and dips to accommodate varied tastes, with dippers that can run the gamut from healthy to decadent, from flavored chips to vegetables.

And there’s always room for a sweet treat.

You could make a cake in a circular pan and decorate it to look like a basketball, or use cupcakes instead for a personalized treat.

There are plenty of options out there. Just have fun with it, and enjoy the games.

Following are some tournament-ready recipes from chowhound.com and allrecipes.com. chowhound.com

Vinegar and Spice Oven-Baked Ribs

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup finely grated lemon zest 6 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 full racks baby back pork ribs

Place all the ingredients except the ribs in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place ribs on the baking sheet, bone-side up, and evenly coat with half the marinade. Flip ribs and evenly coat with the remaining marinade. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. Remove ribs from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature at least 20 minutes. Bake, covered, on the middle rack of a 325-degree oven for one hour. Uncover and continue baking about one hour more, until the ribs are knife tender.

Easy Philly Cheesesteaks

12-ounce boneless rib-eye steak, chilled in the freezer for 45 minutes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced,
optional 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces white button mushrooms, stems trimmed and thinly sliced,
optional 4 ounces provolone cheese, thinly sliced 2 hoagie rolls, split horizontally and toasted

Trim any excess fat from the steak, then cut against the grain into very thin slices. Set aside. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add bell pepper and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown. If using mushrooms, push the peppers and onions to one side, add the mushrooms and cook seven to 10 minutes, stirring rarely, until browned. Stir to combine with the peppers and onions. Push all vegetables to one side of the pan, then add the sliced steak in a single layer and season with salt and pepper. Cook about three minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. Reduce heat to low. Divide the steak into two piles roughly the size of the hoagie rolls. Place half of the vegetables on top of each steak portion. Lay half the cheese over each portion of steak and vegetables. Cover the pan with a tightfitting lid and let cook three to four minuters undisturbed, until the cheese has melted. Using a flat spatula, scoop each pile onto a roll and serve immediately. Makes two sandwiches.

Reuben Potato Skins

8 3-inch-long russet potatoes, scrubbed and thoroughly dried
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces thinly sliced corned beef
1/3 cup Thousand Island dressing
1 cup sauerkraut, thoroughly drained
1-1/2 cups shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese

Pierce each potato several times with a fork or sharp knife. Place potatoes directly on oven rack and bake in a 400-degree oven about 50 minutes, until skins are crisp and a knife easily pierces the potatoes. Transfer to a wire rack about 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Slice each potato in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1/4 inch intact. Reserve the flesh for another use. Brush the inside of the potatoes with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Flip potatoes over, brush the skin sides with butter and season with salt and pepper. Evenly space the potato halves, skin side up, on a baking sheet and broil two to three minutes, until the butter foams and the skins start to crisp. Flip potato halves over and broil two to three minutes more, until the top edges just start to brown. Divide corned beef evenly among the skins and top each with about 1 teaspoon dressing. Evenly divide sauerkraut among the skins, then sprinkle each with cheese. Broil four to five minutes, until the corned beef is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve immediately. Makes 16 potato skins.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Macaroni and Cheese Cups

8 ounces elbow macaroni
6 very thin slices prosciutto
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup panko
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons flour
1-1/4 cups whole milk
1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for salting pasta cooking water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to directions. When the pasta is al dente, reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, then drain. Cut prosciutto in half crosswise. Place 1 slice in each well of a 12-cup muffin pan, pressing prosciutto evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Set aside. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small frying pan over medium heat until foaming. Add panko and cook four minutes, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. While pasta is draining, rinse saucepan and wipe it dry. Melt the remaining butter in the saucepan over medium-low heat until foaming. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook two to three minutes, whisking occasionally, until the flour has darkened slightly in color. Add milk slowly, whisking constantly, then cook six to seven minutes, until lumps are smoothed and mixture simmers and thickens. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add reserved pasta water, cheeses, mustard and measured salt and pepper. Whisk until the cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add drained pasta and stir to combine. Divide pasta mixture among the cups of the muffin pan, then sprinkle with toasted panko. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until edges of the cups are bubbling slightly and the tops are light golden brown. Place muffin pan on a wire rack and let cool for five minutes. Run a small knife around the perimeter of each well to loosen and remove the prosciutto cups. Serve immediately.

Parmigiano–Black Pepper Popcorn

1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, toss the cheese, pepper and salt until well combined. Using an air popper, pop corn into a large bowl. Combine butter and olive oil in a small bowl and, as the large bowl begins to fill with popcorn, alternately drizzle butter–olive oil mixture over the popcorn and sprinkle with the cheese mixture, occasionally tossing to coat. When the popcorn stops popping, toss everything together. Serve immediately. Makessix to eight servings Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1 cup chicken stock 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 4-1/2 to 5-pound boneless or bone-in pork shoulder or butt, twine or netting removed 2 cups barbecue sauce, optional Place onions and garlic in an even layer in a slow cooker, then pour in stock or broth. Combine sugar, chili powder, salt, cumin and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat pork dry with paper towels, then rub spice mixture all over the meat and place on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook six to eight hours on high or eight to 10 hours on low, until pork is fork tender. Turn off the slow cooker and place pork on a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl and pour the onion mixture through the strainer. Return the solids to the slow cooker and set the strained liquid aside. If the pork has a bone, remove and discard it. Using two forks, shred meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return shredded meat to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce and mix to combine. If not using barbecue sauce, use a spoon to skim and discard the fat from the surface of the strained cooking liquid, then add 1/4 cup of the liquid at a time to the slow cooker until the pork is just moistened. Taste and season with salt as needed. Makes six servings.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos With Avocado-Corn Salsa

For salsa: 4 ears white or yellow corn, shucked
4 medium scallions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only
3 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into small dice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 serrano chile, stemmed and finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
2 medium avocados

For tacos: 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
16 grilled or warmed corn tortillas

To make salsa, cut corn kernels from the cobs. Add scallions, tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, serrano, and salt and stir to combine. Using a paring knife, score the flesh of the avocado halves in a 1/4-inch-wide crosshatch pattern, being careful not to cut through the skin. Using a spoon, scoop the avocado pieces into the corn mixture and gently fold to combine. Taste and add more lime juice or salt as needed. Set aside. To make tacos, whisk lime juice, oil, chipotle powder, salt and cumin together in a large bowl. Add shrimp and toss to combine. Soak 10 12-inch skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. Skewer each shrimp through the tail and head ends, leaving about 1/4 inch of space between each shrimp. Transfer skewers to a baking sheet. Place skewers in a single layer on a grill to high, making sure they don’t touch. Close the grill and cook about four minutes, until grill marks appear on the bottom. Flip skewers, close the grill and cook another minute, until the shrimp are just firm. Transfer skewers to a clean baking sheet. Remove and discard the skewers, then transfer the shrimp to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Place in a serving bowl. Serve the shrimp with tortillas and salsa. allrecipes.com

Artichoke Salsa

1 6.5-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3 roma or plum tomatoes, chopped 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped black olives
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt Pepper In a medium bowl,

mix together the artichoke hearts, tomatoes, onion, olives, garlic, salt and pepper. Serve chilled or at room temperature, with tortilla chips.

Restaurant-Style Buffalo Chicken Wings

1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 chicken wings
Oil for deep frying
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup hot sauce
1 dash ground black pepper
1 dash garlic powder

In a small bowl, mix together flour, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt. Place chicken wings in a large nonporous glass dish or bowl and sprinkle flour mixture over them until they are evenly coated. Cover dish and refrigerate for 60 to 90 minutes. Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees. There should be enough oil to cover wings entirely. Combine butter, hot sauce, pepper and garlic powder in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir together and heat until butter is melted and mixture is well blended. Remove from heat and reserve for serving. Fry coated wings in hot oil for 10 to 15 minutes, until parts of the wings begin to turn brown. Remove from heat, place wings in serving bowl, add hot sauce mixture and stir together. Serve.

Restaurant-Style Chicken Nachos

2 cloves garlic,
crushed 6 green onions, sliced, white parts and tops separated
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 shredded, cooked, whole chicken breast
Salt Pepper
1 cup salsa
6 ounces tortilla chips
8 ounces shredded Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese

blend 1/2 large tomato, diced In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, cook and stir garlic and white parts of the onions in canola oil until tender. Mix in shredded chicken, salt and pepper. Toss until well coated with oil. Stir in the salsa. Arrange tortilla chips on a large baking sheet. Spoon chicken mixture over chips. Top with cheese and tomato. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes, until cheese has melted. Remove from heat and sprinkle with green onion tops before serving.

Boilermaker Tailgate Chili

2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
3 15-ounce cans chili beans, drained
1 15-ounce can chili beans in spicy sauce
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 green chile peppers, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon bacon bits
4 cubes beef bouillon
1/2 cup beer
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika 1 teaspoon sugar
1 10.5-ounce bag corn chips
1 8-ounce package shredded cheddar cheese

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Crumble ground chuck and sausage into the hot pan and cook until evenly browned. Drain excess grease. Pour in chili beans, spicy chili beans, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Add the onion, celery, green and red bell peppers, chile peppers, bacon bits, bouillon and beer. Season with chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, hot pepper sauce, basil, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika and sugar. Stir to blend, then cover and simmer over low heat at least two hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust salt, pepper and chili powder, if necessary. Remove from heat and serve or refrigerate and serve reheated the next day. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with corn chips and shredded cheddar cheese.
 

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